The bullet wound which Jim received in our last fight near Madelia, shattering his upper jaw, and remaining imbedded near his brain, until it was removed by Dr. T. G. Clark after we were in the prison at Stillwater, affected Jim at intervals during all his prison life, and he would have periodical spells of depression, during which he would give up all hope, and his gloomy spirits would repel the sympathy of those who were disposed to cheer him up.
I remember that at the time of the fire in 1884, he was in one of these fits of depression, but the excitement of that time buoyed him up, and he was himself again for a considerable period.
After our release from prison, Jim’s precarious health and his inability to rejoin his family in Missouri combined to make these fits of depression more frequent. While he was working for Maj. Elwin, instead of putting in his afternoons, which were free, among men, or enjoying the sunshine and air which had so long been out of our reach, he would go to his room and revel in socialistic literature, which only tended to overload a mind already surcharged with troubles. For my part, I tried to get into the world again, to live down the past, and I could and did enjoy the theaters, although Jim declared he would never set foot in one until he could go a free man. In July, he and some of his friends petitioned the board of pardons for a full pardon, but the board was of the opinion that it was too early to consider that, believing that we should be kept on our good behavior for a time.
That resulted in another fit of depression for Jim. He took it to heart, and never regained his cheerful mood, for when he was up, he was away up, and when down, away down. There was no half way place with Jim.
In October, 1902, he left Maj. Elwin expecting to go to St. Paul to work for Yerxa Bros.
But Sunday afternoon, Oct. 19, his dead body was found in a room at the hotel Reardon, Seventh and Minnesota streets, St. Paul, where he had been staying since leaving Minneapolis. His trunk had been sent to friends, and there was every indication that he had carefully planned his death by his own hand. A bullet hole above his right ear and a pistol clutched in his hand, told the story of suicide. Dr. J. M. Finnell, who as acting coroner, was summoned, decided that he must have shot himself early in the forenoon, although neighbors in the block had not been disturbed by the shot.
I was sick in bed at the time and my physician, Dr. J. J. Platt, forbade my attempting to do anything in the premises, but Jim’s body was taken in charge in my behalf by Chief of Police O’Connor, and borne to Lee’s Summit, Mo., our old Jackson county home, where it was laid to rest.
The pallbearers were G. W. Wigginton, O. H. Lewis, H. H. McDowell, Sim Whitsett, William Gregg and William Lewis, all old neighbors or comrades during the war.
Some people obtained the idea that it was Jim’s wish that he be cremated, but this idea grew out of a letter he left showing his gloomy condition. It “roasted” Gov. Van Sant and Warden Wolfer and the board of pardons, declared for socialism, and urged Bryan to come out for it.
On the outside of the envelope was written:
“All relations stay away from me. No crocodile tears wanted. Reporters, be my friends. Burn me up.—Jim Younger.”
I think the “burn me up” was an admonition to the reporters. Jim always felt that the papers had been bitter to us, although some of them had been staunch supporters of the proposal for our parole. The day we were paroled, Jim said to a visiting newspaper woman:
“When we get out we would like to be left in peace. We don’t want to be stared at and we don’t want to be interviewed. For twenty-five years now, we have been summoned here to have men stare at us and question us and then go back and write up what they think and believe. It’s hard to have people write things about you that are not true and put words in your mouth that you never uttered.”
It was to such newspaper men, I think, that Jim sent his message “Burn me up.”