Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Search: The Samuel Ardis Mystery


One of the first things I noticed when I initially began compiling my family tree was how many ancestors grew up not knowing either their mother or their father. One of the other examples that I have previously written about was that of Jacob Worth who remains interred with his fellow Union soldiers at the bottom of Mobile Bay having fallen victim to a Confederate torpedo while aboard the USS Tecumseh. This is a tragic tale but one which has the documents and facts by which we can determine exactly what happened. That isn’t always the case which is what I faced when looking at the life and death of my great great grandfather Samuel Warner Ardis.

The day following his early demise, on Monday, September 1, 1902, The Philadelphia Inquirer printed a story under the sensationalize headline “DEATH USED PHILADELPHIA AS A TARGET” with one of the many bulleted subheads stating “Element of Mystery in Case of Samuel W. Ardis Dispelled by Investigation”. Having been printed only a day following his death, the coroner’s inquest was still pending but the details suggested that heart disease played a factor. However, some of the details remained a bit fuzzy.   

To that point the investigation suggested that Samuel Ardis, who was employed as a clerk with the Reading Railway Company, was taken in by a stranger on his way home after falling ill shortly after his departure from work. Early the following morning, Sunday, the police were notified that Samuel Ardis had died suddenly at the house at some point during the night. When questioned later, my great great grandmother stated, according to the report that she was in “total ignorance of her husband’s movements since Saturday”.

While the autopsy later revealed, and was recorded on his death certificate, that the cause of death was pneumonia, we will never have a complete picture as to what transpired that night. The only facts that we know are that he died just over a month after his 3 month old son, Thomas J. Ardis, passed away and left his wife to care for their only remaining child, my great grandmother, Sarah Mabel Ardis, who turned three only four days after he baby brother died. In the span of just over a month, my great grandmother lost her father and her brother with her birthday falling in between. I can’t imagine what must have been going through her, or my great great grandmother’s, mind as all of this is happening.

We know a little but the mystery, and questions, still remain… Did he knock on a door or was he found and brought inside? Did he know the people / person who took him in? If so, how did they know one another? Did he know that he was sick? Did anyone notice at the office or was he seemingly ‘fine’? Why weren’t there any signs that this could happen? All these questions I want to have answers to but know that will probably never happen.