Talking to the Dead

I had gone to the Tulsa County Court House to try to find out more about my grandfather’s killer. Instead at an annex, I found probate records of my grandfather’s estate. I was surprised by the size of my grandfather’s estate, (over $200,000, a sizable fortune in 1925) and that he had disinherited his first born child, my father.

Disappointed that I hadn’t been able to find out more about my grandfather’s killer, my next stop was nearby – the Roseville Cemetery.

Through online records I found out that my father had been buried at the Roseville Cemetery. I got there while the cemetery was open, but the office was closed. In the very extensive grounds, I could not find my family’s burial plot. There was no guiding information posted. It would have to wait for the next day.

Hutchison plot, Roseville Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The next morning, the office was open and I got directions to my family’s burial plot. With some difficulty, I eventually found the Hutchison family plot. The Hutchison plot was  right next to the Purdy family plot, which was the surname of my grandfather’s killer.

I avoid cemeteries and have never attended a funeral, but I stayed awhile, talking out loud with everyone who is buried there, including my dad. There were gravestones for my grandfather, grandmother, great uncle, uncle, aunt and my father.

Gravestone of my grandfather, the murdered “Love Pirate”

I went from grave to grave, greeting each person. I spoke with each of them and shared what I was doing. I told them I was researching my father’s history to understand the man I didn’t know and that I was writing a novel, Tracking the Human, based on events in his life. I explained to them that my project was a work in progress for reconciliation for all of us.

Gravestone of my father

Driving out of the Rosehill Cemetery, I noticed a gun shop and firing range directly across the street.

Gun shop across the street from Roseville Cemetery

My next stop would be Krebs, Oklahoma, a very small town just outside McAlester Oklahoma, where my father was born in 1907. I had no particular leads, but thought I would go and take a look at his birthplace.

Disinherited

Having gone to Tulsa Oklahoma to find out about the death of my grandfather, I was shocked to learn how he had died. On January 14, 1925, in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison, age 43, had his brains blown out by a jealous husband, Charles Eugene Purdy,  (see Blog 18: Love Pirate Murder).

To try to find out more about my grandfather, I went to the annex on the outskirts of Tulsa where probate records were kept.

                                           Tulsa County Annex Building

I shook my head in disbelief at what I found in the probate files. I was astounded that the estate of my grandfather in 1925 was worth over USD $200,000!! A fortune in those days.

There were pages and pages of disputes about who should get the money – the children of his first wife, my grandmother, who had three children, (the first born was my father, W. Lon Hutchison), his second wife, who had four children and was living in Arkansas or the woman Helen Purdy, who was with my grandfather when he was shot and killed  by her estranged  husband, Charles Eugene Purdy.  A  handwritten will left specific sums to his mother, sister and children from both wives, and made Helen Purdy his executor.

The story became more complex reading through over 70 pages of charges and counter-charges, mainly between E.S. Hutchison’s second wife, Mary Hutchison and Helen Purdy, who had been his employee and personal secretary prior to his murder.  In the depositions included in the files, Helen Purdy is accused by Mary Hutchison of conspiring with her ex-husband Charles Eugene Purdy to defraud my grandfather of his considerable fortune.

The issue of why Charles Eugene Purdy shot my grandfather, despite the “Love Pirate” stories, became less clear because the documents state that Purdy had filed for divorce from his wife some months prior to the shooting.  Also at one point, according to the probate documents,  he had received tens of thousands of dollars from my grandfather because Purdy had somehow contrived to have my grandfather  briefly put in jail.

The probate files included a copy of my grandfather’s  hard-to-decipher handwritten will that I forced myself to read and re-read. My grandfather wrote that his firstborn son, my father, W. Lon Hutchison, would get $100 from his estate, but only if my father never returned to Tulsa until after his father had died!

My father, the firstborn child, had been disinherited by his father. Decades later he did the same to his firstborn child – me. I was beginning to get the picture. The more I found out, the more I wanted to try to stop the passing on of rejection generation after generation within this family.

Have you found a pattern of rejection in your family?

What have you tried or are trying to do about it?

Your comments are most welcome!

 

 

In the wrong place?

 At the archives of the Tulsa Public Library, I found the shocking news that my grandfather E. S. Hutchison had his brains blown out by a jealous husband in front of the post office in down town Tulsa Oklahoma in 1925. Then a few days later in a speech at the Tulsa City Club, his brother, L.L. Hutchison denounced my grandfather as a womanizer and said he got what he deserved. As Ye Sow So Shall You Reap.

