Oregon Obituaries - St. Johns Review - Mar 10, 1905


N. J. Bolen, who lived with his wife and family in Point View addition, died Tuesday morning, after an illness of several weeks.   The deceased was 49 years old, and leaves a wife and one child.   He was a brick layer by trade and was a respected but quiet and unobtrusive citizen.   The remains were taken to the Selwood crematory, Tuesday evening.


An Old Civil War Veteran Found in Dying Condition

With Two Bullet Holes Through His Head - Was it Murder or Suicide.

The usual quiet of the city was broken last Wednesday morning when John Kurtz, an aged veteran of the Civil War, who had in a fit of temporary insanity, shot himself three times in the head sometime during Tuesday night and was found under the wharf about 9 o'clock on Wednesday morning in the vicinity of the shipyards, unconscious, bleeding profusely and, as the subsequent result has shown, in a dying condition.

Dr. Hansel, the city health officer was called as soon as possible, and hurried to the scene, and after looking at the poor victim, who, still alive and lying in his own blood, advised that the poor old body, from which life was, no doubt, fast ebbing, be not disturbed or removed until the coroner arrived, with the result that he was allowed to remain in that position, for three hours, with nothing better than the cold, damp uncany ground beneath a wharf, for his couch, and the hard wooden brace supporting the wharf for his pillow.   Why this was done, no one knows.   Why an old veteran who had no doubt, suffered the privations of cruel war in defense of his country should be thus allowed to die so ignobale (sic) a death is past all human comprehension.   It was not until Marshal Organ was found, when he, assisted by other citizens went to the scene, secured a wagon and brought the old man up to town and placed him on a comfortable couch in Blackburn's furniture store, where he died a few hours later.

In that position and condition the old man was compelled to lie from the time at which he shot himself until noon the next day when Deputy Coroner A. L. Finley and Chief Deputy Sheriff Morden arrived to take charge of the case.   Coroner Finley was surprised when he found that he had been called to take official charge of the body of a man yet alive, when it is his business to handle only the bodies of dead people.

The conduct of the case by Dr. Hansel was the subject of general comment of a most caustic nature.   Bystanders protested, but in vain, none of them knowing whether or not they might take charge of the body and convey it to a clean place of comfort and thus attempt to save the old man's life.   However, the sheriff telephoned to one of the citizens to take the unfortunate man to a comfortable room up town and to employ a physician to attend the case until he might arrive.   About noon Deputy Sheriff Morden and Deputy Coroner Finley arrived on the same car, but found the victim of his own weapon in a dying condition.   However, he lived until 2 o clock in the afternoon, showing wonderful vitality for a man of his advanced age.

The circumstances of the case at first suggested murder.   Three shots had been fired into the head half way between the right ear and the middle of the back of the cranium.   There were no powder-burn s; and it was difficult to understand how one could shoot himself in that manner witbout leaving some evidence of the burning powder.   Dr. Mary McLaughlin was summoned to take charge of the case, and she did all that could be done to determine whether or not the wounds received were fatal; but brains were oozing from the wounds and it was evident that nothing could be done to save the suicide's life.

Kurtz, who was 70 years old, left the home of his son-in-law, F. C Bowers, at 315 East Thirty-fourth street, at 10:30 on Tuesday morning for the Portland library, so he said, for the purpose of obtaining some books.   Instead, however, he came to St. Johns and was seen walking about the streets as if examining property.   On one occasion he asked about the time at which he might catch The Dalles boat.   About the time workmen were coming from their tasks in the mills and factories he disappeared and was not seen again until he was found under the wharf by James Ewen. who lives at 284 North Twentieth street, at 9 o'clock on Wednesday morning.

At dusk on Tuesday night, when it was discovered that the unfortunate man had not returned home, his wife became anxious and immediately began to search for him.   At midnight, no word having been received as to where her husband might have gone, Mrs Kurtz had word telephoned to Police Captaiin Moore at the central station; but no trace of him could be found, until he was discovered as above stated.   He died before his wife and daughter learned of his condition and they were still in anxious search for him when word reached them concerning the tragedy.

Whether or not the old veteran had been in the habit of carrying a revolver had not been learned.   It seems scarcely believable that a man of his age and condition would be likely to carry concealed weapons; and it is probable that be contemplated suicide before he left home, making the excuse that he was going to the Portland library to escape suspicion that the purpose of his mission was to end his life.

Coroner Finley concluded that the evidence of suicide was so conclusive that it was unnecessary to hold an inquest.   Mrs. Kurtz and family finally took charge of the remains and prepared the body for burial.

Source = St. Johns Review; Friday, Mar 10, 1905, Page 3 Columns 2, 3 and 4