Saturday’s Dilemma ~ John Pleasant Smith’s Death

shockedThis dilemma is a little different from the previous ones I have written about. With this one, I would really appreciate your advice or input into what to do. Let me start at the beginning.


John Pleasant Smith was born on September 8, 1882, in Hazel Hill, Missouri. He first married my Grandmother Ella McGowan on September 17, 1904. They had 6 children, 2 of them died at a young age. My mother was their youngest child. Ella died 2 years after my mother was born from heart disease.  He then married a widow named Nellie Jane Barrett on May 26, 1926. They never had children and Nellie raised his children. She passed away on February 4, 1948. Grandpa then married another widow, Nellie Robinson on February 15, 1949.

Dad and Grandpa colorized

My parents moved us from Missouri to Arizona when I was 11 months old. My mother and sister had asthma and was told we should move to a drier climate. John was the only Grandparent that I ever met. All the rest had died long before I was born. He came to visit us in Arizona once in about 1962. In 1967 my family moved back to Missouri and we first lived in the same small town that Grandpa did. I was able to get to spend time with him and got to know him pretty well. After a few months, we moved into Independence, Missouri.

About a year later my Grandpa died at the age of 85. Now here is where my dilemma begins. The day he died he was out in his large yard with a push mower, mowing the lawn. This was nothing new. Although he was older, he still stood straight and tall. He dug graves at the local cemetery, and he managed a small farm on his own. He was in exceptional health for his age. He had gone to the doctor a couple of months earlier and he was given a prescription. I don’t know what it was for, but he hated the way the medicine made him feel. On this day, Nellie brought his pill out to him as he was mowing, insisting that he take it. He stumbled and fell backward over the mower. He broke his neck but lived for 6 days before dying.

Grandpas HSAfter the funeral, my Aunt Mae who was married to my mother’s brother Gene told us this story. Nellie and Grandpa had been having marital problems for years. On the day of the accident, she was at the house helping Nellie with some baking. When she went out to give Grandpa the pill she was irritated because she knew he wouldn’t want to take it. Aunt Mae heard loud voices, so she went to the back door and saw Nellie trying to force Grandpa to take the medicine. When he refused Nellie pushed him, HARD, and that caused him to stumble back over the push mower. Nellie told Aunt Mae if she tells what she saw the same could happen to her.

As far as I know, Aunt Mae never told anyone except my mother, dad, sister, and I. By the next year we moved away and never saw Nellie again. Because I wasn’t raised around family it has been easy to keep this secret. Over the last 10 plus years, I have “found” a lot of my mother’s family online. So, here is my dilemma.  The cousins have enjoyed reading my blogs about the Smith family and I have told them how I like to be as factual as possible, etc. What I am wondering is should I ask them what they have heard about Grandpas’ death? If they don’t know what really happened should I mention it to them? I do know that once Grandpa died no one in the family saw Nellie again as she sold the farm and left. What would you do?



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.




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