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Obituary: William Tannehill

Here’s a post that is not specifically about Washington County, but is of relevance. One of the families I am tracking is that of Dr. Augustus Harvey MacNair of Edgecombe County, NC. I believe Dr. MacNair to have been a slaveowner of my 3rd great-grandfather, Rufus Tannahill McNair.

Dr. MacNair had a sister named Susan who married a man named William Tannahill. My Rufus, after emancipation went by the surname Tannahill, then by the 1870 census, was enumerated as McNair. Dr. MacNair had a sister named Susan that married a man named William Tannahill. Susan & William had six children that I know of – Alice, Eliza, Robert, Isabelle, Edmund & William Jr.

I just was doing some Google searching and found an article about the death of William Jr. that was in the New York Times –this was an unexpected surprise!

New York Times
31 October 1890

WHILE TEMPORARILY INSANE – William T. Tannahill Shoots Himself Dead.

William T. Tannahill, who had been a member of the Cotton Exchange since its organization some twenty years ago, committed suicide by shooting himself in the temple, at the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. S.J. Tannahill, in Englewood, N.J., shortly before 11 o’clock last Wednesday night. That was his forty-seventh birthday. Mr. Tannahill had been under treatment for some nervousness for some time, and he had been subject to periods of despondency. He had an office in the Cotton Exchange Building, and managed the affairs of the firm, the other member of which was his sister-in-law, Mrs. S.J. Tannahill.

He was at his office on Wednesday, and went home as usual by an evening train. After tea he complained of a headache and retired about 10 o’clock. His sister-in-law sat by his bedside for nearly an hour, and bade him good night at 10:40 o’clock. Five minutes later the household was startled by the pistol shot, and they found Mr. Tannahill bleeding to death from a bullet wound to the temple. The unfortunate man died in about half an hour.

Mr. Tannahill belonged to a Southern family that came originally from Edgecombe County, N.C. and settled in Petersburgh, Va. At the close of the war the entire family moved to this city, and in 1871 W.T. Tannahill entered the cotton commission business with his brother Edmund.

The suicide is said to have been committed during a bit of mental aberration superinduced by the nervous disorder. Mr. Tannahill’s fellow members in the Exchange say that the firm did a conservative and prosperous business, though it was not generally known that Mrs. Tannahill was a member of the firm. Mr. Tannahill was never married.


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