RAILROAD BUILDER HEEDED ADVICE OF UNSEEN SPIRITS

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By Bartee Haile

On Oct. 9, 1928, thirteen days after burying her husband of half a century, Arthur Stilwell’s widow plunged to her death from the couple’s high-rise New York City apartment.

The easiest explanation was that Jennie Stilwell could not go on living without the man who had been the center of her existence for so long. But another less romantic reason for her suicide was that the railroad builder and founder of as many as 40 towns, most notably Port Arthur, Texas, had left her practically penniless. Biographies of Arthur Edward Stilwell say he “ran away” from his home in Rochester, New York at 14 after his father’s jewelry business failed. But since runaways as a rule are fleeing neglect or abuse, that is not an accurate description of an adolescent unusually mature for his age. And, besides, the youth was not alone.

 

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