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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: Death and the River

It's time to take a peek into the archives ...

Death and the River

“Strange, indeed is the working of love in the human heart. . .” Henderson Democratic Banner – August 19, 1852, on the deaths of the Misses Mintner.

Although the Ohio River has been a source of life for humans for hundreds of years, it has also, lamentably, been a cause of death for numerous unfortunate individuals. In fact, a search of the last 24 years in Henderson County Public Library’s obituary index produces 24 obituaries for people who have died as a result of encounters with the potentially deadly river, an average of one death per year within the region. The 1852 deaths of two young Henderson ladies were particularly difficult for the community.

According to the story, sisters Harriet Ann and Martha Carson Mintner, were loyally devoted to one another. One of the sisters, who had become enamored of a young Henderson man, had fallen victim to unrequited love and, thus, had decided to end her life. At sunrise on August 17, 1852, she induced her faithful sister to follow her to the banks of the Ohio River for a walk. When they arrived at the bank, she revealed her plan, a double suicide. The young girl readily consented to sacrifice her own life with her heartbroken sister’s, but, after their hands were bound together with a handkerchief and a plank was placed over the river, she panicked and began to protest. Witnesses claimed that it was too late, though, and the moonstruck girl pulled her into the violent deep. They died together.

Two days later, the following eulogy appeared in Henderson’s weekly newspaper, The Democratic Banner.

“We never knew them – they are now blest spirits of a holier, happier world – the lost Pleiades of a world of sorrow – the bright angels of Heaven. They were the children of sorrow and grief. This bright and beautiful world was a wilderness. They had looked upon man, and found him heartless and treacherous. They placed their bright eyes upon heaven, and saw that there was loveliness and purity. There, bright angels with their tiny hands beckoned them to come, and the music of the spheres harmonized with their sad destiny.”

To read the original newspaper articles on this story or to learn more about suicides in Henderson County, come visit us at the library. As always, you can visit our genealogy page or read previous “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries.

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