Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Front-Page Obituary of Joseph Brown Howe

Today's post comes not from one of Sarah Eva Howe's 72 scrapbooks but from The Carrollton Democrat, which at that time was published on the Saturday of each week. In the issue dated Dec. 14, 1929, more than half of the front page is about the sudden and unexpected death of Sarah's paternal uncle, Joseph Brown Howe. Thanks to Carolyn Williams of Carrollton, I have that entire section of the paper. She offered it to me after seeing this blog. Such is one of the many wonderful outcomes of genealogy blogging: hearing from others who can provide stories, details, or artifacts about your ancestors.

Joseph B. Howe died on Saturday, Dec. 7, 1929, one week before the Democrat announced his passing. No doubt most of the people of Carrollton, Kentucky, already knew about the death. Still, the editor considered the week-old news important enough to document it on Page 1. The photo and the story/obituary cover three of the page's six columns, and a personal tribute by Russel O. Dufour takes part of a fourth column.
The Carrollton Democrat, Carrollton, Ky., Dec. 14, 1929
The articles total almost 2,000 words. Here are the most interesting excerpts. I highlighted names in bold and added a few explanatory notes in brackets. At the end of the article is a list of out-of-towners who came to the funeral.

The Democrat has never been called upon to chronicle a sadder or more lamentable death than that of Joseph B. Howe, prominent church and business man, who was summoned suddenly at his home in this city at 11 o’clock Saturday night. He had been at the store of Howe Brothers all day, very busy because of the approaching holiday season and in fine spirits throughout the day and evening, so when the news was heard early Sunday morning of his death it was almost beyond belief.

Mr. Howe had left the store shortly before 11 o’clock in company with his nephew, John J. Howe, the latter leaving him at the Highland avenue entrance to the Howe home. On entering the house Mr. Howe spoke of feeling slightly indisposed, but went into the yard, as was his wont, to get a pitcher of water from the cistern. When he did not return Mrs. Howe went to the door and was horrified to see him prostrate on the ground. . . . She summoned the family physician, Dr. Holmes, but life had probably fled before Mr. Howe touched the ground in his fall.

In the death of Mr. Howe Carroll county loses a pillar in the business structure of the community. The Howe store had been established in 1859 by John Howe, father of the deceased, who had located in Carrollton in that year. . . .
 [Here we skip the article's details about Irish immigrant John Howe. That information is available in three posts in this blog: "The Immigrant Ancestors: John and Sarah Brown Howe,"  "Howe's Business," and "Howe Brothers, Inc."
Mr. Joseph B. Howe, the last surviving member of the original firm of John Howe & Sons, had seen the business grow from modest beginning to one of the largest and most complete department stores of its kind in northern Kentucky. Associated with the firm from boyhood, he had for many years been president and general manager of the incorporated company, and in great measure the success that has attended the enterprise has been due to his sound judgment, his splendid executive ability and his sagacious foresight.

For a man of his years, Mr. Howe carried his age lightly, and made frequent trips to the leading markets of the East and Middle West. He was especially well known on the New York market. For a number of years he had been a director of the National Dry Goods Association.

As a citizen Mr. Howe was an outstanding man. No resident of the city in any walk of life had the interests of the community more at heart. It was his great desire to see Carrollton become one of the leading trade centers of the Commonwealth, and to that end he bent every effort, using every possible method to attract attention to the city, both through channels of business and by personal endeavor.

Carrollton will miss him –- the city is not so rich in men of his high class that his death will not cause a wide gap; but he leaves an example that will stand as a mark to be attained by the ambitious youth of the community.

At the age of 14 years Mr. Howe became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and his every day life reflected the teachings of the Master. . . . He was generous to a marked degree with his church –- in fact, with all churches regardless of denominational lines. And not only was he liberal with his means but gave of his time without stint to church affairs. . . .
Mr. Howe was a man of charitable impulses. In him the poor and needy found a friend –- it is likely that his own family knew not the extent of his benefactions.
Close-up of Newspaper Photo

He was a deep student of the Bible, a wide reader of the best literature and well informed on current events. His flowers were one of his hobbies, and they grew in beauty and profusion because he loved them.

His home was one of choice hospitality. There the ministers of his church found a hearty welcome, and there friends and relatives delighted to be guests.
. . .  Joseph Brown Howe was born March 7, 1857, in Champaign county Ill., one of the eight children of John and Sarah Brown Howe, and came to this city at the age of two years. One of [his] brothers died in infancy; one sister, Miss Lizzie Howe, a lovely girl, passed away at the age of twenty years; three brothers who were members of the firm during their life-time –- William F., Robert J. and John I. Howe –- have one by one answered the summon, while another brother, George T., died in young manhood. One sister –- the youngest member of the family –- Mrs. Sarah Howe Froman, wife of Hon. H.M. Froman, of Ghent and Lexington, alone survives.

