Monday, July 8, 2013

Madness Monday- Suicide After Shooting Wife in Divorce Row

Was it The Depression or was it depression? Was it some other form of mental illness? I'll let you, the reader, decide. 

Elam Hoover Dancy was born in Cabarrus County, North Carolina to his 16 year old mother and his 25 year old father sometime in August of 1890. Elam, or sometimes called Elmer, would go on to be the eldest of 6 children. He had three sisters and two brothers. Elam's father, William Edward Dancy was a carpenter and sometimes worked apart from the family. Elam's mother, Teresa Roxanna Pethel, seems to be from tough stock also out of Cabarrus County. As a young man, Elam learned carpentry from his father and went with his father to the greater Dallas area, Texas. When Elam was 20 years old and working as a pattern maker in the carpentry trade he married a local Texas gal, Mabel Shanks who was almost 17 years old in 1908. 

Elam and Mabel lived with Elam's father and sister in Dallas on 409 Peabody Street. The young couple had their first child in 1909. Perhaps through complications of childbirth, Mabel dies that same year at about 18 years old. Their son, William Hoover Dancy, dies at only 11 months old from whooping cough. Mother and son are buried together in a plot for three in Oakland Cemetery with no marker.  After Elam buries his infant son in May of 1910, he marries the 14 year old Texas native, Lillie Mae White. Lillie had already bore him a son (William Elmer) before they were wed in September of 1909. 

Elam and Lillie go one to have four more children-Jacob Lee Roy, a boy who perished at about 7 months old, Raymond Hoover,  and Dorothy Dell. The family chases the lumber trade. Between 1910 and 1914 they live and work in Caddo Parrish, Louisiana. In 1915 they are living in the the small town of Peach in Wood County, Texas. The town doesn't exist today. After the lumber was exhausted the rail didn't stop anymore. The rail line was repeatedly broken into smaller segments but the majority was never bought or run again. Elam's father dies at only 55 years old during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. By 1920 they've moved on again and are living in Harrison County, Texas in the absolute poorest part of town where he works as a millwright. By 1922, they have moved again and are living back in Shreveport, Caddo Parrish, Louisiana. Elam's mother, Teresa, moves in with her eldest son. 

In 1924 and 1926, Elam is still working as a carpenter. And that's when things really start to unravel.  His wife Lillie, citing infidelity, petitions for separation** and asks for custody of the two eldest children- Jacob Lee Roy and William Elmer. Elam will have nothing of divorce and stabs her as she tries to leave him. She stays with some kind of female friend in town but comes out to the house each day to wash and cook for the children but refuses to stay at night. In late June of 1927, Elam shoots her in the back* in their own yard in front of their youngest child- Dorothy Dell. Then, he composes a note, locks himself in the bathroom and then shoots himself in the head. Their youngest boy, Ray, comes home from school to discover his 6 year old sister alone with the bodies of his dead parents. 

Was it the stress of the depression years? What drove him to be unfaithful to both his first and second wife? Why did he feel that stabbing her would make her stay? Did his first wife's death and his two infant sons' deaths weigh on him? And, it may seem a bit ghoulish, whatever happen to the suicide note?


*Suicide After Shooting Wife in Divorce Row
SHREVEPORT, La., June 27 (UP).—After firing three shots into his wife,  seriously wounding her, as she stood In the backyard of her home, E. H. Dancy, 37, carpenter, walked into the bathroom and shot a bullet into his own head. He is expected to die. 

A six-year-old daughter of the couple, Dorothy, was the only witness to the double shooting. 

Dancy was at liberty on bond for stabbing his wife last April. Mrs. Dancy was suing for divorce.

Extract of petition: **PETITION OF SEPARATION: There is a record of Lillie Mae Dancy’s separation filing dated May 16, 1927 (she was murdered June 28, 1927).    MRS. L. M. Dancy VS E. H. Dancy.  PETITION: TO THE HONORABLE THE FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR THE PARRISH OF CADDO LOUISIANA.  The petition states that Lillie May was married to E. H. Dancy on October 2, 1910 in the city of Dallas, Texas.  There were four children born of said marriage: Jacob Leroy, age 15, William Elmer, age 13, Raymond, age 9, and Dorothy Dell, age. 6.  Excerpt: “Petitioner further shows that she has always been a kind and dutiful wife to her said husband but that regardless of his marriage vows, he has since their marriage been guilt of adultery, committed at various times and particularly on or about the 15th day of April, 1927,at 722 Caddo Street, in this City, with a woman whose name is unknown to your petitioner.  Petitioner avers that because of the shameful conduct of her said husband and the dishonor which he has brought upon her name, she, desires to secure a divorce “A vincula matrimonii and to obtain the custody of her minor children Jacob Leroy, age 15 and William Elmer, age 13.  Petitioners further represents that there exists no community and if same does exists, does waive and relinquish any rights, titles or interest she may have in same into and in favor of her said husband E. H. Dancy.  WHEREFORE petitioner prays that she may be authorized to institute and prosecute this action that the house No 3011 on Alabama Avenue, in this city be assigned to her as a domicile pending this suit…”

Other documents can viewed in Elam (Elmer) Hoover Dancy's gallery

Sources (Incomplete Listing):
State of Louisiana, Secretary of State, Division of Archives, Records Management, and History. Vital Records Indices. Baton Rouge, LA, USA. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011

Year: 1920; Census Place: Justice Precinct 8, Harrison, Texas; Roll: T625_1816; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 71; Image: 304, 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 are on roll 323 (Chicago City).
The petition of separation from the Caddo County Courthouse. (I don't know how to cite that properly yet).