Tuesday, October 16, 2012

He Died In The Outhouse

Am reading Betty VanNewkirk's second book, Kaleidoscope, ever a treat! Betty writes a weekly column about local history for the Cumberland Times-News newspaper. Here's a link: http://times-news.com/bettyvannewkirk . Some of the columns specifically about Frostburg have been gathered together to form this and another book, Windows To The Past.

I do like reading local Western Maryland histories because I never know when an ancestor might pop off the page. My paternal GGGF Charles William Zeller (1829 - 1901) and my GGF Gustav Zeller (1858 - 1927) have both been mentioned a couple of times in Ms. VanNewkirk's entertaining books! So let me share the bare bones of one story in which my GGF's barber shop is mentioned, although as you'll see, the story takes some twists and turns far afield of his excellent establishment!

This particular story, "The Body in the Privy", can be found on page 103 and mentions Mr. Zeller's barber emporium up the street from the location under discussion and the fact that Gus had not only running water in the 1920s but tubs and basins for showers and baths! Imagine! Family lore has it that GGF prided himself on having the most elaborate and top level barbershop in all of Western Maryland.

But the story on page 103 isn't about Gus Zeller. No, it's about that inconvenient body they found when excavating for a new building 115 East Main Street and down the street from the Zeller Barber Shop. The building at 115 had been purchased and improvements were required. Digging revealed an old outhouse cleared and limed when indoor plumbing was installed. In July of 1923 the boys digging a sewer ditch for the new building found - are your ready - a leg bone! They called the cops.

More digging revealed a full human skeleton, gold cuff links with the initials J. R. D., small change, a watch fob and bits of fabric. If you want the full Monty of gory details you'll have to read the book:)

Through a series of CSI Frostburg deductions and general questioning the man's identity was determined. The story came out, it seems, in dibs and drabs. The cuff links, it was determined, belonged to one John Daniels also known as Uncle Shink, a rotund jovial man who liked his drink. Not married... wise were the single ladies of town!

On the night in question, Uncle Shink visited two of the numerous bars, said he was going home, and then just up and disappeared! The hunt for him extended to Ohio and other mining areas of the country with no results. On what would have been his 45th birthday his body was found in the old outhouse so long out of use that everyone had forgotten that it was even there in the first place.

Now I ask you, how drunk would you have to be to fall in an outhouse?!

Photos of the Day from the Archive:

Gustav Zeller (1858 - 1927)
The day the first electric trolly came to Frostburg
and Gustav Zeller in his white barber's coat,
hand to head, at the front of the trolly.

The URL for this post is: http://nutsfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/2012/10/he-died-in-outhouse.html

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