Friday, December 21, 2018

A Hundred Years Ago in Hudson

News items that appeared in the weekly Columbia Republican for December 17, 1918, provide a snapshot of life in Hudson during the week before Christmas, a century ago. The Armistice on November 11 had ended the fighting of World War I, but the Spanish flu pandemic continued. The newspaper reported that on December 11, the mother of William Graf, who lived on North Sixth Street, received an official telegram informing her that her son had died on November 29 in France of empyema, as a consequence of contracting influenza in early October. The paper that day was also reported that eighteen children were now in the care of the county, orphaned by the flu epidemic. 

The articles that appeared in the Columbia Republican for that day also include a tragic coincidence. An article on page two reported on a meeting that had taken place the previous Thursday to plan a Victory Ball to be held on Christmas night at the armory.

The article went on to the name the people who had been appointed to the planning committee and an advisory committee for the event. Among the people appointed to the latter committee was Edwin W. Ensign, whose specific role was to be "chairman of chairs." 

Tragically, the front page of the paper reported that, on that same Thursday night, Ensign died in a fire that destroyed his summer cottage on Lake Charlotte.

The report went on to explain: "To get his boats in for the winter and his cottage closed, prompted Mr. Ensign to leave Hudson Thursday afternoon for the lake. When night came he had not finished the work and decided to stay to finish up in the morning." Strangely--at least to us a hundred years later--when he decided to spend the night at the cottage, Ensign went to a nearby house and called not his wife but his business partner, Ray T. Bates. When, hours later, the cottage was discovered engulfed in flames with nothing to be done to save it, Bates again was called. It was Bates who found the body of his partner cremated in the ruins of the house. The Republican spared no one's sensibilities in describing what he found:
The cause of the fire has not been learned, but it is believed that either the lamp or the stove set fire to the room and Mr. Ensign was suffocated before he could make his escape from the flames. When the remains were picked up, evidence showed that the body rolled out of bed and was lying face downward. Filling from his teeth and keys were found embedded in the ground under the body. One of the keys, which belonged to the Elk's lodge, was partly melted.
The account of Ensign's tragic death includes the information that his twin sons, Edwin J. and David, who were described as "young children," were both "suffering an attack of influenza" at the time of their father's death.

The funeral parlor of Ensign & Bates was located at 444 Warren Street.

In the year after Ensign's death, Bates formed a new partnership with Neal M. Anderson, and the firm became known as Bates & Anderson.

1 comment:

  1. The news article you posted is very interesting. I have it in my research file of the case. The the court case is even more interesting. I am married to the daughter of one of the twin Ensign boys.