Tag Archives: newspapers

Suicide Doesn’t Define the Life of My Great-Grandfather…

15 Jul

Note: There is mention of suicide and a few details about the suicide of a specific individual in this article.

“I believe the vast majority of cases will find that these individuals have lived heroic lives and that that suicide will not be a defining characteristic of their eternities.” (Dale G. Renlund)

I grew up knowing only one thing about my great-grandfather Willard: He took his life, leaving a young family to struggle in the wake. There are no pictures of him. No stories. Really no information. He died when his children were very young, so they didn’t have memories of┬áhim to pass along to future generations.

A few weeks ago I was pondering the idea that everyone probably wants to be remembered well after they pass away. And Willard wasn’t really remembered at all, other than how he left this life. So I went on a little search to see if there were any other details about him that could be unearthed. Of course, a few dates and a census record exist, but the key was finding a newspaper article detailing his death.

From the Soda Springs Chieftain, December 6, 1911:

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Willard Mickelson, who is well known here, committed suicide last Tuesday night by hanging himself. The only reason that can be given is that after being in poor health all summer he became despondent and decided to end it all in this manner.

Tuesday evening he left home, telling his wife he was going over along the railroad track [to] pick up some coal. That was the last time he was seen alive. Early Wednesday morning Mrs. Mickelson started out to look for him, and in a granary which he had rented from Mr. Edgley, she found his body suspended from the ceiling by a rope and frozen stiff. Word was immediately sent to town and Justice Potter, Deputy Sheriff Christensen, George H. Fisher, Hyrum Toolson and W. E. Settle went out and took the body down.

Word was sent to his relatives in Logan and reached them just when they were at the depot buying tickets to come here to spend Thanksgiving.

Mr. Mickelson came to Bancroft from Logan and took up at homestead upon which he was living. In Logan he had the reputation of being an honest, industrious and respected citizen and he has been considered as such here. Besides his wife and four children he leaves a mother and several brothers to mourn his loss. The body was taken to Logan yesterday where he will be buried in the family [plot] at that place.

I was grateful to find some positive information about great grandpa: He was known as being honest, industrious, and respected. I had found what I was looking for. But there’s more to flesh out the story and gives some context for how his life ended.

  • He was in poor health, which would’ve been very discouraging if you’re trying to homestead a piece of property and make imporvements
  • The night previous he had gone out to gather up coal that had fallen off of the train. That leads me to believe they are struggling financially. It is winter (December) and maybe hard to heat their home.
  • They’ve just had a baby and maybe he is struggling to provide for his four young children.
  • He was just 17 when his father passed away. I’m guessing that was hard. His father was a polygamist and had a number of children. He may not have had a close relationship with his dad. I don’t know if there is any connection there.
  • He is homesteading in Idaho (so was at least one of his brothers). This is very hard work and could’ve been discouraging. His father owned land in Logan, but with multiple sons there wouldn’t have been enough land for everyone to inherit. The family was awarded the land after Willard’s death.

There’s more to Willard’s story than a suicide. And though the way he died certainly is a part of his story, now we know a little more about this “honest, industrious and respected citizen” of both Utah and Idaho.

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A Helpful Military Record…

26 May

Yes, it has been a while. I had a string of good genealogical luck some time ago, but found myself frustrated and busy and thus my efforts tapered a bit. Also, my free Ancestry account ran out and I found it inconvenient to go to the local Family History Library to continue to access Ancestry.

But that all changed a week or two ago when I was invited to obtain a free Ancestry account! So, here I am, and I hope to be here more often…

Today is Memorial Day, so I decided to see what was out there regarding my uncle Leon Mickelson. I found the following record:

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I knew everything on here, so no new information to report. But what is useful here are the newspaper article references that may share a little more about my uncle and his life and sacrifice. The newspapers listed are Herald Journal, Salt Lake Tribune, and the Deseret News. I don’t know which paper “Tele” refers to, or “Let” either. So, I’ll need to look that up.