Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bessie Foust and Maud Hoffnagle - 1898


Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania)

August 17, 1898

DOUBLE SUICIDE in PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia, Aug. 17.-"Because of a belief that they were unfit to live, two girls, of whom the father of one said 'they loved each other like man and woman,' committed suicide yesterday by jumping from a ferryboat into the Delaware river. They were Bessie Foust, age 19, of 721 Federal street, Camden, N.J., and Maud Hoffnagle, age 20, of 423 Reed street, this city. Both took the leap to death together, hand in hand, and were drowned before a rescue could be effected. The double suicide was evidently prearranged. A note was found in a pocketbook they had left behind. It was signed maud and Bessie, and consisted of a quotation from a melancholy poem and the words, "We find we are utterly unfit for this world and will try another."

Bismarck Daily Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)
August 18, 1898

STRANGE DOUBLE SUICIDE
Two Young Women Jump From a Feeryboat at Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 18 - Because of a belief that they were unfit to live two girls, of whom the father of one said "they loved each other like man and woman," committed suicide by jumping from a ferryboat into the Delaware river. They were Bessie Foust, aged 18, of Camden, N. J., and Maud Hoffnagle, age 20, of this city. They took the leap to death together, hand in hand, and were drowned before a rescue be affected.

The double suicide was evidently prearranged. The girls had been close associates for five or six weeks and alternated in visits to each other's home, spending two and three days at a time.

---------------------------------

I have found the Foust family in Camden, at 721 Federal Street as mentioned in the article. The family is listed in the 1900 US Federal Census, although Bessie, having already passed, is not listed. Her family was as follows:

Foust, George (father) - b May 1846, married 31 years, born in PA
" , Martha (mother) - b March 1846, 9 children - 7 living, born in PA
" , George M (son) - b March 1872, widow, born in Pennsylvania
" , Charles (son) - b December 1876 in Pennsylvania
" , Helen (daughter) - b November 1887 in New York

From this we can gather that Bessie must have also been born in Pennsylvania and that the family moved to New York or New Jersey sometime between 1876 and 1887. Her fathers occupation on this record was listed as "Bird Dealer" and both of her brothers are listed as "Compositor".

By 1910 George Sr had also passed away. Martha W. Foust and Helen R. Foust were living alone at 721 Federal St. Helen, age 22, was working as a bookkepper at a Soap shop. Martha, now 65, was taking care of the house. Charles married in 1903 to "Lena" and the young couple moved to 831 Park Ave in Collingswood, Camden, New Jersey which was less than four miles away, a direct shot down Haddon Ave. Although they had been married seven years by this time, Charles and Lena had had no children. I haven't found a record of the older brother, George, but there is one man who fits his description living alone in Danville, Pennsylvania in 1910, a laborer of odd jobs - but there is no way to be sure that it is the same person.

No comments: