I’m back at Oak Hill Cemetery! This week, I’ve got three untimely deaths to share with you.
When something in a cemetery looks a little different or unique, I usually take a picture and look into it later. Such is the case of George Allen. Not only was there a small cross-shaped marker sitting on top of a larger, modern dual monument, the death date for George was much earlier than the one for his wife. What happened to George?
The story I found was unlike any I’d ever read before. Who knew a trip to the dentist could be fatal?
Death in the Dentist’s Chair
A native of Virginia, George J. Allen was born to cabinetmaker John H. and Mary B. Allen in 1845. He married Margaret “Maggie” Redwine in Lafayette, Miss. in 1868. In 1870, their daughter, Mary, was born. The family settled in Birmingham. George’s brother, Robert, lived with them in the 1880s. Both brothers appear to have worked as machinists.
George visited a dentist in late May 1882 in Louisville, Ala. (while out of town for work) to have a tooth extracted. After returning to Birmingham, he visited a dentist named Dr. Eubank to “draw the roots” and asked for chloroform to be used. The dentist refused, despite chloroform’s widespread use by dentists/doctors after the Civil War, but then consulted with two colleagues to get their opinions. Remember the name Dr. Luckie. You will see it again.
You can read about the tragic event in the article below.
How the reporters knew that George was insured for several thousand dollars is unknown. The Allens only had one daughter, so the “several children” was an error. Regardless, poor George was dead at the age of 37. His cross-shaped cross marker is small and worn but remains as a heartfelt tribute. You can make out an anchor leaning against the front, signifying the symbol of hope.
Margaret was left to raise Mary on her own. In 1889, Mary wed Birmingham police chief George Bodeker (who later operated his own detective agency). According to U.S. census records, Maggie lived with them for the next three decades. She died on April 3, 1933 at age 85.
Shot on Christmas Night
In another case of “What does the date signify?”, I noticed that one member of the Bowen family died young. I initially guessed it was illness, but I was wrong.
The son of an engineer, Samuel Bowen was one of Welsh immigrants John Bowen and Anna Coons Bowen’s four sons. He was born in Rome, Ga. in 1871. The Bowens lived in Chattanooga, Tenn. before settling in Birmingham, Ala.
Samuel followed in his father’s footsteps and became an engineer, at one time working at the Sloss Furnaces. After the Civil War, Birmingham’s pig iron industry boomed over the next several decades. During the 1880s, as pig iron production in Alabama grew from 68,995 to 706,629 gross tons, no fewer than 19 blast furnaces were built in Jefferson County alone. Today, the Sloss Furnaces are a national historic landmark and have been a museum since 1983.
On Christmas night 1894, Samuel and his older brother, William, were enjoying a drink at Horan’s Saloon. Fellow engineers James Adkins and Bruce Kelly invited Samuel to play a game of poker dice. According to newspaper reports, Samuel accused Adkins of “hogging” the dice. A fight ensued in which all three men threw bottles and glasses at each other. The accounts reported in court of what happened after that differ, but the result was the same. Adkins shot Samuel, who died the next day.
“A Voice We Love is Stilled”
As is often the case, finding out whether or not the culprit(s) was convicted or not proved difficult. A hearing was held and witnesses testified, some saying Adkins shot Samuel in self defense. William testified to the contrary, as did the saloon owner’s father. The last report I found said Adkins had been granted bond at $1,500 from the judge. This leads me to believe he was likely acquitted later or the case was dismissed.
Samuel, two of his brothers, and his parents are buried together at Oak Hill. Only brother Louis is missing. His father, John, had died in 1887. His mother, Anna, died in 1924 at age 84. She lived with William and Thomas (both widowers) in her last years. William was the last Bowen to die in 1942 at age 74.
I did not see Samuel’s haunting epitaph when I was at Oak Hill but cemetery records indicate it reads as follows. The “FCB Brother” refers to his membership in the Knights of Pythias:
A light from our household is gone, A voice we loved is stilled,
A place is vacant in our home, Which never can be filled.
We cannot tell who next may fall, Beneath thy chastening rod,
One must be first, But let us all prepare to meet our God.
The Hawes Riots
I noticed a beautiful monument for Maurice B. Throckmorton, who died at age 33 in 1888. Again, the seemed young. I had no idea that he was part of a painful chapter in Birmingham’s history — the infamous Hawes riots of December 1888.
The story of the Hawes riots is long and complicated. Oak Hill Cemetery has done a wonderful job of writing a detailed account of it here. I urge you to read it because I don’t have the time/space to do it justice. The basic story of the Hawes Riot is that Richard “Dick” Hawes, a George Pacific engineer, murdered his wife, Emma, and his two daughters, May and Irene.
