August 12, 1908
On the night before her wedding, and on the eve of being sent to the girl's reform school, pretty little May Williams committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid in the presence of her mother and Mrs. W. W. Smith, an officer of the juvenile court. Miss Williams was heiress to $15,000 and her life within the last three months had been a checkered one.
Two months ago, a few weeks after her mother had married Sol Mead, a railway conductor, Miss Williams was sent to the juvenile court, charged with being incorrigible. Mrs. Smith, the probation officer of the Detention home, thought the girl should be in a better place than the home. Consequently, according to Mrs. Alice Page, the matron of the Y. W. C. A. home at Eighth and Harrison streets, arrangements were made whereby the girl was taken to the Y. W. C. A. home. Mrs. Page found the girl to be anything but incorrigible.
A short while ago it became rumored that Miss Williams was to be married today. Shortly after the rumor became public, and the girl admitted that she intended to marry this morning, she was taken from the Y. W. C. A. home and hauled back to the Detention home. At her mother's request the reform school authorities decided to take the girl and to keep her for an indefinite length of time.
The threat of the reform school had been made to the girl time and again by her mother, Mrs. Mead, and each time Miss Williams had replied that she would die before she went to the institution. Mrs. W. W. Smith accompanied her to her home, 816 Euclid avenue, in order that the girl might pack her trunk. On the way home the girl told Mrs. Smith that she was going to commit suicide. After the two had reached the Mead home, Miss Williams sat in the parlor and talked to her mother of the reformatory. Rising, she said:
"I will die first, and it will be before your eyes."
Whether any attention was paid to the girl's remarks has not been learned. At any rate, she was allowed to leave the presence of the court probationary officer and her mother, with the threat of suicide fresh upon her lips, and over fifteen minutes passed before she was missed. The court officer was present all of that time, and it is said she had heard the threat which the girl made.
In the meantime Miss Williams had gone to the Woodland pharmacy, three blocks away, convinced the druggist that her mother wanted three ounces of carbolic acid, and walked back home again. When she reached her home she walked up the back steps and raised the bottle of carbolic acid to her lips. She had heard footsteps approaching and desired to be successful in her attempt to end her life. At that moment Mrs. Smith caught sight of the girl and called to Mrs. Mead, the mother. With both women looking at her, standing as if rooted to the floor, the girl drank the contents of the bottle and then murmured:"Now, I suppose you are satisfied."
Instantly the probation officer ran to he 'phone and called a doctor and neighbors. Someone called the police ambulance and Dr. J. Park Neal.
Dr. A. H. Walls, who lived in the immediate neighborhood, was called. He replied that he could not get to the Mead home for twenty-five minutes. Ten of those twenty-five had elapsed when someone called the police ambulance. The ambulance made a rapid run and arrived at the home of the Williams girl shortly after Dr. Walls had arrived. As Dr. J. Park Neal, probably the most successful combater of carbolic acid suicides in Kansas City, jumped from his ambulance he was met by Mrs. Smith and Dr. Walls. They told him that the girl was dead an d that nothing could be done for her. Taking Dr. Walls's word for it, and knowing Mrs. Smith as a court officer, he did not attend the girl, but went back to the emergency hospital.
As the ambulance turned the corner of Eighth street an undertaker's wagon appeared around the corner of Ninth street. No one knows who called it. By that time Dr. E. R. Curry arrived and pronounced the girl alive. She had been alive all of the time and lived for three hours after she had taken the poison.
"Could she have been saved had you attended her when you were at the house?" was asked Dr. Neal.
"I believe she could," he said. "In fact, I know she could have been saved. But I took Mrs. Smith's and Dr. Wall's word for final. I had no reason to believe the girl was still alive."
Dr. Neal could not understand why he was turned away while there was hope that the girl might not be dead.
Long before the girl was really dead, another undertaker's ambulance had driven up to the front door, and the neighbors looked on and wondered. No one could be found who would admit calling the second undertaker's ambulance.
Mrs. Mead, the girl's mother, says she is heart broken and will see no one. A doctor was called to see her.
May Williams was a beautiful young girl of uncertain age. Her mother swore in court that May was but 15 years old, while May swore that she was 17. Had the girl been 15 years old three years would have expired before she attained her majority; 17 years of age meant only one year until she came into the $15,000 which her father had left her.
Last spring May Williams won the prize in St. Louis as being the most beautiful unmarried woman in Missouri. The prize was given by a local newspaper. Everywhere she went her beauty was remarked upon. In St. Louis, say those who knew her there, she was not considered incorrigible, nor even wayward.
Mrs. Mead was divorced from her first husband and May lived with him until his death. In his will he left May $15,000, and, it is said, cut off his divorced wife without one cent. At the time of the Williams divorce, which occurred in St. Louis, the whole family history was aired.
Mr. Mead, who is a conductor on the Chicago & Alton railroad, has not been notified of his step-daughter's death. He is expected in from his run this morning at 10 o'clock.