Craig Gookin is buried in Salem Cemetery Lot No. 51/27, where the inscription
on his tombstone reads as follows: "Craig Gookin, Died Dec. 7, 1901, Aged
36Y, 3M, 17D." His obituary may be found in the November 2000 archive of this
list. Information from his death record may be found in the April 2001 archive.
The following extremely detailed account of his death was published in The
Chariton Democrat on 19 December 1901. Originally published as one very
long paragraph, I've divided it into smaller segments here.
According to Betty Cross, a Russell native and corresponding secretary of the Lucas
County Genealogical Society, Craig and his family were among several
Russell-area families recruited by residents of Box Butte County, Nebraska,
at the turn of the century to settle there. The land in western Nebraska was
substantially different than the rich, well-watered prairie they were accustomed
to, and many were disappointed. Some came home to Russell to live the
remainder of their lives. Craig, apparently the victim of severe depression,
did not survive.
DIED BY HIS OWN HAND
From the Hemingsford, Neb., Herald, we take the following account of the
death of Craig Gookin, formerly of this county, and whose remains were
brought here on Wednesday of last week for interment:
The Herald has to record to-day as sad an ending of human life as ever
occurred in Box Butte county - made doubly sad because of the pathetic
attending circumstances. Rarely, if every in its history, has this county
been so shocked as when the intelligence was brought to town last Sunday
that Craig Gookin, a respected citizen who resided three miles
northeast of Hemingsford, had been found dead about a quarter of a mile
from his home with a bullet hole through his head.
Immediate friends of the deceased had noticed for several weeks that
all was not right with Mr. Gookin. He came here only last spring,
from near Russell, Iowa, and was apparently prospering, having
arranged things about his place comfortably for the winter. His stock was
in good condition and he had provided abundant feed to carry them
through nicely until spring, and he had seemingly made the best of
what he freely confessed he thought was a bad bargain. He had often
expressed his disappointment in the country, regretting that he had ever
He was an extremely sensitive man, and frequently, when talking
with his wife who shared with him his disappointment, he would express
the fear that if they would sell out and return to Iowa their friends and
acquaintances would ridicule them. He seemed to have morbid fear of
public opinion in this respect. Twice, in the presence of his wife, he had
threatened to take his own life, but while she realized that her husband
was not himself, she thought he was only jesting when he hinted at suicide.
Last Saturday morning, with his gun in hand, a small Winchester rifle, he
left the house, after first speaking casually of the children. As hour after
hour passed and he did not return, his wife grew alarmed and caused a
search to be initiated. Sunday morning about 9 o'clock a neighbor found the
unfortunate man lying stretched out, face downward, stark and cold in
death, a quarter of a mile from is home. His gun lay under him, his mittens
had not been removed, nor his cap. Everything indicated that he had
rested his gun, stock downward, upon the ground, leaned over till the side
of his head, at a point just in front of the right ear, came in contact with the
muzzle of the rifle, and reaching down with his right hand pressed the trigger
with his right thumb, and the fatal leaden missile sped unerringly to the mark
intended. Death was instantaneous.
The deceased was not over 35 years of age, a quiet mannered man and
a good citizen. He was an affectionate husband and an indulgent father,
according to those who knew him. His wife stated that he had never spoken
a cross word to her during their married life. Their domestic relations were
of the most pleasant nature.
Evidently the unfortunate man was temporarily insane. A coroner's jury
composed of Frank Shimek, Perry S. Malley, Geo Darling, W. J. Bean,
Ed Wildy and Elmer Roland, under the supervision of Captain E. P.
Sappey, acting coroner, viewed the remains and rendered a verdict of
suicide. Undertaker Geo. Darling embalmed the body and all that was mortal
of poor Craig Gookin was stared on its journey to its last resting place
in Iowa on Tuesday afternoon's east bound passenger, accompanied by
the grief stricken widow and orphaned little ones.
The tragic death of the husband and father has forestalled all ridicule, and only
grief and sorrow will be depicted in the faces of those who will be at the depot
in the old home town to welcome the coming of the living and the dead.