The Death of Charles Woodhouse

Charles Woodhouse's ViolinCharles Woodhouse, my third great grandfather was a tailor living in Adwick Le Street, Yorkshire, England. His son, John Woodhouse, who is my second great grandfather, was converted to the LDS (or Mormon) church when he was nineteen. His entire family joined, and they would eventually travel from Liverpool to New Orleans on the emigrant ship Ellen, followed by  seven day journey by riverboat to St. Louis, Missouri. John Woodhouse and most of the family would travel by covered wagon (in the Jepson Company) to Salt Lake City. But Charles died in a drowning accident, recorded, almost in passing, by John Woodhouse in his pioneer journal (on p. 20):
During our stay in St. Louis my brother Charles had a severe sickness his living through it was a marvel. We lost our youngest brother Norman, and my father was accidentally drowned over in Illinois where he was at work.
Unfortunately, John Woodhouse’s Pioneer Journal is not a contemporary account, but a series of recollections written down quite a bit later, in Utah. He did keep a journal, but the it was lost, presumably during the journey. It seems that he did not want to dwell on the details of his father’s death.

There is a family tradition that he was actually in Illinois where he was performing with a group of musicians where he became drunk, fell into the river, and drowned. There are actually several versions of the story, and it has described as a “hole”, a flooded basement, and even a barrel! One version of the story can be found at findagrave.com (memorial #40176198):

Charles Woodhouse died in St. Louis, Missouri. He was coming home from performing on his violin with a musical group to earn money to travel on to Utah. He had too much to drink and fell in a open hole filled with water. He was found floating with his violin floating next to him.

A similar version can be found in a note at familysearch.org

Charles Woodhouse downed in an open basement of a house that was going to be built that had filled with rainwater. He was working at a Party in Quincy, across from St. Louis. He played the fiddle at parties. Coming home in the dark he fell into the water filled basement hole and was found next morning there with his fiddle floating beside him.

In this case, the author goes on to say

Information was passed down from Charles Chambers Woodhouse to son Charles W. Woodhouse and Daughter to Alice Ann Woodhouse Lindsay to Her Sons to Charles and Alan Lindsay then Passed on to Daughter of Alan Lindsay to Patricia Lindsay Clemons. Personal Interview with Patricia Lindsay Clemons by Jennifer Lindsay Palmer .

Unfortunately, there is no way to verify this. At Ancestry.com, we find the following, apparently an obituary, but the newspaper in which it was printed is not identified.

Birth: Aug. 13, 1806 Doncaster
South Yorkshire, England Death: Jul. 1, 1851
Saint Louis
St. Louis County
Missouri, USA
Son of John Woodhouse and Elizabeth Kitchenman

Married Ann Long, 6 Oct 1829, Bawtry, Yorkshire, England

Children - Sarah Woodhouse, Charles Chambers Woodhouse, Amelia Woodhouse, Norman Woodhouse, Mary Ellen Woodhouse, John Woodhouse, Joel Silverwood Woodhouse, Ann Woodhouse

History - Charles Woodhouse died in St. Louis, Missouri. He was coming home from performing on his violin with a musical group to earn money to travel on to Utah. He had too much to drink and fell in a open hole filled with water. He was found floating with his violin floating next to him.

Ann Long came to Utah with Captain Jepson company, 1852. 

It is interesting to speculate what may have happened here. Apparently, Charles Woodhouse’s body was never found and thus never buried, so he probably did drown (and probably not in a basement or other enclosed structure). Both Charles Woodhouse and his son John were tailors, so it makes sense that he would have travelled to another city to earn money by working there. If he was working as a tailor, thee is no reason to think he wouldn’t also have played at dances or other events, perhaps to earn extra money. I rather suspect something like this is true, although the part about “his violin floating next to him” does seem rather fanciful.

As an aside, one could wish that people posting accounts like this on the Internet would leave a proper citation. This is especially true of the purported obituary which makes no mention of the paper in which it was printed. In fairness, the person posting it may not have had that information but simply found it elsewhere. But that only means that someone else failed to provide a proper citation, and that the person posting it failed to acknowledge the unknown provenance. We should always be careful to cite our sources. If nothing else, do it out of consideration for others.

Comments

  1. I agree about a proper citation. However lets look at it this way. It would be a shame if the story or some version was true and was never written down. Now it is up to us to do the research and fine the real story and give it the proper citation. I hope you are able to get the complete story someday.

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