The shameful secret of David Edgar Chase

I’ve written about my great-grandmother, Fannie Potter Willett, in a previous post. While researching Fannie, I discovered she had two older sisters, Harriett and Angeline, whom no one in the family ever had any real knowledge or recollection of. It was while I was researching Harriett that I found that her husband, David, died relatively young at age 47 in 1900.

I am always intrigued in genealogy when I find someone died young because there is always a life changing story attached to it that we may never know.

I was lucky enough to have a photo of both Harriett and David from the family photo albums that my cousin Leigh is the caretaker for. Harriett was lovely and serene looking. David was handsome, well-dressed and looked like your typical Massachusetts businessman. I was drawn to both of them for some reason and took my research in their direction to fill in their story for the family tree.

It didn’t take me long to discover how David had died so young:

Newspaper article about David Edgar Chase

The headline shocked me. The sad scenario touched me. While his wife ate breakfast downstairs, he put a gun in his mouth and shot himself. He had been suffering from “nervous troubles” all winter. He left behind not only Harriett, but their 18 year old daughter, Eva.

This kind of death in our family, thankfully, was a new one for me to discover. Don’t misunderstand me…I’ve seen some very sad obituaries about how some of my ancestors have passed away. Pneumonia, drowning, terrible diseases. Even being crushed in a gold mine collapse in California during the gold rush. But this one. Suicide. This was jarring to me.

I need to find out what happened in this man’s life that would cause such a sad ending to a life that from the outside spoke of wealth, privilege and success.


  1. Oh, Jenny, this is so sad. I hope you can find out more. I notice the article says "He had not engaged in any business for some time." Perhaps that's a clue?

  2. Hi Marian, yes, I agree. It could have been something he was struggling with for quite a while. I will post more as I research his story. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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