The inadvertent poetry of the coroner's report
January 19, 2010 5:26 AM   Subscribe

Coroner's reports 1896-1935 Monroe County, Indiana. Strange, spare and haunting. The economy of description here makes each death a condensed, mysterious story; it's an addictive glimpse into an America with different expectations of life and death reminiscent, to me, of Wisconsin Death Trip as seen on a previous thread.
posted by fullofragerie (110 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
 
They sure used to get run over by trains often.
posted by shothotbot at 5:33 AM on January 19, 2010


This is really fantastic.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:36 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of stone-related deaths too. Cutters!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:39 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


02/18/1926 ANDERSON, Glenn Reed, 11 months, 29"/5 Lack of care, extreme malnutrition.

heartbreaking
posted by leotrotsky at 5:40 AM on January 19, 2010


//Nothing of value
posted by localhuman at 5:42 AM on January 19, 2010


06/09/1919 BANK, Andrew J.
65, 5'6", 115
Homicide: injury to skull crushing same, inflicted by blunt instrument, also gunshot wound to head and chest. The body recovered after about ten days in abandoned quarry waterhole near Sanders, Ind., wrapped in an old comfort, feet and body bound together with wire. // Nothing of value.

So the question becomes, was the mob sent to draw us to the crime scene? [puts on sunglasses] Or sent to destroy it?

/caruso'd
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:44 AM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, Coroner's Reports can be very interesting. I will be wasting some time at this site later. We have some pretty interesting ones where I work. Reports in the Colonial Period were filed in the Secretary of State's office here, one of the earliest we have (1740s?) involves a guy falling off his horse while drunk and drowning. The phrase they used for being drunk was "being in liquor."

This is as good a place as any to share this. Death Certificates in my state started being issued in 1913. Early on, the causes of death were not very standardized. My favorite cause of death I have seen is "Acute alcoholism and drowning, no boat involved."
posted by marxchivist at 5:47 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


They sure used to get run over by trains often.

I thought so too.
posted by RussHy at 5:50 AM on January 19, 2010


Hemorrhage following circumcision; was circumcised on August 20 afternoon and died
dur-ing the early morning of August 21.

Man, that's sad, only 4 days, mum must have been beside herself with grief.
posted by mattoxic at 5:53 AM on January 19, 2010


mattoxic: That's definitely sad, but I think this may be even sadder:

12/20/1906 CORLETT
infant birth 15
When the baby was born it was dropped to the floor, severing the umbilical cord, allowing the baby to die from hemorrhage. // Nothing
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2010


Accidental suffocation, she having vomited a curd of milk which was lodged in trachea.

The spider was later apprehended.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Accidental electrocution: accident happened at George W Adams' barn while attempting
to turn on an incandescent light, said light being attached to a secondary light wire, which
had in some way been connected to a primary wire of 2300 volts or more. Said
connection was made by a piece of lamp cord.


Please get a professional to do your wiring.
posted by Splunge at 5:58 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw man this sucks...

07/05/1921 ADAMS, Denzil (4 y.o.)
Fall from top of Leonard's Mill dam into water 25' deep

07/05/1921 BENDER, Peter F (24 y.o.)
Accidental drowning; entered Leonard's Mill Lake in effort to save Denzil Adams who fell
into water 25' deep.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:06 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look for the families. The untold stories are heartrending.
11/04/1926 BRUMMETT, 	Fredrick Merle	6 wks 21"/6 	Broncho-pneumonia.//Nothing of value0
5/23/1927 BRUMMETT, 	William Everett	36 5'9"/175 	Suicide; shot himself, tearing away 
the entire back part of his head with a no. 12cartridge; 									dying instantly.//Nothing of any value.
posted by The White Hat at 6:09 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's like a followup to Spoon River Anthology.
posted by cimbrog at 6:16 AM on January 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


FWIW (in case some aren't aware) Monroe County is in southern Indiana and is where Bloomington and IU are located.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:21 AM on January 19, 2010


I find these fascinating, for some reason. thanks!
posted by phogirl at 6:51 AM on January 19, 2010


Anyone else find their name in there?
posted by A189Nut at 6:58 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of alcoholism and suicide too. Many people say that we're too apt to treat our anxiety and depression with medication, but seeing so many people succumbing to self-medication (alcohol) and suicide illustrates the other side of untreated mental problems.

It also seems that OSHA needed to be created to protect folks from the obvious workplace hazards.

Need I comment on seatbelts, crumple zones and air bags?

