Monday, February 8, 2010

Monroe County Indiana

1896-1935. The Coroner's report.

Careful, this link is in PDF format.

An absolutely fascinating historical document.

We can, perhaps, assume it is a nigh complete record of deaths in a single county of Indiana, including Bloomington, covering 39 years.

Lots of preventable deaths, naturally. Quite a few of childhood diseases we have a handle on today. Infants accidentally suffocated is common. One kid died from a hemorrhage after a circumcision. The details involving fatal car accidents seem also quite preventable. There is a whole lot of stupidity going on in the beginning of the 20th Century. And stupidity kills.

Very few septicemia kills. Infection from a wound. In the days before antibiotics I expected more. One infection from a botched illegal abortion. Quite a few pneumonia deaths, and I imagine antibiotics might have been of use there.

Each entry tries to describe cause of death, sometime other pertinent facts that turned up in an investigation surround the death, a brief description of the decease, height, weight, name, and age. There is a note as to anything of value with the dead person, and who might be in possession of those items at that time. If someone was murdered they often mention who dood it, by name.

Here is a sample, let's see if the format translates, for those that don't bother to check the link:

11/21/1930 ~~ DINSMORE, Wylie Henderson ~~ 56 ~~ 5'8"/150# ~~

Mr. Dinsmore was last seen walking east on State Road 46 approx 1/2 mile west of his farmhouse, following a corn shredder which was being moved by a tractor driven by Mr. Sam Binkley. It was fast becoming dark, there was no light on the rear of the shredder, and a Ford driven by Mr. M. W. Hatfield overtook the shredder and collided with it. Mr. Dinsmore was crushed between the two, suffering a fractured skull and both legs, also numerous flesh wounds.~~//~~Usual working man's clothing, one gold watch, very badly damaged.

Lots of suicide back then, too. For some reason, folks were depressed, as if there was some Great Depression of some sort bearing down on them. People seemed to have a propensity to off themselves by ingesting carbolic acid, a common disinfectant. It'd be like killing yourself drinking Lysol today. You were much more likely, back then, statistically to die by your own hand than at the hands of a murderer, using any means, either way. (A few were gutsy enough to slit their own throat, many self-hangings, and the various other famous poisons, arsenic, strychnine, that sort of thing.)

Working at Johnson's Quarry seemed pretty hazardous, too. A good place to be if you wanted to leave this world by making a big squishing sound.

And there is a surprising amount of detail regarding gun content. Particularly around suicides. Search the report for the terms "suicide", "murder", "homicide", "shot", "bullet", "calibre".

There was 28 suicides by firearm, 21 homicides by firearm (4 of those declared justifiable in conclusions in the report)

To break it down for you, several/many .32s, .38s, and one .22 and two .41 revolver (justifiable shootings by police are included, and a cop had that .41, as well as an I.S. contractor. Though how that contractor got off, I have no idea. The bullet's entry was in the scapula are and traveled up to the front of the throat/neck. In other words he shot him in the back. Now I know there are scenarios where a back shot can be justifiable, but... At least the dead 'bad guy' was armed.) One Remington .22 auto rifle, one 'Luger .22 automatic revolver w/ steel jacketed bullets' (?!?!?!?!), some 12 gauge action, and a few unspecified calibers/models. One .35 caliber and a .25 mentioned once each. A .24 caliber. A .32 caliber rifle is mentioned in a suicide. A sweet 16 shotgun is in the list, too.

Death by caliber:
.22 = 5
.25 = 1
.32 = 17
.35 = 1
.38 = 16 and (One .38 pistol was mentioned but not used to cause death, it was just in the deceased's personal effects.)
.41 = 2
.44 One mentioned among personal effects
.45 = 2

20g = 1
16 = 1
12 = 10 and there were many other unspecified bores of shotgun wounds.

It goes to show, that whatever you say about a .32 or smaller, it is certainly effective enough, at times. And the most common way to kill yourself with a firearm in that part of Indiana is with a 12 gauge. You were much more likely, back then, statistically to shuffle off the mortal coil by your own hand than at the hands of a murderer, using any means. (A few were gutsy enough to slit their own throat, many self-hangings, and the various famous poisons, arsenic, strychnine, that sort of thing. )

Noticeably infrequent, death by .45s. Just two I see. I guess you had to go out to cowboy areas to get plugged with a big gun. Bloomington is a bit 'back east' for the time period, yes? There is death by a .32 auto, but no mention of a a Colt 1911 style that I can see. There is a mention of a single .44 Colt revolver, but the revolver wasn't the cause of death. That was a blow to the head. Doesn't say if it was a pistol whipping or not, but a .44 could make a good head thumper.

One gun accident I saw. A 5 year old child killed his mother. Another accident with a clip removed from a 32, but there seemed to be one in the chamber. He killed his 8 year old brother that way.

A fellow died by hunting accident, poking the butt of his shotgun into a rabbit hole while holding onto the barrel. Maybe the rabbit reached for the trigger. A few other hunting accidents. A boy shot his 42 year old father that way.

Lots of questions (for me) surround one police shooting. The criminal copped to the crime before expirng (how convenient), and there is an ugly racial incident in 1934. And a 1904 incident where an African American defended his home (well tent, actually) and was cleared of any wrong doing. No mention of the dead assailant's race.

A Davis and Johnson (?!) .38 revolver is mentioned specifically, an Ivy(?!) Johnson .32 (both 'Johnsons' were probably Iver Johnson pistols. Which makes you wonder how extremely precise and accurate a coroner's report is. I'd trust diagnosis of Enterocalitis over a proper identification of gun model, or even caliber. We'll continue to go with the assumption the coroner does a halfway decent job.), a S&W, Colt, as is the Remington .22 rifle mentioned earlier, as well as the dubiously identified Luger. And they spelled caliber 'calibre' back then, mostly.

Looks like, if you were a gunnie in Bloomington back then, you had a .32 or a .38. Sort of the 9mm vs. .45 argument of 100 years ago? Naw, I'm projecting back from circumstances in my own time. Poor journeyman historical work by me there.


Old NFO said...

Interesting list... Thanks!

James R. Rummel said...

Fascinating stuff.

So far as the .32 is concerned, used to be very popular back in the day. It was just about the largest and most potent caliber that could be found for guns small enough to be concealed in a pocket.