The Tragic Death of Ethel Ogden

Ethel Ogden from the W Gene Barron Collection

Ethel Ogden
from the W Gene Barron Collection

There is an old country song entitled Tragic Romance. The writer of that song could have gotten his inspiration from an event such as the tragic death of Ethel Ogden. She was born on August 11, 1901 to Robert “Bob” and Elizabeth Breazeal Ogden. At the age of sixteen, she was in love with Charlie McKnight. Her folks forbade her to see him, but she would slip off and meet him at a neighbor, George Taylor’s house. Unbeknownst to her, the Taylor youngsters had the measles therefore exposing her. She had not had the measles and realized when she got home, that she would expose her sisters, Olivia, Ressie, Tressie and Iva, if she were to come down with the disease. Her boyfriend had asked her to marry him and had given her some paper, and a stamped envelope to use to write to him. She had hidden them under the cottonseed in the cow barn. After worrying about taking the measles and remembering Charlie’s proposal of marriage, she decided to write and tell him that she would marry him. She also wrote that if he had changed his mind and if she didn’t hear from him, she would kill herself to avoid the wrath of her parents.

After Charlie read her letter, he immediately wrote back and told her that he still loved her and wanted to marry her. It was a bad winter that year and the postman couldn’t deliver the mail every day and after several days and not hearing from him. Ethel came to the conclusion that he was no longer interested. She found some medicine that her father had for doctoring a horse. Ethel drank it hoping it would kill her. It made her deathly sick and Mr. Ogden mounted his horse and rode for the doctor. Dr. Dudley came and gave her something to make her vomit and told her family that she would be okay in a day or so.

The next morning, Elizabeth, Ethel’s oldest sister, was milking and the rest of the girls were in the kitchen with their mother. Ethel slipped into her father’s bedroom and found his gun. She loaded it and went to the potato house under the kitchen and shot herself. The family rushed out to find her lying dead. She had left a note telling why she had been so despondent. That evening, the letter arrived from Charlie.

Charlie walked through rain, snow and mud to get to Ethel’s funeral. When he got there the funeral was over. On his way back home he fondled the ring in his pocket he had intended to place on her finger.


James Robert “Bob” Ogden (8 Nov 1875 – 18 Jul 1969) married Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Williams in 1898.  Their children were Elizabeth J, William Robert, Ethel, Minor, Monroe, Mattie Olivia, Tressie, Ressie and Iva.

The story and picture above are from the W. Gene Barron collection.  You can find his books through the links on the right.

As always, your thoughts, comments and corrections are always welcome.


Gene Barron 2 (2)

Gene Barron is a native of Spearsville, Union Parish, Louisiana. He has a genealogy database of 182,000 names, who are all connected to his family.

Gene has also written two historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend both.




One thought on “The Tragic Death of Ethel Ogden

  1. Almost, aRomeo and Juliet. Ethel, is a heart broken soul, that could not wait a few more days due to weather. Perhaps if her father had come across this this letter – there would be major problems. This is a very sorry tale of lovers. How very sad…. You obviously have a paper trail and weather of the location. my heart goes out to this young girl. GJ 😦

    Date: Mon, 25 Nov 2013 19:19:44 +0000 To:


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