We Were Here

Tina Kitchen
Unknown Publication Date
by Konrad Stump, contributing writer to The Logan Daily News

In 1921, a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C., destroyed the 1890 United States Federal Census, essentially leaving a 20-year gap in time as far as locating people is concerned. It’s enough time for a daughter to grow up and get married, and certainly enough time for a child to be born, die, and disappear from history. Many children would die from illnesses, something so everyday that it wouldn’t merit much notice from the greater public. In the case of Tina Kitchen, the solace to be found in her tragic death at the age of twelve is that it made the papers. We can get an idea of the last full day of her life, and a little sense of who she was.
There is no birth record for Tina, only a death record, but it doesn’t list the names of her parents. Since Tina was 12 years old at the time of her death in 1899, she would have been too young to appear on the 1880 census, and died before she had the chance to appear on the 1900 census. If it were not for the articles and obituary that appeared after her death, we would not know to whom she belonged. Tina A. Kitchen was born May 6, 1887, the daughter of James Finley and Margaret (Pearson) Kitchen. She was the youngest, and the only one of five children to not make it to adulthood.
According to testimony given by Charles Deishley, who was 17 years old at the time, on Saturday, Dec. 2, 1899, he was with Ellsworth Tolbert, 15 years old at the time, and more commonly known as “Elzie.” Charles lived east of Logan, near what was then the Rempel brick factory. He and Elzie walked from the brick factory to a vacant house, known as the Eades house and believed to be haunted, on what was locally known as Murphy’s Hill. As they were walking toward the house, John Fox, ten-year-old son of Jacob Fox, and Ray Hillery came running up and told them the house was haunted. One of the boys had a 22-caliber target rifle with him, which Charles took, and he and Elzie went into the house.
At this point Tina and another girl, 7-year-old Rosalie McIntosh, were nearby, and John and Ray called for them to come up to the house. The boys said that there were bloodstains on one of the windows, and they wanted the girls to see them. According to Rosalie’s testimony, they heard a gunshot, and John and Ray ran down the hill, but she and Tina did not run. Charles had fired a shot out of an upstairs window. According to Charles, he first fired two blanks, but there were also four live cartridges. He loaded the gun, and believed Elzie saw him load the gun. They went around to the kitchen of the house, and climbed out onto the roof. Elzie got down first, and Charles handed him the gun. According to Rosalie, “Elzie walked around to the front of the house where we were; he had the gun on his shoulder, and said he was going to shoot a girl or a rabbit.” Rosalie ran down the hill out of sight, but Tina ran backward with her hands up and said, “Please, Elzie, don’t shoot me,” probably in a playful manner. The gun went off, and Tina exclaimed, “Oh, Elzie, you have shot me.” Elzie replied, “I didn’t either.” Rosalie said that she and Tina ran down the hill to where Ray Hillery lived, and Tina held onto the fence while Rosa told Mrs. Hillery what had happened. Tina was taken to the house of her aunt, Mrs. Kittsmiller, and her parents and Dr. Allen were called. Though Tina would live until the next morning, the doctor realized there was noting that could be done to save her. She died on Sunday, Dec. 3, 1899, at about 8:30 a.m. At the time of her death, Tina had been attending the Lutheran Sabbath School for more than a year, and was a member of the B. Grammar class of the high school. Her classmates, along with her teacher, attended her funeral, which was held at the M.E. church. She was laid to rest in Oak Grove Cemetery, and her parents would be buried next to her when they passed away. While Finley and Margaret’s stone looks new and is perfectly readable, Tina’s has begun to fade. Though someone could figure out her connection to her parents by finding their grave placement, there will come a day not too long from now when her stone will look like a blank tablet.
According to Tina’s obituary, she had been helping her mother with chores the morning of her death, having swept the kitchen and put the dishes away in the cupboard. Apparently, while she was lying on her deathbed, she said to her mother, “If it had not been for this, I could be at home helping you do up the house work.” We can’t help but wonder about the choices we make, and how things might be if we’d only done one thing differently. If Tina and Rosalie had played somewhere else, if John and Ray had not called to them, if Elzie did not fire that shot, then Tina may have lived a long life and Elzie wouldn’t have to live with what he’d done. Did he think there were blanks in the gun? Did the gun accidentally go off? As mere spectators, we can’t know what was going through Elzie’s head, but I still feel for him. Tina didn’t get the chance to live her life, but Elzie had to walk through every day of his knowing he had killed her. His parents and siblings knew, and every time he looked at them he would have to think about that fact. When he met his spouse, he probably had to tell her. I wonder, when he looked at his own children, if Tina went through his mind. Next week we’ll look at what happened to Elzie after Tina’s death, who he was, and how events in his life might have brought his mind back to that winter day in 1899.
Reprinted here with the permission of the author, Konrad Stump.

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