Wednesday, January 1, 2020

FINDING THE AMERICAN DREAM - William Drury by Matt Van Winkle

Happy New Year 2020 to all my readers!

Last year Matt Van Winkle from Aledo, Illinois provided this blog with two stories about people buried in the Aledo City Cemetery.  Matt did such a good job with his articles I asked him for another contribution and he provided it to me today.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of William Drury:


In a time in which the American dream is considered obsolete or not attainable anymore, I decided to focus on a time that is the epitome of Americana—a time of western expansion and pioneering, a time of conquering the harsh wilderness and achieving the impossible. Here in Mercer County, Illinois, one man stood out to me, a man that saw opportunity in the woods and prairie of the Mississippi River Valley. William Drury is a name that you will not see in school textbooks, but he deserves a place in American history as a true American pioneer during the height of American “Manifest Destiny.” Though there are thousands of exemplary pioneers throughout this time of American history, Mr. Drury in my opinion stands out as a cut above the rest. 

William Drury

William Drury was born to Edward and Jane (Burns) Drury in Fairfield County, Ohio, on September 17th, 1809. Two years after his birth the family would settle in Wayne County, Indiana, and during the War of 1812 they had to seek refuge in nearby forts in order to survive the onslaught of the British-backed Native American raids. 

I was not able to find much on Mr. Drury’s childhood, but I know that by 1833 William was teaching school before he headed west to Illinois. It was in 1833 that William made a trip to what is now New Boston, Illinois.  He was so taken by what he saw there that he proclaimed this was “God’s country” and decided that he would make the area his home. William purchased four 80-acre tracts of land near present day New Boston before he returned to Indiana to round up his family for the big move. William and company would return permanently in 1834.

During the time William returned to Indiana to gather his family, he apparently was insufferable when it came to his constant chatter about the amazing land and opportunity that was to be had in western Illinois. Ultimately, he was able to convince others to follow him and thus became foreman of land sales for Mercer County, a job which paid $1.25 an acre. 

When William settled in Mercer County in 1834, he wasted no time in becoming one of the most important people in the county. He was elected county recorder in 1835, and was elected clerk of the county commissioner’s court and postmaster of Keithsburg, Illinois, in 1836. It was 1836 that William started his business enterprise by opening a dry goods store with future in-law Levi Willits. Drury and Willits dry goods bought pork, grain and other products, shipping them from St. Louis. Because of the success of this venture, William and Levi opened the first pork packing business in the county. William and Levi were able to furnish the people with the required necessities of the time. William and Levi would eventually sell this business to William’s brother Courtney and his friend James Thompson in 1848.

By July 1840 William had found love and married his business partner’s granddaughter Vashti Lewis. 

Vashti Lewis Drury

Vashti was born in 1822 to Caleb and Polley (Willits) Lewis. Caleb was an Indiana state legislator for many years and stayed in Indiana while the rest of the Willits and Lewis families migrated to Illinois. William and Vashti didn’t have any naturally born children but adopted a son in 1857 and named him Edward.
    
By 1850 William branched off on his own and opened a small cash store, but he retired in 1853 for health reasons and decided then to focus on real estate and the importation and raising of stock. By 1855 William had made a fortune in his business ventures and decided it was time to build his mansion, which he named Verdurette. William built Verdurette on what was known at the time as Drury Grade Road, and the house is still in existence to this very day and is owned by his descendants. 

Here are two photos of Verdurette as it looks today:





Verdurette is styled in a very elegant Gothic style east of New Boston, and it housed the first electricity power station in Mercer County (the descendants have the original blueprints that were done by Thomas Edison). William filled the area around Verdurette with deer and built a park that housed buffalo, elk, deer, and other exotic animals. Though I haven’t been able to confirm it, Williams’s descendants have said that Verdurette was also used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. This wouldn’t surprise me as this would fit into William’s personality as well as the abolitionist fervor in this area, particularly in the Galesburg, Illinois, area 45 minutes away from Mercer County. 
    
After everything he had accomplished in his life, William and other wealthy citizens in the area decided to organize and establish a Farmer’s National Bank in Keithsburg, Illinois, in 1871. William was to serve as a large stockholder as well as bank president. For being a “retired” citizen, William up to this point had accomplished more than most people today during their regular career. It must have been nice to be able to retire and have hobbies such as these.

By 1897 old age and health issues had finally caught up to William and he passed away at Verdurette on March 13th. At the time of his death, William had amassed over 100,000 acres of land in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas, making him one of the biggest and richest landowners in the United States.  William Drury is buried in the New Boston Cemetery in New Boston, Illinois:




In his will, William left money to found a college in Aledo, Illinois, which would become William and Vashti College in honor of his wife and himself. After much litigation brought on by his son Edward contesting the will, William and Vashti College finally opened, but it only operated for 15 years and closed at the outbreak of World War One. The campus would later become two different military schools before finally shutting its doors for good in 1973. Most of the building remains today in ruins, but the dormitories were repurposed and opened as “Vashti Village,” an assisted living facility for the elderly. 