On November 6, 1889, Mr. Howe was happily married to Miss Sallie Goslee, one of Carrollton’s noblest women, who has been in the truest sense a helpmeet to him. She is left to mourn, with their two sons, James G. and George T. Howe, the loss of a devoted husband and a fond father.

. . . There also survive Mr. Howe several nieces and nephews, one of the latter, John J. Howe, of Carrollton and Covington, being secretary of the firm.

At two o-clock Tuesday afternoon [Dec. 10, 1929] the last rites were held at the Methodist church.  . . . The body was carried from [the Howe home] just across the street to the church, followed by the family and by the employees of the firm, who attended in a body.
The capacious auditorium would scarcely seat the family and those bound to them by close ties of relationship and business. In the hallways and in the class rooms on the first floor were many friends who could not be seated in the auditorium.

The service was conducted by the resident pastor, Dr. G.W. Banks, assisted by Rev. N.T. Chandler, of Newport, and Rev. T.W. Watts, of New Castle. . . . The music consisted of soothing strains of old hymns rendered by the organist, Mrs. R.M. Barker.

Out of respect to Mr. Howe, who was dean of Carrollton merchants, the banks and business houses of the city were closed during the hours of the funeral, the business men acting as honorary and active pall bearers. . . .
Relatives and friends from a distance called here for the funeral were:
Mrs. Jas. G. Scott, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Becker, Mr. and Mrs. Warren Green, Miss Jennie Shaw, Miss Margaret Shaw, Mrs. Harold Mitchell, Mr. I.G. Jasper, Mrs. Katie Smith, Mr. B.M. Harwood, all of Louisville, Ky.; Mrs. Annie Grimstead, New York; Miss Lillie Howe, Oxford, O.; Mr. and Mrs. Lem Gooding, Lexington; Mrs. W. L. Salyers, Lexington; Miss Lenora Howe, Lexington; Mr. and Mrs. Irvine Scott, Sparta, Ky.; Mrs. Ed. Bickers, Sparta, Ky.; Mrs. Joseph Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. Owen Scott, Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, Miss Lizzie Scott, Miss Mary Scott, of Campbellsburg, Ky.; Mr. and Mrs. C.F. Goslee, Roanoke, Va.; Rev. M.T. Chandler, Newport, Ky.; Rev. T.W. Watts, New Castle, Ky.; Rev. L.C. DeArmond, Ghent, Ky.; Rev. I.H. Driskell, Locust, Ky.; Rev. D.L. Rothweiler, Worthville, Ky.; Rev. S.L. Moore, Milton, Ky.; Mr. Oscar Levine, of Levine Bros., Cincinnati; Mr. Robt. Krake, of Levine Bros., Cincinnati; Mr. Robt Getty, of Alms & Doepke Co., Cincinnati; Mr. C.F. Irons, of Cincinnati Dry Goods Co., Cincinnati; Mr. Leirup, of Louis Levine & Sons, Cincinnati; Mr. William Sherman, of Sherman & Sons, Louisville; and Mr. Frank Mayer, of Sherman & Sons, Louisville.

A Tribute by Russel O. DuFour
To the left of the front-page article about the death of Joseph B. Howe is this personal note written by one of Mr. Howe's many friends:

Mr. Joe Howe
The shifting sands of life! The shifting sands – I like the phrase. It seems so apt to any one who has watched the tide come in; with all its mighty force and vigor, then slowly recede; shifting the sands on the shore; changing them; lifting a bit of driftwood, or perhaps a broken flower that some one has cast away, and carrying it back into the mighty maw of the ocean. So are we, the human sands; the human driftwood; the human flower, lifted by the receding tides of life, sooner or later, and carried out into the fathomless ocean of eternity.

It was my privilege and happiness to be a guest in the beautiful country home, which is now one of the show places of Carroll county, of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Howe Froman, with Mr. Joe Howe, on last Thanksgiving day, and other members of the Howe family; and on that day, only a short time ago, he seemed so alive and so interested in everything pertaining to life, that I can’t believe that he has followed the outgoing tide.

I remember how, on that day, when I first entered the room, his sister, Mrs. H.M. Froman [Sarah Varena Howe Froman, Joseph's only surviving sibling], had put her arm around him and said: “Russel, this is the only brother I have left!” How often the little things of life come back to us later with special significance. I wonder if some unseen influence did not prompt her to be just a little bit more tended at that moment, knowing of the separation soon to come.

For many years, the name of Howe has been synonymous with the name of Carrollton. It has always stood for everything that is uplifting and cultural in that city.

Mr. Joe Howe was a gentleman of the old school, a fine, upstanding man, and his passing means a great loss to the community.
If you wish to have my complete transcript of the obituary and Mr. DuFour's tribute, please request it by email. I'll be glad to share it with you.

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