W W Withers
Jan 31, 1858
Feb 7, 1903
A place is vacant in our home that never can be filled
Here rests a Woodman of the World
When I went on my walk through the Masonic Cemetery a couple months ago, this headstone caught my attention. It was of the time period I was looking for and would photograph well. The name caught my eye – I knew I had seen it before while I was indexing the Eugene Morning Register. I thought it was the Lane County Sheriff that was murdered. Today I went back to the newspapers and found this was indeed the Lane County Sheriff that was shot and killed. Numerous articles are found in the newspapers beginning in Feb. 6, 1903. I have chosen to share the article about his funeral, this should give you feel for his importance and how the community celebrated his life.
“The Sheriff Laid Away Great Attendance at the Funeral of the Beloved Official Four Lodges Attend in Bodies – Christian Church Packed to the Streets – Remains to Masonic Cemetery.
Desiring to show in some slight way the hight esteem in which Sheriff Withers was held, his hundreds of friends from all over the county thronged the Christian church at the services this afternoon. It is found that 1033 people were inside the church walls. The services were delayed slightly to await the arrival of a sister of the deceased.
Rev. J.S. McCallum spoke words of eulogy of the honored dead and a double quartet, consisting of Mrs. G.L. Lobdell, Mrs. Ruby Hendricks, Miss Laird, and Mrs. Easson and Messrs. Lobdell, Hoven, Curtiss and Moriss sang sweet music filled with emotion and tenderness. The services were attended by the Elks, Woodmen of the World, Knights of Pythias and Knights of the Maccabees. The G.A.R. also turned out in honor of Sheriff Withers.
To the Grave
About one hundred carriages were in the giant cortege to the grave in Masonic cemetery. Hundreds of pedestrians did not go on account of the disagreeable weather, but despite this there was a huge throng in attendance. At the grave the B.P.O. Elks had charge, and their beautiful burial ceremony accompanied the laying away of the remains. The last sad rites have been performed and the people of Lane county and the state feel that a good man, one whom we could ill spared, has been lost.
According with the wish and request of the Mayor Chrisman every business establishment in the city closed its doors at 1 o’clock this afternoon and remained so until the funeral was over. The schools were closed this afternoon.” Daily Eugene Guard, Feb. 10, 1903, pg. 4, col. 3.
Had I not previously read the 1903 Eugene newspapers I would have had no idea of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of W W Withers. His headstone looks like many of the other headstones for this period scattered around the Masonic Cemetery. Had I just been looking for dates for a family group sheet and not taken the time to pursue the newspapers I would have missed knowing the final sacrifice this sheriff made for this county. Newspapers can add life to your family history!