I wanted to try to find out more about my grandfather and his murderer, so I drove downtown to the Tulsa County Court house.

At the County Court house, I tried to trace what happened to the shooter, Charles Eugene Purdy, who killed my grandfather. I couldn’t find out if he was convicted or not. Perhaps I went to the wrong department.

In a very big thick black book, that was too heavy to lift, I searched and did find handwritten references to probate records for 1925. But the records were not kept at the county court house.

To see the probate records, I was sent to an annex in a temporary building in an industrial area. Thanks to the GPS, I found it on the outskirts of Tulsa. The annex was a nondescript building with a small parking area. There were no clear signs indicating what was in the building. I knocked on a few doors and finally found the probate records annex.

After writing a request for the probate records following my grandfather’s murder, I sat down on a metal folding chair and waited. I felt isolated and alienated in the bare surroundings with no signs indicating where I was or what was the purpose of the space I was in. I controlled a feeling of hopelessness telling me to get out of there.

Just as I was wondering if I was in the wrong place or if the files no longer existed, a clerk came into the room carrying a thick book of records. Glancing quickly through the files, I shouted out in a very loud voice, What? The startled clerk opened the door to the adjoining room to ask if I was okay. I reassured him that I was.

What caused me to shout out loud and startle the clerk?

Find out in the next blog.

Family betrayal

Having gone to Tulsa Oklahoma to find out about the death of my grandfather, I was shocked to learn how he had died. On January 14, 1925, in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison, age 43, had his brains blown out by a jealous husband ( Love Pirate blog).

Sitting in the Tulsa Public Library archives, I continued reading about the ongoing family saga on microfiche in the Tulsa Daily World newspaper.

To help the reader go back in time to events of 1925, here’s what was happening in the world four days after my grandfather was shot and killed in Tulsa Oklahoma.

On the inside of the Tulsa Daily World, the article on Mussolini goes on to say that Mussolini and his Black Shirts saved  Italy from a “Red Overthrowal” and that Mussolini had no “Napoleonic ambitions” and was eager to return to “Constitutional Government”.

And if you were wealthy, here’s the car you could buy.

 

 

 

 

On the same day, 18 January 1925, my grandfather’s murder is back on page one of the Tulsa Daily World Sunday final edition.

Also on page one were excerpts from a speech by my grandfather’s brother. Five days after his brother was shot and killed, L.L. Hutchison made a speech at the Tulsa City Club, as retiring president. His speech was headlined on the front page of the Tulsa Daily World , “As Ye Sow So Shall Ye Also Reap”.

L.L. Hutchison said that the sorrow his family felt most bitterly (about the death of his brother, my grandfather), was due “entirely to a wrong philosophy of life”. He went on to say, “You can’t sin and get away with it”. He claimed that his brother E. S. Hutchison got what he deserved for chasing other men’s wives. He reminded his audience that the wages of sin are death.

My great uncle denounced his own brother at a public meeting and on the front page of the Tulsa Daily World. My great aunt Jessie Hutchison (wife of L.L.) had my father committed to an Oklahoma state insane asylum. Lon Lewis Hutchison denounced his own brother saying he deserved a violent death because he was a womanizer.

How much more rejection would I uncover in this family? The more  information I found on my USA road trip, the more urgent became the necessity of working towards family reconciliation. Generation upon generation of vengeance had to be stopped.

What have you found out in your family research? Can we write our way to family reconciliation?

Please share your thoughts.  Thank you.

Searching for an obituary, Tulsa Oklahoma

The shock of finding out that my father W. Lon Hutchison had been committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Hospital at Vinita by his own aunt in 1934 was somewhat softened with time and travel. I had never been to Oklahoma and was learning to use the GPS on my iPhone for the first time.

I drove to Tulsa from Vinita. I had an appointment with a research librarian made by email. Tulsa is the second largest city in Oklahoma. For most of the 20th century, the city called itself the “Oil Capital of the World”.

Tulsa has an exceedingly complex maze of overlapping freeways. I made a few wrong turns. I was thankful that the GPS on my phone redirected me. I found my way to the annex where the Tulsa Public Library archives were stored.

