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DAVIS, William Harrison 'Harry' 1844 - 1880


Posted By: Joey Stark
Date: 7/25/2021 at 15:28:55

"The Fairfield Ledger"
March 24, 1880
Page 3, Column 6

Suicide of Harry DAVIS in this City Sunday Night.

Sunday night again our citizens were startled by another dreadful occurrence--the suicide of a well-known citizen.--About ten o'clock that evening persons in the vicinity of the square were alarmed at the agonizing shrieks of a woman's voice, and hastening in the direction indicated, found that they came from W. H. DAVIS' home, just south of the post-office. Mrs. DAVIS was in the yard, and telling them as quickly as possible of the situation, urged them to enter the house. Once in, a sickening spectacle was presented. In a room in the northwest corner of the house lay Harry DAVIS, now in the last agonies of death. He was lying quietly, just as he had fallen, with his head to the west, his feet resting near a bureau in the northeast corner of the room, which was stained and spattered with blood. On the floor near by lay the instrument of death, a 32-calibre revolver, only one chamber of which was discharged. The blood was pouring from a ghastly wound in the head, his lips were twitching convulsively, and his pulse beating feebly.

Drs. Mohr and Worthington were summoned immediately, but he was past earthly aid, and it was but a few moments until his faintly beating pulse and labored breathing were succeeded by the calm of death. An examination developed the fact that the ball had entered a little above and to the rear of the right temple, and ranging a little upward had lodged near the skull on the left side, fracturing the bone there, but not passing entirely through the head. It had done its work only too speedily, and he had no conscious moments after the discharge of the weapon.

Coroner Evans viewed the remains Sunday night, but postponed the calling of a jury and holding of an inquest until morning. The evidence thus introduced developed nothing new, the surgeons, Mrs. DAVIS, Capt. Bedford and G. P. Lang being the principal witnesses, the two latter having gone into the house first in answer to Mrs. DAVIS' cries for assistance. In her testimony Mrs. DAVIS said she knew nothing that would drive him to commit the crime, except that at times he was distressed and discouraged because of his utter failure to control his taste and appetite for strong drink. At times before when under the influence of liquor he had expressed a determination to end his life, but in his sober moments he regretted such threats. He seemed to think that the demon of drink had a strong hold on him, that it was impossible to shake off, and that friends were deserting him.

For a week previous to his death he had been perfectly free from drink. Sunday evening, however, he was out a few minutes and returned with a pint of liquor, and when his wife returned from church it was all gone. Upon entering the house he was lying on a couch, and in response to her inquiry if he was not ready for bed, said no, he would sleep there. She retired to the sleeping room, and while preparing for bed heard him arise in the other room, open a bureau drawer, where she knew the pistol was--and then a loud report, the ring of the weapon as it struck on the floor, and then the heavy fall of his body.

W. H. DAVIS was 36 years of age, a marble dealer by occupation, and had resided in this city many years. After being absent from Fairfield some time he returned last fall and purchased the stock of Leeds & Maskell, and was at the time of his death doing business in their old location. He was married in this city a few years ago, and leaves a wife but no children. He was a pleasant, genial, good natured man, honest and straightforward, and his only great fault was a love for strong drink--that which nerved him in the end to commit the desperate deed which closed his life. The remains were interred yesterday in the cemetery in this city, and the funeral was largely attended.


"The Fairfield Tribune"
Thursday, March 25, 1880
Page 3, Column 5

The Suicide Last Sunday Night of Mr. W. H. DAVIS of this City.

Tired and discouraged in the battle of life, another man has sought surcease from sorrow by plunging untimely into the great chasm of death. Mr. W. H. DAVIS, of this city, committed suicide by shoot- himself (sic) last Sunday night.

About three months ago Mr. DAVIS returned to this city from Des Moines, where he has been living the past three years, being employed most of that time as a marble-cutter at Boone. This was his old home, where he had lived for twelve or fifteen years before going to Des Moines, and where he had married. He came back here expecting to remain a short time visiting his friends. Soon after coming, however, he bought the marble works formerly owned by C. M. Bills on the north side of the square, and moved into the house on the corner south of the post office. For a number of years the habit of strong drink had been growing on him, and it is said that he felt his great weakness more keenly every day. Years ago he had been almost strictly temperate, but he gradually formed a liking for liquor which he apparently could not resist. Since his return to Fairfield he has made strong efforts to quit his old habit, but every now and then he would become very much intoxicated. All last week, however, he was sober and kept close to business. Sunday he spent at home with his wife until just about evening when he went out for a little while and returned with a pint bottle full of liquor. His wife merely said to him, "Oh, Harry." A little later she went to church and when she returned Mr. DAVIS told his wife that he would not go to bed, but would sleep in the sitting room on a lounge. Mrs. DAVIS urged him, but he refused, and she went into her bedroom. Scarcely a moment afterwards, she heard the report of the pistol, and running into the sitting room found her husband dead. He had taken a pistol from the bureau-drawer as soon as she left the room, and standing in front of the mirror had placed it at his right temple and fired. The ball went crashing through his brain, coming almost through on the other side, and he was dead before he fell.

Mrs. DAVIS says that he had frequently threatened, when under the influence of liquor, to take his life, several times in Des Moines, and once before since his return here. He always told her that he might better be dead than alive, and that he had lost hope of reformation. At other times he would be more hopeful. For the last two years Mrs. DAVIS has kept the pistol hid, fearing he would do as he threatened. A few nights before his death it was thought that burglars were heard and she gave it to him to take to the door. Coming back he laid it down, and the next morning she put it in the upper bureau drawer. Mr. DAVIS had probably seen it there, and coming to a sudden determination to end his life, did it while he had the opportunity.

A coroner's jury, composed of Messrs. W. K. Alexander, B. Ristine and J. O. Simpson, was empaneled the next morning, wh se (sic) examination brought out the facts substantially as given, returning a verdict of "death from a pistol shot by his own hand while in a state of intoxication." He was buried Tuesday afternoon, the services at the house being performed by Rev. Haynes of the M. E. Church, and Rev. Wilson of Albia.

Copied with permission from The Fairfield Ledger, Inc.; others digital copyright 2021. IAGenWeb Bylaws PROHIBIT the COPYING AND RE-POSTING OF THIS MATERIAL IN ANY PUBLIC VENUE such as Ancestry or Find A Grave without WRITTEN permission from the submitter ~ copyright restrictions apply.
*Transcribed for genealogy purposes; I have no relation to the person(s) mentioned.

Note: Buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Fairfield, IA, in Lot Old.P.236. His wife was Mary Emily SHAMP, who subsequently married Allen KING. There is also a William H. DAVIS (1843-1903) buried here (Lot 1st.014), who was married to Rhoda A. CASS, but this 'Harry' DAVIS as detailed in the obituaries appears to be a separate man. The subject of this posting was born April 22, 1844, and died March 21, 1880, and served in the Civil War in Co. F, 17th IA Infantry.


Jefferson Obituaries maintained by Joey Stark.
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