Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tradition Ended by Death

Mrs. Martha J. Shankland was 80 years of age on July 29, 1913, when she went to bed that night. All seemed well at the house at 517 Cross Street, where she lived with her daughter Harriet. At about 2:30 in the morning Harriet looked into the room where her mother slept. She saw her was asleep and all was quiet. There was reason for concern, although there had been no signs of despair or grief that day. “Mrs. Shankland had been in feeble health for some time. Recently occurred the death of her brother, and since that time she has been moody and despondent. She has never been able to become accustomed to his absence,” noted The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Wednesday, July 30, 1913. The next morning Harriet missed her mother when she arose. There was no trace of her in the house, and none of her cloths were missing. It was thought she had wondered away, dressed only in her night gown. “A search was at once instituted, neighbors and friends with automobiles volunteering their services, and scouring the country and environs of Ypsilanti, while persons on foot attempted to find some trace of her in nearer spots,” reported the account. Oscar Snyder, employed by an ice company, was driving his wagon across the bridge near the Peninsular Paper mill, where peninsular Place Apartments are now, when he saw the body in the Huron River. He at once informed officials at the paper mill. John J. Haviland, an employee of the paper mill oversaw the recovery of the body from the river. Mrs. Shankland was dressed only in her heavy bath robe, shoes and night cloths. Ypsilanti Mayor Frank Norton identified the body as that of Mrs. Martha Shankland. “The body was taken to the undertaking establishment of Clark Brothers,” reported the account. The coroner decided that a post mortem would not be necessary. “She had brought a rope with her, and crossing the bridge, had tied one end around a little tree at the top of the great concrete abutment, and the other around her waist. Then it would seem she had leaped into the darkness toward the river. The rope broke, and she struck her head on a jagged rock, a blow that doubtless produced unconsciousness at once,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press. The funeral was set for the Friday of that week, with interment in the cemetery at Dixbore. The death of Mrs. Shankland turned a tradition into a living memory, noted The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Thursday, July 31, 1913. All her life at Ypsilanti, Mrs. Shankland conducted a boarding and rooming house for students at the Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University. The college had no dormitories then, so students rented rooms in houses in the city. “Innumerable men and women who came here for their few years—members of classes that graduated 30 and more years ago—have memories of the days they spent within her homelike dwelling, and it has been their custom when they returned to the city for reunions or at any other time, to call upon her, and revive old memories. Mrs. Shankland was a figure of college life years before many of the splendid modern buildings of the campus were more than dreams, or even conceived.”