William and Vashti College


















Vashti Lewis Drury died in 1909.  She is buried with her husband and her brother Levi in the New Boston Cemetery:






















William Drury was one of the most colorful citizens in Mercer County’s history. William was a spiritualist in his beliefs and vowed that he would return after his death. One would think nowadays that this would make him an oddball during his time, but spiritualism at the time was very popular among the citizens of Mercer County. William made his mark all over the county and you can still see a lot of that today. He offered an account of his prosperity by saying that he made it a practice all his life, that at the end of each year his income shall be greater than his expenses. He said that this accounted for his large estate and not any mental gift. Whatever it was, be it talent or mental gift, if it weren’t for pioneers like William Drury, America wouldn’t be what it is today. The American pioneers like William fought everything to carve out a life for themselves and to prosper, and I personally think they should be remembered and celebrated, especially today when so many people think the American Dream is no more. If we can persevere like the pioneers of the 1800s, then we can accomplish the impossible and continue what the pioneers began.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A MESSAGE FOR "ANONYMOUS"

Tonight I received the following post:


I would love to tell this person where I got my information but they are "Anonymous" so I have no way to get in touch with them.  I list my email address so people can get in touch with me but please remember that if you want me to respond you have to let me know how to contact you.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

THE SHOCKING CONCLUSION TO THE STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE OF A NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY FRESHMAN - Leighton Mount



Last month I told the strange story of the disappearance of Leighton Mount, a freshman at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  Leighton was last seen participating in the annual freshman-sophomore fight which raged on the campus in the early hours of September 23, 1921.  

The search for young Mount continued for months as theories abounded as to where he went.  Some said he had been kidnapped, his mother thought he had amnesia, his girlfriend suggested he had committed suicide because she did not return his love.  The Evanston police tirelessly followed up on every lead with no success.  Mount's father hired private detectives but they were unsuccessful as well.   

Northwestern University President Walter Dill Scott dismissed the disappearance as "there's nothing to it," but cancelled future freshman-sophomore rivalries saying that the disappearance of Leighton Mount had "hurt the university."  With that, Leighton Mount disappeared into the mists of time - until the screaming headline from the Chicago Tribune of Tuesday, May 1, 1923: 

LEIGHTON MOUNT FOUND DEAD
Skeleton Was Buried Under Evanston Pier
Police Believe Him Hazing Victim    

Student hazing in Northwestern university added a shock to its annals last night, when the skeleton of Leighton Mount, a youth who disappeared in September, 1921 was found imbedded (sic) in the sand under an old breakwater at the foot of Lake street, Evanston.


Young Mount, a Northwestern freshman, vanished from his classes in the midst of a spirited controversy over the evils of hazing nearly two years ago.

For months it was protested that he voluntarily was absenting himself because of embarrassment arising from the indignities he had suffered at the hands of rival classmen.

Followed Hazing Sensation.

Mount's disappearance followed on the heels of a hazing sensation following the rescue of Arthur P. Persinger, who was bound head downward to a piling in the lake off Calvary cemetery.  It was said at the time that numerous students had been hazed and that Persinger was forgotten in the confusion of class fighting.

Following the trouble, officials of the university issued statements protesting that Persinger had not been bound, and that Mount had not been severely dealt with.

But after two years of search by Mrs. J. L. Mount, mother of the youth, there came last night the final curtain of the college tragedy.

Boy Finds Queer Bone.

Henry Warren, 12 years old was playing late yesterday in the edge of the water at the foot of Lake street.  


Reaching from the old breakwater, he retrieved from the water a queer bone.  This he took home and exhibited to his mother.  Mrs. Ward (sic) notified the police.  Chief Leggett and a squad hurried to the lake.  Wedged between water-worn timber and stones was a skeleton.


There was little to identify it at first.  But in a moment there fell into view a silver belt buckle.  It bore the letters "L. M." 



"'L. M.'" mused one of the policemen, "Why that's Leighton Mount."

Several feet of rope, rotted, but recognizable as similar to that used in the class rush of 1921 to bind captive students was found by one of the policemen near the edge of the hole in which the skeleton lay.

Mother Identifies Remains.

The news spread over Evanston with the celerity of wireless.  In a few moments it had reached the ears of Mrs. Mount.  The shock unnerved her; and it was only after retiring to her couch for a time that she was able to compose herself sufficiently to enter upon the disconsolate task of identifying the remains.  A few bits of cloth were removed from the skeleton.  These and the belt buckle were the sole evidence of identity.  The mother took them in her hands, slowly, questioningly.  Then she burst into open sobbing.

