Dear Esther – Family History Writing Challenge Day 1

stewartdeathpaper
The Cincinati Equirer, 24 Jan 1914, Page 3

As part of the #30DayFHWChallenge, I am writing this letter to my second great-grandmother who was murdered in 1914 by her husband, William, before he shot himself as well.  I’ve written about Esther and William’s sad story before and the tragic ending of their two orphaned boys who would go on to kill themselves when they were adults as well.

In my quest to understand what happened that horrible day, I’ve gobbled up every bit of information I can find regarding William and Esther looking for clues and signs to explain why this had to happen. Most people would probably just shake their head at the tragedy and move on, but as a victim of abuse myself in the past, I wonder if she knew it was escalating to that point of no return.  This is my letter to her….

Dear Esther,
I stood in the churchyard last month looking for you next to the graves of your parents, sister and that of your little baby Francis, but you were no where to be found. A small unmarked stone was next to your father’s monument and I can’t help but think that’s where you now lie.  I just stood there next to that small stone for the longest time because I think I sensed you there that day.  Even if I just imagined you there with me, I knew I was standing exactly where you once had when you buried your parents and your baby over a hundred years ago.

Now and again, I dream about you and that day because it has haunted me since I first uncovered the gruesome tale. I can’t imagine what you thought or felt when you heard him crack open the freezer door and shut it behind him because you must have known in that moment there was something truly wrong. I can’t imagine the look on his face, what you could have possibly said to him or how you must have tried to calm him down. I’m sure your thoughts drifted to your boys upstairs and what he might possibly do to them next. The details of your injuries show me how hard you struggled to survive, how you grabbed the gun desperately trying to fight him off and how intent he was on harming you by firing multiple shots. You suffered terribly and I’m so sorry that you did.

If I could ask you anything Esther, it would be to ask you what you fought about that day. Were you trying to leave?  Were you trying to get your boys out of a bad situation?  Did you ask him to leave?  The newspaper said you fought the night before and it continued into the morning. People reported your marriage was filled with fights but you always made up and were loving to each other in between the bickering and the spats.  Did you reach that point where it was just enough and you couldn’t fight any longer?  I’ve been there; I understand how your soul just “can’t” any longer.

Even though we never met Esther, I mourn you like I had. I mourn the experiences that could have been.  The recipes, the stories, the pictures of you and your boys… I have nothing of you and there is just a gaping hole in our family where William robbed us of you both.  His actions that day rippled through the next generations and lingers still today.  You are missed, you are regretted and you will be remembered, always.

Your granddaughter,
Jill

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