Monday, November 14, 2016

Canfield Mother Gone Mad?

In the small town of Dawson, ND lived a couple with four children in 1934. 

A mother named Clara Augusta Thompson who was married to Jonathan Franklin Canfield on 23 Jan 1915 in Sioux City, IA. 

They came to North Dakota according to the census records about the late 1920's.

John & Clara Canfield

On  Jun 25, 1934 something snapped in Clara.
She said she feared her oldest son was mad. That she feared the other children would catch it.

The children.  
John "Jack" was the oldest and born in 1919. Margaret was born 21 Mar 1921 and Donald in 1922 and the youngest was George born in 1927.

John Canfield was away on a trip to Oriska, ND and his sister was on the farm with Clara but busy in the barn it seems.  

Now to add to the story Clara was a school teacher. She attended Morningside College in Sioux City, IA before she married John. She attended the Lutheran church and played the organ. 

So why did she feel her oldest child "Jack" was sick mentally? Did he do or say something to his mother? Or did she imagine it? I guess we will never really know. A newspaper clipping revealed he did hit her and she had to run to the neighbors. But Why would he do this?

 The headlines read: Crazed Mother Shoots Her Four Children; Then Attempts Suicide
She used a 25 automatic revolver on her children and then tried to hang herself from the clothesline. 

Two children died instantly Donald & George The other two John "Jack" and Margaret were in the hospital for a long while, Jack was shot in his right lung and Margaret in the head. But both children survived. Insanity charges were filed against Clara. She told authorities she was worried about Jacks mental condition and feared the other children would be the same.
John & Clara with children Jack & Baby Margaret

Canfield Home in Dawson,, ND

I couldn't Imagine the horror John Canfield went through on arriving home to this awful scene. What does a father/husband do?

Jonathan Franklin Canfield

Johnathan Franklin Canfield

End the end John "Jack" Canfield live to be 80 years old dying in 1999

I could not find any information on Margaret Canfield. I can assume a family member may have taken her and raised her she was only 12 years old at the time.

Clara was convicted and found insane and committed to the Jamestown Mental Hospital in Jamestown, ND. Until her death in 1950
The 1940 Census shows Jack also at the State Hospital with his mom. I did some checking and because of state legislature these records are destroyed every seven years, so we may never find out why they ended up there.

The rooms at that time were like this

This is what the state Hospital looked like at that time.

John & Clara both died in 1950. I have a strong feeling he forgave his wife and loved her to the end.
Clara died on 09 May 1950 in Jamestown at the State Hospital she was 64 years old On 21 Sep 1950 John died he was 63.

Someone asked me if I would post and share things like this in my family tree. I said absolutely I would. It's our ancestry good or bad and everything in between.  I wanted to share this story because many people have a mental illness of some sort, and we should never judge others until we walk in their shoes.

I pray Clara and her family found some peace and kindness and today they are all buried together in the family cemetery in Dawson, ND.

May God bless each and every one of them.

Update on Margaret. She was in the Army from Jun 22, 1945 to Dec 21, 1945.  She married Donald Hayes on 21 July 1945 in Columbus, Georgia.  She died 16 Oct 1985 in Sioux Falls, SD.  Pfc Margaret E. Hayes is on her gravestone. 

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