" O, my boy, my boy!" she said softly.  

And then she told Chief Leggett when she had recovered somewhat that there could be no question of the buckle and the bits of cloth belonging to the son for whose return she had been praying for the last two years.

Rumors Stir Evanston.

No sooner had the discovery become public than a host of rumors filled Evanston, particularly the campus of Northwestern university where only last week routine was disrupted by the death of Louis Aubere.  Aubere was killed in an automobile collision, the climax of a hazing battle.

CAUSES DUAL SENSATION

The discovery of the remains of the missing student had the effect of a double sensation in university circles.  At first President Walter Dill Scott said the sad affair was nothing in which the university could act.  Later, however, Dr. Scott's attitude changed and he summoned all members of the junior class.  To these he explained the necessity for doing all in their power to assist the police. 

The juniors, former classmates of Mount, instantly began a search of Evanston for those of their schoolmates who might throw some light on the last activities of young Mount.  Dozens of other students of the university were called upon; and before midnight the whole university was participating in the investigation. 

The police, as well as officials of the coroner's office, wagged their heads suspiciously when the hiding place of Mount's remains was examined closely.  The skeleton was found under the broad surface of the breakwater at about twenty-five feet from its end.  A small round hole in the flooring of the breakwater was the only discoverable ingress by which the body of the student could have been pushed into the water below.  Thus it was walled between piers of stone.  

Suicide Thought Unlikely.

The police and coroner's theory is that Mount's body must have been thrust into its impromptu grave by persons seeking to hide a possible crime or accident; or, if Mount's death was suicide, he must have lowered himself into the lake cavern before taking his own life.  It was not considered tenable that he killed himself.

It was necessary for the police to cut a hole fifteen feet from the breakwater's edge before the skeleton could be removed.  This fact lent color to the theory that Mount's body was lifeless when it was thrust through the hole in the planking.

"There is no doubt about the identity of the remains," said Chief Leggett.  Mrs. Mount has identified a piece of the cloth shown her as a part of the trousers worn by her son on the day he disappeared.  He had dressed himself in old clothes, a coat and trousers that did not match, canvas shoes and a khaki shirt.  He had dressed this way because he intended to take part in the rough and tumble fight between the students on the campus that night.  The rubber sole of one shoe was found near the remains.

Search for Mount's Associates.

Investigation of Mount's student associates began shortly after the identification was accomplished.  A search was started for J. Hallen Mills and Henry Hassell, both of whom had been heard to speak of having seen Mount at about the time of his disappearance.  Young Hassell when found denied he had seen Mount after the class fight.

While some of the police were insistent that Mount had been slain in a student battle, others were of the opinion that he may have taken his own life.  The latter theory caught credence from report of a note said to have been written by Mount shortly before his disappearance to Miss Doris Fuchs [referred to in previous accounts as Doris Fox], a young woman employed as a nurse girl in the home of John D. Galbraith at 326 Dempster street, Evanston.  Mr. Galbraith now lives in Glencoe.

Girl Tells of Note.

"Miss Fuchs told me," said Mr. Galbraith last night, "that Mount had written her a note, in which he told her he proposed to end his life and do it in such a fashion that his body would never be found.  I have not seen Miss Fuchs for a long time.  She left my place soon after that time."

Norman Norse, a sophomore in the university and who lives in a fraternity house, told the police last night that he saw Mount at 3:30 a. m. on the night of his disappearance.

Says He Saw Mount.

"The campus fight was over," he said, "and several of us were on the breakwater talking and laughing over the night's adventures.  It was between 3:30 and 4 o'clock when I saw Mount come down the breakwater.  I could not be mistaken in the person.  He was with us there for a while.  I remember we had some more good natured scuffling while we were there, but I don't recall  anything more about Mount except that I saw him.  We went home.  I didn't see him again.

Early in the evening President Walter Dill Scott of Northwestern university issued a statement in which he said that Mount was not a student regularly enrolled in the university at the time of his disappearance.  Later in the night however, President Scott issued another statement, saying that he found out that Mount had been enrolled, but, owing to his nonpayment of tuition, had temporarily lapsed in the relation of enrolled student.

Diligent Search Failed.

It was recalled last night that President Scott caused a diligent search to be made at the time of Mount's disappearance.  A search was also conducted for the parents by Attorney H. C. Burnham.  No trace could be found subsequent to that at 3:30 on the night of his disappearance. 

J. L. Mount, father of the boy, was on his way to St. Louis on a business trip last night.  He was notified on the train of the discovery.  He wired that he would return immediately, and asked that all possible attention be paid the investigation.

NEAR FATAL CRASH

The breakwater on which Mount's skeleton was found is near the scene of many Northwestern university class scraps, the most recent of which terminated last Thursday night with the death of Louis Aubere, Northwestern freshman, who was in one of two student automobiles when they came together in the course of  a hazing stunt.  The fight Thursday night began within a few yards of the breakwater and continued northward to the Wilmette bridge over the drainage canal, where the fatal crash occurred.  Within the last few days few students have pledged themselves never to participate in another class demonstration.

