Monday, February 6, 2012

Madness Monday - Gerhard Linnemann

Last week I posted a photo of Gerhard's tombstone. Gerhard Linnemann was my great-great grandfather and for a long time we didn't know a lot about him (we still don't know too much). His daughter, Elizabeth, was the only grandparent that my father knew as a child. He knew that she was born in Germany and had two brothers that lived in or near Monessen, but that was it. He never knew that her parents had lived in Monessen too.

A couple of years ago, I was digging deeply into the Linnemann family and others in Monessen. I was searching The Daily Independent newspaper on and came across a notice that the funeral of Gerhard Linnemann had been held the day before. I assumed that this was Elizabeth's brother. I went to search the previous days and they were not available on!

That fall, I went to Monessen with my father, brother and sister to do some genealogy research. We went to the Monessen Public Library and spread out to start digging. I went right to the microfilm machines to search the newspapers and this is the front page news that I found:

Man Tied Belt Around Neck and Strangled Self While Family Is Absent

Gerhard Lennemann committed suicide yesterday afternoon around 4 o'clock in a bedroom of his home, corner of Schoonmaker avenue and Tyler pass. With a strap drawn tightly about his neck and tied fast to the foot of a bed, the victim of his own rash act was found.
He unbuckled his belt from his waist, circled it about his neck and after tieing himself to the bed dropped to the floor where he was found when dead. At the time of the tragedy there was no person about the place. Members of the family had gone out for a Sunday afternoon walk and had asked Mr. Lennemann to accompany them, but he said he preferred to remain at home. It is stated that there was no hint at suicide and no member of the family thought of such a thing.
The deceased was about 60 years of age and leaves a widow and several children. About six years ago he was injured in a coal mine and at times he seemed to feel irrational as a result of that trouble. He would take spells of anger and brooding, and it is thought that in a despondent state of mind he decided upon a short route to death. The widow and children survive.

Wow - were we surprised! My father never heard anything about this growing up. At this time in 1918, two of Gerhard's children were probably still serving in World War I, one had moved to Chicago and two were married. His daughter Elizabeth had just had her second child only a month earlier.

So was Gerhard really "mad"? Or was his anger, brooding and despondent state a result of the coal mining accident? I don't know if we will ever know, but it was certainly one of the bigger surprises that I have found since I started digging round the roots of my family tree.

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