Saturday, June 23, 2018

SIDEROAD RIPLEY: Tragedy Follows...Again and Again

Wm Ripley Dorr
WILLIAM RIPLEY > JOHN RIPLEY > JOSHUA RIPLEY > JOSHUA II RIPLEY > JOSHUA  RIPLEY, JR >  NATHANIEL RIPLEY > WILLIAM YOUNG RIPLEY > JULIA RIPLEY DORR > WILLIAM RIPLEY DORR m Helen Miller "Nellie" Thurston > CYRUS "Bud" Thurston DORR

I was doing a little dabbling a few months ago and ran across a Find a Grave for Cyrus Thurston Dorr, the son of William Ripley Dorr, who was the son of Julia Ripley Dorr, the noted author and daughter of the business titan, William Young Ripley of Vermont.

A group called "Missing In America" had located and identified Cyrus' remains, which had been left unclaimed in a Nashville mortuary since 1918 and had his ashes interred at Ft Leavenworth, with full military  honors, along with the remains of several others whom the project located and had interred in 2011.

As a veteran, and as the former wife of a career man, the specter of military suicide has always been of special concern to me. When we have so many of our young men and women taking their lives during or after service, it makes me quake with anger that the awareness and treatment options for our service members are so incredibly lacking and the stigma that still persists stifles great strides in treated our psychically wounded warriors. It made me incredibly sad to think of Cyrus' remains and what caused them to sit, untouched, for several generations and I needed to understand why.


The progeny of William Young Ripley were legend. The lineage is chock full of leaders, business luminaries, and adventurers. William Ripley Dorr, the offspring of Julia Ripley Dorr and Seneca Milo Dorr, was no exception.  Raised in Rutland, Vermont, the ancestral hometown of this branch of Ripley's, he was educated at Norwich University, where he graduated in 1873.

He moved on to Appleton, Wisconsin, where the lumber business was booming and started his life there. Upon hearing of the death of his father in 1884, he returned to Vermont and entrenched himself in the various business interests of the family, including his father's brokerage firm, S. M. Dorr Sons.

Eventually, he moved on to St Paul, Minnesota, where his business acumen was targeted at a number of businesses from gold mining to insurance. In addition to many business interested, he was also President of the Chamber of Commerce in St Paul for many years.  In 1890, he married Helen Thurston, a young woman born in Iowa. From 1891-1900, the couple had four children, Seneca Milo dying in infancy. Once they began getting to the age where they needed an education, William relocated the family to New Jersey so the children would be educated in eastern schools.

In 1904, he  was sent to Chicago as a representative of the American Car Company, and while on business there, he took ill and died suddenly. After William's death, Helen moved to St Paul once more. She passed away in Spokane, Washington in 1922.

Cyrus, the second of four children, was born 30 May 1893 in St Paul, Minnesota. By 1915 he was in Silver Bow, Montana, where he married Kathryn Helen Carpenter on 15 Oct 1915. Kathryn was born in Dec 1893 in Houghton County, Michigan.

Kathryn's family included her parents, William Esau Carpenter and his wife Margaret "Maggie" Sullivan.  Married in 1891, the couple had at least six children, of which Kathryn was the second child.

The Carpenter's young life was marred by tragedy. In 1902, their 3-year-old daughter, Gladys drowned in a nearby waterway while following her siblings as they went to school. In 1907, 4-year-old Fred died of infantile convulsions. It was after this death the couple pulled up stakes and moved to Montana. While there, their 17-year-old daughter, Margaret, died of typhoid in 1913. Son Chellis would become a lawyer and reside in California and daughter Lydia would go on to teach domestic sciences.

Kathryn and Bud had a daughter almost immediately. Named after his grandmother, Julia Caroline Ripley Dorr, young Julia was born 5 Jul 1916 in Broken Bow. From here, things get murky because there is no trace of Cyrus.

It's now 1918 and the war is raging in Europe. Everyone was contributing to the war effort in any way they could. Suddenly, though, Kathryn becomes ill with Scarlet Fever and dies at the home of her parents on 19 April. Both husband and daughter are mentioned in the obit, but at the time, Bud was living in Kansas City, selling bonds.


On 8 Jun 1918, Bud married Margaret Poncelette in Kansas City.  Just in time for him to report to duty on 2 Jul 1918 with the US Marine Aviation Corps at the Philadelphia Shipyards.


He visited his cousin JD Steele in Appleton, Wisconsin,  while on furlough, 24 Aug 1918. Presumably furlough was taken from Great Lakes Naval Air Station. We see no word of Bud until next we hear of his death. The first report to his widow in Kansas City, Margaret, lacked details as to the cause of death. The second posting regarding his death, published in Appleton, indicated it was an accidental death, yet, the article posted in Nashville bared the truth of the matter - suicide.




No interment was made and the ashes were never retrieved. No mention is made of Bud's second wife Margaret. Margaret, through much of the 1920s, remained a widow. What became of her, I don't know.

Mother Helen was alive and living in St Paul when he died, yet one of the articles refers to "parents" - William was long dead.

William & Maggie Carpenter raised their granddaughter Julia, in Montana. Julia married Robert A. Mohr and had at least two daughters. They divorced. The 23-years-older Julia married young naval man, Gail A. Brownlow in 1962. Reportedly, she died of COPD two days after their transfer from Hawaii to El Paso, Texas.

What did I learn from this foray into the life of a veteran who succumbed to suicide? I learned nothing about what drove the man to this permanent solution. Did whatever darkness he carried impact his first marriage? Did he see himself as a failure? Was there some rift with second wife Margaret? What I do understand, is suicide is rarely ever just about one thing.

Why did no one go pick up the ashes? Clearly it was known where they were. Was the stigma of suicide too great? Was the family in disagreement of what would become of his remains? We'll never know, but thanks to the Missing in America project, this Marine received full honors and a very belated burial.

Things look like they might be changing. The Department of Veteran's Affairs, claims the prevention of suicide is the top clinical priority. Let's hope.

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