52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Unexpected


If you’ve ever done genealogy work, you know that it is impossible to not fall down the rabbit hole. We click on one name, which leads us to a newspaper article, which leads to another name, until we find ourselves wide awake at 2:00 a.m. with 17 internet browser windows open. While researching the Naegeli children, that’s exactly what happened. I knew that their parents were buried in the Mayer cemetery and that both died relatively young. Lena was 36 and Alfred was 47. I located both of their death certificates as well as Lena’s loving and tender obituary from the Brenham Banner Press.

I discovered that Lena died on February 7, 1930 of acute Paris Green poisoning. Paris Green is a crystalline substance developed in the early 1800s for use as a pigment. Over the years it was also used as rat poison. Despite overwhelming evidence of its toxicity and thousands of documented deaths, production was not banned until the 1960s. As I read through information on this substance, I found that it was sometimes used to commit suicide. It was easy to obtain and just one teaspoonful could kill someone immediately. According to Lena’s death certificate, she died at home on a Friday night and the attending doctor found Paris Green in her vomit and stool, indicating she ingested the poison. On February 12, 1930, the Brenham Banner Press ran the following article:

Mrs. Lena Naegeli, wife of Deputy Sheriff Alfred Naegeli of the Winedale community, passed away Friday night, and funeral services were held Saturday afternoon, with Rev. Brunetti of Carmine officiating. Internment was made at the Meyer cemetery. Decedent was 36 years of age and leaves numerous relatives and warm friends to mourn her untimely death. She is survived by her grief-stricken widower, Alfred Naegeli, heart-broken at the loss of his beloved wife two children, Clarence, aged 17, and Florence, aged 13; her aged parents, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Stoerner, Sr, of Greenvine; and two brothers, Richard Stoerner of Greenvine and Otto Stoerner of Galveston. Many friends will offer sympathy to this family in their sad bereavement.

Lena is buried in the Meyer cemetery. Her marble headstone is adorned with an ornate gate symbolizing her soul’s entrance into Heaven and it bears the inscription, “The heart’s keen anguish only those can tell, who’ve bid the dearest and best farewell.”

Clearly Lena was loved dearly by her family.

On July 27, 1936, just ten days after his 47th birthday, Alfred Naegeli also committed suicide. The death certificate states matter-of-factly, “he committed suicide by shooting himself with a rifle into the right side of his head.” The Brenham Banner Press did not run an article about his death and as you can see from these photographs, his headstone is decidedly less ornamental than his wife’s.


6 thoughts on “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Unexpected

    1. Yeah it’s pretty wild. I was looking up information on it and saw how it was used to dye carpet in wealthy homes for a few years in Italy and there was a rash of little
      children dying of mysterious poisonings. They realized later that the kids were crawling and playing on the floor and breathing the poison in, which is why they died but adults did not.

  1. A while ago there was a program here called “Fake or Fortune” with Fiona Bruce a out art. One episode they looked at the recipes for making paint that some artists used. It was very interesting. One ingredient was cinnabar which is mercury sulphide. Apparently very poisonous but it is a long time since I did chemistry.

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