Several nights before the date of Mount's disappearance, Arthur P. Persinger, a sophomore at the university, was found lashed to a breakwater piling off Calvary cemetery.  He had been kidnapped from his quarters in the Sigma Nu house and taken out top the breakwater by four freshmen, he said who had apparently forgotten him.  He was rescued when he was on the verge of collapse and in danger of drowning.


When parents of Mount reported later that their son had failed to return to his home, rumors became current that he had been seized by sophomores in reprisal for the Persinger incident.

Although this theory was followed exhaustively for several days by university authorities Evanston police and private investigators retained by Mount's parents, no definite clews that the boy had been subjected to violence ever were uncovered.

Police "Called Off"

Four days after Mount's disappearance, President Walter Dill Scott of Northwestern university, Mayor Pearsons of Evanston, and Chief of Police Leggett held a conference at which Chief Leggett was "called off" and the university officials announced the excitement caused by the search was "a tempest in a teapot" inasmuch as information had been uncovered that Mount had used the class  rush as part of a ruse to leave home.  Various reasons, including reports that his mother had refused to sanction his marriage with an Evanston girl, were given for the youth's desire to get away from Evanston.

Following the announcement of this attitude, Mr. and Mrs. Mount both bitterly criticized the university and city authorities for what they characterized as bungling cooperation in their search for their boy.

The situation however, led to a call to the student body to abandon class demonstrations, a request which was heeded for a time but one which apparently has been completely forgotten since the opening of the university last September.

It was amazing that none of the many people searching for Leighton Mount had ever been able to find a trace of him, when he was under their noses all the time.  I still say that Walter Dill Scott was more worried about bad publicity for the university than in the death of one of his students.  As outlined above, Scott first announced that Leighton Mount "had not been regularly enrolled in the university at the time of his disappearance," as if to say that Mount's death or disappearance was justified.  Then later in the night when he had to modify his previous statement and state that Mount had been enrolled, he had to cover his tracks by pointing out that Leighton Mount had not paid some of his tuition fees, again as if to say that whatever happened to Mount was justified because he had not paid all of his NU tuition. 

As a life-long Evanstonian I can say that Northwestern always acted as if they were just a little better than everyone else.  

The Chicago Tribune headline for Wednesday May 02, 1923 gave more of the Mount story:

MOUNT BOY BURIED IN LIME

Kind of hard to do if you are a suicide, correct???

Before I go any further with the Leighton Mount story I want to acknowledge that there is one person in the Mount story who never gave up on him regardless of how she was treated: his Mother, Pearl Leighton Mount.  The Tribune realized this as well because right next to the latest updates on the death of Leighton Mount was the following article from May 02, 1923:

MRS. MOUNT'S FAITH IN SON IS VINDICATED

With the recovery Monday night of the skeleton of Leighton Mount, former Northwestern university student, fished from beneath the Lake street pier, Evanston, Mrs. J. L. Mount, 1145 Judson avenue, Evanston, lost her son, and she sobs.  

But she won back his reputation, and she smiles.  

For the last twenty months Mrs. Mount has been fighting, with inspired stubbornness, for a fair deal for the eighteen year old youth who disappeared from the university campus in a freshman-sophomore class fight in September, 1921.

Ridiculed by Officials.

The mother, surrounded by the confidence of her husband, and her daughter Helen, and the persistent faith of a small circle of friends, has been ridiculed by officials; her story has been doubted; fictitious explanations have gained credence, until, Mrs. Mount declared last night, "I was almost ashamed to face anyone in Evanston."

It was bad enough to fear that God had taken away my boy's life," she continued.  "But then to have gossip, unfounded and malicious, try to take away his soul - I thought at times I could not stand it."

Three days after young Mount's disappearance, university and police officials called off the hunt.  But the fourth night Mrs. Mount kept the porch light burning, against the chances that her boy would return.

Her Vigil Unrelenting.

A week later a story, wind-born, was circulated to the effect that "the Mounts really knew where he was."  But all during that week and the next, and on, Mrs. Mount spent her money hiring private detectives to search.  She has spent her time tracing down every available clew.  She has spent her hopes, listening for a footstep on the stair, rushing to answer the telephone, and meeting the postman half way down the block.   

"And the rain, how it nearly drove me mad," the frailly stanch woman moaned last night.  "I would lie awake at night and listen to it.  And I would pray for Leighton, out in the rain, with no money, very little clothing, and perhaps a loss of memory.  In the cold it was just as bad."

Scoffed at Suicide Theory.

