Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Jennie

Not long ago I blogged about a little girl who never got to grow up.

I was doing some pictures in Elmwood Cemetery and happened to kneel by her headstone. She was all by herself, not a family plot, and it seemed sad to me that probably no one remembers her today.

Since that time and with basically only the information on the headstone to go by... I with some invaluable assistance from friends, Brad Finch and Kevin Koster and Bruce Matthews with Elmwood Cemetery, have found out a lot more about her family and brief life.

One of the first things I found was her middle name was "Fay." So, Jennie Fay Rutherford was born on October 6th, 1885 probably here in Kansas City. No birth certificate exists for her but that was not particularly uncommon for the time. We believe her first home was at 3710 Roberts here in Northeast Kansas City living with her father Samuel L. Rutherford born 1843 in New Jersey moved to Macpherson, Kansas and her Mother Olinda born in 1855 in Ohio who met Samuel in Macpherson. Samuel may have apprenticed carpentry with Olinda's father and soon they moved to the house on Roberts with Samuel's brother-in-law and his family. (Picture below of the house... which, for once, is still standing.)

Jennie had one older sister Arkalina who was born in 1881, possibly in MacPherson. She was called "Lena" for short.

The families moved to 3225 Smart ( still standing, picture below) also in Northeast. Jennie probably attended Scarritt Elementary School which opened in 1891. It's just three blocks from her house.

Sometime toward the end of October, 1896, Jennie came down with the croup. Her physician, Dr. S. R. Stofer undoubtedly visited the home. His residence was not far away in the 400 Block of Indiana. Croup, today, is very treatable and almost never fatal. Not so in the 19th century. Jennie's croup advanced to membraneous croup which is a very serious version of the disease that causes constriction of the membranes that line the lungs and windpipes.

I imagine that Jennie's bedroom was with her sister upstairs in the back... her parent's room nearby. Her uncle and aunt and cousins probably shared another room on the same floor. Everyone would have been aware of Jennie's illness and doing what they could to help.

Things never got better and she died on Halloween, October 31st, 1896... Jennie had just celebrated her 11th birthday on the 6th.

Jennie's funeral was held in the Smart home the next day. D.W. Newcomer's handled the details. The procession probably went up Smart to Benton continuing on to 15th Street and left to the Elmwood Cemetery entrance.

There is a chapel there now, built by the Armours in the early part of the next century. A beautiful stone church. Jennie's stone faces the road that runs by the Chapel.

Both her parents are buried in Elmwood too. Samuel died in March of 1926, but has no headstone. When he died he was living at 508 Wabash. Tragedy didn't end with Jennie for the family. Her mother was eventually committed to State Hospital No. 2 in St. Joseph where she died in 1911. Olinda does have a stone. (pictured below) Ironically, none of the family members are together.

Lena married William Andlauer president of the Andlauer film company which produced both shorts and feature length movies... some especially for the black community and one which featured Jack Johnson the boxer. William died in 1953. Lena survived him into the mid 1960s she and William had no children.

There is much more to tell about this family and I will do so in the future. But for the moment I just wanted to offer a remembrance of Jennie. We know a lot more about you now and you will never be forgotten again. Happy Birthday Jennie!!!
Jennie's stone next to Armour Chapel in Elmwood Cemetery with, happily, a very much alive 10 year old Sarah Koster in the background.
The Rutherford's first house at 3710 Roberts in Northeast Kansas City.
Their second home at 3225 Smart Avenue. The house where Jennie died. Her funeral was in the home on November 1st, 1896.
Jennie's death notice... the last line... this is where I found her middle name.
Lena, Jennie's sister, married William Andlauer who ran a successful film business. They lived at various places in the city mostly in the Northeast.
Olinda, Jennie's mother's headstone. A tragic story in her own right... losing her daughter and then struggling with insanity.


  1. Very interesting post and good detective work. It would have been sad to see such young children dying of what we consider minor diseases today. That would have been a helpless feeling. Did you notice that on the Record of Deaths that three people committed suicide? I found that interesting too.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to a life long-since forgotten. Great sleuthing, David. I'm amazed that the two family homes in Scarritt-Renaissance are still standing; maybe they can be rehabbed someday to show proper tribute to Jennie, as well as to the rest of the Rutherfords.

  3. Awesome detective work!! Thank you for following up on her story. I'll be thinking of her on her birthday...

  4. dying on halloween is cool.
    fay means fairy in older english.
    thanks for story!
    10-6 happy jennie day.

  5. Suicides were very common back then, carbolic acid being the first choice of many. Hard times and no mental health care contributed.

  6. Awesome story!!
    Amazing how much information you were able to find.
    Can't wait to read more!!

  7. I know how we can get more info, but it's a bit "non-traditional."