Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The well publicized despair of Miss Stella John

Find a Grave photo

Then as now, there were few secrets in small Iowa towns at the turn of the 20th century. A major difference now, however, is that those secrets are less likely to be published on the front page of a hometown newspaper --- providing the hometown still is fortunate enough to be served by a newspaper.
So it was that when Stella John, a well-educated young woman of 21 who had attended college in both Indianola and Des Moines, made a genteel attempt at suicide during June of 1904 it was front-page news in at least two of the Chariton newspapers being published at the time. Here's the report from The Chariton Leader of June 23:


Miss Stella John, one of Chariton's most highly respected young ladies and who has always enjoyed the esteem of all with whom she has become acquainted, attempted to commit suicide Tuesday afternoon by saturating a handkerchief with chloroform and holding it to her nostrils. She resides with her grandmother, Mrs. Nancy (actually Mary) John, who was away from home visiting relatives in Lucas, and during her absence she had been taking her meals with one of her most intimate friends, Miss Jessie Crowley.

Her absence at dinner time alarmed Miss Crowley who at once went to the John residence where she found Miss Stella in an unconscious condition. Dr. T.P. Stanton was summoned and administered restoratives and in a few hours the patient was in a normal condition.

She is naturally of a very nervous disposition and had been in ill health for several days. This, coupled with the fact that she had quarreled with her lover in Des Moines and was in a despondent mood, led her to attempt the rash deed.

Now that she has regained her senses she regrets the step and says she hardly knew what she was doing when she tried to take her own life. The unfortunate affair is deeply regretted by the friends of Miss John, and they are innumerable, and all will be pleased to see her when she is again able to be about and has regained her usual happy mood.


I've written briefly about Stella before in a post entitled, "Santa Claus arrives at Spring Hill School." Stella's mother had died when she was very young, so she was raised jointly by her father, George John, who operated a drug store first in Lucas and then in Des Moines, and his mother, Mary.

Five years after her despair was so widely publicized, Stella married a somewhat younger musician and music teacher, Ross V. Miller, in Des Moines during May of 1909. They became the parents of a son, Ross V. Miller Jr., 13 years later --- in 1922.

By 1930, while living in Des Moines, Stella and Ross were divorced, but remarried not long after and by 1940 were living together in Denver, Colorado.

Ross died in Denver during 1960. Stella continued to live there until her own death some 12 years later, on Aug. 29, 1972, a few months short of her 90th birthday. Ross and Stella are buried together in Denver's Fairmont Cemetery.

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