‘I Feel as Though I Could Die,’ Sobs Mary Phagan’s Grief-Stricken Sister

'I Feel as Though I Could Die,' Sobs Mary Phagan's

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

Among all the hearts that are bowed down in sorrow over the murder of Mary Phagan, the 14-year-old factory child found dead in the National Pencil factory Saturday, there is none who feels the suffering and the anguish of the separation so keenly as her sister, Ollie, 18 years old, her companion since childhood.

For with her it is the suffering of youth, when the rose-veil of life has been lifted to show its tragic and terrible side in all its fullness for the first time. And it is all the more pitiful for her because it is the kind of suffering that brings to one that sense of despair and a later sadness that makes the whole world seem never quite the same again, no matter what happens. Something of its sweetness and joy has gone out to stay.

“Oh, I am so lonely without her,” the young girl told a Georgian reporter as the tears fell down her face unheeded. She was at her little home on Lindsay Street. “Mary and I were always together and we always told each other everything. We slept in the same bed at night; we had ever since we were little bit o’ kids; and we always talked after the lights went out. There wasn’t a thing that Mary wouldn’t tell me, and I would always advise her and tell her what I thought was right if little questions would come up between us. She was always such a good little thing, nobody could help loving her!”

She clasped and unclasped her hands in front of her as though she did not know what to do, and leaned upon the bureau as if she were tired.

“I Never Had But One Sister.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do—I haven’t got anybody now,” she said. “I never had but one sister, and she’s gone.”

Her voice choked and she could not go on for a time. When she did it was to speak of how she was in Marietta when the tragedy happened and how the news came home to her mother on Sunday morning. She had not been home to go to the poor little body in the undertakers’ parlors shortly after it was taken there.

“The first mother knew of it all was a little before 5 o’clock Sunday morning,” she said, her lips quivering. “A girl named Helen Ferguson who lives near here and who has a telephone, was called up by Grace Hicks, the girl who identified Mary’s body. Grace told her to come right on over and tell mother what had happened.

Saturday night when Mary hadn’t come home they had all been worried. Mary had said she was coming right back after the parade, but didn’t show up. Then somebody remembered she had said she had heard the show at the Bijou was good—some of the girls had told her—and she would like to go, but she wouldn’t go without she had some one to go with her. When she didn’t come home a little later they all though maybe she had found some of the girls anyway and gone, and so Mr. Coleman, her stepfather, went downtown to bring her home. He waited until the show was over and everybody had fled out of the theater, but Mary was not with the crowd. Mr. Coleman had returned home and found Mrs. Coleman and another woman, who had stayed with her while he had gone to town, still up and waiting for him. Then was when they decided that Mary had met up with her aunt from Marietta and gone home with her. She had intended going anyway Sunday.

“But I know Mary’s safe,” said Mrs. Coleman, and after a few minutes they all went to bed.

The Awful News.

When Helen Ferguson’s footsteps touched the front porch at 5 o’clock the sound waked her mother immediately.

“There’s Mary now!” Mrs. Coleman exclaimed as she sat up on the bed.

“No, it isn’t either,” declared Mr. Coleman. “I feel it’s news for us, and bad news.”

Mrs. Coleman went to the door.

“Mrs. Coleman,” said Miss Henderson [sic], “did you know that Mary had been killed?”

“Oh, it can’t be possible!” her mother sobbed. “What do you mean? I don’t understand you. Tell me how. Maybe you’re mistaken—maybe it isn’t Mary.”

But Miss Henderson [sic] said that Miss Hicks was positive in her identification.

And then Mr. Coleman came out and brought her mother in the house, she was crying so, and then as quickly as he could be dressed and went downtown to look at the body. There was no mistake. It was Mary.

Her voice was pitifully like a child’s when she had finished, as she asked The Georgian reporter if he thought the man would be captured.

“If they get him they ought to treat him just like he treated her,” she declared. “Oh, my poor little sister! He had no pity for her, and they oughtn’t to have any for him. Oh, God, I just feel as if I could die.”

She will attend the funeral of her sister in Marietta, going up with the family Tuesday. She was formerly employed at a downtown department store, but recently gave up her position. She is very pretty and attractive, slenderly built and resembles her sister to some extent, it is said.

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Atlanta Georgian, April 29th 1913, “‘I Feel as Though I Could Die,’ Sobs Mary Phagan’s Grief-Stricken Sister,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)