Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Tragic Life of George Muhlig

George John Muhlig was born in about 1873 and worked as a farmer in the areas around Walton and Liberty, New York.

He married Mary Jane Henderson; you may remember her from either this previous post on the Hendersons or the following post. Here's an early photo of Mary.

George and Mary had a son, Howard Ezra, born in 1906. According to an article in the October, 8, 1917 edition of the Kingston Daily Freeman, 11-year-old Howard was hit in the stomach with an apple thrown by another boy. The boy complained of a sore stomach and despite medical attention died a few days later.

In the following year, the Monticello, New York Republican Watchman published this article. It's a little hard to read, so I have transcribed it below.

Source: Old Fulton Postcards
When Car Was Overturned Near White Sulphur Springs
Accident Revealed the Fact That Supposedly Dry Territory is Very Wet

Two bottles of rum escaped injury Tuesday evening when the Ford automobile in which they were riding struck a fender near White Sulphur Springs and overturned but three men who were also riding in the automobile narrowly escaped death. George Muhlig, of Liberty, who was driving the car, had his shoulder injured; Frank Burgher, who lives on the Stevensville Road, was cut severely in the thigh, and Orlando Donaldson of Neversink, had his leg injured so that he was unable to stand on it.

The men said they were run into by another car, but eyewitnesses of the accident say that no other cars were in sight. Harry Knack, from his residence a quarter mile away, and his brother Gus heard the crash and ran to give aid. They found the Ford on its side and the men beneath it in a dazed condition.

Burgher was bleeding profusely in the leg where he had been cut and the other men were so quiet that bystanders feared they had been killed. The Ford and the fenders were almost a total wreck. The booze, which had been wrapped carefully in paper placed in a burlap bag, and stowed away in the rear, came out without a scratch. A large jug was also found in the bag and it was unhurt. But unlike the bottles, it was empty.  Those who saw the wreck say that not all the booze aboard was in the bottles.

The place where the meeting of the fender and the Ford occurred was about two-thirds of the way from Youngsville to White Sulphur.
After the accident, Gus Knack brought the men to Liberty  for medical treatment and Cliiff Edwards took the Ford to White Sulphur, where it got first aid. Dr Payne treated Burgher and had to take several stitches in his wound. –Liberty Register

 George is one of the men in this photo, though I can't be sure which one.

Here's why. I have two  copies of the same photo, but they are labeled differently.  Both have George listed, but the second man is identified as hired man, Blake Schoomacher on one card and as John Washington on the other.  I couldn't find a record of any Blake Schoomacher or Schumacher, but I did find John Washington and he was 14 years older than George. The postcard could have been printed anytime between 1904 and the 1920s, so George would have been between 31- 46 when the photo was taken. That doesn't narrow it down enough to be sure which one is George.

I'm guessing that George is the older man. I'm trying to compare the known photo of George with this one - and trying not to be too influenced by the mustache.

The next entry I find for George Muhlig is in 1924. It's the Delaware County coroner's report from the Delaware , NY Genealogy & History website. The coroner writes in his report:

On October 1, 1924 was called to the home of George Muhlig in Walton village where he had just been found hanging by the neck in the upper story of the barn. I found it to be a case of suicide. 

Mary had now lost both her son and her husband to tragic deaths.
They are all buried together at the Liberty Cemetery in Liberty, New York.
This is a photo of Mary in 1925, the year after her husband's death, standing in a field with an empty chair.

The  writing on the back of the postcard/photo says:
Mrs. Mary J. Muhlig
taken 1925 at Mrs. Cutters at White Sulphur Springs, Sull. Co. New York.

Addendum - February 13, 2014
Every now and then we find another photo that turns out to be a missing piece of one puzzle or another. I immediately recognized it when I read the inscription on the back of this card. Here's a photo of Howard Ezra who died at 11 after being hit in the stomach by an apple thrown by another boy. How old do you think he is here? Nine, maybe? Poor fellow.

It looks like Mom did the writing:  

Dear Grandpa + Grandma. Will send you a picture of myself I got at school This is taken on the door (?) yard in front of the house
all well
Howard E. Muhlig
when are you coming down to see us


  1. Tragic indeed! Whatever drove poor George to reckless (but not wreckless) drinking and eventually to suicide? You can't help wondering if the loss of his son played some part.

  2. Poor Mary. Let's hope her years without George were not a hardship. Widowed at 43, she still had 45 years of life to face.

    1. She had many sisters to offer support, but how horrible to lose both son and husband.

  3. So very tragic, but what even struck me more, was (their son) to be eleven and have an apple thrown so hard that you later die, simply horrible! There has to be more to that story indeed!

    1. It's a tragic outcome, but not hard to imagine the circumstances. They assume it's nothing serious, so they don't get immediate medical care for little Ezra. And they were in a rural area, so it was likely difficult to get expert medical care.

  4. The first photo is fun, but then it takes a turn for the worse. What a sad story. The last photo is very powerful, very symbolic.

  5. That's the saddest story ever! It is a little hard to imagine an apple doing that much harm. I agree with Karen. I think there's more to the story. But what?
    Where have I seen an empty chair before? This one is very sad and evocative. The other one, however was just plain weird.

    1. I also remember some previous post with an empty chair...Sepia Saturday?

  6. Fascinating that their stories are still being heard so long after their deaths!
    I cant help wondering if young Ezra actually had appendicitis? With the apple episode to atribute the stomach pain to, no one would have worried too much if he complained. I guess we'll never know.

  7. oh..that photo of Mary with the empty chair is heartbreaking...it looks so empty around her. i wonder if she had this in mind when she had the photo taken?
    how sad to have the losses she had.

  8. That's a story out of Greek tragedy! Glad you're not ending on that note. I had a favor to ask -- could you send me an email (if you want) at facultyx4-tango@yahoo.com? I just had one or two things I wanted to say outside the blog environment.

  9. Oh I have so missed posts such as this whilst I have been away. Such posts are almost an art-form in themselves - blogging's very own gift to the harmonious marriage of words and images.

  10. Good collection of vintage post cards and photographs. Great. Keep the posting of rare stuff.

    Please look into my collections blog and share your opinion on my vintage postcards.


  11. Hi Christine,

    Coming back to your archives to catch up on anything I may have missed before.

    Looking at the picture of George and the hired man [above], I can tell you that the man on the left is George, standing, pouring.

    Deduction: In examining the top picture of George, focusing on the shape of his ears and jaw, it is evident that the man on the left has the same facial characteristics as the aforementioned picture of George. Most notably, the ear lobes are a good clue as to who is who in each picture; notice how George's lobes curve upwards as they intersect with the jawline. The hired man's ear lobes slope downwards.

    I miss your daily posts. I hope your time away from the blog has been filled with memorable adventures.


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