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 • McLean County
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Ruth Merwin
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Birth: 1897
Death: 1912

Folk Figure. Ruth was the victim of a childhood tragedy, in which she was accidentally shot by a young Adlai Stevenson.

The following was submitted by George S. Ellington.......

It was 1912 and Adali Stevenson was 12. It was at grandfather Adlai Stevenson's house in Bloomington; the senior Stevenson had been vice president of the United States under Grover Cleveland and vice presidential nominee with William Jennings Bryan.The Christmas season was a lively round of gay parties and family feasts. Buffie [Stevenson's sister] was given permission to have a supper party the evening of December 30 for her friend from Charlevoix summers, Margery McClelland, who had come for a holiday visit. Adlai was considered "too young," so he was given his dinner early after which he went up to his room. As Buffie and her friends gathered in the drawing room, Lewis [Stevenson, Adlai's father] and Helen [Adlai's mother] went out to pay a neighborhood call. One of the boys lamented that he did not have a gun with which to demonstrate the manual of arms he had learned at military school. Buffie called upstairs to Adlai and asked him to go to the attic and look for an old .22 rifle she thought was there. Adlai ran down with it and handed it to Bob Whitner who examined it to be sure there were no bullets in it, proudly explaining that such checking was always required at school. To the applause of the group, he smartly executed the manual, then handed the gun back to Adlai to be returned to the attic. As Adlai excitedly imitated the older boy's movements, the gun went off. One of the girls, Ruth Merwin, dropped to the floor dead. She had been a close friend of Buffie's at University High and was a cousin of cousins. In the echo of the blast, Lewis and Helen walked in the door. Adlai turned to his father and exclaimed, "I did it." Then he ran upstairs to his mother's room and threw himself on her bed, gasping moans that could be heard through the closed door. Latrer examination revealed that the ejecting mechanism of the gun had a rusty spring that probably had prevented the emergence of the single bullet. No one ever doubted that the discharge was entirely accidental. Ruth's mother, Mrs. Charles Merwin, arrived and faced the situation with a courage the family ever after gratefully acknowledged. She told Adlai he must not blame himself. In her own grief, she sensed that the experience would be devastating to a sensitive and exceedingly conscientious boy. Only Lewis and Buffie attended the funeral. Helen had taken Adlai, Dave Merwin, Margery McClelland and the new French maid to the Chicago home of Aunt Julia Hardin. When they returned home, the tragedy was not referred to; not then, or ever again. Forty years later, William Glascow of Time magazine, in researching for a projected cover story found the report of the event in The Pantagraph and somewhat hesitantly asked Adlai about it. After a painful silence, Adlai said: "You know, you are the first person who has ever asked me about that since it happened-and this is the first time I have ever spoken of it to anyone." Then, Glascow reported, he "told me the whole story in a quiet matter of fact way." No one can say with precision what impact the tragedy had on the man Adlai Stevenson became; but it can be said with certainty that the effect was profound. Does it account, at least in part, for his repeated self-deprecation, for the expressions of self-doubt and unworthiness, for making himself the butt of many of his jokes? Does it account for his incredibly calm acceptance of such wounding blows as his divorce and crushing defeats in two elections? Does it account for his intense concern with the careers of young people, both individually and collectively; for his visit to the bedside of the son of a UN staff member dying of leukemia, even though he did not know either father or son? A definitive clue to the mysteries embedded in these questions can be found in a letter he wrote in 1953 to a woman he did not know, whose son had been involved in a similar accident. "Tell him," Adlai wrote, "that he must live for two."

 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Clarence B. Merwin (1862 - 1914)
  Antoinette Stone Merwin (1865 - 1928)
 
Burial:
Evergreen Memorial Cemetery
Bloomington
McLean County
Illinois, USA
 
Created by: Tony Cannon
Record added: Oct 05, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 11887924
Ruth Merwin
Added by: Tony Cannon
 
Ruth Merwin
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Darko
 
 
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- gunner10
 Added: Apr. 21, 2014

- gunner10
 Added: Apr. 21, 2014

- Lance
 Added: Jan. 29, 2014
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