Aken, Frank E. (1862 - January 18, 1888)

Found Dead!

Chloroform Causes the Death of a Douglas Business Man.

Bill Barlows Budget - January 25, 1888

Frank E. Aken, a leading druggist of this city, was found dead in his bed about 7 o'clock Wednesday evening. An empty chloroform bottle lay on his pillow, the mouth of which was within an inch of his nostrils, and the deadly vapor had so thoroughly saturated the room as to almost overcome the man who first set foot therein.

The deceased was last seen alive on Tuesday evening, when he complained of a severe sick headache and said he dreaded to go to bed because of the pain in his head. All day Wednesday his store was closed, and while this fact created some surprise it was supposed that he had been called out of town suddenly and had neglected to engage a clerk temporarily, or that there was at least some excuse for the locked doors other than the real one. His continued absence, however, created alarm in the minds of his sister and friends, and it was at last decided to force an entrance into his sleeping room, in the rear of his store. Mr. P. L. Cooley, a railroad man running between Douglas and Chadron who has been rooming with the deceased when ever in town, succeeded in braking the window fastenings, and on climbing into the room found his friend lying in bed as above described-cold, livid and rigid. Dr. Barber was hastily summoned; but of course could do nothing but pronounce the man dead.

Acting Coroner Mecum took charge of the remains, and impanneled a jury, holding an inquest Thursday morning. The jury comprised Messrs. O. M. Garver, W. F. Miller, J. E. Evans, M. Nichols, C. D. Brodbeck and Alex Wallace, who summoned before them Messrs. A. W. Barber, P. L. Cooley, J. N. Buchanan and J. F. McReynolds as witnesses. Mr. Cooley testified that the deceased had frequently used chloroform-the same bottle as was found on his pillow-to alleviate pain during attacks of sick headache, and he judge, from what deceased had said, that its use was "an old story" with him.

Dr. Barber swore that deceased had been dead six hours, and possibly longer, when found. Judging from the position of the body, the bottle and the glass stopper-which was found lying just below the mouth of the bottle-as well as the condition of the bed clothes and pillow, he believed deceased had, in inhaling the contents of the bottle, become unconscious; that the bottle fell over on its side and the glass stopper came out, the contents saturated the pillow and blankets about and beneath his face, causing death. Mr. Cooley's testimony, also, as regards the position of the body, the bottle and the bedclothes, substantiated this theory, which was accepted by the jury and a verdict rendered to the effect that "deceased came to his death by the accidental inhalation of chloroform."

This is undoubtedly the true solution of the problem, There is every reason to believe that his business affairs were in a satisfactory condition, and up to 10 o'clock Tuesday night he seemed in his usual good spirits expect that he complained of a headache, which was not unusual. His sister says he was in the habit of using chloroform to alleviate the pain of these attacks. No one saw him about the store on Wednesday, nor did his neighbors hear any noise that would indicate that anyone was in the building-hence it is believed he never saw the light of that day.

Both outside doors were bolted on the inside, and the stock of jewelry and other goods in its usual place. There were no marks of violence, nor indications of robbery. Frank E. Aken was 26 years of age; came to Douglas from Chadron in the fall of 1886, and has a host of friends where ever known. He was a public-spirited citizen, and a leader in Douglas social circles. His death is a source of sincere regret to the entire community. His sister, Miss Clara Aken, who is his only relative here, has the sympathy of everyone.

The remains were taken east on Monday and interred at Chadron yesterday under the auspices of the local lodge of Knights of Pythias, of which deceased was a member.


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