Through the months Mrs. Mount had refused to believe that the only son; fond of his home, devoted to his mother, with no enemies and no worries, had taken his life.  She scoffed at the idea that he had hidden himself  to get out of difficulties, or had dropped from sight because of a hopeless infatuation for a Doris Fuchs.

"Leighton was happy, pathetically happy, the last time his father saw him." the mother recalled as she sat at his desk yesterday.  "His father left for a trip on Sunday.  He put his arm around Leighton's shoulders and said 'Remember, be a good boy.  You are starting out to be a college man,' and Leighton said 'You bet I will, Pop.'" 

Love Insinuations Untrue.

A malicious lie, is the way the gentle mother, with a tiger-like maternalism, characterizes the report that Leighton disappeared voluntarily because of trouble with Doris Fuchs.  

"There is absolutely no truth to that.  Miss Fuchs and I had lunched together several times during last year.  She showed me a short letter, supposedly written by Leighton, saying he would never see her again.  That didn't mean suicide.  It was just the sort of letter any young boy would write a girl he planned not to see again.  Rather emotional perhaps; that was all."

"My son," the woman continued, "was never in love with the girl.  She was an ardent member of the Christian Science faith.  My boy found help in that religion, and she was taking him to church.  That was all."

Calls Scott Unjust.

Another statement to wish Mrs. Mount takes exception was the persistent report, she states, from Walter Dill Scott of Northwestern university that the Mount boy was not a member of the freshman class, had attended no classes, and had not paid his tuition fees.  

"That is a gross injustice to the boy, and to us, I think, his parents.  President Scott stated that Leighton had attended no classes.  But the president neglects to tell that there had been no classes.  Regular classes were to begin on Thursday.  The class fight was Wednesday night.  Not one boy or girl of the entire 2,000 on the campus had attended classes.  Yet he considered those other pupils enough to question them about the class fight.

That Tuition Fee.

Regarding the tuition fee, she recalls that every student is given ten days in which to pay his bill, pending a final adjustment of the number of subjects for which he registers.

"Leighton," she explains, and there is a note of desperately futile pride in her soft voice, "was going to carry more than the usual fifteen hours.  He was trying to take public speaking over in the school of speech. That meant $17.50 more on the bill.  He was waiting for that arrangement to be concluded before he paid the bill."

Resent Cheap Skate Slur.

"And yet," the woman is earnestly sure of her point, "to those who don't understand the ways of the university, Northwestern officials have let it be understood that my boy was a 'cheapskate'; that he was not paying his bills, even that he was in disgrace.  Is that fair?"

As the mother who has alternated between hope and blind alley despair  for the last twenty months yesterday awaited the arrival this morning of her husband, she tried to enunciate her philosophy.  

"I have always said," she smiled a bit wanly, "that if only I'd hear definitely that Leighton was really dead, I'd be happier than worrying every night that he was out of his mind, wandering around, hurt, in need, without me.

Sorrow Just Beginning.

"But," and her eyes clouded, "now that - that I know - well, my sorrow is just beginning.  If only the university had helped the search when Leighton disappeared perhaps, by now, I would have the dull sorrow that twenty months of obedience to God's will brings.  

"For Leighton, I am glad.  He is happy.  He is well.  And he was prepared, morally and mentally, to die.  

"For myself - well, I won't have the ache of listening for a step on the porch and being disappointed.  But neither will there ever be a chance of me hearing that step."


The Leighton Mount story was headline news every day from May 1 to May 20, 1923.  If I were to reproduce everything that was in the newspapers during this three week period, this blog story would be book-length.  Except for the little news that was new each day, most of the stories were a rehash of what had happened up to that time.  Realizing that even their most dedicated readers would not be willing to slog through all that newsprint every day, for a time the Chicago Tribune listed the new developments separately in their latest Leighton Mount coverage.  

Instead of repeating each story verbatim, I will instead give the headline from each day with any new developments the Tribune printed.  
     
May 03, 1923: MOUNT CASE TO GRAND JURY; NU Trustees Ask Full Quiz and Pledge Aid; Talk of Reward of $5,000 for Guilty



May 04, 1923:  HAZING GRILL LASTS TO DAWN; Newest Mount Clew Leads to Convict's Cell; Boys Air Suspicions of Former Mate

May 05, 1923:  POLICE "FIX" HAZING REPORT: Change Record at Request of Varsity Heads; Mayor Pearsons in Named in Quiz

May 06, 1923:  POLICE ABOLISH NU HAZING; Scott Quizzed by Coroner on Mount's Death; Student Makes New Affidavit



May 07, 1923:  CROWE TO GRILL NU FRATS; New Witness Declares He Saw Boy Hazed; Fisherman Tell of Scene on Beach



May 08, 1923:  MOUNT LOVE NOTES TO GIRL TO GRAND JURY; Dozens of Students are Summoned



