Misc. Mortuary Mysteries

Even though I still have thousands (yes, thousands) of pictures from Green Hill to sort, catalog, and research I decided to devote this post to people who may or may not rest in marked graves. The Mortuary Reports contain many fascinating and woeful tales of death, and it seems like in many (not all) cases this final entry is the only remaining record of their existence.
Some of these handwritten notes stood out because of the blunt, straightforward, and morbidly dry language used. Others caught my attention because they pose mysteries, and I admittedly love a good cemeterial puzzle. Ambiguous and unusual causes of death, references to brothels, murders, suicides, and people buried anonymously on pauper grounds are just a few examples of the mysteries that provide an image (albeit a blurred one) of life in Danville in the late 19th century perhaps not captured in the society pages or written histories.
May 15, 1886: “a white fetus found in River” was buried in a pauper’s grave.
July 24, 1886: Charles Lunde, originally from Sweden, age 50, COD: Drowning. Also buried on pauper grounds.
August 22, 1886: Emma Scott, age 42, COD: “poison by morphine.” Promiscuous ground.
October 4, 1886: John McIntyre, age 34, Place of Death: Lee Street. COD: “…caused by a blow with a stick in the hands of Henry Fuller (colored) time from attack until death 24 hours.”
October 23, 1886: G.A. Walker, Jr., Place of Death: Ridge Street. COD: “pistol shot wound through liver and stomach.” (I actually have found some information on this man and his death, but I’m holding onto it until I get a clearer picture of the circumstances.)
October 25, 1886: Harry Powell, age 16, occupation: transfer agent. Place of Death: Ridge Street. COD: “Injuries received from being thrown from train against post.”
Dec. 7, 1886: Mary Henry Etta [illegible] (alias Carrie Reade), age 26, single. Died on Craghead Street, COD: “cancer [illegible].” Buried on pauper grounds.
Jan. 7, 1887: Infant son of H.D. Guerrant, age 5 months. Died on Paxton Street, COD: “overdose of opium I think.”
July 28, 1887: Mrs. J.G. Miller, age 60. Place of Death: Grove Street. COD: “Supposed obscure brain trouble.”
Aug. 11, 1887: Edward Townes Lewis, age 9. Place of Death: Pittsylvania County. COD: “puncture wound of the brain.”
Nov. 18, 1887: Mrs. Cornelia L. Davis. Place of Death: Pittsylvania County. COD: “nervous prostration from hesteria.”
Dec. 1887: Patty Elmore, age 25 years. COD: “Delerium tremors.”
June 5, 1888: Ella May (Craghead Street), age “about 25 years.” COD: “voluntary suicide so said the Jury.” Buried on pauper grounds.

July 17, 1888: Infant son of Thos. & Mary Scott, Age 17 months. COD: “can’t make out the cause of death.”

“P.L. Randleman Age 50 years…I saw him at various times for 2 years or more that he died on the 16th day of July 1888 and that the cause of his death was Excessive use of Alcoholic Stimulants W.L. Robinson M.D.”

October 17, 1888: Henry Hartis, Age 28. COD: “killed by a blow on the head with a stick.” Buried in a pauper’s grave.

November 28, 1888: Dr. James Thomas Humfries, Age 88. COD: “Erysiflas caused by crushed leg.” (This one was interesting because Dr. Humfries, or Humphries, is found throughout the mortuary reports as the doctor signing various death certificates. I was also unable to find anything about him, which is odd considering his occupation.)

Buried February 6, 1889: “unknown male child” on pauper ground.

February 26, 1889: Frank L. Bernard, age 25. COD: “killed a train on Richmond and Danville R.Road.”

May 9, 1889: E.J. Beckner, age 44. COD: “Alcoholism.”

May 16, 1889: Lizzie Boyed (Boyd?), Age [blank space]. COD: “result of operation being performed.”

Aug. 31, 1889: Ira Tuck, age 34. COD: “Self Suicide.” Buried on Odd Fellows Section.

“Col. Blackburn, dont no his age…died on the 30th day of January 1890 and that the cause of his death was Alcoholism.” Buried on promiscuous ground.

March 12, 1890: Ollie Moore, age 7. COD: “drowning in a well on the premises.” Buried on promiscuous grounds.

April 28, 1890: Mrs. E.M. Raines, age 38. COD: “unknown Drop Dead.” Buried in “Charlie Bennett’s section.”

December 1890: W. A. Price, age 24. COD: “he was killed in a RR Accident on Atlantic and Danville RR.” Buried on promiscuous ground.

January 5, 1891: Henry Slaughter, age 56. COD: “alber mania complication Paralysis.” (If you have any idea what kind of mania this referred to, please let me know.)

March 19, 1891: R.W. Valentine, age 34. COD: “Alcoholism.”

April 9, 1891: Nettie Carter, age 26. COD: “Opium Poisoning.” Buried on pauper grounds.

Buried July 22, 1891: James M. Wilson. “Killed on Atlantic & Danville Rail Road certificate from Boydton.”

August 9, 1891: George Ferguson, age 18. COD: “Gun Shot Wounds.” Buried “on M. Enoch Taylor Section.”

August 23, 1891: Andrew J. Crawley, age 23. COD: “Morphine Habit.”

August 1891: “J.H. Ford age not known died at Franklin Junction Resident of Reidsville NC.” Buried in Masons section.

November 11, 1891: Josie Wheeler, age 18. COD: “poisoning by opium.” (This is odd because the newspaper clipping below claims Josie’s body was sent back to Winston-Salem, NC for burial following her suicide. Because the mortuary reports record burials, I think perhaps the newspaper was in error unless her body was removed from Green Hill and then transported.)

Richmond Dispatch, 13 Nov. 1891

Buried on January 25, 1892: Eugene Ferguson, age 15. COD: “gun shot wounds recd from a Negro boy.” (Please read this disclaimer about language used in historical reports before sending me hate mail.)

April 26, 1892: Mrs. M.E. Lawson, age 47. COD: “some obscure disease.”

Buried on August 5, 1893: Susan Warner, age 60. “died in jail of Acute Mania.” Buried on promiscuous ground.

Buried promiscuously on December 2, 1893: William E. Carghill, age illegible. “killed on A&D RR.”

Buried December 10, 1893: Mrs. J___ Wetherford, age 73. “Died in North Danville from the Effects of Burns.”

March 6, 1894: Infant daughter of E. Lewis & wife, age 6 days. COD: “overdose of Laudanum.”

April 19, 1894: Mrs. Ella Grasty Crews, age 30.  COD: “some obscure Disease of the Nervous Sistem.” (Ella’s grave is marked, but I don’t have a photograph of it handy.)

August 15, 1894: Child from Blonde Hall, age 8 months. COD: “Entero Colitis.” (Blonde Hall is the only “house of ill repute” that I’ve uncovered in local history, but all I have is a name so far. I’d love to know where it was located.)

February 22, 1895: Robert Terrell Jones, age 57. COD: “Exhaustion following opium poisoning.”

Buried April 29, 1895: “James Wallace, age 35, Killed by Louis Shaner.”

The mortuary reports end with the final April 1895 entry, unfortunately. There are additional burial records for the cemetery beyond 1900 but causes of death are omitted, making them mainly useful for possibly locating graves or confirming whether or not someone is buried on the grounds.

This older post contains a wee bit of information about laudanum use in the 19th century.

One thought on “Misc. Mortuary Mysteries”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: