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Sheriff, Former Farmer, Dies of Pistol Shot Wound! News at 11!

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

This cover from 1894 is beat up, but it has a neat train car-themed ad and a recipient who died of a pistol shot!

It was mailed from Cincinnati, Ohio by the H.C. Beekley and Company, a produce wholesaler, on June 16, 1894 (Figure 1). It is franked with a 2-cent stamp depicting the landing of Columbus in 1492. This is one of 16 different denominations that the Post Office issued in 1893 to celebrate the World Columbian Exposition held that year in Chicago.

The cover arrived at its destination, Stanton, Tennessee on June 18, 1894 (Figure 2). Stanton is some 450 miles southwest of Cincinnati and about 50 miles from Memphis. It was then delivered to the recipient - George Lee Culbreath. Note the envelope is addressed to "G.L. Culveath." That has to be a typo. First, there is no one with the last name of "Culveath" anywhere in the US. In fact, a Google search will come up with no results at all. Second, the QWERTY keyboard was dominant by the 1890s, and the "v" and "b" keys are side-by-side on that keyboard. The typist must have inadvertently keyed in "Culveath" instead of "Culbreath."

George Culbreath was born in 1864 in Tennessee. His father was a farmer, and George is listed a "farm laborer" in the 1880 census and as a "farmer" in the 1900 census. [i] That likely explains the letter from H.C. Beekley. George probably had a crop for sale - or expected to have one given that the letter was sent in June - and Beekley was sending proposed terms for a transaction. Note the numbers on the back of the envelope. Were those George's scribblings of how much he expected to gross on a sale?

By 1910, George appears to have given up farming, or maybe he was farming on a part-time basis, because his occupation in the 1910 census is listed as "county officer." He was actually the constable - a police officer or sheriff - of the Third District of Haywood County, Tennessee, and it was in that capacity that he would meet his demise.

In November 1911, George was wounded by a pistol shot allegedly fired by a "W.C. Rivers." According to the March 9, 1912, edition of The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, "the shooting came up over some trivial lawsuit between some negro craps shooters." Per his death certificate, Geroge died of that pistol shot on March 7, 1912. I have been unable to find out what became of W.C. Rivers.

As for George, his remains were buried at the Stanton Cemetery. He left behind his wife Jannie Belle and two children, Mildred and George. When I found a picture of George's tombstone, I saw an engraving that I had never seen before: "Woodmen of the World." Woodmen of the World was a fraternal benefit society, basically a mutual life insurance company, and continues to this day as the WoodmenLife. One of their legacies are headstones in the shape of a tree stump representing a life cut short. George's headstone is not one of those, but it does display the Woodmen logo.

Henry Clarence Beekley was born in Cincinnati in 1852. H.C. Beekley & Co. first appears in the Cincinnati city directory in 1890, but Henry was in the grocery and produce business as far back as 1870 when at age 18 he is listed in the US Census with the occupation of "grocery worker." It seems he worked for other commission merchants in Cincinnati - such as Witzenbacher & Co. and Culbertson & Tudor's - before establishing H.C. Beekley & Co.

He certainly was well-known in Cincinnati in his day. The April 10, 1899, edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story with the headline "H.C. Beekley, Treasurer of Delhi Township, Dined By Admiring Friends." The story read:

The local commission merchants and their friends gathered about the banquet table at the Grand Hotel Saturday night to testify their regard and esteem for H.C. Beekley, one of the best-known commission men of the city. Last week Mr. Beekley was chosen by the residents of Delhi Township as the proper man to act as Treasurer of the township for the ensuing year, and his many friends among the commission merchants deemed it a compliment to their calling. Hence the dinner at the Grand last night.

The dinner was attended by over 40 people - all men in all likelihood.

Henry passed away at age 55 in 1907. He was buried in Saint Jospeh New Cemetery in Cincinnati. He was survived by his wife Kate and a son Clarence who went on to become a medical doctor. He had another son who died at age 15 in 1889.

I acquired this cover in an early phase of my stamp collecting, sometime in the 1970s.

[i] Most of the records of the 1890 US census were destroyed in a fire in 1921.

Figure 1 - Front

Figure 2 - Back

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