Connie Yen's

Ozarks History Journal

The Death of Julia Patterson

Springfield Daily Leader,
May 21, 1886

Julia knew she was going to die. She had been shot in the chest and left arm and her left thumb was blown apart. But her concern was for her family—” How bad my mother will feel, and my poor sister, how she will miss me.”

Just a few minutes earlier she sat reading on the front porch of the Morrison house, where she worked as a servant. Deciding that her time was better spent reading the Bible rather than a novel, she went inside to get it. She was walking down the hallway and into the kitchen when she was shot by Theodore Morrison, the son of Nathan Morrison, the first president of what was then Drury College.

That was on May 14. Julia lingered, in considerable pain, for a week. Part of that time she was lucid; sometimes she was delirious. But regardless of her mental state, she was worried about her family.

“She spoke of different members of her family, and…how they would grieve for her, showing very plainly that she believed she would die…I noticed particularly the fact that she was so perfectly willing to die. All that she said on this point showed a beautiful, trusting, Christian character,” stated a witness.

Julia was also worried about Theo. According to the testimony of Frances Fowler, a Drury art teacher who was nearby when the shooting occurred, Julia expressed particular concern that Theo not be blamed. She “seemed to feel keenly that Theo would be severely blamed by his parents, and she felt that it was…an accidental move of Theo’s that caused the gun to go off.”

Julia Patterson died on July 21st. She had been “born of poor but respectable parents, and had recently joined the Christian Church…she and her sister [had] been saving their hard earnings for years in order to assist their parents in purchasing a home, and it almost prostrated them to see her cut down in the bloom of womanhood.”

There was no inquest held in Julia’s death; the coroner was out of town, and in any case, her father objected. The funeral was held the afternoon of her death at the home of relatives, some sixteen miles southeast of Springfield.

Prosecutor John A. Patterson declined to hold a preliminary examination; he thought the grand jury could handle the case. Theo was arrested on May 27 after the grand jury indicted him for 2nd degree murder; he pled not guilty. Theo’s $1500 bond was paid by a few prominent Springfield men, including T. B. Holland. Since he was underage, he could not be sent to prison; according to the Springfield Leader and Press, the charge would become a misdemeanor that would likely land Theo in the county jail for only a year.

Theo didn’t go to trial until February 1887. Dr. Tefft, witness for the state, testified about Julia’s injuries and her mental condition. He said the only thing he heard Julia say about the shooting was that it was “accidental,” which she repeated “a good many times” in front of everyone, including her family. By the time of her death on Thursday, Tefft stated that “she was more or less delirious…not all the time, but part of the time.

Another witness, an art teacher at Drury College, confirmed that Julia said the shooting was an accident. She also recounted that Theo had no contact with Julia other than asking if there was anything he could do to help.

There was much discussion at the trail about the condition of the gun and whether or not Theo knew it was loaded. Theo claimed that he did not; his younger brother Douglas had loaded it to hunt rabbits without Theo’s knowledge. Also, it had been taken to a gunsmith a few weeks prior to the shooting to have a new hammer installed. Theo and his brother complained that the gun wasn’t reliable; sometimes it would shoot, sometimes not. The gun was not repaired because the gunsmith couldn’t find a hammer that would fit.

The trial lasted four days. On Sunday, February 5th, Theodore Morrison was found guilty of manslaughter and fined $500.

After the trial, the Morrison family moved to Wichita, Kansas, where Nathan became the first president of Fairmont College (now Wichita State University). He died in 1907 and his wife in 1926.

Theo graduated from Marietta College in Ohio in 1902, then obtained a law degree from Northwestern University. Due to hearing loss, possibly caused by the scarlet fever, he gave up law and became a librarian at Fairmont College. In July 1906, Theodore married Belle McHenry at her home in Aberdeen Mississippi. They had one child, a son also named Theodore, born in 1910.

Theodore H. Morrison died in July 1912. A notice in the Springfield Republic reported that Theo’s death was caused “by an abcess (sic) on the brain, the result of an attack of scarlet fever in childhood.” There was no mention of his manslaughter trial.

