My grandfather, Paul Jones Stith, shot himself to death in 1906 and left his wife with six children and a seventh on the way. My Grandmother, Annie Belle Stein, lived another 43 years and died in 1949. They are buried side by side in Oakhill Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Birmingham Age-Herald reported his suicide in a page 1 story, on April 14, 1906:
“Paul Jones Stith, age 48, well known in this section as a mining expert, died yesterday morning at 11:30 by his own hand at his home, 1617 Seventh Avenue, in Birmingham. He shot himself through the heart with a 38-calibre revolver, in his bedroom.”
“Hugh Stith, the oldest son, hearing the report of the revolver, ran up to the bedroom on the second floor…and found his father dressed in his street clothes laying full length on the bed. The pistol with which Mr. Stith had fired the death-giving shot was lying on the bed near his right hand.”
Why did he kill himself?
The newspaper said that, according to “the family,” my grandfather was despondent because he had been unable to secure a right of way from Stith Coal and Iron Co. mines, in nearby Walker County, to a railroad.
“Without this right of way, the operation of the mines of the Stith company would have been impracticable the family said, and all his capital and labor for the past year had been expended in developing the property,” the story said.
When the going got tough, my Grandfather shot himself to death. His tombstone says, “HOW DESOLATE OUR HOME BEREFT OF THEE.”
My Grandmother stayed the course and raised their seven children alone. Her tombstone says, “HER CHILDREN ARISE UP AND CALL HER BLESSED.”
NOTE1: Grandmother’s epitaph is taken from Proverbs 31:27-29: “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her: ‘Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.'”
NOTE2: Grandmother’s middle name, “Belle,” was misspelled on her tombstone. And the year of my Grandfather’s birth was wrong, too. He was born in 1858.
Coming Friday: Growing Up Country