What will people think of our causes of death in 100 years?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:00 AM on January 19, 2010


Best of the web. Thanks.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:02 AM on January 19, 2010


12/20/1906 CORLETT, infant birth 15/ When the baby was born it was dropped to the floor, severing the umbilical cord, allowing the baby to die from hemorrhage.//Nothing
posted by A189Nut at 7:06 AM on January 19, 2010


Yeah, I checked for relatives.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:24 AM on January 19, 2010


07/31/1917 CANTRELL, Cecil 21 Mos.
3"/30 Accidental drowning caused by falling into a 12 gallon jar which was about 5 inches deep
with water.//Nothing of value
I am trying - and failing - to picture what this would even have looked like, let alone how it could've possibly happened.

Entry by entry, it's like some series of Gothic snapshots in black/grey duotone. Awesome link.
posted by gompa at 7:27 AM on January 19, 2010


09/10/1909 POLLEY, Gladys 4 mos. Starvation & Exposure.//Nothing.
09/10/1909 POLLEY, Kate 29 5'6"/165 Suicide by hanging.//$1.04 given to family.

There are so many sad stories in this.
posted by Dojie at 7:36 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was trying to figure out what nothing of value meant, as it was listed several times before I finally saw that it was for listing personal effects.

09/13/1930 ANDERSON, Marion 43 6'1"/175 Suicide. Despondent because of ill health and nervous disease, this man cut his throatseveral times with a pocket knife. Death was due to shock and hemorrhage.//Nothing ofvalue

I can't even think of what to say. Yes, this is all public record, but isn't there something wrong with this? This is an amazing find, and it's fascinating to read through this, but at the same time, it feels like disturbing ghosts. I want to say let the dead be, but then I find myself reading more.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:40 AM on January 19, 2010


I was bowled over by the morbidity in Wisconsin Death Trip and couldn't imagine how the banal Midwest, where I grew up, could have been so death-addled and lurid. Then I drove through the Rust Belt this Christmas after spending three years in New York City. Nope, I'd just apparently never noticed how the highways of America's heartland are the creepiest, most desolate stretches on earth.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


gompa: I am trying - and failing - to picture what this would even have looked like, let alone how it could've possibly happened.

It's not too unimaginable - it's why you can't buy a bucket without one of these on the side. A 12-gallon jar is only slightly smaller than a 13-gallon kitchen garbage can, and when displaced by a child's head, 5 inches of liquid will definitely cover the airways.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2010


Head severed on I.S. R.R. ... Probably drunk. //1 penny, 1 "good luck don't worry piece".

Fascinating read - thanks.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:43 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just in Monroe County this weekend! Not that that has anything to do with anything, I just think it's neat.

I also think coroners reports are neat. I had a lot of explaining to do to my partner's parents at Christmas with the blended fam when I received - and literally SQUEALED with glee at - a DVD of autopsies. It really was the best gift that year.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:45 AM on January 19, 2010


This is fascinating. Thank you for posting.
.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2010


2010:cause of death --lack of health insurance
posted by Postroad at 8:05 AM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is pretty cool. Just a huge amount of suicide. Relatively few mentions of cancer in this list, I wonder how today's reports would compare. Also a surprisingly high number of infants suffocated accidentally by their own parents in bed, which must have been just tragic.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:10 AM on January 19, 2010


Relatively few mentions of cancer in this list

Even when cancer is mentioned, it's very - well, imprecise:

03/04/1922 DECKARD, John W
73, 5'10, 160
Cancer of face and head, five years duration. // Nothing of value.

Very interesting link, fullofragerie, thanks!
posted by billysumday at 8:14 AM on January 19, 2010


12/21/1919 HOUSHAM or HOUSHOUR infant Stillborn Inanition.
04/07/1916 HOUSHOUR, infant 8 Mos 1'4"/6 Accidental injury before birth, said injury was caused by a fall of the mother (purely acci-dental).//Nothing of value
4/13/1921 HOUSHOUR, Lillian 2 days 1'6"/ Malnutrition due to deformity.//Nothing.
02/17/1915 HOUSHOUR, Olan stillborn 1'6"/9 Premature separation of placenta (natural). No physician in attendance.//Nothing of value.

I wonder if all these babies were from the same mother. I wonder if any survived.
posted by Dojie at 8:27 AM on January 19, 2010


Hemorrhage following circumcision; was circumcised on August 20 afternoon and died
dur-ing the early morning of August 21.


Which is why the Canadian Pediatric Association regards it as a useless, dangerous procedure without a reason for existing, and advises strongly against it.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:32 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


This so awesome. I worked on a project at the University of Pittsburgh's Archive Service Center where we organized thousands of coroner reports from around the same time period. It was the most amazing (and saddening) project I've ever worked on. I never knew there were so many ways a person could die.

And yes, quite a few of the dead people were hit by trains. Go figure.
posted by elder18 at 8:36 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also a surprisingly high number of infants suffocated accidentally by their own parents in bed

Perhaps this might shed some light...

quite a few of the dead people were hit by trains

Perhaps a local variant of the Golden Gate Bridge...
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:57 AM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can't look at the infant ones and my child is getting nebbed due to bronchiolitis.... so...

