16 August 2012

The Sad Tale of Lieutenant George B. Backus

An article described as "an Interesting Story of the Young Army Officer's Domestic Life" can be read at GenealogyBank:  Lieutenant Backus Has Not Been Found  (April 7, 1892).  Note:  Some (but not all) links are part of a pay to view site (i.e. GenealogyBank) and a subscription is needed to view them.

 The message that got media attention:

Lieutenant George Backus left a message for the War Department that stated, "Strike my name from the rolls of the army.  I am going to commit suicide."  Lieutenant Backus was still alive  in Dallas, Texas, in 1895 when he was found suffering from morphine poisoning in another incident.  He succumbed June 14, 1895.

His sorrows stemmed from an incident in 1884, when he was stationed in Walla Walla, Washington.  There was a "situation" with Lt. Backus's beautiful wife and another soldier.  Backus divorced his wife and threatened the soldier that if he didn't marry Mrs. Backus, he would kill him.  "Within a month, she and the Southerner [he was from Maryland] were married."

At a later date Lieutenant Backus was involved in a duel with another woman at the heart of the dispute.  Since then Backus was "broken down greatly," but it was hoped that he hadn't committed suicide and that the note indicated "a fit of temporary abberration...".

Military history of George B. Backus:

In a happier time (1880):

United States Census, 1880

residence: Linkville, Lake, Oregon
occupation:  Lt. Usa
  Household Gender Age Birthplace
self G. B. Backus M 29 Pennsylvania, United States
wife A. K. Backus F 21 Oregon, United States

From Ancestry: A. K. Backus [Amanda Katherine Backus]. Spouse: G. B. Backus. Residence: 1880 - Linkville, Lake, Oregon ...  .  She was the Amanda Stitzel in the 1870 Census.  Her father was Jacob Stitzel, a merchant in Portland, Oregon.

Amanda Catherine Stitzel married [George] Benjamin Backus on October 19, 1876, in Stevens County, Washington.  Amanda was Mrs. Ide according to this item on the GenForum message board.

In 1900 Gilbert Ide (born in Wisconsin -- was he the Southern man George B. Backus threatened?!), his wife Amanda, their children, and Gilbert Ide's step-son, George S. Backus, were living in Stevens County, Washington.

George S. Backus, son of Amanda C. and George B. Backus married Harriet Fish, who wrote about their life in mining camps.

The BACKUS surname is an interest of mine; I'm a descendant of William Backus, the original emigrant and suspected that George B. Backus (Jr.) was as well (he was descended from Francis Backhouse, not William Backus according to Ancestry).  George (Jr) was the son of George and Caroline Backus who were living in Colorado when the 1870 census was taken (and in Pennsylvania in 1860).  In 1860 George, Caroline and George, Jr., were living next to John C. (son of Thomas and Rebecca (Couch) Backus), whose historic home in McKean Co., Pennsylvania, is seen here.

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