A Cautionary Tale About The Effects of Whiskey on a "Good and Popular Citizen"

 I’m easily distracted, I accept that. Usually when I’m chasing down one story, another shiny name or picture catches my attention and down the rabbit hole I go. This was the case earlier while I was perusing the burial records for Raleigh’s City Cemetery trying to match a name to a stone cutter’s tombstone. What caught my eye was the name “Violet Page.” Looking at her cause of death I became even more intrigued: suicide. Suicide is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly. However, it’s rare that I have found suicide as a cause of death in cemetery records even though I’m positive that it’s more pervasive than I’m aware.

There wasn’t much online about Miss Page, but I found out that she committed suicide with W.H. Hood, who happened to be William Henry Hood, son of William H. Hood (Jr.?) and Annie Richardson Hood. From there I found this article about the events surrounding their deaths.


From the Asheboro Courier, January 11, 1906
“Double Suicide. Yesterday (Sunday) there was developed another horrible instance in Raleigh of what whiskey will do for a man who was otherwise a good and popular citizen. William H. Hood, until recently deputy register of deeds of Wake county, and whose father was register of deeds at the time of his death some four or five years ago, was found dead in bed with a disreputable woman in Raleigh’s tenderloin district, locally known as East Raleigh. The woman was also dead and empty laudanum vials in the room revealed the means employed by them to commit the double suicide. Three months ago Hood was treated at an institution in this State for the drinking habit. During the holidays he returned to his cups which fact is said to have caused him to lose hope for the future and on Saturday he deliberately made up his mind to put an end to his existence. According to report he revealed his intention to the woman Saturday night, whereupon the latter told him that if he was determined to kill himself she “would go along with him, wherever it led to.” The woman then, it seems, left the bawdy house in which she was an inmate and accompanied Hood to the house of an old colored woman where they hired a room for the night. The finding of their dead bodies in bed yesterday about noon was the sequel of the horrible that they made and so fatally kept. Mr. Hood leaves a widowed mother, an invalid wife and one or two small children.”

Wow.

I’m not even sure how to follow that up. From reading this, it seems like the newspaper writer is a little more forgiving of William than he or she was of Violet: describing her as “disreputable” and referring to Mr. Hood as “good” and “popular,” even though he and Violet had both committed the same act. We don’t know that Violet was a prostitute even though she was living in a brothel. In those days, if law enforcement deemed a house to be a bawdy house, then anyone living there was considered an inmate whether they were soliciting or not.

Laudanum was a popular cure-all during the Victorian Era which was made of about 90% alcohol and 10% powdered opium. It was often flavored with spices and available without a prescription until the early 20th century, which made it easily accessible to the masses. People used laudanum to relieve pain, to treat insomnia, to cure a cold, or simply to relax. It was even given to infants and small children to quiet them or help them go to sleep, which may have been another contributing factor to the high infant mortality rate during the 1800s/early 1900s.

I found photos I’d taken of some of the Hood graves in City Cemetery: William (his father), Annie, Emma, and Sarah. There are more Hoods listed in the records, so it’s possible that if he has a headstone then I didn’t photograph it. Or perhaps his family decided not to mark his grave. Mr. Hood sounds like he was a troubled man. From this article we can deduce that he was an alcoholic with an invalid wife and probably a mistress. I can’t imagine that anyone would meet someone and immediately enter into a suicide pact, although it’s possible. He had one, maybe two young children, on top of a plethora of other issues. From the phrase “caused him to lose hope for the future” it seems like he might have suffered from depression, if not some other mental disorder.

It’s very unfortunate that the situation ended the way that it did.

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4 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale About The Effects of Whiskey on a "Good and Popular Citizen"”

  1. Wow — fascinating! I'm glad you point out that a house could be stated to be a bawdy house, even if not all of the occupants were in the business of prostitution. It does make me wonder about this woman, though, and what would have driven her to participate in this man's suicide.

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  2. I know what you mean about being distracted. That happened to me this weekend and my post in “Amanuensis Monday” tell about what happened. It was “An Early Christmas Gift” For me and I stayed up late because I just had to show everybody what I got for Christmas. This is a great community of bloggers. Look forward to reading more of your blogs next year.

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  3. “Guilt by association” in its purest form. It's a shame that we won't know the truth, and all that exists in the virtual realm as a legacy to this woman is an article that suggests that she may have been a prostitute.

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