The first suicide committed in the county was by Miss Fannie Willis. She was a very intelligent and handsome young lady, and so far as ever was known no cause was found for her act. She was a sister of Mrs. Alma Woos and Mrs. Matthew Farrington. Her death was a sensation to the little town, and a crushing blow to her sisters and her mother, Grandma Willia, who was a superior woman, as were her sisters, in many ways.

Some years later, I think in 1866, Dave Evans cut his throat in the harness shop where he worked, which was located on the lot where the Broadie drug store now stands, or on the one next to it. He was an industrious and faithful worker, but a slave to intoxicating drink, and after a bout of dissipation he was melancholy and mortified to such a degree that he was desperate. His brother, George G. Evans, did all a brother could do to relieve him from the grip of the demon of rum, but without success. Dave lived with his brother, whose wide (formerly Lydia Gould, daughter of Rev. John Gould), did all a sister could have done to save poor Dave. They lived in the house now known as the late Hugh Hill home, in the Fourth ward. My home was next door to them, and I know the efforts that George and Lydia made to keep Dave from drink, for our families were very close friends. Across the street lived Henry Curtis, who, a few years later, took his life in the same way in his barn, on a hot busy Saturday afternoon. There Sidney Curtis and I found him lying dead in a stall. In all my life, never was I so shocked as at his tragic death. I had no closer friend, nor one I esteemed more than “Hank” Curtis, except his brother S. H. Curtis. The news of his death was a sensation that paralyzed the town, and the mystery of the act was never explained. I had been with him a half hour before the act was committed. He got out of the chair in Jake Long’s barber shop, and as I took his place, he said, “You’ll find a hot seat,” and passed out. When I left the chair, I went into the store to speak to him about a personal matter, and Sid said to me, “A report has just come to me that a tramp is lying in Hank’s barn. Do you know where he is?” On telling Sid of our parting in the barber shop, he said, “Come with me and we will rout the fellow out of the barn, for I suppose he is drunk, and I am afraid he may set a fire going.” We went to the barn and found Henry, as I said above.

Not many years passed before Jake Long took his life in the same way as Henry and I parted. He took poison, and like the two previously mentioned, no reason was ever discovered why Jake committed the act.

The last and most startling act of this sort was that of Henry H. Gray, a few years later still. He was a prominent and highly respected lawyer with a lucrative practice and a promising future before him. He was a veteran of the Civil War and had hosts of friends about him. So far as I recollect, he never was melancholy or morose. His death was a shock to the town, and large circles of friends in other parts of the state. All the above mentioned cases, excepting that of Evans, were shocks and mysteries to the town and to all the friends of the parties.

I sometimes philosophize over such cases, and have reached the conclusion that the scientist who said, “There is a strain of insanity in every person,” was right when he wrote the verdict. I cannot believe that a perfectly sane individual ever did, or ever will, take his own life. At the instant of the act reason is dethroned and the act is one of an irresponsible being.



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Pioneer Days of Bremer County -- Chapter I