Ok why are 90% of these people dying with nothing of value? Who says the coroner didn't pocket things?

And man, they sure can't drive, can they?
posted by stormpooper at 9:04 AM on January 19, 2010


I like the one where the fugitive gets shot fleeing police and then the $24 he got from knocking over a slot machine is handed to the funeral director. Wow.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:08 AM on January 19, 2010


bitter-girl, just coming to post that. I like the "fact" that just after he was shot through the head, he told the police they got the right man:

"Homicide, justifiable. Deceased was trying to escape from officers of the law in a stolen car. He refused to stop his car and was shot thru the left temple and thru the left shoulder blade, the latter bullet emerging just below the left scapula. He died almost immediately, saying before he died that the officers had gotten the right man. He died at 10 p.m. in the 300 block of E. 2nd St.//$24.66 which he had stolen from a slot machine; this sum was turned over to Walter Allen, funeral director."
posted by yellowbinder at 9:23 AM on January 19, 2010


04/25/1935 CAIN, Myrtle 24 5'8"/140 Gunshot wound in the left side of the thorax, inflicted by her 5 year old son, Clifford Cain. The accident happened at about 10:30 a.m.

There's your short story, right there. *shudder* (apparently gun safety around children has been a problem for the ages)
posted by availablelight at 9:24 AM on January 19, 2010


Which is why the Canadian Pediatric Association regards it as a useless, dangerous procedure without a reason for existing, and advises strongly against it.

Yes, because it was dangerous 100 years ago.

By that logic, I presume they oppose surgery in general.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:25 AM on January 19, 2010


Fact: if I'd been shot through the head I wouldn't be saying anything nice to anyone, let alone "yup, you got me."
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:26 AM on January 19, 2010


Metafilter.//Nothing of value.
posted by Nelson at 9:26 AM on January 19, 2010


03/24/1909 ROBINSON, W H
30 5'9"/170
Head severed on I.S. R.R.(something about Rogers St.). Probably drunk.//1 penny, 1"good luck don't worry piece", 1 locket.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:37 AM on January 19, 2010


And man, they sure can't drive, can they?

. . . says someone living in a time when, if coroner's reports were being forthright, one of the most prominent new causes of motor vehicle fatalities would read something like "was attempting to send the message 'lol! CU l8r!' on his mobile phone while hurtling down a busy highway at 70mph."

I'm not trying to pick on you, just pointing out that humanity's remarkably adept at habituating all manner of strange and dangerous practices as normal or essential. I've long wondered how we'd feel about our car-centred culture if the lead story on CNN every single day was "Auto disaster kills 118 nationwide" - roughly the average daily toll on American highways.

Also, I'm guessing the big thing about auto accidents in those days is that they were much more often fatal than they are in this era of seat belts and airbags and ER wizardry. (Even the stat I link to above notes that 55 percent of US traffic fatalities are people not wearing seat belts.)
posted by gompa at 9:54 AM on January 19, 2010


04/02/1924 CAMPBELL, Nelson
69
5'6"/140 Body severed in twain and otherwise badly mangled by being struck and run over by a
fast Monon passenger train north of Harrodsburg, Ind. Deceased was trespassing on
right-of-way picking up coal at the time.//Nothing of value.


nothing like risking your life trying to keep your house warm
posted by pyramid termite at 9:54 AM on January 19, 2010


stupidsexyFlanders: "Cutters!"

Actually, they were 'Stoners' or 'Stoneys.' The movie changed the word for obvious reasons.

(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: "The body recovered after about ten days in abandoned quarry waterhole near Sanders, Ind."

Jesus, I grew up swimming in that quarry - it is the one in the movie, with the refrigerator. Not that hearing about this would have put us off it, by any means.

Lots of last names of people I went to highschool with.
posted by mwhybark at 9:55 AM on January 19, 2010


07/29/1933 STIMPSON, Charles E 86 5'9"/150 Acute myocarditis. Deceased's wife had died in the morning and he had been making funeral arrangements. After these were taken care of, he had just sat down out in the yard at his home and made the remark that everything was settled. He lay back in his chair and died at about 8 p.m.//A sum of money and watch which was turned over to Arthur Day, funeral director.
posted by Adridne at 9:56 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


07/19/1902 REIVES, David
22
5'6"/135 Strangulation by his own hands with suicidal intent//Nothing of value


holy crap
posted by pyramid termite at 10:20 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


09/10/1915 MATHEWS, George - 27 - 6'/190 Accidentally fell under a moving train of Wallace-Hagenbeck Circus, wherein he was severed in twain by moving cars.//Nothing of value.

