San Francisco Chronicle October 6, 1894, p. 8
THE CYANIDE ROUTE.
J. H. Crossman Commits
A Parting Shot at Engineer
Death of a Pioneer Miner, Who Was
Known from Alaska to
Weary of life, despondent and hopeless, James H. Crossman, a pioneer mining man, committed suicide in room 545 of the Baldwin Hotel about 6 o'clock last night. Crossman, who was 73 years old, had lived at the hotel for a year past. Though he was married and his wife lived in the city, he elected to make his headquarters at the hotel, while she lived at North Beach.
His habits were irregular, and not much attention was given at the hotel to his coming and going. Mr. Unruh of the Baldwin management saw him about 2:l5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, at which time Crossman, who was when evidently under the influence of liquour, said that he expected a visit from a man named Jackson. At 4 o'clock Crossman went to his room.
About 6 o'clock S.H. Holcomb, an intimate of the suicide, who had free access to his apartments, went to the room, but being unable to enter called one of the bell boys. The boy hammered at the door and then tried to open it. As the doors on the Baldwin have double locks and Crossman had turned his key on the inside, the boy could not get in. He therefore called up the clerk, saying that he feared Crossman was dead. The clerk rushed up stairs, accompanied by the porter. As the door could not be opened the porter climbed out upon the sill of the adjoining room and thence gained access to Crossman's window, which opens on the light well next to the theater. The porter then opened the door.
Crossman s body was found upon the sofa. He had been dead over an hour. His coat and vest were upon a chair and upon a table within easy reach of the sofa, were a glass and several ale bottles. The bottles contained a mixture which the deputy coroner subsequently said was composed of ammonia and ink. Death had been caused by cyanide of potassium, but no traces of the poison were seen in the room. Upon the table beside the bottles was a package addressed to S.H. Holcomb. This package Holcomb took away with him, without the knowledge of the Morgue officials. Subsequently it was discovered that the package contained four notes, addressed respectively to Mrs. Crossman, Mr. Holcomb. Mr. Unruh and “To whom it may concern.” The letter, which in a measure states the causes leading to Crossman's suicide, is as follows:
To whom ‘It may concern : I am tired. My load is too heavy to carry. It is more than I can bear. I want rest and am going to take it and no d--- nonsense.
If I fail it will not be my fault. I leave by the cyanide route. With my best wishes for survivors and those that have to remain. A fraud by the name of G.G. Jackson, C. E., has had much to do with my exit. His misrepresentations has got me into trouble. He is a ----- first-class fraud and I think that he ought to be sent back to the penal colonies of Australia, where he belongs, or imprisoned here, where he can do no more mischief. My assets will much more than pay my bills and leave a competency for my wife if properly administered. I am tired of this life. There is nothing in it worth the struggle. Good-by. J.H. Crossman.
In the letter to Unruh Crossman countradicted the statement regarding the condition of his finances made in the public letter, for he wrote to the manager of the hotel stating that he would not be able to pay his bills and that the Baldwin might mark his account on the wrong side of the ledger. The note to Holcomb was in a similar despondent strain. The old man again stated that he was tired of life and expressed a wish to be buried by the Pioneers, of which society he was a member. He was also a Mason, but was not in good standing, having allowed his dues to lapse. To Holcomb Crossman left a nickel watch and his best wishes.
An autopsy will be held upon the body at the Morgue to-day.
Mrs. Crossman was seen last evening at her home, 1213 Mason Street. She could give no explanation which would show a cause for her husband's deed. The first intimation she had of the end was when S. H. Holcomb, her husband's secretary and adviser, called and broke the sad news to her.
“Our life had always been happy,” said Mrs. Crossman, “and there were no family troubles of any kind which could have preyed upon my husband's mind. I came up from Riverside to the city when he met with an accident in Shasta county a year ago last July, and cared for him at the Baldwin. My neice and myself did not reside at the hotel because of the expense. We had our room here, but every day went down to see him and take dinner with him. Mr. Crossman was obliged to stay there on account of his business affairs.
“I saw him last on Thursday when we left the hotel to come home. He never said a word which would lead us to suspect anything of this kind. He seemed cheerful and happy.”
Mrs Crossman mentioned several facts in connection with the past life of her husband. “He was born in Boston Mass., seventy-three years ago,” she continued, “and came to the Coast early in the forties I believe it was in 1842 that he first reached here. Then he left for South America and spent several years in Chile and Peru, where he engaged in mining. He returned to California in 1849 and was in business in San Francisco for some time. Mining was his bent and he soon sought the northern part of the State. He worked in Downieville, Grass Valley and several other mining centers for a number of years.
“I met him in Auburn, Placer county, twenty-one years ago, where we were married. Mr Crossman was at that time superintendent of three mines at Ophir, near Auburn. He came to San Francisco in 1875 or 1876 and located here, only leaving when his business called him away. For ten or fifteen years he was an inspector of mines, an expert employed by people who were seeking investments. Then he had mining property to handle on his own account.
“He went to the San Jacinto mines in 1890, where he was superintendent of the Gabilan gold mine on the San Jacinto estate. It was after he left there and went to Shasta that the accident happened which brought him back to San Francisco. He had been out to inspect some mines and was returning with the guide in a buggy. It was upset and both were thrown down an embankment. Mr. Crossman's left leg was broken in three places above the knee and the guide had several ribs fractured. They laid where they fell for some hours, and then were found by some saw-mill men, who managed to convey them to the railroad. Mr. Crossman was brought here, and for many months was under treatment at the hands of Drs. McNutt and Mc Lean.”
