Monday, October 17, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - The Shooting: 4 versions

I have been given four versions of the same incident.  Tallie (Talmage) was the son of Taylor and Iona (Rodenberger) Dawson.  Clara (Rodenberger) Spieth and "Mother" [Elsie (Rodenberger) Beamer] were younger sisters of Iona (Sis).  The Dawson, living in Scottland, Edgar Co, Illinois, were visiting family near Hallowell, Cherokee Co, Kansas. 

Dec 1980 letter from Florence (Beamer) Bratton
to Albert Leroy Dillon
"There is a reason for which I was given the name "Florence".  According to mother, Tallie (Talmadge) and wife Florence were visiting at Aunt Clara's.  Mother was pregnant with me at the time and the three couples had gone into Hallowell to a church meeting, leaving the Dawson cousins at Aunt Clara's and my three teenage brother and sisters at home.  The three of them decided to dress up or disguise themselves to go over to scare the Dawsons.  When Florence answered the door she recognized them but called to Tallie, who always carried a gun since he worked for the railroad, to bring his gun and quick.  He came out prepared for the worst and shot my sister Nellie through the right shoulder.  Hence, my parents named me Florence to show the cousins there were no hard feelings.  Incidently, the bullet went right on through the shoulder and left nothing but two scars.  I know this will not assist in your compiling the history but thought is an interesting story."

Version 2 comes from The Lucy Beamer Memoirs' The John Rodenberger Family essay.
    "One such evening in 1907 came very near tragedy.  Everyone was to gather at the Wm. Spieth home.  The visitors were staying there that night and had their suitcases in their rooms.  As I remember the story, it was near Halloween and the Beamer girls, Nellie and Lora, about 14, decided to dress up in their brother’s (Raymond) clothes and pretended to be robbers.  So when they arrived instead of bursting in unannounced as they would normally have done, they knocked and waited till Uncle Billy came to the door.  He immediately saw the plot so he shouted, “Help! Robbers.”  One of his visiting cousins, thinking him serious, stepped into his bedroom, took a revolver out of his suitcase, rushed to the door and fired.  When Nellie saw the gun pointed at her she ducked.  The bullet struck her in her left shoulder.  If she hadn’t ducked it doubtless would have killed her.
   Multiple confusions reigned for the rest of the evening.  Dr. Hill, the family doctor, was summoned to dress the wound.  By the time he arrived, it was evident that Nellie’s mother (then almost to term with Florence) was in a more critical condition than Nellie was.  When someone told her Nellie had been shot she went to pieces and refused to calm down.  She was sure they were deceiving her; that Nellie was going to die.  Nellie tried to reassure her mother, laughing and joking and telling her she was all right.
   Mother Beamer finally quieted down and did carry her baby to term.  Nellie’s wound healed without particular trouble.  But she suffered with that shoulder all her life. . .I’m sure each member of the family knew which cousin fired the shot; yet in all the times I have heard the story told I do not remember ever hearing his name mentioned.  I like to think everyone wanted to spare him further shame.  It is one of the many incidents I have known of during my life that makes me feel so convinced that there is far more danger of lay people having a gun for protection than the there ever is safety in it.
    When Florence was born, she had some dark specks in one ear.  Mother B. was sure she had marked Florence with powder burns because of her fright.  It was a common belief at that time that a shock or fright experienced by a pregnant woman could cause a birth mark on the baby.  They didn't know that the fetus doesn't develop that way but even after science knew and tried to dispel the myth, many of my parents generation still believed it to be true."

Version 3 was written on the reverse side of a photograph.

Digital copy received from Jeanie Ommerle, a descendant of Clara (Rodenberger) Spieth.
"The Dawsons were friends from Indiana, previous to the R's [Rodenbergers] move to Kansas.  Some of the Rodenberger girls married Dawson; they visited in Kansas several times. Once at night when they (Talley Dawson) were visiting the William Spieths, Nellie Beamer, as a prank, dressed up as a man and went to Wm Spieth's with a gun in hand, pretending a robbery.  Talley, who recently had a gun (unknown to any of the family) shot Nellie in the arm.  She stopped pretending and cried, "Oh, Talley, you've shot me.  Mother (Leo) told this story many times. (Of course, her father, Wm. Spieth, knew all the time it was Nellie!"

The 4th version was in Challis Dawson's letters to his son Gerard Dawson, written in 1947.
page 76
[Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society]
"Two other sisters Rodenberger married two brothers Spieth, Billy and Robert, and another one married a John Beamon, who was more like Doug than any one else.  The Beamons had several children, a water melon patch and a disordered barn yard.  Two of his girls were named Elsie and Nellie, one of whom was accidently shot by my bro. Tally when on a visit there.  Tally had been attacked several times in his duties with the railroad so he fancied himself carrying a pistol, although he never could hit any thing he tried to shoot.  This was an exception though.  Nellie and Elsie played burglar, and tried climbing through his window to frighten him.  Those girls were always up to some pranks.  Tally fired and shot Elsie through the chest.  It nearly frightened Tally to death, so much as that he quit the pistol packing habit.  She recovered.  They had a brother by name Raymond, about Dudley's age.  We all had great fun during those rare summers."
[John Beamer, not Beamon, and his wife was Elsie Rodenberger Beamer.  Their daughters were Nellie and Lora.  Nellie was the one shot in the shoulder.]

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