A forgotten murder/suicide in Downtown Indy

So, one of my favorite things about doing genealogy is coming upon these wild stories in families that people knew nothing about.  A lot of times horrible things will happen and people don’t want to talk about them and they get swept under the rug.  These stories get lost in history.  I found one of those stories today!

I started a new tree for a friend with the last name of Totten.  While she was here I hit a few little roadblocks but once she left I had some more time to delve a little deeper into her Totten branch and figured out how her family got to Indiana.  The first Totten to have a child in Indiana was Calvin P. Totten who came to Johnson County with his parents and quite a few siblings.

I couldn’t find any death or burial information on Calvin and his wife Cora, which was frustrating me so I hopped on genealogybank.com to see if there were any newspaper articles where either of them were mentioned.  This is what popped up in my first search:

“Jealous Husband Kills Wife and Commits Suicide

A Double Tragedy Enacted on Streets of Indianapolis

In a fit of jealous rage, Calvin Totten, a contractor, aged fifty-five years, this evening shot to death his wife, aged forty-years, as the woman ran screaming into the street, and then in the presence of a crowd of Saturday afternoon shoppers he sent a bullet into his own head, inflicting a fatal wound.”

Ack!  What?!  I must know more!

This came from an article in the Cleveland Leader on Aug 31.  I couldn’t find anything online from the Indianapolis News or Star about this so I’ll be looking tomorrow.  How will I look tomorrow?  I knew you’d ask.

Well, tomorrow is my birthday.  Andrew asked what I would like to do for my birthday and I asked him if I could spend some time at the State Library because it’s been about forever.  Today, after working on this Totten tree I have even more to research!  I could spend all day there.  Happy Birthday to me!

The Totten that I know was shocked at this bit of news.  Although she did respond with a, “Tottens are pretty intense.”  HA!   I hope to find some more info tomorrow to pass along to her.  I am also interested to find out if her grandfather Totten (still alive) knew anything about this craziness.  It seems that many (not all of them, obviously) of the Tottens may have left Indiana after this incident so there may not have been a lot of family around to even bring it up.

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(Written the following day)

So I found an article in the Indianapolis News from September 1, 1902.  The article is pretty wild, and obviously very sensational writing (given the times) so I think I have to post the whole thing.

“Slain Wife and Suicide Are Buried Together

Calvin Totten, Jealous Husband and His Victim

At Town of Courtship

Husband Killed her Saturday Night After Years of Jealous Rage – Efforts to Evade Him

Imbued with a jealous rage that had been rankling within him for several years, Calvin P. Totten murdered his wife by shooting her with a revolver, Saturday evening, and then turned the weapon on himself.  A bullet in his brain caused his death an hour and a half later at City Hospital.

The shooting occurred at the home of Mrs. Benjamin Carr at 216 East New York Street, where Mrs. Totten and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Minnie Totten, had gone to make a social call.

Because of domestic differences, Mrs. Totten had left her husband several months ago, and refused to live with him.  She had applied for a divorce on the ground of inhuman treatment on several occassions.  The threats of Totten to take her life had caused the family no end of alarm, and care was exercised to keep Totten from ascertaining the whereabouts of his wife.  The woman moved many times to keep from coming in contact with her jealous husband.

Recently she had been living with her daughter Minnie at 427 East Market Street.  The girl is employed by the New Telephone Company.  Last Friday Minnie saw her father lurking near their home and Mrs. Totten in moral dread, asked the police to lock him up.

Superintendent Taffe allowed Totten to go free on his promise to leave the city immediately.  He was not seen again until he appeared suddenly in front of the Carr home.

The woman and girl were talking of Johnson County, where all of them formerly lived.  Minnie went to Franklin last week to attend the Johnson County Fair and she was telling of her experiences when her mother, with blanched face, suddenly exclaimed, “My God, here comes Cal.”

She seemed almost paralyzed with fear, but managed to struggle to her feet as though to escape.  She was too late, however, as Totten with the expression of a demon in his face, drew his revolver and began firing.  With a scream Mrs. Totten staggered and was about to run into the house when four shots from the revolver came in rapid succession.  The woman fell heavily to the floor of the porch, three of the four bullets having inflicted fatal wounds.

One of them had passed through her heart and the other three entered her back.  Mrs. Carr was so close that the bullets almost touched her as they sped by to their mark.  Minnie Totten fell in a swoon and the man turned toward the street.

The firing attracted the attention of a dozen or more men passing in Massachusetts Avenue nearby.  They ran to the house and the murderer coolly emptied the shells from his revolver and filled the chambers with fresh cartridges.  Waving the weapon defiantly at the crowd he started to run east in New York Street. The men followed him at a respectful distance, and when Totten realized that escape was impossible he stopped and fired a bullet into his right temple.

The couple were married in Franklin seventeen years ago on the wife’s nineteenth birthday.  Totten at that time was thirty-six years old.  Mrs. Totten’s maiden name was Cora Kipheart, and her brothers and relatives are well-known citizens of Johnson County.  Totten was also a member of a well-to-do family.  He was employed as a carpenter and a bricklayer.

Totten from the start had a jealous disposition and this culminated in an unreasoning suspicion that his wife was not true to him.  Quarrels were frequent, and as a last resort, and after sixteen years of suffering, Mrs. Totten decided to separate from him.  This only developed and strengthened the man’s jealousy and he swore often that he would someday take her life.

Yesterday evening at 6 o’clock both the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Totten were buried side by side in the little graveyard at Bargersville, Johnson County.  It was in this little village that Mrs. Totten was born and reared, and it was there she first met Totten.  There was much feeling against Totten among the relatives and friends of the dead woman, but it was finally decided that both bodies should be buried in the family plot next to the grave of one of their children.

The grave of Mary Lenore Totten who died just two years before her father killed her mother and himself.  She was just 13 years old.

The grave of Mary Lenore Totten who died just two years before her father killed her mother and himself. She was just 13 years old.

At 2:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon two hearses bore the bodies from Ragsdale’s undertaking establishment to an electric car of the Franklin line, at Georgia and Meridiant Streets.  This car was met in Franklin and the funeral procession went over a country road to the Bargersville cemetery.  A large crowd of people followed all the way.  Short services were held at the graves and the last chapter of the tragedy was closed when the coffins were lowered into the ground.”

Bravo, 1902 journalist!  Well-written, sir!  One thing that always amazes me about reading these old stories…they are so rarely labeled with the name of a writer.

The next time I get some time to go to the library I hope to check out some of the newspapers from Johnson County during that time.

Any Tottens or Kiphearts out there in the world ever hear about this story?  Please comment!

 

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