During the past couple of weeks two lovely sisters had gotten the genealogy bug and had been coming in to research their family. During the course of learning how to dig into their past they asked one of my volunteers if she could find out about the murder of their grandfather in 1910. They thought that their grandmother had been the culprit and had died in prison in the 1940’s. Joan, my volunteer, found the original newspaper article about the murder. It turned out that their grandfather was killed by his friend and not their grandmother. According to the article, their grandfather and his friend had been seen walking arm in arm in high spirits down the street to the friend’s house. But once there, the friend’s wife started arguing with the grandfather. The friend then snuck up behind him and struck him in the head two times with an axe, killing him. The murderer was listed as heavily intoxicated from drinking cider. Although this is horrible, the two sisters were moved to tears when they learned that their grandmother wasn’t the murderer.
Yesterday the sisters came back and I found more information on the murder case, but they also wanted to know why their grandmother was in prison. Fortunately I was able to find her death certificate online and it was listed that she had died in Butner State Hospital. These days Butner is a series of federal prisons in Granville County North Carolina, where the infamous Bernie Madoff is counted among its detainees. The state hospital is actually called the John Umstead Mental Hospital and was opened in 1947 in the town on Butner. Also listed on the death certificate is that their grandmother suffered from “senile psychosis” which could mean a number of things, but Alzheimer’s or dementia are likely culprits. The good news for the ladies was the fact that she was not in prison for any wrongdoing but was in a hospital because she was ill. They were very happy.