The Great Circus Train Wreck of 1918 (Not the one which claimed Mr. Mathews, but the same company's train)

61 DEAD, 179 HURT IN CIRCUS WRECK
posted by mwhybark at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2010


06/10/1903 MAYFIELD, Roy
12
/120 Crushed by a large stone in the old abandoned Lyons quarry 1/2 mile west of Stinesville
at about 9:30 a.m. Said death was due to accident and happened while said Roy
Mayfield was at play in said old abandoned quarry//Nothing of any value


Now, this sort of thing we were told about.
posted by mwhybark at 10:22 AM on January 19, 2010


BARRETT, Ishuel O.

Crushed right leg and thigh. Hemorrhage and shock. This man working at the Victor
Oolitic Stone Co., as a hooker, was caught beneath a stone which accidentally fell,
crushing his right leg and thigh. He had been warned of the dangerous position of the
stone and proba-bly thoughtlessly walked into danger.


First of all, I wonder what the term 'hooker' meant back then.

Second of all, this is such a fascinating document. I had no idea of the sheer proportion of violent deaths from that time period. Two omissions surprise me: that there aren't more influenza deaths around the early 1920s, and the coroner does not mention the World War. Was he only responsible for deaths in the area (as in Monroe County itself, and not outside the borders)?
posted by amicamentis at 10:25 AM on January 19, 2010


Strangulation by his own hands with suicidal intent

I'm no doctor, but this seems impossible.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:26 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


They sure used to get run over by trains often.

My grandpa's family is from Monroe County, and I remember him telling me about an uncle of his who got drunk and fell asleep on the tracks, died. Wonder what it is about that county.
posted by Sreiny at 10:26 AM on January 19, 2010


Hell, these people are my neighbors. I live down the street from the big, old cemetery in Bloomington and I walk my dog up there every day. I actually recognize several of the names and always wondered about their stories (the Polleys' stones have been the "roll over in the grass and get a treat" point for years-- never knew a thing about them). Thanks so much for posting this. I intend to print it out and go track down as many stones with stories as I can.
posted by Heretic at 10:27 AM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Strangulation by his own hands with suicidal intent

I'm no doctor, but this seems impossible.


May the coroner have meant 'by one's hand', as in, he did it himself with no outside assistance?
posted by amicamentis at 10:30 AM on January 19, 2010


06/17/1928 BAUGH, Ula R.
7 mths
25"/25 Skull fractured by a post falling from under a porch roof, which it was helping to hold up, causing death to follow in a few minutes.//Nothing listed


Why was a baby holding up a porch roof post?

I know, I know.
posted by amicamentis at 10:32 AM on January 19, 2010


11/07/1931 ADAMS, George H
55
5'8"/165 Cerebral hemorrhage following gunshot wound through middle of forehead, self inflicted
(suicide). Deceased left note giving reason for his act as despondency over his inability to
handle his job as a cashier for the Rwy Express Co. adequately. No shortages were
found in his accounts.//The sum of $1.91 and 1 gold Elgin watch, a receipt for which is
attached to this record.


Makes me wish i was a writer.
posted by cmoj at 10:32 AM on January 19, 2010


May the coroner have meant 'by one's hand', as in, he did it himself with no outside assistance?

Perhaps. But the coroner does use "hanged" quite often, so I'm wondering in what other ways one could strangle oneself. Seems like the options would be 1) hanging or 2) something weird which would require explanation.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2010


It does seem like if it were something bizarre there would be a lengthy description. Is it known whether or not this was one coroner, or the work of several? That could explain the discrepancy.
posted by amicamentis at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2010


amicamentis: "First of all, I wonder what the term 'hooker' meant back then.
"

I believe hookers are folks whose job is to hook and guide stone blocks in the quarries as they are craned into position. I could not find a web reference to support this, for obvious reasons.
posted by mwhybark at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the most horrifying one:

11/03/1925 STAGGS, Opal, 11
Skull severed by being struck with circle saw. Deceased was standing close by the cutoff saw being operated by a Ford car when the belt broke, throwing the saw up in the air. It came down directly on his head laying skull open from above the right orbit in front clear back to occipital bone posterially.//Nothing of value.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2010


amicamentis: "Is it known whether or not this was one coroner, or the work of several?"

It's clearly the work of at least two discrete authors - the entries from around the turn of the century use much more floriated, formal language.
posted by mwhybark at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2010


Heretic: "the Polleys' stones have been the "roll over in the grass and get a treat" point for years"

Pictures! We want pictures!
posted by mwhybark at 10:42 AM on January 19, 2010


09/10/1909 POLLEY, Gladys
4 mos.
Starvation & Exposure.//Nothing.
09/10/1909 POLLEY, Kate
29
5'6"/165 Suicide by hanging.//$1.04 given to family.


