(November 11, 2022) This story from the Thomas Hotel research we did a few weeks ago is haunting me. A young man, surrounded by friends, co-workers, and hotel friends, appears to have taken his life in December of 1919. Was this his first Christmas season away from his family and friends back in DeKalb, Illinois? Did he get a “Dear John” letter from his sweetheart back home?
Racine Journal News, March 10, 1919
Floater is Found in the Root River
On Sunday the body of Clarence Olson, aged 23 years, was discovered floating in the river, opposite the freight house of the Chicago, Racine & Milwaukee Transportation company.
It was removed from the water and taken to the undertaking parlors of Bayermann & Krug. The young man, a native of DeKalb, Ill., was employed at the South Works of the J. I . Case Threshing Machine company. He boarded at the Thomas hotel, 1029 State street.
On Dec. 29 he suddenly disappeared, but his friends were of the opinion that he had left the city. How he happened to be in the river is not known, as no one ever heard him threaten to commit suicide and he seemed to be well, happy and in the best of spirits.
In his room at the hotel was found a piece of cardboard, part of a paper box, upon which was written: “In case of accident notify J. A. Olson, 1833 East Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, Ill.”
The note might be taken as an indication that he intended to make way with himself, but this is only conjecture.
Coroner Kisow took charge of the body and wired to the address given on the card found in the room. His clothing, letters and other personal belongings were also in the room.