John Arthur Mays © Cheyenne Star 24 June 1904 Submitted by: Wanda Purcell
John Arthur Mays, president of the Elk City National Bank shot himself in the brain in the Dallas County jail on the evening of June 17, 1904 and died at midnight.
Mays was arrested at Greenville, four days previous by U.S. Officers and charged with being short a large amount of the bank's funds. He was brought to Dallas and the U.S. Commissioner, Mr. Finks, held him in $5,000 bond which he was unable to furnish.
The deputy U.S. Marshall Mr. Warden, had arranged to take Mays back to Elk City on June 17,1904. The officer and his prisoner were in the office of the jail waiting for the train to arrive. Friends of Mays had left a valise with clothes in it at the jail for him. He asked to be allowed to get some linen from it. The valise was unlocked and he inserted his hand and forearm into it. Instead of taking out linens, Mays quickly drew forth a pistol and before anyone realized what was happening, he fired a bullet into his head. Mays was 40 years old and had a family at Elk City.
At the coroner's inquest the following papers were presented: "Notify M. M. Chandler of Greenville by telephone at once". "Notify R. E. Echols at once with wire" "God save my wife and babies" "Bury me in the clothes I have on. I have had a nice bath and have on clean underclothing. J. A. Mays",
Among the memoranda left by Mays was a request that he be buried by the side of his dead son, Arthur, and that no elaborate or expensive headstone should mark his grave.
His body was shipped to Greenville, Texas where it was buried June 19, 1904.
Burial in East Mount Cemetery, Hunt County, Greenville, Texas.
Dallas Morning News, Saturday, 18 Jun 1904, page 11:
SHOT THROUGH BRAIN, J. A. MAYS FORMERLY PRESIDENT OF ELK CITY NATIONAL BANK, ENDS HIS LIFE. USES MAGAZINE REVOLVER, Bullet Passes Through Head, Strikes Wall and Passes Out Through Window-Note on Table.
J. A. Mays, formerly president of the Elk City National Bank of Elk City, Oklahoma; shot himself through the head last night in the Dallas County jail. Physicians were hurriedly summoned and both the United States Government officers and the county officials did what they could to save his life and mitigate his suffering. From the first, the wound was regarded as necessarily fatal.
Mr. Mays was a man apparently about 45 years of age, was brought to this city from Greenville on Wednesday morning and was given into the custody of United States officials on a charge of misuse of the funds of the National bank of which he was president.
At his own request upon arrival in the city, he was carried to the St. George Hotel, and there left his valise.
At the Federal Building he waived examination before the Commissioner and was placed in jail. On reaching the jail he was thoroughly searched by Deputy Marshal R. M. Warden and no weapons were found on his person. He was given a good room on the ground floor adjoining the office and was allowed the liberty of the office and dining room in addition to his own room and the reception room. Apparently he was a cheerful as could have been expected under the circumstances.
On Thursday he asked to have his valise brought from the hotel, and this was done. About 4:30 p.m. yesterday Marshal Warden went to the jail to take the man to Guthrie, Oklahoma. "In the office," said Mr. Warden, "Mr. Mays spoke pleasantly to me and with the jailer passed some few words of conversation. He rose quickly and went back to the dining room and partly closed the door. In a little while a dull report was heard and at first it was thought to be from across the street. Jailer Book Peak and myself entered Mr. Mays' room and found him lying upon his back on the bed with a pistol grasped in his right hand. He lay diagonally across the couch and through the head was a bullet hole. The brains were scattered on the cover of the bed and on the two walls of the corner in which the bed sits. There was hardly a quiver in the large frame and only the labored breathing of the man gave evidence of life up to the time of his death at 11:50 o'clock.
The bullet was a steel covered missile from a magazine gun and had struck the south wall of the room and glancing had gone through a window on the west. Smokeless powder was used and there was no burn."
Dr. R. W. Allen for the Government and Dr. Thomas B. Fisher for the county were present at the end. The services of a trained nurse were given. On the foot of the bed hung the hat that the man had worn when he entered the room. On the table was a paper, on which was written: "Notifiy M. M. Chandler of Greenville by telephone at once. "Notify R. E. Echols of Elk City by W. U. T. C. wire. "God save my wife and babies. "Bury me in the clothes I have on. I have had a clean bath and have on clean underclothing. J. A. MAYS."
On the fly leaf of a small notebook were the words" "Tell my wife for me to go home and take care of the babies and the property."
Jailer Boon Peak saw that in the afternoon he had Walter L. Mathis, a notary, to take his statement and witness his signature to certain papers. These were turned over to the Coroner.
Within a short time after the tragedy D. A. Robinson, L. B. Farrish of the United States Marshal's office and some relatives of the wounded from the city were present.
M. M. Chandler telephoned instructions to have proper and suitable care taken of the body. The place of burial will probably be Greenville.
Justice M. C. Cullen, acting as Coroner, viewed the body at 12:30 o'clock this morning in the room where death occurred at the county jail. He will hear further evidence today and then will formally render his verdict.
Justice Cullen also took charge of the property of the dead man. This consists of a number of articles of clothing in a suit case, a watch, jewelry, pistol, knife, memorandum book, several railroad tickets, telegrams, letters and the like. It was said that these letters and telegrams were of a private nature.
The body was then taken to Smith's undertaking parlors, where it was embalmed and prepared for burial.
In the meantime, Dr. M. M. Chandler of Greenville, his father-in-law, had been notified and it is there that the body will be taken for burial.
Information also came from the Knights of Pythias Lodge at Elk City notifying the local members of that body to render whatever assistance were possible in caring for the body.
Along with other notations in his memorandum book were directions concerning his burial. The dead man had stated that he wished to be buried beside his son, Arthur, and gave his wish that there be no costly monument marking his grave.
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