Hawes often left his family alone at their Birmingham home. Emma was reputed be an alcoholic so young May (thought to be 8) cared for her sister, Irene (age 6), with some household help from neighbor Fannie Bryant. Their son, Willie, lived with family in Atlanta.
On Dec. 4, 1888, boaters found May’s body in Birmingham’s East Lake. Coroner Alfred Babbitt determined the cause of death was murder. Despite being viewed by thousands at Lockwood & Miller’s Funeral Parlor, May’s body was not identified as Hawes’ daughter until the following day.
Fannie Bryant testified that she helped Emma pack for a trip to Georgia to bring Willie home. She had last seen May the previous weekend, when Hawes took her from the house on the way to Atlanta. Witnesses said Hawes had just divorced Emma and gone to Columbus, Miss. to wed a new bride, which turned out to be true. Dick married Mayes Story. She later said he told her he was divorced with only one male child. Police apprehended Hawes soon after that.
More Bodies Found
On Dec. 8, 1888, Birmingham police discovered the bodies of Emma and Irene sunk into the lake at Lakeview Park. Emma, Irene, and May would all be buried in unmarked graves in Oak Hill Cemetery.
As word of the discovery spread, a mob of 1,000 to 3,000 people moved toward the Jefferson County Jail where Hawes was being held. Sheriff Joseph S. Smith issued guns to his deputies, positioning them to protect the jail. He told them to fire into the mob if they crossed the alley toward the jail door.
When the mob appeared near the alley, Sheriff Smith called to them to stop, counting to five. The mob continued across the alley and Smith gave the order to fire. Ten died, including postmaster Maurice B. Throckmorton, a deputy U. S. Marshal, a civil engineer, and a painter. Smith and police chief O. A. Pickard were both placed under arrest the next day while the state militia restored order. The two were released the next year following a deadlocked jury.
Hawes Goes on Trial
The Hawes trial started on Monday, April 22, 1889, presided over by Judge Samuel Greene. Although Hawes was charged with murdering three victims, the state decided the strongest case against Dick Hawes was with May’s murder and built the trial around it.
According to Fannie Bryant, May stayed with her on the night of Dec. 3, 1888. Witnesses saw Richard and May Hawes getting onto a rail on Dec. 3 around 7 to 8 p.m., getting off at the East Lake stop together. Richard got back on the rail for the return trip less than an hour later, alone. Hawes then left the next morning for Mississippi.
According to prosecutors, Hawes’ motive in murdering May was to quiet all knowledge of his previous murder of Emma and Ida. The prosecution maintained that Hawes needed to dispose of his wife and children in order to marry his new bride, who knew nothing about his daughters.
After finding Hawes guilty, the jury decided upon the death penalty on May 3, 1889. The defense submitted several appeals to the Alabama Supreme Court, but all were denied. A St. Louis circus owner requested to display the caged Hawes in his sideshow but was rejected.
Hawes was executed by Sheriff Smith on February 28, 1890. The gallows platform was constructed by J. A. Griffith, who served on the jury. Tickets to the event were being sold on the street for as much as $200. After a prayer, Smith counted to three and pulled the lever, dropping the platform.
Dick Hawes was buried by his brother, Jim, in an unmarked grave in the family’s plot at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Ga. No words were spoken over the grave.
The Fate of Maurice Throckmorton
As for Maurice Throckmorton, I read an account in the Dec. 13, 1888 Weekly Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.) that his death was likely a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ll notice that Dr. Luckie’s name appears again. Unfortunately, any luck Maurice had possessed had run out.
Maurice left behind a wife, Florence, and a son, Alburto. Florence later remarried to Allen Haskell and had a son with him. Alburto, his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Mary, are buried beside Maurice at Oak Hill. Florence, who died in 1942, is buried in Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery.
One of the first things I noticed about Maurice’s monument is that it came from the Muldoon Monument Co. of Louisville, Co., one of the most highly regarded marbleworks in the country. You can find Muldoon monuments in many Southern cemeteries, including a few in Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta, Ga. The company is still in business today. In this case, as family lore claims, Muldoon probably imported this monument from Italy.
I checked to see if there were other people killed as part of the riot buried at Oak Hill. J.R. McCoy, 30, and Charles Bailey, 25, are also there, buried in unmarked graves.
I hope you’ll return for more stories Oak Hill Cemetery in Part III.
Tom Davis said:
Somewhere I read that the 16-year-old son of Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker, Sherman Baker, also died from complications after a visit to the dentist. I can’t verify this at the moment.