My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Monday, September 26, 2011

SUNDAY'S OBITUARY - Lottie Flemming McMurray (1891-1937)

Charlotte Teresa Flemming
ca. 1904-06
Charlotte Teresa Flemming was the seventh child of ten born to my great-great grandparents, Charles Clinton "Charlie" Flemming (1854-1932) and Elizabeth Agnes "Lizzie" McCaffrey (1858-1822). Lottie, as she was called, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 3, 1891. Lottie had three older brothers - Harry Clinton (born 1878), my great-grandfather; Charles Clinton (born 1884); and James Benjamin (born 1889). She also had three older sisters - Susie Elizabeth (born 1879); Minnie Agnes "Mamie" (born 1880 - she died at 14 months old, before Lottie was born); and Elizabeth Imogene "Imo" (born 1886). She had one more younger brother, Thomas Joseph (born 1896). She also had two younger sisters - Sarah Marie (born 1893) and Willie Mae (born 1898). Willie Mae lived less than 6 months. Lottie is my great-great-aunt.

Lottie and Linwood Lamas
On April 14, 1908, Lottie, just 16 years old, married Thaddeus Linwood Lamas, a 21-years old railroad clerk, in a ceremony in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Why did they marry in Tuscaloosa instead of at her hometown of Birmingham? Was he a student at the University of Alabama? I don't know those answers yet. At some point soon after they were married they moved to Mexico - they returned on the ship S.S. Norheim, sailing out of Vera Cruz on December 14, 1909. According to the ship's manifest he was 5-foot-2-inches tall with a dark complexion, black hair and brown eyes; she was 5-foot-5-inches, light complexion, light hair and gray eyes. They sailed into New Orleans where they set up their home together. Linwood was now working as a traveling salesman. In early November 1918, while they were living in Anniston, Alabama, Linwood was one of thousands of Alabamians to catch the Spanish Flu during the 1918 Pandemic. On the the 5th of the month he succumbed to pneumonia, dying as most young people who got the flu did. He was just 32 years old. Lottie was now a widow at the age of 27.

Lottie was a widow for only two and a half years, until she met and married William Edward McMurray (1893-1997). This marriage also occurred out of town, in Anniston,on April 19, 1921; he was 28 and she was 29. Willie, a fireman in Birmingham, had been married before and he too had lost his spouse young. By the time of the 1930 U.S. Census, Lottie and Willie were back living in Birmingham where he was working as a "fire alarm operator".

In February 1937, Lottie boarded a train out of Birmingham going to New Orleans. She was alone. Her brother Harry was a train engineer that took the train to Meridian, Mississippi, on its way to New Orleans - maybe she rode along with him. When she arrived on Thursday, February 11, she checked into a rooming house at 2014 Canal Street and registered under the name "Mrs. N.A. Williams" of Atlanta, Georgia. The following morning Lottie got up and put on a dark green dress, a black coat with a fur collar, fabric slippers and brown stockings before walking out to Lake Pontchartrain, near Canal Boulevard. A watchman with the WPA watched her walking along the sea wall before having a seat on the steps.

On hour later William Darsam, the watchman, was called by a motorist who had spotted a body floating in the river. As he went to call for police help another motorist waded into to the water and pulled out the woman's body. The New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper reported on the incident the following day:
February 13, 1937
WPA Chauffeur Draws Unidentified Corpse from Waters 
"The body of an unidentified woman, apparently between 40 and 45 years old, was found in Lake Pontchartrain early Friday afternoon near the edge of Canal Boulevard sometime after a WPA watchman is reported to have seen her seat herself on the sea wall steps.
The woman was described by the attaches at the city morgue, where the body was taken, as having weighed about 175 pounds with light brown hair and false teeth. In the left side of the lower dental plate she had a gold tooth. She wore a dark green dress, black coat with fur collar, fabric slippers and brown stockings.
William Darsam, 800 Frenchmen street, WPA watchman, said that he saw the woman, at about 11:40 a. m., walk along the sea wall and then seat herself on the steps. An hour later he said he was called by Joseph Intravia, 4521 Drayades street, a motorist, who had seen the body floating in the lake.
Darsam telephoned the 10th Precinct station and, upon returning to the scene, found that Leon LeFebvre, 1723 Andry street, a WPA chauffeur, had waded into the water and removed the body to the sea wall.
Charity hospital internes, arriving in an ambulance, pronounced the woman dead. Sergeant James Adams of the 10th Precinct station having in the interim attempted to resuscitate the woman." [Times-Picayune; February 13, 1937; page 1]

