Death by drowning of John Franklin, 1907

Gloucester Citizen, 27 August 1907

GLOUCESTER MAN’S SUICIDE

IN THE RIVER SIX MONTHS

INQUEST AT STONEBENCH

An inquest was held at the Stonebench Inn, Elmore, on Tuesday morning by Mr. A.J. Morton Ball, the District Coroner, upon the body of John William Franklin (62), horse dealer, who lived at 40, Priory-road.

 The Coroner, in his opening remarks, said that the deceased had been in the water six months, and therefore it was useless to have any medical evidence. The police, who had taken great care in this case, said there appeared to be no outward signs of violence upon the body.

 Susan Welch, widow, of 40, Priory-road, Gloucester, said the deceased had lodged with her from the end of September until February 28th. According to witness Franklin “had a drop of drink” occasionally, but was sober when in her home. Except for a little rheumatism he seemed in good health and spirits. On Wednesday, February 28th, deceased went out after breakfast saying he would come in before mid-day and settle the bill, but first he had to go to Longford to draw some money from a Mr. Jones there. Next day, as Franklin did not return, Mrs. Welch went round to Mr. Woodcock in Quay-street, a friend of his, who said he had seen Franklin in the afternoon. Franklin’s son, having heard of his father’s absence, informed the police, who found deceased’s coat, hat, spectacles, and stick on the river bank near the Black Bridge. The river was dragged, but without any result.

 Sarah Franklin, widow of the deceased, who resides with her son, Fred Franklin, at 49, Park-road, said she had been living apart from her husband for twelve months prior to his disappearance. He occasionally gave way to drink. Seventeen years ago he was thrown from a horse and sustained concussion of the brain, since when he had seemed strange in his head at times.

Adolphus Franklin, 8, Worcester-street, deceased’s son, said he saw his father shortly after 11 o’clock at night on Wednesday, the 27th of February. Witness said “Good night” to him, and the deceased returned the greeting. That was the last time witness saw his father alive. The next day he was called upon to identify the clothes which were found on the river bank.

 Charles James, fisherman, of Elmore, said that on Monday he was going down the river in his boat, when he saw something floating in Madam’s Pool. On investigation he found it was a body, and secured it with a rope to the bank. He fetched a man named Borrow, and together they conveyed it to the Stonebench Inn.

P.C. Edward John Smith, stationed at Hardwicke, said he knew Mr. Franklin and identified the body when it was recovered.

 The jury returned a verdict of suicide whilst of unsound mind.

John Franklin’s death certificate states that he died on 27 February 1907 in the River Severn at Gloucester and was found on 26 August 1907 at Madam’s Pool, River Severn, Elmore. He is described as being a 62-year-old horse dealer living at 40 Priory Road, Gloucester. Cause of death states: ‘Found drowned, no marks of injury, having probably committed suicide whilst of unsound mind’. The informant is given as ‘Certificate received from A J M Ball, Coroner for Gloucester, Inquest held 27 August 1907’.

John’s wife is Sarah Smith [C5 on the Borrow’s Gypsies tree of 1910], the daughter of Honor Smith [B2] and Frank/Francis Smith. John Franklin is included on the tree as ‘Johnny Franklin’ with the note ‘drowned, 1909’. So the oral history from relatives that led to the tree’s compilation is correct in terms of the cause of death but a couple of years out on when it happened. There’s another mention of Sarah in the account of the death of her mother Honor Smith elsewhere on this blog.

Curiously, there’s no sign on the tree of an Adolphus Franklin, as a son of John and Sarah. Fred is certainly included [D23]. There are three other boys named: Algar [D21], Arthur [D22] and William [D24]. So has ‘Adolphus’ been mis-remembered as ‘Arthur’?

Both Algar (or Trafalgar) and William Franklin married partners who appear elsewhere on the Borrow’s Gypsies tree. Algar’s wife was Margaret Smith [D42], the daughter of George Smith [C12] and Corlinda Lee. While William – known as ‘Willy’ – married Eva Robinson, the daughter of Femi Smith [B3] and Sampson Robinson.

 

 

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