|Harriet (Buchanan) Adams|
|James Andrew Jackson Buchanan|
|Harriet (Buchanan) Adams|
|James Andrew Jackson Buchanan|
A Young Lady Attempts Suicide
On last Wednesday morning Miss Emma, a daughter of Wm. Staggers, of Bristoria, attempted to take her own life by shooting herself in the head. By a letter received from a friend on Tuesday evening we learn that the wound up to that time had not proven fatal. The young woman suffers most terribly from it and constantly calls upon those who come into her room, to give her relief, but nothing can be done for her. After the rash deed was discovered, Dr. J. H. Miller was called, but owing to the location of the wound thought it unsafe to probe for the ball.
I knew that I needed to revisit every record I had found for Grandma Elizabeth. The news article had been published 24 July 1890, dating her daughter Emma's suicide attempt to 16 July 1890. It was a sad story for all involved and as unhappy as the reference to Emma's mother was, it was also the first evidence I had that Elizabeth was still alive in 1890. A fresh review of the handful of records that I had for Elizabeth revealed the particular detail that I should have not passed over in previous studies. Though she still lived at home with her husband and children in Jackson Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth had been noted as "insane" in both the 1870 and 1880 Census records.
The young woman's mind was thought to have been deranged for the past few months. No other cause can be assigned for her committing the act. Her mother, we are told, has been insane for about 20 years. The deeply afflicted family have the sympathy of all their neighbors and friends.
If you would like to know more about Dixmont State Hospital, I recommend two outstanding sources:
(1) The Dixmont State Hospital: A Historical Documentary researched by Kate Guerriero and sponsored by The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center and The Ben Avon Area Historical Association
(2) Dixmont State Hospital (Images of America) by Mark Berton
Also see www.DixmontStateHospital.com for photos and history.
(By Candice Buchanan)
On Christmas Eve morning the Waynesburg Republican solemnly announced “Disastrous Fire Destroys Hotel Downey, Grossman Building and Presbyterian Church: Four Young Men, Volunteer Fire Workers, Lose Their Lives By Falling Walls. Four Others Seriously Injured.” The four young men killed while fighting the fire were: Harvey Call, Jr., William Andrew Finch, J. Thurman Long and Joseph Rifenberg. By its next printing on December 31, the Republican announced the fifth and final casualty, Victor Hoy Silveus.
The Downey House had been a prominent feature on Waynesburg’s main street since it was built in 1869. Located at the present site of the Fort Jackson Building where a plaque still hangs in honor of the five men who lost their lives, the Downey House was a hotel and shopping center with over a dozen businesses located within its walls.
The fire began in the Coney Island restaurant and was discovered about 3:30 a.m. on the morning of December 23. The fire tore through the Downey House, where the restaurant was located on the first floor, and quickly spread to the neighboring Grossman Building and then via live embers carried on strong winds to the Courthouse cupola and the Presbyterian Church. The destruction of property was estimated by local papers at near $1,000,000 and the loss of five young men, only in their 20s, was inconsolable.
Amid the devastation of life and property, however, there was a powerfully good human spirit to be seen. And despite the tragic circumstances at hand, this generous spirit was fitting to the Christmas season.
Loss of life was minimal thanks to the courage of the volunteer firefighters not only from Waynesburg, but also from neighboring companies who rushed to answer the call for aid, these included: East Washington, Charleroi, Fredericktown, Carmichaels, Jefferson, Buckeye Coal Company, Nemacolin, Brownsville, Masontown, Rices Landing and Bentleyville. The men battled the fire through most of the morning, gaining control of it by about 7:00 a.m. It was noted in the Democrat Messenger on December 25, that the Rices Landing company had only recently formed and received their first truck on December 22. Not yet in receipt of a hose, they borrowed what they needed from the Frick Coal Company before departing for the fire. Despite these obstacles, the young company was the third on the scene.
Firefighters were not the only people to rush to help. Among the survivors were the hotel manager and twenty-five guests who were roused by H. C. Schreiber, a jeweler, who was working in his store when the early morning fire was discovered. Mr. Schreiber’s store, located on the first floor of the Downey House, was destroyed, incurring at least $30,000 in damages, but rather than trying to save his property he rushed immediately to the second floor to sound the alarm.
