The Other Suicide

There were ten kids in the graduating class of 1922 at Cross Plains High School. Readers of this blog know quite a bit about the most famous student, Robert E. Howard, and I’ve posted a good amount of information on a few of the others, Winfred Brigner, C. S. Boyles, and Edith Odom. In June, I ran some biographies of the other graduates in my REHupa ’zine. Since then, I’ve found a little more information on Ruth Brewer. Pretty esoteric stuff, but some of it is quite interesting.

Ruth’s parents, Kate Cornelia Pledger and James “Jim” Hollis Brewer, were married in Tyler, Texas, on January 16 (maybe 17), 1900. That year’s Census shows the couple in Tyler Ward 2. James, 38, is a grocery dealer, 14 years his wife’s senior. Kate’s mother, Addie, lives with the newlyweds, her own husband having died sometime before. On Ancestry.com, a couple of people have Jim on their family trees and show him as being married to someone else, prior to his marriage to Kate; there appears to be at least one child attached to the new couple that was born before their wedding. Whether this child was born out of wedlock or was the result of a previous marriage, I don’t know. At any rate, Kate and James soon have children of their own: Hollis Ryan in 1902, Mammie Ruth in 1904, and Charlsey Kate in 1906. There may have been another after Charlsey, but that is unconfirmed. On May 16, 1908, James died.

Mr. Brewer’s death is a bit of a mystery. I’ve found a few clippings from newspapers that identify him as a grocer in Tyler. One story references a bad fire at the business a few years prior and states that there wasn’t enough insurance to cover the loss. The cause of death is listed as “Strychnine Poison” and at least one member on Ancestry.com hints that his death was a suicide. Whatever the case, the remaining Brewers drop off the record until 1920 (I can’t find any of them on the 1910 Census or information on Addie Pledger’s 1913 death).

The 1920 Census has widowed Kate and her two daughters, Ruth and Charlsey, in Cross Plains as roomers in the home of Edith Bond. Kate is a music teacher at the public school; her daughters are students. In 1921, Ruth and Charlsey sang together at meetings of the Epworth League and were featured in a play put on at the high school.

Ruth was awarded “Honorable Mention” upon her 1922 graduation from CPHS for her yearly average of 88%; she was third in her class. Sometime between November 1922 and June 1923, she married a local farmer’s son, Edwin Glenn Adams, who, in an August 8, 1924 item in the Cross Plains Review, is mentioned as “Our efficient Printer” and by the end of the year is listed as one of the paper’s owners.

Probably in 1925, the couple had their first child, and on November 21, 1926, their second: Wayne Laneire Adams. Wayne’s birth certificate has two interesting items: first, it reveals that Ruth’s first child had died sometime before Wayne’s birth; second, Wayne was delivered by a certain local physician:

In 1930, the Census has Ruth’s mother living in Abilene, working as music teacher. In the home is divorced daughter Charlsey Davidson (occupation: “advertising”; industry: “theatrical”) and son, Harold. Back in Cross Plains, the Census has Ruth at home with her son; her husband is a “manager” of some kind in the publishing industry. The family life didn’t last much longer. On October 24, 1932, Ruth’s husband died at the Sealy Hospital in nearby Santa Anna of an “intestinal obstruction.” He was buried back home in Cross Plains.

Less than a year later, on August 2, 1933, while visiting her sister-in-law in Gregg County, Ruth shot herself “through [the] breast” and died. On the death certificate, the cause of death is listed as “Suicide by gunshot.” She is buried with her husband in the Cross Plains cemetery. I imagine Robert E. Howard knew most of this sad story.