Lewis Lambright – a second look
Last week, I wrote about Lewis LAMBRIGHT, my first cousin twice removed. I wrote what I thought was the truth about him…a barber who went to fight in Europe during WW1 who committed suicide soon after the war. I was wrong about him.
Someone who read my blogpost brought it to my attention that the Infantry unit Lewis served with never left Camp Meade, Maryland. (Thank you, Schalene Jennings Dagutis!) I decided more research was needed, and what I found was surprising.
Not such a quiet barber’s life
Lewis was a barber, but he certainly didn’t live a quiet life. A found newspaper clippings of his known escapades:
At age 15, he was arrested for theft of some oranges from a freight train. It was proven later that he was innocent of the theft, though.
At age 25, he and another man, Osborne SIX, were ‘engaged in a fracas’ because Six accused Lewis of ‘too much familiarity with Six’s wife.’ Both men were arrested by Policeman John ADAMS.’ Each man was fined, and Lewis was ‘warned by the magistrate to steer clear of other people’s wives.’
The next year, Lewis was charged with disorderly conduct by Policeman John Adams. He was fined $5, but ended up staying in the jail for 15 days since he couldn’t pay the fine. Lewis had been working as a barber since the age of 19, but I guess he didn’t save any of his money for a rainy day.
Unsuccessful suicide attempt
Lewis was sent to Camp Meade in June of 1918 as I wrote in the first blog about him. He was 29 years old. In August 1918, he came home on furlough, but remained at home instead of returning to camp on August 25 as expected.
The next night he attempted suicide by swallowing a bichloride of mercury tablet. His family realized what he had done and called a doctor who pulled him through the suicide attempt.
Click here to learn more about bichloride of mercury.
Camp Meade sent word to Frederick to look for Lambright since he was AWOL. Officer John Adams and another officer named PAINTER found out Lewis had attempted suicide, arrested him, and held him for a while.
Lewis’ doctor and the police officers tried to convince him to go back on his own, but he refused. He said ‘he didn’t like camp life and that he wouldn’t go back.’ He also told the doctor that he wanted to kill himself. Eventually soldiers from Meade came and got him.
This time he was successful
Just two months later, in early November, Lewis went AWOL. Officers Adams and Painter knew he was in town, but didn’t know he was AWOL again until they heard from the camp.
The officers went to Lewis’ home take him into custody. Lewis’ wife, Annie, wouldn’t let them in and said they couldn’t take Lewis without a warrant. Annie was tough!
While Annie was conversing with the officers Lewis was upstairs swallowing arsenic, unbeknownst to Annie or the officers.
Adams and Painter took Lewis into custody. Lewis became ill on the way to the station. When Adams and Painter inquired as to whether he had poisoned himself again, he denied having done so. But Lewis became sicker and sicker.
Finally Adams and Painter let Lewis’ wife take him home so the doctor could tend to him. The doctor came but could not save him this time. Lewis died two days later from arsenic poisoning.
I feel bad for Lewis that, in his mind, suicide appeared to be a better option than army life. I feel bad for Officers Adams and Painter and the doctor who all tried to help Lewis. And I feel bad for Lewis’ young wife who did what she could to protect him.
From researching Lewis, I am reminded that information has to be verified, and that a reasonably exhaustive search is necessary with all ancestors.
One book said Lewis served honorably, but after deeper investigation I think that book entry was incorrect and I will be sure to make a note of that in my records.