May 09, 1923:  BOYS UPSET MOUNT INQUIRY; Mrs. Mount Tells Jurors of Son's Life; Reveals Love Note to Miss Fuchs

May 10, 1923:  'MOUNT SLAIN' THEORY GAINS; Drop Suicide View as New Clews Unfold; 'Wave Burial' Jolted by 3 Witnesses

May 11, 1923:  MRS. MOUNT BARES N.U. SECRETS; 'Scott Told me He Expelled 16' She Charges; Assails His Stories as "Campus Lies"

May 12, 1923:  BARE EVIDENCE GIVEN BY MILLS IN AKRON CASE; Forgotten Questions Come to Light; Believe Oath Seals Lips of Mount Hazers - Death Brought On Panic Detective Said; Scientists Say Lime Not Used on Mount


In the midst of all these new developments (but no answers) on May 12, 1923 the Chicago Tribune decided to print a story comparing and contrasting Northwestern president Walter Dill Scott's wife (who they refer to only as "Mrs. Walter Dill Scott" - her name was Anna Miller Scott) and Leighton Mount's mother Pearl Leighton Mount.  It's an interesting sidelight to the sordid tale:

MRS. SCOTT AND MRS. MOUNT DIVERGENT TYPES
Mother Calm; Other is Upset at Quiz

By Martha.

Mrs. J. L. Mount, the old-fashioned mother type, meets the world beyond her threshold hesitatingly.  It has so many facets, so many new experiences, that it rather baffles the quiet little woman who lives fullest within the family circle.  But she faced the grand jury investigation confidently, with matter of fact bravery,

She saw only Leighton Mount, the dead son who she must vindicate, as she sat in the jury room.

Mrs. Walter Dill Scott, the highly educated, literary, new woman type, welcomes new contacts with the world about her,  Equipped with an alert mind, a gracious poise and a developed imagination, she challenges new horizons.  But she quailed before the grand jury yesterday.

She saw twenty-three men waiting to interrogate her.  

Study in Contrasts.

These two Evanston women, recently questioned by the grand jury in its investigation into the death of Leighton Mount, who disappeared following a class rush at Northwestern university, present a contrast, sharp but subtle.

A criminal court, a flock of state's attorneys, and a grand jury.  They are not the normal experience of either of the women; the wife of the president of Northwestern university or the mother of the former university freshman.  But the woman who is the less accustomed to the limelight makes the easier adjustments to the calcium in this instance.

Her Great Battle.

Mrs. Mount went through her ordeal in the uncompromisingly Criminal court building, supported by one fundamental idea, a square deal for her only son whose sprawled out skeleton had been found beneath the Lake street pier, Evanston.  She happened to be fighting her battle in a grand jury room.  It might just as well have been a forest of wild animals, a bloody field of battle, a smart drawing room, or a rural front parlor.  

The setting would be an incident.

But to Mrs. Scott, one of Evanston's most prominent club women and writers, trained to make speeches, write books and entertain men and women of distinction, the grand jury room was --- the grand jury room.  There was no sustaining interest that could exclude from her mind, the shadow of those twenty-three men, the ominous background, the bewildering routine of the investigation.       

Now back to the daily headlines:

May 13, 1923:  MOUNT'S CHUM UPSETS QUIZ; 'Confesses' Then Denies Knowing All

May 14, 1923:  FATAL HAZING TO GRAND JURY 

May 15, 1923:  SECRET MOUNT QUIZ IS BARED; Suicide Clews Are Brought Forward

May 16, 1923:  TWO SCOTT BOYS REFUSE TO TELL "FRAT SECRETS"; Do Not Affect the Mount Case, They Say (son and nephew of NU president Walter Dill Scott)


May 17, 1923:  3 NEW TWISTS CAUSE FLURRY IN MOUNT CASE; $10,000 Reward; Scott Parley "Hot Tip" (in which Northwestern University complains that the Mount story has "unnecessarily held the front pages of the newspapers for sixteen days")

May 18, 1923:  JAIL GRID STAR ON GIRL'S STORY ABOUT MOUNT; Says Palmer Told Her He Was Alive

I'm sure Northwestern was very happy that on May 19, 1923 the Mount story was relegated to page 4:

May 19, 1923:  QUIZ BROTHERS OF DORIS FUCHS; Palmer Freed; Alumni Indignant Over Jailing of Star

May 19 also contained this "interesting" article:



On May 20, 1923 the Tribune reported that one of Leighton Mount's classmates decided it was time to implicate Leighton's father, John L. Mount and Leighton's former roommate Roscoe Conkling Fitch:



If it seems like investigators were chasing their tails, they were.  They were no closer to solving the Leighton Mount murder in 1923 than they were in 1921 - but that didn't stop people from continuing to come forward with new "information."

