The Ed Cooley Suicide

It’s curious and sometimes distracting, but I always seem to find another interesting story while researching something else.  Research on my building led me to the I.O.O.F., the I.O.O.F. led to the Caldwell murder case, and the Caldwell case led me to the Cooley suicide.

December 27th, 1905 shortly after noon, news spread rapidly across Council Grove that 36 year old Ed Cooley had committed suicide.  Cooley was an engineer and a family man.  According to his friends he seemed happy and gave no sign of having thought to end his life.  In fact, just two days prior on Christmas day Cooley was at the fairgrounds with the gun club and all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The Republican of the 28th states, “He went to the round house yesterday morning and did some business correspondence, and seemed as the usual Ed Cooley, and judging from his actions one would never have thought that he was entertaining any idea of suicide.  It may be that he was not, no one can tell.” 

Personally I cannot help but question if it was murder.  According to the paper, “He went to his home early in the fore-noon, and we understand, helped his wife with the washing, which proves that he loved his home and family.  What brought suicide to his mind at that time we are unable to say, but just a few minutes past 12 o’clock he walked into the bedroom, picked up a [32-caliber] revolver and placing the muzzle to his left breast pulled the trigger, which sent the ball through his heart, and death came almost instantly.”

I don’t know if news reporters way back when thought their writing style was dramatic or if they were just uncouth?  This next statement from the Republican I find an uncomfortable bit to read if you were the grieving widow or orphan.

“What made him do it?’ is the question asked by hundreds of people.  That is what probably nobody knows but Ed Cooley, and he is now silent, but by his rash act he leaves a widow and three orphan children to fight the many battles of life without either a father or husband.”  And wouldn’t you be surprised to know that the paper had no word of sympathy for the mourning survivors?  Not one.

Even though Cooley’s friends never had a suspicion that he might have been depressed or struggling with something, Ed had a past that very well may have haunted him.  He was married previously and his first wife, Alice Jones burned to death in Osawatamie a few years prior to his suicide.  No details were given as to how this accident happened.

Detailed testimonies of the witnesses were printed in the January 1906 C. G. Rep.  Unfortunately some loathsome individual tore out half the front page.  So I can only tell you a part of the whole.

According to the testimony given by Ed’s wife, Mrs. Jessie (Burton) Cooley, Ed helped her with the wash in the morning and seemed very agitated. The oldest daughter Goldie claimed she saw her father take a swig of whiskey before he left for work.  He came home for lunch and sat down at the table with his family.   He ate nothing but had a cup of coffee.  He then got up and asked his wife if she were finished.  She said she was and Ed told her he wanted to talk with her in the bedroom.  She asked if they could not talk in the sitting room by the fire.  Ed insisted on the bedroom.  They went in and Ed shut the door behind.  He then pulled out a revolver and said to his wife, “It’s either you or me.”  Some confusion ensued ending with Mrs. Cooley escaping out the bedroom window and hearing the gun shot turned to see her husband with his hand over his left breast and blood flowing.  He shouted, “I did it! I did it!”

The Council Grove Guard says that Mrs. Cooley “ran screaming to the home of her neighbor, Bruce Johnson, announcing that her husband had shot himself with suicidal intent.”

Another reason why this story caught my attention is my great, great, great-grandfather Isaac Scott was one of the members on the coroner’s jury.  Along with Scott were A.W. Loomis, P.S. Marts, J.D. Murray, Chas. Brocaw and J.B. Low.  Coroner Dr. Harvey was unable to view the scene so M.E. Leatherwood acting as deputy coroner went to the home of Cooley with the coroner’s jury to view the body.  The jury were “unable to agree as to who fired the shot that caused his death.”

So there was room for doubt about Ed’s suicide.  Was Ed mentally unstable?  Did he put on a good show for his friends and play the scoundrel at home?  Did Mrs. Cooley fabricate the story of the morning leading up to the incident?  I can’t imagine that she would have killed him to get his property.  According to the court records a petition for letters of administration was filed on behalf of Jessie Cooley.  Ed died without a will and the estimated value of personal property left by Ed amounted to seventy dollars.  The court denied the petition.

The full story will not be known till we are all caught up in the air and gathered for the great tribunal.


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