Harry Edward Green

6 April 1900 – 16 December 1927

Harry Green was the second son born to Fred Green and Mary Reinke Green Ebertshauser Lau. Both his parents were German immigrants who’d arrived in their early teens. Mary was only 16 when they married while Fred was 22. At the time of the 1900 census, they were living in Melrose Park with infant Harry and his two-year-old brother Roy. Fred was a laborer at a foundry.

It’s unclear what happened, but at some point prior to 1909, the couple broke up and in 1909, Mary remarried to Nicholas Ebertshauser in Indiana. This is the husband she’s buried beside in Concordia also right by her son Harry.

I can’t find any of the Green men in the 1910 census, though Mary and her second husband, a lineman for the telephone company, were then living in Chicago together.

Harry enlisted in the army in 1917 shortly after his 17th birthday. He was a bugler and served the entirety of the US’s involvement in the war, through some of the most brutal battles and was decorated, and honorably discharged, all before he turned 19 (the past is another country). In the 1920 census, we find that he, his older brother Roy, his step-grandmother, and a boarder are all living with his mother and step-father in Forest Park, just a half-mile’s walk from Concordia.

The next few years of his life fall between the public records, but the end of it is a brutal story.

The Forest Park Review published an obituary on 24 December 1927 that was likely oblique in some ways in the knowledge that everyone knew what had really happened. He was loved by his family; he was an honored veteran; the funeral was beautiful and his burial attended by many; his father Fred, who’d moved out to Nebraska after the break-up of his marriage was unwell and unable to attend. It is from this obituary that we learn the details of Harry’s service in WWI, but it is an obituary and does not owe the bloody details of how he died to the reader.

But what happened was this: Harry killed himself after murdering his wife.

The Forest Park Review states Harry suffered from shellshock, a hand-wave toward an explanation of the crime. The article in Belvidere Daily Republican (page 1; continuation on page 4) on the day after the murder/suicide, however, is news and states the couple met while Harry was convalescing from war wounds at the Speedway Hospital, so what we know is that he was disabled in WWI in some way or ways. He met his bride-to-be, Eileen Dellitt, at the hospital at some point — a place he was still going to for treatment several years after the war. The obituary does state he was employed, working as an investigator for the West Suburban Credit Rating Association, but it seems he lived with his mother and stepfather in Forest Park.

Eileen’s death record said she worked as a clerk, so that is likely what she was doing at the hospital when they met rather than the nursing or volunteering imaginings one might have had.

The story, as put out by the Belvidere and to the international news service in even more boiled-down form, was that Eileen’s friends teased her about Harry and one dared her to marry him — which she did. They eloped, but she went back to her own home immediately after the ceremony and refused to live with him. Brutal.

The wedding announcement that ran in the Forest Park Review in April of 1927 is absolutely heartbreaking in retrospect. The couple didn’t exactly elope, but it does seem slapdash underneath the aggressively positive spin the social announcement tries to put on it. They were married by a magistrate on Monday, and Harry’s mother served a wedding dinner on Thursday at her home. The announcement states the couple would be making their home in Maywood, though whether this was simply Harry’s plan or if he already had a home there is unclear.

If Eileen did not want to be truly married to him, it’s unclear why she agreed to go to the wedding dinner. Perhaps in spite of the spin put on things after their deaths, the situation was not so straightforwardly cruel. With no details as to the nature of his injuries, I might speculate that in spite of her knowing him at the hospital, perhaps the extent of his injuries did not become clear until after they wed, and she did not wish to stay married to him after learning more. Perhaps she was that cruel, but had not yet made it clear she had no intention of living as a married woman at the time of the wedding dinner. Perhaps it was a matter of class, that seeing how his family lived (which I can’t verify due to missing census records but rather feel from other evidence might have been quite differently from her own upbringing) brought her up short.

Alas, there is no way to know. Their reasons and true stories died with them. Knowing just the little inaccuracies that I see in the details as well as the tendency — especially in 1920s Chicago — toward sensationalism, I rather hope the truth was more complex and less intentionally cruel than how it was portrayed. It is often true that women are painted as the villains in their own murders, and I feel a bit of that here and am resisting accepting the story at face value.

Eileen was born in Minnesota and appears to have been her parents’ only child. Her death record states she’d been living in Chicago for twelve years at the time of her death, though, again, I can’t find any census records to explain if perhaps it was her father’s work that brought them there, though that’s my best guess.

Her mother returned to Minnesota almost immediately after her daughter’s murder, and in 1930 was working as a housekeeper for a single working woman about her own age and the woman’s elderly aunt. It’s probable that Eileen’s father stayed in Chicago — likely for work — but I can’t track him in the census until 1940 when he and his wife were reunited and living together in Minnesota, both retired. He died in 1945 and she passed away four years later, twenty-two years after her daughter’s death.

As for the tragedy itself, the Belvidere states that Harry went to Eileen’s house six months after their marriage (in reality it was eight months) to beg her to live with him one last time. She refused, and in front of her mother, Harry took Eileen in his arms as if to hug her good-bye and shot her in the back of the head. He then knelt down to pray before shooting himself.

Harry is buried at Concordia, a Lutheran cemetery; Eileen is buried at Mount Carmel, which is Catholic (there is no findagrave.com record for her). A family ancestry record has photos of Eileen and her parents, and she was a lovely, sloe-eyed Irish flapper.

Harry’s stepfather died two years after the tragedy, and was buried beside Harry. His mother married for the third and final time at some point in the 1930s. When she passed away in 1952, she was buried beside her son and second husband at Concordia.

RIP Eileen and Harry, I’m sorry the war apparently broke you, but son, you did a terrible thing.

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