On June 2, 1923 Leighton Mount's former roommate Roscoe Conkling Fitch revealed his latest theory:



Fitch did not address my question about how Leighton Mount was able to cover his body with lime to speed up decomposition after he took his own life.
  
On June 14, 1923 the Grand Jury finally rendered their verdict:


The Grand Jury finally threw up their arms and said that Leighton Mount was slain by person or persons unknown.  Hopefully that would put an end to the ridiculous suicide theory.

The Chicago Tribune published an editorial on June 15, 1923 about the Leighton Mount case:

THE MYSTERY OF LEIGHTON MOUNT

A coroner's jury finds that Leighton Mount came to his death in a manner not determined, but it was of the opinion that it was at the "hand of some unknown person or persons.  The jury recommended that the police continue their investigation and that "such person or persons be apprehended and held on a charge of murder.

A good deal of criticism was directed at the Chicago newspapers in connection with this case.  The Tribune has printed some letters of complaint.  One reproach was that a murder had been committed by two of Ragen's Colts (an Irish street gang) and not much space was given to it.  People connected with Northwestern university, or interested in it, were provoked or embittered by the manner in which reporters handled the story and by the emphasis the papers gave it.

This young man, matriculated at the university, disappeared after a class rush, and twenty months later a skeleton, identified convincingly as his, was found weighted by rocks under a pier in Evanston.  That, whatever the solution of the mystery, is not an ordinary murder story.  The faintest appreciation of what is dramatic and of what is news, would indicate its appeal to the imagination and the sympathy. 

Such murders as to that the two Colts committed are a part of the almost routine crime of the city, and if newspapers gave them much space they would be roundly condemned for portraying only the drab of life.  What happened to Leighton Mount was different.  It involved all the dramatic details of mystery.  That accounts for it as news.

No one believes that the young man was deliberately murdered in the class rush, although he might have been killed in it accidentally.  Accidents may happen in such affairs.  The authorities and the reporters tried their best to find out what had happened and the attitude of the university was one of hush.  That was the mistake.

The university would have been much wiser if it had concerned itself with the case in the beginning.  The theory that the young man had run away or that he had killed himself could be considered, but it was the presumption at the university that he had done one or the other.  It even was held the he was not sufficiently associated with the school, having only matriculated, to make it a school concern, although his disappearance was connected with a class rush which might explain it.

If the university from the beginning had been determined to find out what had happened, it would not have been criticized, even if it had been found that Mount had been killed by an accident and that his body had been concealed by frightened students.  The mistake was trying to protect the university reputation by minimizing the matter, hushing it, presuming that at the worst it was merely an episode reflecting on the boy's character, etc.

When the skeleton was discovered, the university continued to take offense at reasonable attempts to determine how the young man had been killed, whether he had been murdered, how his body came to be under the pier.  It would be a queer conception of human nature to think that people would not be  interested in such a tragedy, and a conception of justice still more queer to think that the good name of a school should retard any search for information.  The university should have been the first to want it.

Uh-oh - Here we go again.  From the Chicago Tribune of June 17, 1923:

MOUNT "BURIAL WITNESS" FOUND; CASE REOPENED
Knows Four in Pier Band Traveler Asserts

I won't bore you with the details because it turned out to be a complete fabrication.  

From the Chicago Tribune of June 21, 1923:

'EYE WITNESS' TO MOUNT BURIAL ADMITS HE LIED
Wanted Way Paid to Chicago, He Says

And with that, Leighton Mount faded into the mists of time.  His name made the papers occasionally, when someone associated with his case did something notable or when they passed away, but no further clues as to Leighton's disappearance were ever forthcoming.  Almost one hundred years later, Leighgton Mount's murder case is still unsolved.  

But life went on for Leighton Mount's parents, John and Pearl Mount, and his sister Helen Mount.  Let's look at what happened to them.

The 1930 US Census shows that John and Pearl Mount have left Evanston - and who could blame them?  They are living in Sunnyside, Queens, New York, at 3951 46th Street.  Helen is not living with them.  

  
They own their home; it is worth $22,000.00.  The also have a radio.  John says he's 57, Pearl is 56.  John says he is an "Electrical Advisor" for an Educational concern; Pearl does not list an occupation.  John is not a veteran.

The 1940 US Census shows John and Pearl Mount living at 40 Nashville Road in Bethel, Fairfield, Connecticut.  Helen is still not living with them (don't worry, she'll be back - and quite interesting as it turns out).  The house that is currently there was built in 1961.  John is 67, Pearl is 65.  They own their home; it is worth $12,000.00.  John reports his occupation as a Teacher at Columbia University; again Pearl does not report an occupation.  John has finished 4 years of college, Pearl completed 3 years of college.  They said the lived in New York City in 1935.

In 1949 John and Pearl decided to leave the frozen north and retired to Eustis, Florida - to 824 East  Citrus Avenue:

  
Sometime after 1942 Leighton Mount's sister Helen A. Mount married noted Hollywood director Harry Jacques Revier aka Harry Jack "Three Fingers" Revier (1897-1957).  