Fear of the fire spreading to more buildings was strong and compelled residents of nearby apartments to evacuate. Ordinary citizens came forward to help these people quickly remove their most dear possessions from their homes before the fire could impose.
The Downey House fire had another long-term positive impact. A lesson learned, the Waynesburg community formed the Waynesburg Volunteer Fire Company on March 4, 1926. This company replaced the department run by the borough with a group of volunteers wholly organized and trained for the single purpose of fighting fires.
(Originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, December 2005. Updated December 2012 for www.GreeneConnections.com).
Democrat Messenger, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 25 December 1925, page 1.
G. Wayne Smith, History of Greene County, Pennsylvania, 2 volumes (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania: Cornerstone Genealogical Society, 1996), 2: 839-840.
"Disastrous Fire Destroys Hotel Downey, Grossman Building and Presbyterian Church" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 24 December 1925, page 1, columns 1-4.
Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 31 December 1925, page 1.
Photograph 1 - Downey House, corner of Washington and High Streets, Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Reproduction, candid. Places Series. Waynesburg Subseries. Greene County Historical Society Collection, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Online image digitized by Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project. http://www.GreeneConnections.com: 2012. Item # To Be Assigned.
Photograph 2 - Remains of Downey House following fire 23 December 1925, corner of Washington and High Streets, Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Original, candid. Friends Series. William Francis Jacobs Collection Collection. Online image digitized by Greene Connections: Greene County, Pennsylvania Photo Archives Project. http://www.GreeneConnections.com: 2012. Item # JACD_AN002_0046.
(By Candice Buchanan)
The holiday season offers some of the best opportunities to tap those family resources. Be it minds or matter you need to explore, you should be prepared to take advantage of so many relatives in one place at one time. It is always tricky to set a time to get together with today’s busy schedules, but with two major family-oriented holidays only a month apart it is like having a built-in family history follow-up. At the Thanksgiving gathering begin your question-and-answer periods and let the kin know what family data or materials you are seeking. If an aunt comments that she has the family Bible or photos that you don’t have – well, that’s the beauty of the Christmas holiday coming just a few weeks later – simply tell her to bring them on December 25.
Before or after the big meal, break out those unmarked family photos and ask for help putting names to faces. Don’t just get the key figures like Grandpa or Dad, but get the names of every person. Ask when, where and why the photo was taken and write that down too. Keep track of who shared each photo to include in notes with any reprints you may produce – this will make everyone feel included and appreciated for participating.
Fill-in the missing leaves in your family tree for descendants as well as ancestors. Get full names (not just initials or nicknames), birthday/baptism/graduation/wedding/etc. dates and places, and any other details that sit-downs with your cousins can provide.
Ask to hear those favorite family stories, this time with a digital, audio or video recorder in hand, or at least a pen and paper. These interviews should go beyond the basic facts to include the interesting or fun details of life that will really add personality to your family history and preserve details that will otherwise be lost. In my family we grew up hearing a humorous tale about Grandma’s elderly aunt who only washed her hair once a year, and a more serious account of a younger aunt who comforted her family from her death bed saying it is “so beautiful to be with Jesus.” Stories such as these can turn a series of names and dates into a personable, intriguing report that will interest even the non-genealogists among your relatives. These details won’t be found in public records, the resources for these priceless pieces of history are the minds of your relatives. Don’t take those story-telling relatives for granted, recording their personal accounts should be a priority.
If you are creative, the photo or heirloom show-and-tell sessions and the interviews conducted on your Thanksgiving holiday may prompt unique gift ideas for the Christmas holiday. Photos can be restored or enlarged to look excellent framed. Combine the photos with family birthdays and anniversaries to create a handy family calendar (for some great ideas, check out this site and click “Products” to see previews). Interviews could be put on a family website or DVD for all to enjoy. Type up those family stories for a book along with special photos and documents too (like the calendars, I use this site to make really cool books that can look any way you want them to, they have great family history templates that you can 100% customize, and you can get personalized help for free if you need it). Begin a Memory Medallion full of all those collected memories to remember lost loved ones whom everyone thinks of so often at this time of year. All of these projects are do-able from your own computer or at minimal costs through professional services; yet, these gifts will be one-of-a-kind and valuable to generations of your family.