Mrs. Crossman was seen at midnight regarding the letter which her husband had directed to her, but at that hour she had not read its contents. She declined to make it public until the inquest has been held.
Mrs. Crossman was a widow when she met Crossman, and at that time bore the name of Ramona Ayers. Mrs Crossman is of Spanish descent.
Regarding the value of her husband's estate Mrs. Crossman said that the homestead at Riverside was the principal item. She could not specify any other property of any extent.
Crossman was known from Alaska to Chile as a mining prospector and speculator. He first visited this Coast in 1842 and ever since had been engaged in mines and mining. He was best known to fame as “East Ledge” Crossman, which cognomen he gained of the Comstock lode in the bonanza days. Of late years he had been engaged in various speculations. A few years ago he was connected with the Gabilan gold mines in San Diego county. Subsequently, through the friendship of E. N. Robinson, who died recently in London, Crossman was appointed manager of the San Jacinto tin mines. Three years ago he procured a lease of the Gabilan mines, which he transferred to a company at Riverside. Crossman, it is said, made fully $10,000 on the deal. After this windfall he bought a home at Riverside and became interested in the smelting works there. His most recent enterprise has been in connection with raising funds for the establishment of an electrical plant at San Bernardino.
During his residence in this city for a year past, Crossman had become well known to men about town. Though his years were over three score, he went the pace with more ease than many younger men, and the news of his death will not prove surprising to those who knew him best.
Captain G.E.G. Jackson, to whom Crossman refers in his letter as having had a hand in driving him to his death, is one of the best-known civil engineers in the city, having served in the capacity for Park Commissioners for a long time and also with the Geological Survey.
When seen at his residence 604 Castro street at an early hour this morning, the Captain expressed great surprise and indignation at the news of Crossman' s death, and the charges he had made.
“I should say I did know him, and to my sorrow too, he said. “Why the old man must have been in a delirium when he wrote such a thing. He has been drinking very heavily of late, and I think he became fairly crazed from the effects of the liquor.
“I have had extensive business relations with the old gentleman, and he and his partner, S. M. Holcomb, have been the means of causing me to lose a veritable fortune. Holcomb is the man who is to blame for all this. Such will be proved to be the case when this matter is sifted out. It will be shown that he has got a good deal of what the old man had left. Crossman, however, was no angel himself. I don't like to say anything about the dead, but I have a reputation in this city of which I am jealous and I shall allow no such charge as he has made to go unanswered. The fact of the matter was I discovered an immensely valuable piece of mining and timber land some years ago in the northern part of the State, and I had trusted Crossman with the handling of it. He in turn took Holcomb in. We would all have made fortunes out of the venture, as a Chicago syndicate was negotiating to take hold of it. But Crossman and his partner thought that between them they could freeze me out and have the thing between them. In their scheming, however, they resorted to too much misrepresentation in their correspondence with the Chicago people, and the first thing I knew the bottom fell out of the whole transaction. We all lost through their selfishness. Crossman had counted on making a great deal of money on the venture and when he lost the opportunity he took to drink. He seemed to be losing his reason, too. He bothered me considerable, repudiated the debt he owed me and sent me insulting letters. I refused to have any further dealings with him that he could not talk to me while under the influence of liquour. I wrote a rather forcible reply to his last letter to me, and that is probably the one found upon his person.
“But Holcomb is the man. I blame him more than I do Crossman, for he took advantage of the latter's age and weaknesses after the old man had fed and clothed him. Both of them asked me repeatedly to call at Crossman' s room, but I had my suspicious and I would not do business with them. I have rolls of documentary evidence to prove every business transaction I ever had with Crossman, I never wronged him in any way. Instead of having everything belonging to him, he owes me a great deal of money. The only way that I can account for his absurd charge is that Holcomb told him I had wronged him in order to avert suspicion from himself.”
San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, October 8, 1894
FUNERAL OF JAMES H. CROSSMAN
Many Friends and Relatives Attend the
Last Sad Rites
The funeral services over the remains of James H. Crossman were held yesterday afternoon at Pioneer Hall under the auspices of the society, of which he was an honored member. Numerous friends of the deceased were present to participate in the last and rites.
Marshal J. S. Pinkham advanced to the head of the casket and said a few kindly words of consolation and hope to the bereaved relatives, after which Rev. Dr. W.W. Case conducted the usual services of the Pioneers. In a few well-chosen words he spoke of the burdens of life, which sometimes become too hard to bear, and referred to the promises of Him who alone can lighten the load of the afflicted. To the grief-stricken relatives he addressed words of heartfelt sympathy, and besought them to trust in the wisdom of the Almighty, who soothes the widow's sorrow and dries the orphan's tears.
At the conclusion of the services all who desired were invited to view for the last time the face of their departed friend. The body was then borne to the Masonic Cemetery, where after simple ceremonies the remains were interred in the Pioneer plot. The chief mourners were the widow and adopted daughter of the deceased. Those who acted as pallbearers were: Marshal J. F. Pinkham, A.G. Russ, W.W. Presbury, Isider Blumm, C.V. S. Cronise, F. Bassault and A.R. Colton.