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Obituary ~ Harley Burton Cox
November 02, 1888 ~ January 01, 1908

Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
January 9, 1908

HARLIE B. COX, the eighteen year old son of S.L. COX, committed suicide by hanging Wednesday afternoon of last week in the barn on the J.W. Keeler farm, two and one half miles southeast of Leon.

E. Meryman, who resided on the farm, with his family, left home that morning to attend a New Year's dinner at the home of A.S. Gardner southwest of Leon. They tried to persuade the young man to accompany them but he refused to go saying that he would stay at home, look after the stock and play his phonograph, for which he had traded a pony a short time before. He was in his usual spirits and laughed and talked with the family as they rode away. After this nothing was seen of him by the neighbors during the balance of the day, with the exception that someone is reported to have seen him watering some cattle shortly after noon, until his body was found dangling at the end of a rope that< evening. After leaving home, the Meryman family proceeded to the Gardner home where they spent the day and then returned home that evening, reaching their destination about 5 o'clock. Mr. Meryman began unhitching the team and Mrs. Meryman went into the house and removed her wraps. She then threw a shawl about her and started towards the barn north of the house with a basket in which to gather some cobs to be used in starting a fire. She realized, however, that it would be dark in the barn and decided to wait until Mr. Meryman had gone there with the team before she went. Had she not so decided, she would have been the first to discover the body of the suicide, as the box in which cobs were thrown stood within a few feet of where the dead body was found hanging.

Mr. Meryman led the horses into the barn through another door than that near which the body was hanging, fed them and had gotten along quite well with his chores when he saw young COX apparently standing near the south door. He called to him and as he received no response he flashed his lantern in that direction and was horrified to find a noose about his employee's neck and his toes just barely touching the cobs and hay on the barn floor. He started on the run for the house, but decided that he would not go there and frighten Mrs. Meryman, so ran to the home of John Butler a short distance east of his own home and notified him. Mr. Butler returned with him and they soon summoned several neighbors by telephone.

Dr. F.A. Bowman, Coroner of Decatur County, was notified at Leon and accompanied by a newspaper man he hurried to the scene of the suicide in an automobile. A number of men with lighted lanterns guarded the doorway near which the body was hanging awaiting the arrival of the Coroner, and as that official reached the structure the men followed him inside.

After making an examination, Coroner Bowman decided that Cox had committed the act about 4 o'clock that afternoon.

From appearances it seems that he had climbed upon a corn sheller near at hand and had then passed a long rope over a heavy cross beam, tieing (sic) it in a loop knot. He had then apparently placed the noose about his neck and swung himself into space. It is supposed that the rope had stretched sufficiently to allow his feet to almost touch the floor.

The body was cut down and carried to the house where Coroner Bowman examined the young man's clothing but found nothing in the way of a note or anything that would give a clew (sic) as to the cause of his rash act. His clothing, ordinary work clothes, were buttoned closely and neatly about him and his cap was placed square upon his head when found. A purse containing three dollars and some cents, also a pocket knife, a gold watch and other small articles were removed from his pockets.

Coroner Bowman decided after making a thorough investigation that it was a clear case of suicide and that an inquest was unnecessary. The body was then prepared for burial.

The suicide came as a great shock to his friends and especially to his relatives, and the family of E. Meryman, for whom he had been working. Mr. Meryman said that he had never noticed anything in the manner of the young man that would indicate that he ever thought of such a thing as taking his own life. The evening before he did so, they had attended the performance of the "Midnight Flyer" at the opera house in Leon, and the next morning at breakfast and before Mr. Meryman and family left for the Gardner home, they had talked over the play and young COX had mimiced (sic) the negro comedian and seemed in high spirits. He had prepared his own dinner as the dishes were found on the table in the dining room as he had left them. Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Oney, who resides west of the Keeler farm, heard him playing his phonograph, in the afternoon, but saw nothing of him. Mr. Meryman said that evening that he was one of the best farm hands he ever saw and that he was a fine young man in every way.

Mr. Meryman moves in March onto the E. Housh farm and when Mr. Meryman and family with MR. COX had driven past that farm a few days before his death, Daisy, the little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Meryman, had called the attention of COX to the place and had said this is where we will live next summer; COX had answered simply, "Maybe," and now it is thought that the remark might have been significant. Young COX did not leave home often. Before Mr. Meryman left home that morning, he told COX to take a horse and go wherever he pleased. The young man replied that perhaps he would ride a spotted pony, that belonged to Mr. Meryman.

The funeral was held at Bethel Church due west of Blockley and the remains buried in the Bethel Cemetery, Rev. J.A. Armstrong, Pastor of the Leon Baptist Church, conducting the services. A large crowd attended the funeral.

The young man was eighteen years old in November

~ ~ ~ ~


HARLEY BURTON COX, son of MR. and MRS. S.L. [Stephen L. & Mary L. (BUTTS)] COX, was born in Decatur County, Iowa, November 2, 1888, and died January 1, 1908, aged 19 years, 1 month and 29 days. He leaves father, mother, five brothers and one sister to mourn his early departure.

A noble young life has gone out from us. Once again cruel death has passed by the rank weeds uselessly cumbering the earth to claim as his own the fairest and sweetest of flowers in all the gardens, to crush in his mysterious grasp the delicate petals of a pure and noble young life. Rich and poor, high and low, old and young, alike, pay tribute to that great leveler of all, death. In his embrace there is no distinction, of the justice, we may not judge. HARLEY was a good boy, loved and respected by all who knew him, always ready to do a kind act, always of a cheerful disposition and kind to everyone.

The funeral took place in the Bethel Church, 7 miles south of Leon, at 2 o'clock p.m., January 3, 1908, conducted by Rev. J.A. Armstrong, Pastor of the Leon Baptist Church. The text for the discourse was, "I am the resurrection and the life." The attendance was very large, bespeaking the high esteem of a large circle of friends. The remains were laid to rest in the quiet churchyard, there in angel guarded sleep to await the resurrection morn.


We desire to return our heartfelt thanks to the many kind

friends for their sympathy and assistance in our great bereavement.


Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
October 13, 2001