The following day the newspaper reported new information in the story:
Maid Says Dead Woman Is Mrs. N. A. Williams of Atlanta
February 14, 1937
"The body of a woman found floating in Lake Pontchartrain near the sea wall at Canal Boulevard Friday afternoon was identified in the city morgue Saturday morning as that of a Mrs. N. A. Williams, Atlanta, Gal, who registered at a Canal street rooming house on last Thursday.
Carrie RuffinWhalen, where she identified the body. Detectives found a suitcase in the room, but all marks of identification had been removed from the wearing apparel. A piece of ribbon was found with a laundry mark of "Lottye McMurray."
Police asked Atlanta authorities to attempt to find relatives of the woman.
The woman, who was about 42 years old, was seen sitting on the steps of the sea wall by William Darsam 800 Frenchmen street, a watchman, at 11:45 a. m.  Friday, an hour before the body was found by Joseph Intravia, 4521 Dryades street. Leon LeFebvre, 1723 Audry street, a chauffeur, recovered the body.
Following an investigation Dr. Grenes Cole, coroner, pronounced the death a suicide." [Times-Picayune; February 14, 1937; page 15]

Monday's newspaper cleared up some of the mystery of who was in lake:
Birmingham man Thinks Victim May Be Sister
February 15, 1937
"The body of a woman found in Lake Pontchartrain near Canal Boulevard Friday was claimed at the parish morgue Sunday afternoon by the undertaking firm of Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp, Incl, 4117 South Claiborn avenue, who told coroner's attaches they were acting on instructions from a Birmingham, Ala., undertaker.
The chief clerk's office at police headquarters was told over long-distance telephone Sunday by a man who gave the name of N. C. Fleming (sic) that he and a man whom he identified as McMurray will arrive today at 7 a. m. from Birmingham to determine whether the woman was McMurray's sister, Miss Lottye McMurray.
Detectives reported Saturday that the woman registered Thursday at a rooming house at 2014 Canal street as "Mrs. N. A. Williams of Atlanta, Gal". In a suitcase in the room they found a ribbon with the laundry mark "Lottye McMurray".
The woman's body was found in the lake by Joseph Intravia, 4521 Dryades street, an hour after she was seen sitting on the sea wall by William Darsam, 800 Frenchmen street. Dr. C. Grenes Cole, coroner, pronounced the death a suicide." [Times-Picayune; February 15, 1937; page 4]

The Birmingham News announced the death of Lottie McMurray  on February 17, 1937.

The Birmingham News
February 17, 1937
Local Matron Killed in Fall From Lake Pontchartrain Sea Wall
"Funeral services for Mrs. Lottye McMurrey, 44, of 1312 Eleventh Avenue, South, who died Sunday at a New Orleans hospital after she fell from a sea wall into Lake Pontchartrain were held this morning at Elmwood Cemetery. Ridout in charge.
Mrs. McMurrey was rescued from the lake by a WPA worker but died a few hours later of a skull fracture.
Surviving are the husband, William E. McMurray, a Birmingham fireman and a sister, Miss Sara Thomas of Birmingham." [The Birmingham News; February 17, 1937]

It's interesting how the information changed once the family brought her back home. What made Lottie, just 45 years old, leave her husband, take a train to New Orleans, check into a room under an assumed name, throw out anything that could be used to identify her, then silently slip into the lake and drown? I would guess that no one really knew the answer then - no one certainly knows it now. But I would guess that the number of personal losses that Lottie had suffered through had to have had a role in her depression and her death. Here's a list of the family members who she lost:
  • June 19, 1898 - Her little sister Willie Mae, 5 months old; Lottie was 6 years old.
  • November 24, 1908 - Her older sister Susie, 29 years old, from childbirth; Lottie was 17.
  • November 5, 1918 - Her husband Linwood, 32 years old from Spanish flu during Pandemic; Lottie was 27.
  • November 30, 1918 - Her younger brother Tom, 22 years old from Spanish flu during Pandemic. (3 1/2 weeks after her husband's death)
  • January 26, 1919 - Her older sister Imo, 32; from childbirth. (2 months after her brother Tom's death)
  • July 17, 1922 - Her mother Lizzie Flemming, 63; Lottie was 30.
  • January 26, 1932 - Her father Charlie Flemming, 77; Lottie was 40.
  • March 3, 1932 - Her older brother James, 42, from pneumonia after the flu. (6 weeks after her father's death)
  • May 30, 1935 - Her older brother Charles, 50, from burst appendix; Lottie was 44.
Charlotte F. MacMurray Tombstone
Elmwood Cemetery
Only her brother Harry, who died in 1955 at age 77, and her sister Sarah, who died in 1963 at age 69, had survived her. She had lost 7 siblings, her parents and her first husband by the time she turned 45. Her husband Willie, remarried a year after Lottie's death and died at age 94 and 1987. Lottie is buried in the Flemming Family lot at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.

1 comment:

  1. You have told Charlotte's story so well. The photos, the Clipping's and your facts of her life have truly painted a vivid picture. Such a sad end to someone so young. Thank you for sharing.