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Monday, August 11, 2014

Murder - Suicide of 1919 in a sleepy Chicago suburb

In a local cemetery, there stands a monument dedicated to the memory of a family.  All four of those persons interred there were taken from this earth on the same day....April 15, 1919.  The Marwitz family, of Hinsdale, were murdered by the head of the family.  He then took his own life. No given names or dates are etched on the stone.  Nothing to give the identity of those laid to rest in this plot.   Here stands the monument in this quiet, peaceful burial ground of Bronswood Cemetery :

Marwitz family monument, Bronswood Cemetery, Oak Brook, Illinois, Section I, photo taken by S. Reif 2009

After searching the burial log for Bronswood Cemetery, found at the Oak Brook Historical Society's website, I find the names of the four individuals laid to rest here :
     William J., Clara K., Marguerite and Kenneth

On April, 16, 1919, newspapers across  the nation printed the horrific news of this tragedy.  The Chicago Daily Tribune posted the story in their issue, with images of the slain family :

16 April 1919 Chicago Daily Tribune

The article written by the reporter, tells of the sad story.  A wife and two children were shot by the head of the household, William Marwitz.  One can only imagine the shock felt by the relatives and friends of the Marwitz family.

16 April 1919, Chicago Daily Tribune

William Marwitz, assistant postmaster, killed his two children, his wife and then himself.  He learned that his wife, ill from a botched dental surgery, had a limited time to live.  Thinking that he could not raise his children without the help of his wife, he decided that they all should leave this earth together, and spare himself and his children the burden of living life without Clara, his wife.  

continuation of article 16 April 1919

With the illness of his wife, and mounting financial problems, William Marwitz became depressed.  It appears that he was burning his candle at both ends.  Things must have seemed hopeless.  

continuation of 16 April 1919 article

The Chicago Daily Tribune article continues on....telling of the events which lead  to the end of life for Mrs. Marwitz and her two small children.  Clearly, William Marwitz was suffering from mental issues and stresses of his life.  Miss Lehmann, a relative of Mrs. Marwitz, was staying at the home as a household aide.  She witnessed the mental state of William as he carried out the demise of his family and himself.

last article piece, 16 April 1919 Chicago Daily Tribune

After killing his family, Mr. Marwitz telephoned his mother to tell what he had done, and added that he would join his family by his own hand.  He hung up the telephone and then took his own life.

The Chicago Daily Tribune had reported the most complete article about the incident.  Many other papers received the news and published their own shortened versions of the story.  Elkhart, Indiana...Tampa, Florida...Trenton, New Jersey... Sheboygan, Wisconsin...Bridgeport, Connecticut...Logansport and Connorsville, Indiana...Kansas City, Kansas...Twin Falls, Idaho...Butte, Montana...Harrisburg, Pennsylvania...and the list goes on as the story reaches the cities across the nation.  

The headline for each of the articles in the various newspapers were very similar.  Most printed something on the lines of : 

By far the worst headline that I have found regarding this tragic story simply read :

CLEANED UP THE WHOLE FAMILY...which I found in a small Indiana heartless.

Newspaper articles regarding this news incident were found at the following websites:


Newspaper Archive


Chronicling America

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