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Tragedy on Fourth Avenue

Some of the tragic Marsh family is buried here.
Some of the tragic Marsh family is buried here.
Courtesy of the Pioneers's Cemetery Assn

Sometimes it seems families are haunted by tragic events---such as the Marsh Family who lived in Phoenix’s early years. The house on the 300 North 4th Avenue block is no longer standing. Do their spirits, lives taken too short, still linger?

Manlius Marsh, was the yardmaster of the Phoenix & Eastern and Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix railways. He was accidentally killed in April 1904 at the Phoenix rail yards one morning when one of his feet was caught in the “frog” switch while he was uncoupling two cars of a slow moving freight train. The faithful conductor was careless of danger when he stepped between the cars to make the uncoupling, instead of standing outside and using the mechanical safety devise.

Mr. Marsh and the crew were switching back and forth on the tracks west of the freight depot near the foot of 7th Avenue. The engineer did not see the accident when it first happened. The conductor was killed on the engineer’s side of the train. When the engineer looked back he saw the body of Marsh projecting from under the fatal wheels that passed over his body. He stopped the train immediately.

When found, a portion of his shoe and foot were caught in the “frog” between the two diverging tracks. Mr. Marsh’s body, particularly the head, was frightfully mangled. Items found in Marsh’s pocket were a gold watch-- which had stopped running, $98.85, and a pocket knife bent by the wheels of the car.

Mr. Marsh family consisted of his wife Lillian, and daughters Mary and Grace who attended Central School. His older son George was away on a trip to Bisbee. Mrs. Marsh was overcome with grief when she learned the terrible news. One of the daughters almost fainted and became hysterical. The funeral was held at the family home and the fraternal members of the Odd Fellows took charge of the Interment at the I O O F Cemetery.

Mary Marsh, was merely 19 years old when she committed suicide by poisoning herself with chloroform one Saturday evening in March 1908. The doctors tried in vain to save her from 10:00 Saturday night until 3:00 Sunday afternoon.

Mary’s sister, Grace, stopped by her room earlier to accompany her downstairs. Mary declined saying she wanted to write some letters. Grace returned to Mary’s room a while later and found the door locked. She knocked vigorously at the door and received no reply. She ran to the neighbors and told them Mary would not let her into the room. Grace climbed to the top of a porch from which they could look into the lighted room. Mary Marsh lay across the bed fully dressed.

Grace and a housekeeper broke down the bedroom door and found Miss March unconscious in her room. Two suicide notes were left to the sister and one to her mother. The notes stated she was in her right mind and due to the act she was about to commit she exonerated all other persons from the blame. She had found that there was nothing in life to live for and had decided to die. She bid farewell to all.

The doctor determined that Mary had drunk not less than four ounces of the fluid. Her mouth was blistered from the effect of the chloroform, All that could be done was to administer antidotes. The chloroform had been purchased at the Hotel Adam pharmacy earlier that evening. Miss March told the pharmacy she wanted the fluid to clean a pair of gloves. Other bottles had been bought at other drug stores several days before indicating she had been planning the suicide.

The family had no hint that she contemplated death. She had seemed cheerful all day on Saturday and as late as Saturday night when she retired to bed. Mary’s health had not been good for some time but at no time was it apparently so bad that she would contemplate suicide. Some of her friends said they had noticed a slight change in her manner and rarely spoke to them on the street. Mary was buried in the Odd Fellows (I O O F) Cemetery near her father.

And yet, just two years later, another tragedy struck the Marsh residence at the same home. Grace Marsh, a young stenographer, committed suicide with a revolver in November 1911. Grace told her sister-in-law that if she could not have “Roy” she would never marry anyone.

Her despondent condition alarmed her relatives and friends, but it was thought she would return to her usual good spirits. Both her sister and mother, however, were both a little more than alarmed when Grace insisted they “kiss her goodnight.”

About 10:45 and 11:00 o’clock that night they heard three shots ring out in quick succession. Rushing into the dining room they found Grace faced down to the floor. She had shot herself in the left breast. From her throat came a low moan, or gurgle. The body quivered horridly and then lay still. Grace Marsh was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Phoenix.

Just a side note: Although their brother, George, lived a long and happy life to the ripe age of 63, he too suffered a somewhat tragic death. A small wooden toothpick lodged and became infected in his small intestine. He is also buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Manlius Marsh and his daughter, Mary, are buried in graves that are no longer marked in the I O O F section of the cemetery at Pioneer and Military Memorial Park. Come visit their final burial grounds at the OPEN HOUSE at the old cemetery on January 25, 2014. Perhaps they will relate the answers o why they left the Earth so soon.

Pioneer and Military Memorial Park
14th Avenue and Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Open house on January 25, 2014 will run from 10:00am until 2:00pm. Come and make a Victorian Valentine for a loved one! A donation of $2 is suggested for the Valentine craft.

Arizona Haunted Sites Examiner: Debe Branning

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