Census records tell us so much, but at the same time, tell us so little about a person, a family and their daily lives. I’ve not found any smoking gun to determine what caused John’s life to end the way it did, but a short, terse newspaper notice and his death certificate tell part of the story.
John William Hollon was the son of Ephraim Holland and Elizabeth Hoskins of Sullivan County, Missouri, born 6 July 1858 in Sullivan County, Missouri. As was typical for the times, John was part of a large family, the fifth of nine children.
In spite of growing up during the Civil War, his family appeared to be in good circumstances, both before and after the war, based on his father’s increased values of real estate and personal property. Like many neighbors, it appears that his oldest brother, Joseph T. Hollon, might have joined the Union Army at the age of 16, enlisting next door in Mercer County and perhaps died, as he hasn’t been found after the 1860 census.
On 21 January 1883, John married Florence Ann Pipes in Sullivan County, Missouri. They went on to have twelve children, 8 surviving in 1900, all apparently born in Sullivan County, Missouri:
- Thomas Homer, born 17 July 1884; died 6 February 1959, Oakland, Alameda, California, but buried in the Hollon Family Cemetery in Sullivan County, Missouri. He married Ivah Chloe Jones, 20 March 1913, Sullivan County, Missouri. She was born 6 May 1895; died 28 December 1980, Sutter County, California.
- Roy, born 19 June 1888; died 13 December 1946, Sullivan County, Missouri; married Nora Nancy Hunsaker, 18 March 1908, Sullivan County, Missouri. She was born 18 March 1894; died 24 July 1972.
- Evert, born 16 December 1890; died 10 October 1950, Sullivan County, Missouri; married Goldie Mattie Hunsaker, 5 September 1912, Sullivan County, Missouri. She was born 2 March 1897; died 10 March 1977.
- Margaret Jane, born 31 March 1893; died 5 November 1973, Chillicothe, Livingston County, Missouri; married Willard Allen Jones, 18 February 1912, Sullivan County, Missouri. He was born 4 March 1891; died May 1968.
- Lindley John (Jack), born 14 June 1895; died 15 May 1963, Linn County, Missouri; married Sylvia Irene Ellen Hunsaker, 14 April 1914, Sullivan County, Missouri. She was born 8 February 1900; died 19 June 1977.
- Edward, born 6 January 1897; died 27 May 1952; buried in Linn County, Missouri; married Bessie Leila Head, 22 April 1922, Linn County, Missouri. She was born 28 February 1906; died January 1978.
- Lola May, born February 1899; died 1961, Sullivan County, Missouri; married Hardin C. George, 25 January 1916, Sullivan County, Missouri. He was born 4 February 1892; died 6 September 1962.
- Edith Ophelia, born 1903; died 1988; married (1) James Carl Thurlo, 25 August 1920, Linn County, Missouri. He was born 5 February 1902; died 12 May 1941. (2) Warren G. Everett. He was born 1922; died 1996.
It’s hard to say when things changed for the Hollon family, but the first loss was likely when wife and mother Florence passed away on 9 January 1907 at the young age of 43. In 1910, John still had seven children at home, including 7 year old Lola. Homer and Evert were likely there to help with the farm work, but the census indicates that John rented his land.
John’s father, Ephraim, had died back in 1891, but his widow, Elizabeth (John’s mother) was living on her own next door to John’s family in 1910. Sadly, she passed away on 22 February 1912, after a bout of bronchial pneumonia.
Was it all just too much for John? He lost his young wife, then his mother and still had children at home. While browsing Missouri’s newspapers in Chronicling America, I came across this terse announcement:
The Laclede Blade, 19 September 1913
I could find no other mention in the newspapers, but Missouri Heritage has the death certificate. No doubt about it. The CAUSE OF DEATH section says “Verdict of Coroner’s jury Suicide by taking Carbolic acid Self administered.”
An online obituary gave a few more details, but not many:
TAKES HIS OWN LIFE
J.W. Hollon Drinks Carbolic Acid and Dies in Few Minutes.
On last Sunday morning about 11 o’clock John W. Hollon, commonly known as John Eph Hollon, committed suicide at his home
Southeast of Cora by taking carbolic acid and died in about 20 minutes. He had been in Milan, Missouri of last week and it is said was drinking some. On Sunday Morning he took the 10 o’clock train here to Cora, and then took a team that his son had there to meet him and went home leaving the son in Cora. When going to his home, he passed his son Everett’s house a short distance from his own.
As he passed, he made some remark about the weather and appeared as usual. Soon after he came out in his yard and called his son and his son reached the house, he was in the yard and he told the son that he had taken carbolic acid and for him to pay what debts there were, but not to sell the farm. When asked what he had done that for, he said there was no use talking about that now and he could not live this way. In a short time, he became unable to talk and was carried in the house and died before a physician could be called.
The funeral was held on Wednesday and the remains laid to rest in the family cemetery near Cora. Deceased was 54 years old. His wife died in 1909 and he lived with his Mother and children on the old home place. Something over a year ago his Mother died, leaving him the 40 acres of the old home farm with the improvements. Since then he lived there with his four children yet at home. Two sons and two daughters. Mr. Hollon was a good citizen and neighbor and a kind father and husband and had it not been for the booze joints around Milan and Cora, would have continued to be a prosperous, producing citizen, adding his full part to the welfare and upbuilding of the county. But some of the so called business men tell us that we must have these to make business good, and this being so, of course it matters not what becomes of the manhood of the county.
It finished with a statement about the ills of alcohol consumption:
So again draw a curtain on a blighted life and an orphaned home and keep mum, to the end that those, having buildings to rent may get their toll, although lives are wrecked.
What a terrible time for his family and four children still at home.
R.I.P. John William Hollon