Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The cause of all her troubles…

Anna K. Pettingill is buried in Fountain’s Fairview Cemetery.  A tall monument marks the family plot and bears the names of Anna, James Arthur Pettengill and Gertrude Lawrence.  Who was Anna?  The monument notes that she was born in 1859 and died in 1896.  James died in 1902 and Gertrude in 1950.

Anna Pettengill was not found on the federal census, though this is not surprising as she died before the 1900 census and may not have been married at the time of the 1880 census.  A review of historic newspaper indexes provides the details.  Anna had been married to AM Pettingill, and after several unhappy years, secured a divorce in early 1896.  She committed suicide, leaving four children. 

Denver Evening Post, (Denver, CO) Monday, March 23, 1896

An article published the same day in the Post’s rival, the Rocky Mountain News, relates that:

…since her divorce was finalized in January, Anna had plotted to take her life, but had been stopped by her friends.  Mrs. Steen, a boarder, had grown accustomed to these suicide threats.

The inquest into Pettingill’s death, reported in the Rocky Mountain News on March 27, 1896, reveals a more suspicious circumstance.

The coroner called seven jurors from the Fountain community together before ruling her death a suicide by arsenic poisoning.  The body was not exhumed for examination.  Witnesses called in the case included Pettingil, presumably her ex-husband, and Mrs. Steen, who was boarding with Mrs. Pettengill.  These two were about to be married, and another witness testified that Mrs. Steen was the cause of all of Anna’s trouble.

Denver Evening Post Mar 27, 1896

No further mention of Anna’s death was found among Colorado newspapers, but local gossip about the event would have likely influenced the new couple to move elsewhere.  Abram and Ida Pettingill appear on the 1900 census living in Albany County, Wyoming with their two children, three children from her first marriage, and Abram’s son Frank.  A Denver Evening Post [4-6-1896] article notes that A.M. and Miss Ida Stein were married in late March, 1896. 
Of note, according to the census, son Alfred was born in November, 1895, before the couple was married. 

A little research shows that arsenic was a fairly common way to poison a person in the 1800s and earlier.  Death could indeed be quite sudden.  The circumstances in Anna’s life at the time of her death were heartbreaking, and led to this tragedy.  Anna was 37 years old. 

The following are more genealogy details on the Pettengills and Steens.

Family Tree summary

Abram M. Pettingill b Feb 1857 IN or IL
M1. Anna K. O’Connor? b 1859, dv Jan 1896, d Mar 1896
            James Arthur b Oct 1876 CO d Sep 13, 1902 m. Gertrude Cell
            Wesley G. aka William b 1877 or Aug 1879 Denver, CO d 1939 El    
             Paso, TX.
            Frank Q. b Apr 1883 CO
            - ?
M2. Mar 1896 Ida M. Baxter b Jan 23, 1861 KS
            Alfred b Nov 1895 CO
            Vera b May 1897 CO
            M1. ~1878 Lewis Morgan Steen (1857-1958) m2. Ella ____ (1860-
                        Hattie b Sept 1878 KS m. 1900 Martin Lattin 
                        Lena b Mar 1882 KS
                        Theo (f) b Sept 1886 KS
                        John b Mar 1884 NM

The Pettengills

A note from the Fountain Museum states that Pettengill was living in Fountain by 1892. 

In 1910, Abram Pettingill was living by himself in Cotopaxi, Fremont County, Colorado, and working for the railroad.  The census notes that he was single.  The 1920 census places him nearby at Texas Creek, and notes that he was widowed.  He does not appear on the 1930 census, and his place of death or burial is not known. 

The other item of note is that an Abram M. Pettingill of Terre Haute, Indiana enlisted in the US Army in January 1872 at Fort Leavenworth.  He was assigned to Company A of the 5th Infantry, but the Army enlistment register, online at Ancestry.com, says that he was discharged in July, 1872 from Fort Leavenworth per SO 147.  This Abram claimed to be 21 years old, the required age for enlistment.  If this is the same man, he may have been discharged because he was only 15.  A review of the post returns from Fort Leavenworth for June and July do not show Pettingill, or SO 147.   

Abram and Anna’s son James Arthur Pettengill was born in October 1876, and died in September, 1902.  The Pettengill monument bears the inscription “In memory of my beloved husband”.  James married Gertrude “Gertie” Cell, daughter of David and Margaret. The History of Colorado, illustrated, vol iii. 1918, notes that “Gertrude Cell, born May 26, 1881, became the wife of Arthur Pettingill, who was killed in a railroad wreck on the Santa Fe.  She afterward became the wife of Joe Laurence and resides upon a ranch in Alberta, Canada. She has two children, Melvin and Ruby. Prior to her marriage Mrs. Laurence was a successful school teacher.”  Gertrude was buried beside her first husband after her death in 1950.  Her name was added to the Pettengill monument.

Fort Wayne Sentinel Sep 17, 1902

Weekly Gazette Sep 18, 1902

Wesley G. Pettingill appears on the 1900 census living in Fountain.  He was a single farm laborer, boarding with Benjamin Bell.  He was born in Colorado in August 1877.  He was found on the 1920 census in El Paso, TX as Yermano, married to Carmen in about 1914.  His death certificate on Familysearch.org and notes that he was born in Denver on August 11, 1879 and died in El Paso, TX in 1939.  It lists his mother as Henora O’Connor from Ireland.

Frank Quentin Pettengill worked for the railroad in Parkdale, Fremont County, CO in 1910, and for CF&I in Pueblo in 1917.  He married Ruth Howe in about 1904, and their daughter Sarah was born in Colorado in 1906.  The Pettengills moved to Los Angeles, California by 1920.  His death certificate notes that he died in San Diego in 1957, and that his mother was Anna Kehoe from Ireland, at least according to the informant. 

Alfred Pettingill appears as Alford on the 1910 census, boarding with the Mcalary family in Husted, El Paso County, CO. He was not found on other records.

Ida Marie Baxter Steen Pettingill’s Family

The 1880 census shows that Ida Steen was married to Lewis Steen in about 1878, and that they lived in Ridgeway, Kansas.  Evidence supports that after 1886 Lewis and Ida separated.  It is possible that they moved to Colorado before this happened, thus placing her in the Fountain, Colorado vicinity in the 1890s.  Lewis Steen remarried Ella ____ in about 1895 and they lived in Florence, CO in 1900, 1910 and 1920.  Lewis and Ella Steen are buried in Topeka, KS.

Daughter Hattie Steen was born in Kansas in 1878 and is seen in this ca. 1901 photograph in Cheyenne, WY [Ancestry.com].  She married Martin Lattin in about 1900.  Hattie lived in Cordova, AK in 1910 and Seattle in 1920. 

Lena Steen was born Mar 21, 1881 in Scranton [Ancestry.com].  Her mother was 16 years old when she married Lewis Steen on Mar 15, 1877 in Scranton. 

Son John Engle Steen was born in Engle, New Mexico in March 1884 (1900 census).  He lived with his father in Florence, CO in 1910, in Anchorage, AK in 1918 and in Everett, WA in 1930.  He died in Los Angeles in 1949; his death certificate gives his mother’s maiden name as Baxter. 

Ida Pettengill was working as a cook in Cordova, Alaska in 1910.  She lived in Tacoma, WA in 1920 with her daughter Vera, and son-in-law Arthur Nickelsen.  Ida said that she was widowed.  In 1930, she and Vera were living in Fairbanks, AK.  Ida was buried in Anchorage Memorial Park in May, 1942 [findagrave.com]. 

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