Suicide Yesterday of Christian Witzel, at Widow McEwen’s, on the Raleigh Road.
A Case of Unrequited Affection and Desperate Love – “O, ‘Twas Love, ‘Twas Love that Set the World on Fire”
Yesterday morning a negro, almost breathless with excitement rushed into the office of Justice J. M. Holst and informed him that a man had committed
at the rented house of the widow McEwin, on the Randolph road near Wolf river, and they wanted him to hold an inquest on the body of the deceased, whose name was Christian Witzel. Justice Holst immediately repaired to the house, and a frightful sight met his gaze. Lying on the floor, near the door, was
THE DEAD MAN,
his shirt half burned off, and a ball in the breast, near the heart. The floor was smeared with blood which had formed a clotted pool to the left side of the body, which lay on its back, the features pale and serene in their death clasp. A large Derringer pistol was lying near the wall, its unloaded barrel being a silent witness to the means of the unfortunate man’s death. A jury of inquest was impanneled [sic], and
was death from a pistol-shot fired by his own hands. The dead man was about thirty years of age, and had been living in Memphis two years, his former home being in Fayette county. Nothing is known of his kinsfolk, as the only paper found in his possession is the following:
“Gallaway, Fayette County, Tennessee, October 14th, 187-. Of Christopher Cristie, received in the name of the State, $20.00 and costs of siut, relinquishing all claims that is in equity of the State against H. Brown, and as surety, and Christopher Witzell, as defendant in caus of Thomas Terry, Akin and others of the county of Fayette.
J. W. Harris, J P.”
Several months ago Witzel formed
with a man named Charles Tignar, and the two commenced gardening. Two months ago, a difficulty ensuing between them, Tignar had Witzel arrested and brought before Justice Hoslt on a peace warrant, the prosecutor alleging that the defendant had threatened his life. The charge not being sustained, Justice holst discharged Witzel, how then went to live with a gentleman named Elsman, who occupied the house of Mrs. McEwen, on the Randolph road. After being there a week Elsman died, leaving his wife, who is sixty-four, in possessioin of his property. Hardly had the old man been put under the sod than Witzel fell
IN LOVE WITH THE WIDOW,
who was twice his age, and in a week’s time made a formal offer of marriage to her. This offer Mrs. Lena Elsman promptly refused, because of the disparity of age between herself and Witzel. No direct offer was again made by Witzel for some time, although it was evident from his tender glances and demeanor that he still adored the new made widow of sixty-four summers. Yesterday morning by four o’clock Witzel went into the garden to gather vegetables for market. During the time he was at work Mrs. Elsman passed the time in playing the piano, and then
RINGING A COW-BELL
for breakfast. This glad sound summoned the gardner to the presence of his adored object, and as he came around the corner of the house, in the door of which Mrs. Elsman was standing with the bell, he said, “I heard the bell, and am glad to find you in such good humor.” To this Mrs. Elsman replied, “Yes, come on’ but let us sit down and be in good humor, but don’t let us talk about that foolishness any more.” They had hardly taken seats
AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE
before Witzel commenced anew the subject of marriage, causing the lady to say, “There’s no use in your talking any more about it. It is all foolishness, and I won’t marry you.” When she finished the sentence Witzel jumped from his seat and hurried to his room, Mrs. Elsman going into her apartment. While standing by the bureau and her back to the door, Witzel approached and said, “Well, you won’t have me, anyhow.” To this the lady, without turning around, replied: “What’s the use in you talking such nonsense that’s just like little children’s play.” He answered her by saying: “I’ll show you that I mean what I say,
“I’LL MAKE AN END OF THIS!”
Hardly had he uttered these last words before a pistol fired. As the affrighted woman turned around she saw the deadly weapon firmly grasped and closely pressed to his heart. A sharp report, and the pistol bounded by its own concussion against the window-blinds, and dropped close to the feet of the terrified woman.
WITZEL FELL BACKWARD
upon the floor, his lifeless body wrapped in the flames of his burning shirt, which had taken fire from the muzzle of the derringer. The blood spurted out full six feet, and partially quenched the flames that were scorching the insensible body. Mrs. Elsman uttered
A WILD SCREAM
which caused two or three neighbors to rush to the house, where the corpse, with its burning garments and streaming blood, met their gaze. The coroner was then notified, and held an inquest as above given. Strange and most mysterious the fancies, the desires, that love may engender. Every clime has its sunshine and clouds, every heart its hopes and its gloom.
[Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., Jun 29, 1873]