March 28, 1906
MET DEATH IN A WATERY GRAVE
RATHER THAN BE ACCUSED OF THEFT
Pitiful Suicide of a Pretty College Girl in Rough River Here
LEFT LETTERS TO PARENTS AND LOVER
Hartford perhaps never went through more tragic time of excitement and heartfelt interest than during last week. Some excitement was caused Thursday morning by the fact that Miss Prudie Ford, a pretty young college student, could not be found. She was last seen sitting on the south bank of Rough river near the old water mill apparently writing in a tablet. The natural inquiry then came up as to why she should leave or absent herself. She had been boarding at the residence of Mrs. J. F. Collins, and it was learned on Monday Mrs. Collins had turned the girl away for the alleged reason that she had been wearing her grand-daughters clothes and suspicion that had appropriated money and other articles about the house for her own use.
When the young lady left Mrs. Col1ins house she went to board with Jailer Midkiff, taking her trunk with her. Jailer Midkiff says that on Wednesday morning Mrs. Collins called him by telephone to her residence and told him she had learned that Miss Ford had gone to board with him and that she considered it her duty to tell him what kind of a girl she was. Mr. Midkiff says that Mrs. Collins told him several things about the young woman, among her remarks saying that Miss Ford had stolen enough money and other properly from her to send her to the penitentiary a dozen times. Jailer Midkiff then came back down town and discussed the matter with County Attorney Woodward and Supt DeWeese. The young lady passing by at the time, they called her into DeWeese’s office and informed her of the rumor that was afloat against her. She said that she had heard it before and declared her innocence in the most positive terms. She told them to go over to the jail and search her trunk if they wanted to. They assured her that it was only through a kind interest in her behalf that they had questioned her.
She left them apparently on her way to school, but stopped at a drug store and bought a penny pencil and two drachms of arsenic - 5c worth. That was Wednesday morning. About two o’clock in the afternoon of that day she asked permission from her teacher to go home. This was granted and she left but did not go to her boarding house at the jail. Instead she walked along up the bank of Rough river and sat down at the month of a slough that empties into the river. Ex-Sheriff Cal P. Keown, who was duck hunting across the river saw her sitting there, apparently reading or writing and one or two others saw her but did not think anything especially strange of it, as the river banks being near the college form a favorite haunt for the students.
Thursday morning excitement began to grow because no trace of the girl could be found. Miss Ford had a lover named Lawrence Gary and he, after much search here, mounted a horse and went to the residence of her parents at Horse Branch a distance of fifteen miles. He returned without information, reaching here at night of the same day. In the meantime searching parties found two letters at the spot where the girl was last seen. One was addressed to her lover and the other to her parents The one to her parents was as follows:
MY DEAR, DEAR PARENTS:
Today as I was returning from school Mr. DeWeese and Woodward and Mr. Midkiff called me to the court house and told me that Mrs. Collins was accusing me of stealing property and money amounting to $40 and that they should prosecute me. I will end my life rather than have a false charge brought against me. I am innocent and God being my Judge, I have resolved to end my life. I have been a loyal girl since I entered school here and have I been true to my God. I die with this sentiment ringing from my lips: “God is merciful and just.” When this reaches you I will be in the bottom of Rough creek. That is, my body – but my soul shall be with Jesus. Live so as to meet me there. Death is sweet at this hour and on each an occasion. With love and prayers – I am dying.
Yours a short time. Prudie
The following is a copy of the letter addressed to her lover:
Since I left Mrs. Collins she has accused me of stealing some things from her and God knows I am innocent. She says she will have me prosecuted but I hardly think she will. I am now at the water mill and ready to jump in. I love you but rather than to have my name mingled with any such as this, will bid you Godspeed and adieu. May this life be happy, but Oh! remember me. I shall await your coming in the next world. You have always said that should you commit suicide you would rather drown. I said I would rather poison myself, but to be sure and certain of ending my life I will take a dose of both. Be a good boy and meet me in the better world.