Those pictures? Preferably with some flowers or something. Jesus.
posted by mwhybark at 10:45 AM on January 19, 2010


We are so very fragile.
posted by thatbrunette at 10:47 AM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


A++ FPP. Thanks!
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:47 AM on January 19, 2010


Secondary hemorrhage following a gunshot wound of the right chest and arm, wound in-flicted Sept. 2, 1930, by a 20 gauge shotgun in the hands of George Isaac Hays (colored) with homicidal intent.//Nothing of value.


Wow.

I wish there were a graph that took this data and projected it year-by-year. It would be interesting to see whether suicides/homicides drastically increased after 1929, for example, or when car accidents started to be so common.
posted by amicamentis at 10:48 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


.

01/22/1930 TERRELL, Georgia Virginia, 25
5'6"/100
Shock and hemorrhage following an abortion. Cause of abortion or approximate duration
of gestation undetermined because of unwillingness of friends and relatives to co-
operate. From examination of body, period of gestation must have been greater than six months.// Nothing of value.

posted by fight or flight at 10:50 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


There there's this. Two brothers on one day. The story, here.

06/19/1928 HACKER, Otto 47 5'8"/200 Struck by lightning which caused instant death near Bloomington Ind. about 4 p.m. June19, 1928.//Two dollars and sixty-five cents, one bunch of keys and one package of Moose receipts, one pipe.

06/19/1928 HACKER, Thomas 49 5'8"/190 Struck by lightning which caused instant death near Bloomigton, Ind. About 4 p.m. June19, 1928.//One watch & chain, one knife, one bunch of keys, three finger rings, four dollars in money, one package of receipts and papers.

Then there's this:

07/06/1930 HACKER, Walter 25 5'10"/160 Electric shock; struck by lightning while repairing a leak in his roof.//Working man's cloth-ing and valuables given to his wife and receipt taken by Mr. A. Day

I don't know why I'm finding this so interesting, but I've been looking up Carbolic Acid suicides (there has to be an easier way) and the strange ailments that felled these folks.

May they all rest in peace.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


11/04/1926 BRUMMETT, Fredrick Merle 6 wks 21"/6 Broncho-pneumonia.//Nothing of value

05/23/1927 BRUMMETT, William Everett 36 5'9"/175 Suicide; shot himself, tearing away the entire back part of his head with a no. 12 cartridge; dying instantly.//Nothing of any value.


(bereaved) father and son?
posted by availablelight at 10:54 AM on January 19, 2010


mwhybark, there are usually flowers there. One of the stones has a little ceramic angel on it. Now I know why.
posted by Heretic at 11:05 AM on January 19, 2010


While hooking at the Bert Hoadley Stone Mill, Bloomington, Ind., deceased was accident-
ally caught between a large block of stone being swung from the tramline and a pile of
blocks, crushing him about the head and body.


mwhybark, looks like you're right. The 'hooker' must be the operator responsible for setting the craned stones into place.
posted by amicamentis at 11:08 AM on January 19, 2010


DAVIDSON, Robert 7 4'2"/60 Alcoholic poisoning, acute. Deceased's father gave him liquor to drink the afternoon and night before he died. Autopsy reveals congested stomach full of alcoholic smelling con-tents. Chemical analysis of the stomach and bladder contents revealed it strongly positivefor alcohol. Deceased died in coma at about 2:30 p.m.//Nothing of value.

Good grief.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2010


A boom on derrick at National Quarry 6 miles south of Bloomington, broke under load,
fall-ing on Cox, crushing skull the size of 1 1/2" x 1" above left eye, breaking left leg
above knee, lacerating perineum and tearing both testicles from his scrotum and crushing left elbow. Death resulted almost instantly from the shock and hemorrhage.//A gold filled watch which was turned over to his brother, Chester Cox, and his receipt taken for same.


Thank god death was almost instant.
posted by amicamentis at 11:13 AM on January 19, 2010


Great find. A lot of these are strangely poetic. Like death haikus.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:16 AM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some of these are hard to read, but it's hard to stop reading. Excellent post.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:53 AM on January 19, 2010


A lot of these poor folks died of things that wouldn't be fatal now. It's amazing how much advancement in diagnosis and treatment has happened since the early 1900s.
posted by tommasz at 11:58 AM on January 19, 2010


What strikes me the most is the height / weight of everyone... not many people were over 200lbs back then! Most people are in the 150-170 range.
posted by outsider at 12:06 PM on January 19, 2010


I wish there were a graph that took this data and projected it year-by-year. It would be interesting to see whether suicides/homicides drastically increased after 1929

There must be better (ie, already pretty) sources somewhere, but the basic data is from the CDC. It seems as if data before 1933 did not include all the states. Please forgive the formatting, I do know how to make a nice table, just not here in metafilter.

