Friday, February 17, 2012

The Deaths of Frenchy Crawford & John Schuman & Thomas O'Brien's Worthy Pursuit

There are certain things that one should probably not to do when they are deathly ill with tuberculosis and leaving the sanitarium is number one on the list. Walking back to Detroit from Eloise is another and yet that's exactly what John Schuman did in October of 1908 just a few days before succumbing to his illness at St. Mary's hospital after his condition drastically worsened upon arrival in the city. No word on his place of burial.

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The death of Daniel Crawford on a brick pile near Atwater and Brush streets (near where the Renaissance Center is today and Batchelder & Wasmund's stoneyard resided in 1906) was no mystery as it was determined that he was stricken by a pulmonary hemorrhage while walking down the street and rested upon the heap of dried clay blocks. The intrigue resulted from the fact that nobody knew exactly who he was.

Those who recognized him did so under the sobriquet "Frenchy." Which is a nifty nickname but hardly a cold document of truth. Beyond the visual identification the man wore an old county hospital shirt from Eloise which led to an inquiry at the asylum where a charge matching Crawford's description, who likewise suffered from a heart ailment, had resided that past winter.

Batchelder & Wasmund's stoneyard, the probable scene of death for Daniel "Frenchy" Crawford and exact location of the "Italian Murder" of William d'Angelo
 from The Detroit Free Press, October 18, 1906

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from The Detroit Free Press, July 5, 1908

There's sentimentality and then there's just plain old pure sentiment in its rawest form of sincerity. Thomas O'Brien's was on the agreeable end of that spectrum though his mind drifted off into the margins and wilted in its pursuit. An inmate of a quarter century at Eloise he escaped from the asylum with a picture of a pretty lady in hand and a mission to find his mother's grave site.

He ended up downtown meandering through the crowds of people scanning each woman who passed him like some lovelorn Aqualung of mostly good intentions. What he found instead was a patrolman and a holding cell. Having remembered his quest he mournfully explained his sojourn but to the deaf ears of the law it sounded as tuned out music does the busy mind. So it was back to Eloise for the unlucky fellow who had been cheated out of more than just a sentimental reunion.

I believe that this is his death certificate below:

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