Forgotten Women of the Ozarks – Dr. Fannie Williams

Galena, Kansas, Weekly Republican, October 10, 1885.

Dr. Fannie Williams is elusive. Though she was well known in the Joplin area during the 1870s and 1880s, little is known about her.

Fannie may have been born and raised in Kansas. (In 1885, her father and brother both lived in Kansas.)

She attended medical school at the University of Iowa and graduated in 1876.

By 1877, she was living in Joplin and treating patients. Although it was uncommon for female doctors to treat male patients, Fannie treated men, women, and children.

She was known occasionally as Mrs. Dr. Fannie E. Williams.  In the 1880 Joplin census record, she was listed as a widow. Unfortunately, I have yet to determine her husbands name or find her marriage record.

In 1885, she was living and working in Carthage. “Her fame as a skillful surgeon and successful practitioner [enabled] her to establish herself in the new home in a short time.” She apparently had recently moved from Joplin to Carthage. Despite being a female in this era, she seemed to have little or no problem in being accepted as a qualified, competent doctor and was thus able to have a successful practice.

By 1886, Fannie was the superintendent of the Department of Health for the Carthage WCTU and regularly gave scientific lectures. At this time, the WCTU had a scientific education department, mainly focused on health, particularly the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol.

She still had ties to Kansas and even spoke in Garland as a state lecturer for the WCTU. She was invited to give a lecture there on July 3rd, 1886.

In 1886, the Missouri WCTU convention was held in Carthage and of course, Fannie was one of the speakers. She  lectured the ladies on wearing too tight clothing, apparently a pet peeve of hers.

Throughout the month of June, 1887, Fannie spent her time in an Ozark court room with Cora Lee. She was with her throughout her trial for the murder of Sarah Graham. (For more about the murder, click here.) Fannie and Cora likely met through the WCTU.

In December 1887, Fannie left the Ozarks and moved to Riverside, California, apparently for her health. She continued to practice medicine and work with the WCTU, lecturing about health.

 

Riverside (California) Daily Press, January 18, 1888

Fannie was sick for much of the year in 1889. In October, the Riverside Daily Press reported that her health was much improved and she hoped to return to work soon. Unfortunately, her condition worsened and she died in early November.

The Reed-Underwood House

The  Reed-Underwood house inhabits land that was originally part of Hawthorn Place subdivision, which was platted in 1903 by John R. Hegiman, president of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York. The first owner of the lot was J.W. Drumwright; by the end of that year it had been sold to H.F. Denton. In 1905, the lot was owned by W.H. Johnson, as were several other lots in Hawthorn Place. By 1907, Samuel A. Reed and his wife Susan, had acquired the lot along with two others. Construction likely began on the house in 1907 and was completed by 1909. The house sits on approximately 1/4 acre and according to a 1965 appraisal, contained a total of eight rooms, with four bedrooms, one bath, and three closets. The house contains only one fireplace. Out buildings included a barn and a tool shed. The two-story enclosed porch and the garage were later additions, as is the wood deck in back. The kitchen counters are made of beautiful Phenix marble. The house now boasts five bedrooms and four baths and still claims the same 1/4 acre plot.

 

In 1914, a portion of Hawthorn Place was subdivided into Reed’s Addition by Samuel A. and Susan Reed. Reed was a prominent member of the Springfield community and served as clerk of the circuit court for many years before becoming a District 1 judge. The Reed family lived in their new home for a few years before moving to another house just down the street. Susan Reed died in 1934 and Samuel in 1937.

By 1920, the house was owned by Thomas F. Underwood, a mechanic for the Frisco railroad, and his wife, Jennie.  When Thomas died in 1922, Jennie became sole owner. When Jennie died in 1927, the house was left jointly to their seven children. During the 1930s, the house was inhabited by Shane M. Wallace, the Underwood’s son-in-law who was married to their daughter, Esther. 

During the 1940s and 1950s, the house saw a succession of owners and even stood vacant for a couple of years.  Thankfully, the home has been lovingly maintained throughout its 100+ year history.

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