Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Killed by Curiosity


Little Hazel Edna Allmen was the daughter of Joseph and Missouri (Sizzie) Myrick Allmen. Hazel's aunt (Joseph's sister) was Susanna Allmen Berger, my ggg-grandmother. Hazel was born in February of 1888 in the Evansville area of Vanderburgh, Indiana. In 1903 one of the darkest moments in Evansville's history occured in the form of the Evansville Race Riot of 1903. The story of the start of riot follows:

"One of the ugliest blots on the pages of Evansville’s history was the bloody race riot of 1903, which started over a 5-cent glass of beer.
On the evening of July 3, a black man who called himself Robert Lee (this may have been a alias) was drinking beer at Ossenberg’s saloon at 10th and Mulberry streets. He got into an argument with Thomas Berry, a black bartender, over payment for a nickel beer. Berry finally threw Lee out of the saloon as Lee loudly threatened that he would come back and “get” him.
A white policeman named Louis Massey was walking his beat in the neighborhood. Berry told the officer about Lee’s threat. Presently Lee returned, and as he was about to re-enter the saloon, Massey placed a restraining hand on his shoulder. Lee wheeled around and fired point blank in the policeman’s abdomen.
Before Massey fell, he returned fire and struck Lee in the left shoulder. After several more shots were fired, Massey was rushed to the hospital and Lee was hauled off to jail.
As the morning of July 4th dawned, Massey died, the first Evansville police officer to be killed in the line of duty. When word of his death spread throughout the city, an angry mob began to form."

The rest of the story can be found here. Suffice to say, the incident caught the attention of the nation with The New York Times even taking notice here and here. During all the commotion, Hazel and her family (along with many others who lived in the country around Evansville) came into the city to see all the excitment. While sitting in their buggy Hazel was shot in the chest by a ricocheting bullet on Court St. She is buried in the Allmen plot at Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville, she was just fifteen. While Joseph and Missouri had other children, Joseph was a broken man after Hazel's death and always blamed himself for going into town for "curiosity's sake." Apparently, he was "a funny person who became very quiet." He died fifteen years after Hazel, in 1918 in Evansville.

1 comment:

  1. What a sad story. I can't imagine how bad her father must have felt - hopefully he was able to forgive himself someday.

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