1934, deaths per 100,000
accidents, ex-auto 51.3
accidents, auto 28.6
suicide 14.9

1998
accidents, ex-auto 20.1
accidents, auto 16.1
suicide 11.3
posted by shothotbot at 12:50 PM on January 19, 2010


My inner historian is fascinated by this post. I wish this kind of information/resource had been so easily available when I was in grad school 20 years ago. Much better than dealing with manuscripts and transcripts that you can only get through interlibrary loan!
posted by immlass at 1:00 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


06/08/1906 BRIDWELL, Charley
21 5'9"/160
Bullet wound in head, self inflicted.... Death was suicide and due to pressure on brain. He lived from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m....

08/21/1932 CHAMBERS, Julia Anne
66 5'6"/ 140
Suicide.... She shot herself at 6:30 p.m., was conscious until 8 a.m., and died at 8:20 a.m....

07/27/1931 KARSELL, William
54 5'10"/130
Suicide by means of shooting himself through the right temple with a .32 calibre revolver.... The shooting occurred at about 12 noon and deceased died at 6 p.m. the same day....

08/29/1928 KEMP, Jefferson P
69 5'10"/235
Gunshot wound inflicted with suicidal intent... he died at 6:05 p.m., the shot having been fired at 3:20 p.m....

02/28/1934 RICE, Wm. Floyd
20 5'11"/165
Suicide by shooting himself with a shotgun.... He shot himself close to noon on February 27 and died on February 28 at about 11:30 p.m....

"You have selected 'slow and horrible.'" — suicide booth, Futurama, "Space Pilot 3000"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:34 PM on January 19, 2010


This thread has evidently restarted my genealogy habit that's been on hold for a few years. I started reading about the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train wreck mwhybark mentioned, then I started searching for info on my great grandfather who worked for the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus at around that time and then I discovered that he worked for Kit Carson's Wild West Show before that, and that so did two of his brothers, one of whom I'd never known anything about. And now a whole new line of research has opened up to me. The internet is so amazing.
posted by Dojie at 1:58 PM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


11/01/1934 WRIGHT, Maxwell
45
5'10"/200 Coronary occlusion. Deceased had suffered previously with pain around the heart and
went to see a doctor at about 10 a.m. He felt too ill to walk and the doctor had him lie
down on a couch in the office. The doctor was called away on a call, and while he was
gone, the de-ceased became acutely ill and died.//The sum of $1.75 which was turned
over to his brother-in-law, Bruce Sare.


What kind of doctor is that?
posted by Harry at 3:18 PM on January 19, 2010


Wow, so many gunshot deaths!

Ruthless Bunny, here is another pair struck by lightning - children.
07/22/1926 WILLIAMS, Paul 4 2'6"/35 Struck by lightning.//Nothing of value.
07/22/1926 WILLIAMS, Viola 8 4'/50 Struck by lightning.//Nothing of value
posted by madamjujujive at 3:19 PM on January 19, 2010


At least nowadays the coroner doesn't investigate all deaths and I think it was pretty much the same back then. See here for the kind of deaths the Monroe County Coroner investigates now.

So a person who is diagnosed with a disease and then dies of it a while later isn't investigated (so no cancer) and an 80 year old man who dies of pneumonia isn't investigated either.

So that accounts for some of the seeming over abundance of accidents and suicide.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:05 PM on January 19, 2010


Though when I was doing some genealogy I found out that one of my ancestors died when the horse drawn sleigh she was riding in was struck by a train. There's an accident that doesn't happen much anymore.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:08 PM on January 19, 2010


Several of the train-related deaths appear to to be from folks falling off a freight while hopping a ride, either crosstown or farther.

03/19/1919 BLACK, J. W.
81
5'8"/148 Accidental; falling from a southbound train at the 8th Street crossing, Bloomington, Ind., breaking left leg above the knee, breaking his (back), injuring the face and fracturing skull at base of brain.//A pocket book, eye glasses, pair of gloves, and cash to the amount of $1.45 which was turned over to the undertaker to be applied on funeral expenses.



8th dead ends before the railroad. The open area on the map directly to the north of the placemarker is a steep bluff down to the tracks and local lore situates hobo jungles thereabouts during the depression, although Mr. Black's passing is well prior to that era.

As the train takes that curve, it slows considerably and is a traditional place to hop on and off the freights.


7/06/1933 HAY, Everett
56
5'10"/150 Accidental traumatism. Railroad accident. Deceased was walking west on the Monon tracks, under the I.C.C. overhead just off N. Fairiew St. A passenger train hit him and he sustained a basal fracture of the skull. The accident happened shortly before 12 noon July 6th, and he died at 2:30 p.m. the same afternoon. A curve in the track kept the crew from seeing the man until too late to stop.//Nothing of value.


