MOUNT VERNON -- Collaborative journalism is fun, and several readers have jumped into the mystery posted a couple of weeks ago about a person apparently attending a funeral in Mount Vernon, and losing his or her hat in the process.
Along the way, patient examination has turned up some new possibilities — and corrected a couple mistakes on my part. I plead exhaustion, having just started a new job that week, and having just finished writing a book the week before that. One does not make a living by writing once a week about local history!
First of all, in my haste, I got the year on the postcard wrong. As readers Sue McDonough Steinmetz, Kim Davidson, and Aimee Bisbee O'Byrne pointed out on the Knox Pages post on Facebook, the correct date is 1912, not 1918. I was waylaid by the handwriting, but a check of calendar dates versus days of the week confirms that the year must have been 1912. So that establishes our time frame differently from what I had first examined.
A number of readers disagreed on whether it said Mount Vernon was a “fair” or “fine” place for a funeral, and the postcard did say “place,” not “town,” as I bobbled the transcription in the article (though I had it right in the caption). Bernadette Mealy-Smith argued that the phrase might mean that the postcard writer wasn't actually in town for a funeral at all, but was just sarcastically remarking that nothing was going on in the small town. That's a great observation, and very much possible. That would make the “high drama” of losing the hat all the more ironic.
Sue McDonough Steinmetz, Lezah St Jean, and Scott Elliott all pointed out that the recipient of the postcard — which I interpreted as Anna Arns — could also be read as Anna Sens. Sue notes that the 1910 Cleveland census shows an Anna Sens running a boarding house in Cleveland. While online genealogical sources don't show any Sens surnames in Mount Vernon, there are some in Bucyrus for the period, so there is perhaps a regional connection that way.
Scott Elliott did some research and found that there were a couple funerals in Mount Vernon earlier in the month, but the only one listed around the time that our hatless correspondent was in town was Olive Long Bennett, who died on Nov. 8, 1912. That's a tight time frame, but in 1912, it is not impossible that a person could die early in the day in Knox County and friends or relatives from as far away as Cleveland could be notified by telegram and arrive by train the same day.
However, a notice in the Tuesday, Nov. 12, issue of the Democratic Banner tells us that Mrs. Bennett's funeral was not scheduled to take place until the following week. And a follow up article says that she died around 6 a.m. Friday morning. Our correspondent was in Mount Vernon by 12:45 p.m.
I doubt that the news (and our correspondent) could have traveled that fast in 1912.
Steve McQuown tackled the scribbled signature on the postcard and teased it out to the possible initials “SJL,” but without a more solid lead on the possible funeral in question, I've not been able to turn up any leads on this identity. We're no closer at this point to identifying SJL. And what's worse, we still haven't found the hat.
Reader Rick Wolfe gave his opinion on social media of the whole article and discussion in one word: “snoozer.” And so, perhaps, it is. But we had some fun trying to tease out some answers. In the end, you win some and you lose some.
If it's any consolation, I discovered a couple of other stories of interest while doing this research that will get us back to our usual mayhem in coming weeks.