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Friday, July 17, 2009

The Mysterious Death of Granville Garth

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 10:41 AM

5937/1247846997-garthmonument1small.jpg Elmwood Cemetery has many fascinating and beautiful monuments, but few are as intriguing as the stunning granite obelisk dedicated to former Memphian Granville Garth. "Born in Memphis" it says, and then "Lost at Sea," and anyone who reads that inscription has to wonder what happened.

Since we're really not that close to the sea, you understand.

The carving at the base of the monument tells cemetery visitors that Granville was the son of Horace and Alice Garth. He was born in Memphis on August 11, 1863, and he met his fate 40 years later on Christmas Day, 1903.

So what happened to this poor fellow?

Memphis newspapers of the day announced, "Deepest of Mysteries Surrounds Death." Garth, it seems, had moved to New York City in his 30s. An enterprising and intelligent young man, he managed to become president of that city's Merchant's National Bank. I suppose he did well there, but I don't know. But in late December 1903, something happened. Something bad. For reasons we don't understand, the bank's board of directors persuaded Garth to take a holiday, "to go far from the scenes and incidents distressing him."

Garth took the steamer Denver to Key West, Florida, but when the ship arrived a few days later in Galveston, Texas, his stateroom was empty. Somewhere along the way, Garth had apparently jumped overboard.

Friends and family told reporters that he had "mental anxiety of an altogether personal nature." At the same time, they suggested his problems weren't that private. Newspapers said, "What those troubles were are well-known to many in society. Below stairs, in the servant's world, they are as well-known as to the directors of the bank."

While also alluding to "personal trouble," Garth's brother-in-law told reporters, "The public does not yet know what the trouble was. Mr. Garth was a disappointed man. He played a game of chess and lost."

What on earth does that mean? It's all very mysterious. And if those in the "servant's world" knew what made Garth take his own life — if that is indeed what happened — well, they kept it to themselves.


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