I had sent emails to the librarian that I was looking for information about my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison. Through cemetery records online, I found out that he had died in Tulsa in 1925. Although I was focusing on my father’s life, I thought that finding information about my grandfather might help me understand what happened to my father and why he never talked about his birth family.

The librarian opened up the microfiche of the Tulsa Daily World  newspaper to the year 1925 to look for my grandfather’s obituary. The librarian advised me to be patient, that it might take some time before I would find anything about him.

I sat down at the microfiche machine, rolling past the first days of the headlines of January 1925. I prepared myself for a long, patient search for information about my grandfather. What I found, within a few minutes, was shocking to me and to the research librarian assisting me.

Read about what I found in my next blog.

Please share any moments of research shock you may have had.

Thanks. See you in my next blog about the Love Pirate.

On the Road to Madness

 Until that moment in the public library in Lawrence Kansas when a record came up online that my great aunt Jessie Hutchison had my father W. Lon Hutchison committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, I had no idea that he had suffered from mental illness. I had only heard vague mention from my mother of narcotics in my father’s past.

I was shaking, when the records came up on my laptop of my father being committed by his aunt to the state mental hospital. I had never heard of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital nor the town of Vinita, where it is located.  The records were a blast from a past and from a place that were unknown to me. How could I have ever known or even heard about the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital in Vinita?

I don’t think even my mother knew about my father being committed to the state mental hospital by his own family. She once told me that he was bitter about his family but she thought it was because he had been disinherited by his siblings.

My friends in Lawrence, Kansas, where I was staying, had a road atlas. I looked up Vinita. There it was. Almost due south from Lawrence. I rented a car and left for Oklahoma the next day. It was a straight shot down a narrow two-lane road through the Kansas plains to Vinita, Oklahoma. A pleasant drive with very little traffic.

I easily found the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital just outside the town of Vinita. I drove around on the road bordering the brick buildings. The state mental hospital has an extensive, imposing campus, with no trespassing signs and a tall fence to keep people out. It had been shut down several years before.

Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital                       Vinita, Oklahoma

How was I going to find out anything about my father’s time here? Would I find any clues about how he got out? Being committed to a state mental institution is often a life sentence, without parole.

•    •    •   •   •   •   •

Your comments are always most welcome. 

Have you had any family members committed to a state mental hospital? 

Note:  I have another blog dedicated to my mother at https://www.bettehutchisonsilver.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Abandoned, Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital

I’d come to the MidWest, USA to research events in my father’s life for the novel I was writing, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time. I found very disturbing information while searching online at the public library in Lawrence Kansas. In 1934, my great aunt Jessie Hutchison went to court in Tulsa, Oklahoma to have my father, W. Lon Hutchison committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital in Vinita.

The documents Aunt Jessie submitted to have him committed included a letter from the warden at the Federal Medical Center for Defective Delinquents in Springfield, Missouri. After being transferred from the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, my father had served the remainder of his prison sentence for narcotics at the Medical Center in Springfield.

Court document Tulsa Oklahoma certifying W. Lon Hutchison as insane

The letter from the warden was as follows: “Lon is suffering from hallucinations, believes he’s been to heaven and back and is ordained to save mankind. It is necessary to feed him with a tube because he thinks all food is unclean and from the devil, except for milk. It will be necessary for him to go to a mental hospital for further treatment until he can be placed on his own. “

I had heard stories from my mother of my father being in prison for narcotics. That didn’t upset me. When I read the warden’s letter about my father’s delusions and the fact that his own aunt had him committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, I broke down completely.

I was struck down by the terrible pain of being rejected by his family and sent to the mental hospital -a place to dump the indigent, the poor, the aged, the neglected, the unwanted. Most people would never get out. I sat in a comfortable chair in the Lawrence Kansas Public Library and cried. I was shaking all over. No one in the library paid any attention.

The visit to the public library in Lawrence, Kansas was the lowest point in my search for information about my father. How could he have survived? How did he manage to get out of the mental hospital? How much did he have to keep hidden in later life from everyone, including his wife, my mother?

Postcard of Eastern Oklahoma State Mental     Hospital, Vinita, Oklahoma

I left the library and walked up and down in the park, trying to pull myself together to drive back to my friends’ house. I wasn’t sure I could remember the way down the country roads, which had no names or signs. I made it back but until the next day, I couldn’t tell my friends what I had found.