Harry was the discoverer and former husband of silent film star Dorothy Revier (1904-1993).   

Dorothy Revier

He was also the man who brought the Tarzan stories to the silver screen.

By the time he married Helen, Revier had moved to Winter Park, Florida.  Perhaps that's where they met; Helen's parents by that time had retired to Florida as noted above.  Harry and Helen Revier lived at 227 Virginia Drive, Winter Park, Florida:

227 Virginia Drive, Winter Park, Florida

Harry Revier died in Winter Park, Florida in 1957 while filming another Tarzan movie.

Leighton Mount's father, John Livingston Mount died on January 7, 1961 in Eustis, Florida.  He was 88 years old.  Here is his death notice from the Orlando (FL) Sentinel from January 8, 1961:


His deceased son Leighton Mount is not mentioned in his death notice.

Pearl Leighton Mount, Leighton Mount's long-suffering mother died August 3, 1972 at the home of her daughter Helen, at 501 Osceola Avenue in Eustis, Florida.  She was 98 years old.  


Here is her death certificate:


Leighton Mount's sister Helen Revier remained in Florida after her husband's death in 1957.  In the 1970s Helen became a correspondent for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper and on August 20, 1978 she told the true story of the life of her deceased husband, Harry Jacques Revier.  

Helen A. Mount Revier died in Daytona, Florida on October 16, 1995.  She was 97 years old.

This brings us to the end of the story of the strange disappearance of Leighton Mount - or does it?  Where is Leighton Mount buried?  After all this blog is supposed to be the stories of people "under every tombstone."  The truth is, we don't know where Leighton Mount is buried.  His death record says that he died on September 22, 1921:


We know that his body was discovered on May 1, 1923.  According to the Death Record he was buried in Otsego, Michigan on July 22, 1929, eight years after his death and six years after his body was discovered.  

There are not too many cemeteries in Otsego, Michigan.  The largest one is the Mountain Home Cemetery (about 8,000 burials).  There is a smaller one called the Pine Creek Cemetery (only about 100 burials) and also a Catholic Cemetery, St. Margaret, but the Mounts were not Catholic.  Pearl Leighton Mount has a connection to Mountain Home Cemetery - her family has a plot there.  There are twenty-five Leightons buried there including Pearl's parents, Amos and Lottie Leighton:

Tombstone of Amos and Lottie Leighton, Mountain Home Cemetery, Otsego, Michigan

The Mountain Home Cemetery is too small to have an office, so I reached out to a fellow Find a Grave photo volunteer who had photographed many of the graves at Mountain Home:  Russ Holmes.  I emailed Russ and he responded within a few days:

Service team mr.russholmes@hotmail.com

Oct 11, 2019, 7:18 PM
to me
Jim,

Sorry but I have taken photos of every grave stone in Mountain Home cemetery and have no photo of Leighton.  I did not create the memorial but was wondering how the person that did create it knows he is in Mountain Home.  I searched the sexton records and they show no one by that name. Again sorry I cannot help.
Russ 

The memorial Russ mentions is the Find a Grave memorial page created for Leighton Mount that indicates he was buried in the Mountain Home Cemetery in Otsego.  It was created by Find a Grave member "HWA."  I reached out to them and they told me they just took the information right from the death record - they had no separate knowledge of either Leighton Mount or his burial place.  Another dead end?  Maybe not.

I was unable to locate graves for the following people in this story:  Leighton Mount, his father John L. Mount, his mother Pearl Leighton Mount, his sister Helen Mount Revier and her husband Harry Jacques Revier.  But a closer look at the records does give us some information:  

J.L. Mount's death notice does not mention an interment site.

Pearl Mount's death certificate shows that she was cremated at the Central Florida Crematory in Winter Park, Florida - no further interment information is given.  There is a Find a Grave memorial page for Harry Jacques Revier's saying that he was buried at the Winter Garden Cemetery but again no grave photo which makes me think there is no grave. 

I think Leighton Mount and the other members of his family were cremated and their ashes scattered.  

I fulfill a lot of Find a Grave photo requests for Acacia Park Cemetery here in Chicago.  Even though the death record (and even the death certificate) says interment was at Acacia Park, the cemetery records show that the deceased was cremated at Acacia Park, but the ashes (or "cremains" as they call them) were returned to the family, or to the funeral home, or were even scattered at Acacia Park.  Let's face it, after being in Lake Michigan from September, 1921 to May, 1923, there was not a lot of Leighton Mount left to bury.     

Typically I would not write a story for this blog without being able to show the grave(s) of the people involved - but the Leighton Mount story was too good of a story to pass up - even without a grave site.

May Leighton Mount and his family rest in peace.