In college, I lived directly south of this trestle for a while and used the tracks to cross town, mostly not on the trains, all the time.

01/01/1927 RIX, George
22
5'9"/170 Fell under a freight train as he was getting off said train, his feet slipping on the ice onto
the railroad track and being run over by two box cars cutting off both legs and receiving
bruises and a scalp wound which caused his death.//Small billfold containg ninety-seven
cents which was turned over to his father, Walter B Rix, of 408 Conway Building,
Chicago, Ill.


--

Here's an interesting pair:

12/13/1925 STRAIN, Clarence Claude
36
5'10"/165 Rupture of internal viscus caused by fire truck being struck by Monon freight train at
corner of 5th and Morton. Death resulted nine hours later at the Bloomington
Hospital.//Nothing of value.

04/08/1933 PORTER, Charles
64
5'8"/140 Trampled to death by a bull at the county poor farm. Deceased was in the habit of putting
the cows for milking every night in the barn. A new bull cornered him between the silo and
the barn and killed him before any help could be had. Sam Strain, another inmate at the
farm, found the bull on deceased and it then attacked him. He was rescued by his
nephew Claude Strain.//Nothing of value.

posted by mwhybark at 4:10 PM on January 19, 2010


Clarification:
There are a lot of comments here about the relative dearth of deaths by influenza, cancer, heart attacks, and other more 'natural' causes.

This record a list of all coronor's cases, but in that era did all coroner's cases equal all deaths? Today there is a huge diference, but what about back then?
posted by SLC Mom at 4:50 PM on January 19, 2010


They sure used to get run over by trains often.

My grandpa's family is from Monroe County, and I remember him telling me about an uncle of his who got drunk and fell asleep on the tracks, died. Wonder what it is about that county.


Not just your county.

One of my grandmother's husbands fell asleep drunk on the track and got decapitated. I saw the newspaper clipping. I don't know why people apparently liked to get drunk near the tracks unless that's where the saloons were.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:58 PM on January 19, 2010


It's all Mc and no Mac (e.g., McLennan not MacLennan). Is this a historical or regional difference?
posted by Rumple at 5:59 PM on January 19, 2010


Who sleeps on train tracks except those who want the train to run over them?
posted by marble at 7:50 PM on January 19, 2010


Rumple: "It's all Mc and no Mac"

My understanding is that the Monroe County area was settled by primarily German and Irish extraction folks in the pioneer days. My understanding, however, is weak, as my family came to town for the University and has since decamped.

Again, weak-fu, but isn't "Mc" Irish and "Mac" Scots?
posted by mwhybark at 11:06 PM on January 19, 2010


04/25/1935 CAIN, Myrtle 24 5'8"/140 Gunshot wound in the left side of the thorax, inflicted by her 5 year old son, Clifford Cain. The accident happened at about 10:30 a.m.

Hey, if Clifford was 5 in 1935, he would be 80 today!

Let's do a search for "Clifford Cain"...

Fifth result:

"Dr. Cliff Cain is Professor of Philosophy & Religion at Franklin College of Indiana..."

Ok, that creeped me out. It's not him, I think, but I don't want to investigate further.
posted by Baldons at 4:38 AM on January 20, 2010


I'm so glad that so many people are finding this as compelling and heartbreaking and beautiful as I do. On a prosaic note, I wondered if anyone knows why carbolic acid was turned to so frequently for suicide? Was it just something people used in rural everyday life?
posted by fullofragerie at 5:35 AM on January 20, 2010


On a prosaic note, I wondered if anyone knows why carbolic acid was turned to so frequently for suicide? Was it just something people used in rural everyday life?

I wondered the same thing. I did some searches and it appears that although a rather gruesome way to go, that it was cheap and readily available. Earlier in the century, when laudenum and morphine were cheap and readily available, those were the preferred methods for suicide.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:48 AM on January 20, 2010


Baldons: "Hey, if Clifford was 5 in 1935, he would be 80 today!"

No worries, Baldons, as Time Magazine (!) for
Monday, Sep. 12, 1938 has you covered:

"In Bloomington, Ind., three years ago, little Clifford Cain playfully pointed his father's gun at his mother, pulled the trigger, shot her dead. Last week, as 8-year-old Clifford and his brother Robert, 10, were playing with the same gun, Robert playfully shot Clifford dead."
posted by mwhybark at 6:54 AM on January 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Clarification:
There are a lot of comments here about the relative dearth of deaths by influenza, cancer, heart attacks, and other more 'natural' causes.

This record a list of all coronor's cases, but in that era did all coroner's cases equal all deaths? Today there is a huge diference, but what about back then?


Typically a coroner examines unattended deaths, so if someone were in the hospital when they died, it was presumed that they succumbed to their illness and no need for a coroner report.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:01 AM on January 20, 2010


Baldons: "Hey, if Clifford was 5 in 1935, he would be 80 today!"