Mrs. J. F. Collins called the editors of THE HERALD up and they in company with Col. C. M. Barnett, went to her residence to interview her. Mrs. Collins repeatedly denied that she had ever accused Miss Ford or stealing, but said that she had missed money and articles of clothing which she could account for in no other way than that Miss Ford had gotten them. It seems that Miss Ford was using a room which Mrs. Collins grand-daughters – who are away in college now - had formerly occupied, and that their clothing had consequently got mixed. It appears that everything has been recovered except the alleged cash. Mrs. Collins says that Miss Ford was always willing to deliver up anything it was intimated did not belong to her. Mrs. Collins asserts that she always treated the girl as well as she knew how - granting her special privileges.
The search of the river was begun Thursday night and continued until midnight. All day Friday the search was continued. On Saturday morning at 11 o’clock the body was recovered with a hook-pole, about 150 yards from where she jumped in, by young Connor Ford. A public meeting was held at the court house Saturday afternoon in order to adopt suitable resolutions and raise money sufficient to give her a nice burial. The amount of $87.75 was quickly raised which was amply sufficient. Prof. Gray, President of Hartford College, was unanimously elected chairman of the meeting and R. B. Martin was made secretary. Several touching speeches were made, the most effective perhaps being that of the uncle of the dead girl, Mr. Will Ford. He said that he and her family deeply appreciated the kindness of the people of Hartford towards them, especially their poor dead relative. Mr. Rowan Holbrook, in a short talk suggested that an advisory or confidential committee be appointed for Hartford College, whose duty it shall be to advise and help strange students who come here to attend college. Prof. Gray admitted the value of the suggestion and said he would attend to it. There was a large crowd present and the deepest sympathy evinced for the unfortunate young lady.
The following resolutions were adopted by a unanimous rising vote:
Resolved, by the citizens of Hartford in mass meeting assembled, that we are shocked beyond expression by the terrible calamity which has befallen our town and school in the tragic death of Miss Prudie Ford.
Resolved, that we extend to the bereaved family our heartfelt sympathy in this their hour of sad bereavement, and that we testify to her high character and beautiful Christian life since she has been among us as a citizen.
Resolved, further, that we as citizens of the town of Hartford believe in her integrity, purity of character and lofty spirit as exemplified by her daily associations in this community.
Resolved, that a copy of these resolutions be furnished to the family of the deceased and each of the county papers.
MRS. S. J. WEDDING
MRS. S. K. COX
F. L. FELIX
H. P. TAYLOR
C. M. BARNETT
After the meeting adjourned, the public was permitted to view the remains of the drowned girl at the undertaking establishment of Jas. H. Thomas.
As soon as the body of Miss Ford was found it was brought up in town and a coroners jury was summoned, who returned the following report:
We, the jury, being duly summoned by Jerome Allen, the Coroner of Ohio county, to inquire into the death of Prudie Ford, find from the evidence that said Prudie Ford came to her death by drowning in Rough river on March 21, 1906, and from the evidence that she came to her death by her own hand. This March 24, 1906
J. W .ROBERTSON
W. H. MAUZY
L. F. BENNETT
R. E. HAYNES
J. S. CECIL
J. A. HOCKER
At an early hour Sunday morning a large party of the friends of Miss Ford accompanied the remains to Beaver Dam, where they were put on board a train and shipped to Horse Branch. A short funeral service was held here at the undertaking establishment Saturday evening by Rev. Gardner, of the Baptist church, Miss Ford having long been a member of that denomination. She was a beautiful girl, just 22 years old and was engaged to be married next fall. She was a young lady of high culture and attainments.
Funeral services were held at the residence of her parents Sunday at noon after which her remains were laid to rest in Cane Run cemetery. Messrs. H. P. Taylor, Rowan Holbrook and Dr. A. F. Stanley, who were appointed at the public meeting here as a committee to secure flowers, telephoned to Louisville and secured some very beautiful floral designs to mark the last resting place of the unfortunate girl. There was a large crowd at the funeral services which were conducted by Rev. H. D. Burch.
It has been a long time since Hartford was steeped in sorrow to such an extent as Miss Ford’s tragic death has caused. The sympathy of everybody seemed to be with the poor girl and nobody seemed to put any faith in the rumors of the charges of theft brought against her. Her death and the manner of it seemed like a personal blow to every citizen. There will be many days of mourning for this unfortunate girl and many will long remember her pretty face and winsome ways. It was certainly a sad, unfortunate affair for all concerned.