Monday, December 12, 2011

The Woeful Story of Mrs. Emma Hill

We have probably all known or heard of someone whose story is so sad you'd swear it was the plot of an Ingmar Bergmen film. The story of Emma Bell Hill, mother of May Hill, seems to be such a story. In my victimology of May Burnham I recounted how John Hill moved his family across the country following his job with the railroad. By 1905 John had essentially left the family to go work in the mining regions of "frontier" Colorado. He sent money back to the family but it didn't seem to be enough. By 1910 he was in Mexico, where he would stay the rest of his life, never seeing his family again, dying in 1950. In 1911 Emma began divorce proceedings from her estranged husband, of course around the time this was happening her oldest daughter and only living grandchildren would be murdered.

Now by all accounts, Emma Hill was very close with her son-in-law, Arthur Burnham, and declared his innocence every time a reporter was near enough to hear, even going so far as to dramatically proclaim her belief at her daughter's and grandchildren's funeral. In February of 1912, Arthur Burnham would finally succumb to the tuberculosis that had brought him to Colorado in the first place and Emma would lose the man who'd become "like a son" to her.

Her divorce from John would be granted in 1914 and in 1919 Emma would remarry to William Carnahan, a man about ten years her senior. Now 1919 would turn out to be a good year for Emma as she was able to celebrate her new marriage and the birth of her grandson, Patrick Ruth. Called "Pattie" for short, he was the son of Emma's youngest daughter, Nettie and her husband, June Ruth. The celebration was short lived, however, as tragedy would strike twice. First, Nettie would die early in 1920 then her grandson Pattie would die the following year. Sometime after that her new husband, William Carnahan would pass away. In 1930, Mrs. Hill was shown in the census as living alone as a widow. She would die in April of 1955. She is currently interred in the grave next to Arthur's family so if you happen to be visiting the Burnham's, don't forget to show a little respect to Emma Bell Hill, I think she earned it.

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