Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thriller Thursday - A Different Twist

This week, instead of a murder - I seem to have run out of murders - I have an unusual death that took place in court. The deceased was the son of Joann Nisbet  and James Witherspoon Black. Her relationship is actually through my great-great-great grandmother, Martha McMekin Nisbet Oliphant. Martha's second husband was Alexander Oliphant who was my great-great-great grandfather. Joann & James Black, Sr., had two children, Mary Greeves Oliphant Black (named for her paternal grandmother) and James, Jr. Joann died in 1860, 6 months after the birth of James, Jr. James, Sr. married two more times.

From the Kansas City Star October 29, 1906, page 1.


An Apoplectic Attack After an Argument Today.

He complained of Feeling Ill in Judge McCune's courtroom and Went to the Chambers. Died soon While lying on a couch.

James Black of the law firm of Pratt, Dana & Black, had just finished an argument in Judge McCune's courtroom this morning. He turned to Hunt C. Moore, his associated in the case.

"I'm feeling bad," he said.

The argument was a vehement protest against the injustice of a third trial of the case of Frank Nelson against the Kansas City Elevator company for damages  for personal injuries. Mr. Black had left a deep impression in the court. His words were followed by a silence.

"Have you closed?" asked W. S. Cowherd, counsel for the plaintiff.

"No, I will resume after the evidence is in." replied Mr. Black.

Thought It Indigestion.

The jury was called in and N. F. Hellman, associated with Mr. Cowherd and R. J. Ingraham in the case, began reading a contract. Black left the courtroom and crossed the hall to a toilet room. He was very pale. Turner and R. J. Ingraham followed him and found him nauseated.

"I think its indigestion," said Black "But I'll be all right."

Turner was called to the stand, Mr. Black approached Judge McCune and said:

"Judge, my heart's nearly killing me, but I think it's from my stomach."

"Shall we stop the case?" asked Judge McCune.

"No, go on with it. I'll sit down and take it slow."

"Go back to my chambers  and lie on the couch," the judge advised.

Mr. Black passed around the side of the room to a water tank and drank a glass of water. He made his way to the narrow passage leading to the judge's chambers. Judge McCune and the other lawyers seeing that he was very ill, followed and he was assisted to the couch. Dr. H. A. Longan arrived at 11:30 in response to a call from one of the lawyers.

"Indigestion?" asked one.

"Worse than that," said Dr. Longan as he administered stimulants. Mr. Black began to gasp and artificial respiration was tried.

At twenty minutes before 12 o'clock Mr. Black said:

"I am lapsing in unconscious--"

He did not finish the word.

Five minutes later he was dead.


"It was apoplexy," said Dr. Longan. "The pupil of the left eye was dilated greatly. There was a severe hemorrhage of the brain. The stomach and heart pains were probably reflex."

"His argument was unusually vehement," said Judge McCune, "but it was clean and fair and free from personalities."

"It was one of his best arguments," said R. J. Ingraham of the opposing counsel.

The body was covered  with a sheet and lay in the judge's chamber until removed to the Black home by the undertaker J. F. O'Donnell. Coroner Thompson authorized its removal.

The court was declared adjourned. The death of Mr. Black caused a feeling of great depression.

"A strange fate pursues this case," said Judge McCune. "It began in 1898 and this, the third trial, is interrupted by death."

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. Someone should introduce this guy's methods to Sam Bernstein.

  2. Believe that judge is the one involved with Boy's School in KC. A Lashbrook boy spent some time there.