No worries, Baldons, as Time Magazine (!) for
Monday, Sep. 12, 1938 has you covered:

"In Bloomington, Ind., three years ago, little Clifford Cain playfully pointed his father's gun at his mother, pulled the trigger, shot her dead. Last week, as 8-year-old Clifford and his brother Robert, 10, were playing with the same gun, Robert playfully shot Clifford dead."


I was just coming to post this cemetery record

Cain, Myrtle b. 02-20-1911 d. 04-25-1935

Cain, Clifford W b. 06-25-1930 d. 08-31-1938 our darling
posted by Dojie at 7:23 AM on January 20, 2010


10/23/1920 WHORTEN, Amanda Malina
60
5'5"/110 Acute gastritis, probably caused by eating green walnuts.

Googling "green walnuts" brings up this page about walnuts in herbal remedies. They recommend green walnuts for their "worm destroying virtues" among other benefits. Green walnut catsup?
posted by thebrokedown at 8:12 AM on January 20, 2010


INCREASE IN DEATHS
posted by mwhybark at 9:36 AM on January 20, 2010


Dojie: "I was just coming to post this cemetery record"

OK, now it's getting uncanny: Myrtle's hubby, whom I will not name here, appears to have been alive as late as 1984, according to an obit I found. One supposes he might yet be around.
posted by mwhybark at 9:46 AM on January 20, 2010


Similar to the Cain case:

11/26/1908 SHIELDS, David 42 5'11"/180

Accidentally shot by his son Parker, in the back with a shotgun while out rabbit hunting, producing death almost instantly from hemorrhage and shock.//Nothing of value

05/15/1926 SHIELDS, Parker 38 5'8"/175

Shotgun wound in left chest, 3 1/2" to the left and 2 1/2 inches below the left nipple. The shot ranged forward and upward, death resulting from perforation of the heart. The shot was fired by one Emmett Hodge.//Money and valuables which were listed turned over to the widow and a receipt taken for same. [List not included on report.]


Clearly gun violence is not a new issue in our country.
posted by amicamentis at 12:26 PM on January 20, 2010


Ok, guys, let's not playfully shoot people anymore, ok?
posted by Baldons at 4:03 PM on January 20, 2010


mwhybark, I am now seriously in doubt about Mr. Cain, the elder. One playful suspicious death is all you get before the police need to start serious inquiries.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:33 PM on January 20, 2010


These remind me a lot of Novels In Three Lines.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:10 PM on January 21, 2010


So, I started doing quick "search in page" queries for height statistics. Nobody over 6'4" and no deaths resulting from them being "tall".

The smallest adult I could find was 4 foot and the death was clearly a result of that.

05/19/1926 HINKLE, Walter 4'0"/65 Chronic nephritis complicated by deformity from birth and imbicilic byinheritance.//Nothing of value

Interesting
posted by namewithhe1d at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2010


For the last two years, I have lived in Monroe County and I can attest:
The summertime thunderstorms are spectacularly wicked. Better than any I've ever witnessed.

From these coroners' notes, it is a really strange mental shift / time warp for me to recognize how the locale has changed-- the Monon Line that slaughtered so many has been converted to a Rails to Trails bike path. The Station has been converted to a very lively weekend farmer's market-- and how it hasn't changed.

The roads here are very curvy, steep, and icy in winter. Two lanes exclusively, head on-- sometimes barely enough room for one car to pass safely. When it's not frozen, it's foggy or raining or hot and hazy. Visibility is always low. Now it seems death by tree or mutual death face first through the glass is most commonly. Occasional drowning or spinal injury in the quarries. Every season in the papers another half a dozen deaths by Empire State Building. Half a dozen deaths by Washington Monument. Every year.

***

I've passed many of the cemeteries without giving a thought to the lives of the people who lived here before me, to the people who are buried there, or how they died.

(if you want me to go hunt down some of these tombstones, I will do it. And I will send the pictures too. MeMail me.)

***

Also, since Spoon River Anthology came up earlier in the thread, I want to point to this other thing. It's a selection of Edgar Lee Masters' poems beautifully transcribed in song, a beautiful recording of life pondering death:

Richard Buckner's The Hill


.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:24 PM on January 24, 2010


at the crossroads: "The summertime thunderstorms are spectacularly wicked. Better than any I've ever witnessed."

As a member of our diaspora, it is these we miss, like mountains or ocean shore for persons raised in that proximity.

"Occasional drowning or spinal injury in the quarries. Every season in the papers another half a dozen deaths by Empire State Building."

It's not plain as day but it may be that's why you mention it: said building's stone originates in Monroe County's quarries.
posted by mwhybark at 11:29 PM on January 26, 2010


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