Sick, Despondent, and Weary of Life, Mrs. Frank Osborn Burns Self to Death

“Setting fire to her clothes which she had previously saturated with coal oil, was the terrible form selected by Mrs. Mary Osborn, aged 47, of No. 2017 Robinson avenue for ending her earthly existence Monday evening, she dying in great agony later in the night. It was shortly after supper that Mrs. Osborn, who was the wife of Frank Osborn1 a contractor, committed the rash act.”

“The couple, their 13-year-old son Howard, and adopted daughter, Mary Osborn, aged 9, and two boarders, Tom Eades, a bricklayer, and HP Scott, a carpenter, had chatted pleasantly during the evening meal. The men all talked of attending the meeting of the Daughters of Pocahontas. Mrs. Osborn was a member, and they urged her to go along. She complained that she was not feeling well and asked the husband to pay her dues. He assured her that she was paid up weeks in advance. Supper over the men scattered to different parts of the house, while Mrs. Osborn put away her dishes. Osborn was in an adjoining room in the act of removing a shoe, when he was startled at the sight of a flash of fire in the dining room. Thinking the lamp had exploded, he rushed in only to find his wife sitting on a chair in one corner of the room enveloped in flames. An open and almost empty coal oil can nearby was tell tale evidence of what had happened.”

“Osborn quickly jerked the burning apron off his wife and then tried to smother the flames on her skirt, but they drove him back. He rushed into a bed room after a quilt. By this time Mrs. Osborn had leaped to her feet and fallen over backwards out of a side door. Eades and Scott, who had been attracted by the commotion were at her side in an instant. Dr. WT Jesse 2 a next door neighbor, was also attracted by the commotion and rendered first aid. The woman was carried into the house and was found to be horribly burned from the knees to the top of her head, her hair almost entirely burned off and eyebrows singed. She had also inhaled some of the flames. Dr. D Albert Berndt, the family physician, soon arrived, and the two doctors held out no hope for the woman’s recovery; and though everything possible was done to relive her sufferings, she expired at 2:30 am without having regained consciousness. Not a single word was uttered by Mrs. Osborn from the moment she applied the match to her clothes up to the moment death ended all.”

No motive could be assigned for the suicide by any of the family save that Mrs. Osborn was given to meloncholia, and though her home life was happy, she had only a few days ago told her sister, Mrs. Maggie Lewis, that she was going to burn up herself and home. A month ago she had made a similar threat in the presence of her husband, but he thought she was joking.”

It is said that Mrs. Osborn worried over trivial matters, and thirteen years ago was caught in the act of taking a dose of rough on rats, preferring death to the ordeal of appearing in court as a witness against a boy who had created a neighborhood disturbance. The husband arrived home just in time to prevent her from carrying out her attempt. Mr. Osborn when seen by a Times man, expressed the belief that headache tablets had destroyed his wife’s mind. She had always been subject to sick headaches and he said she had taken a barrelful of tablets in her lifetime.”

Mrs. Osborn was a daughter of Benjamin T. Willis, an aged soldier, who nine years ago lost a leg in a street car accident at Eleventh and Clay streets. He and wife3 live directly at the rear of Osborn’s lot. They hurried to the home as soon as they learned what had happened and were so distressed that they did not linger long. The coal oil used by Mrs. Osborn was purchased Saturday. She used all but a pint of the gallon the can contained. The Osborns were married nineteen years. Besides the one son, they have been rearing the young daughter of Mr. Osborn’s brother, Elza Osborn, taking her upon the death of the latter’s wife, Mrs. Carrie Prince Osborn. The dead woman was an active church and lodge woman. She was a leading member of the Grandview avenue Christian church, and a member of the Daughters of Pocahontas, Tribe of Ben Hur and Daughters of America. Besides her parents, she is survived by one brother, Alfred Willis, a second hand dealer, of Robinson avenue, and two sisters, Mrs. Hattie Green, wife of Otto D. Green, contracting carpenter of Summit street, and Mrs. Maggie Lewis.”

The suicide caused much excitement in the neighborhood, hundreds of friends and acquaintances hurrying to the scene and many standing in small groups in front of the home for hours discussing the affair. 4

  1. Israel Taylor Osborn
  2. William Thomas Jessee
  3. Martha Bevens
  4. Sick, Despondent, and Weary of Life, Mrs. Frank Osborn Burns Self to Death. (1912, July 27). Portsmouth Times, pp. 4–4.
error: Alert: Content selection is disabled!!