Obituary of John C. Coyan (1876-1904)

The quality of this obit is too poor to scan, so I have transcribed it. It appeared in the Council Bluffs, Iowa newspaper on August 21, 1904. Credit for this obit goes to Joy Masters Coyan, who I believe got it from George Dewey Coyan Jr., who lived in Iowa and passed away in 1995. George was a descendant of John C. Coyan.

"From the effects of a gaping bullet wound, self inflicted while he and his wife were having a playful dispute, John Coyan died at 9 o'clock last night at his home,3417 Fourth Avenue. His death occurred just seven hours after he fired the shot, and during the interim he never regained conciousness. While Coyan lay dying, his wife was hysterical a large part of the time, making passionate appeals to recall him to life.

At 2 o'clock, John Coyan and his wife Clara were in their bedroom talking over the plans of their new house which is under construction at the corner of 34th St. and 4th Ave. Mrs. Coyan's father, Andrew Henshaw, had been working on the building but he objected to one of the other carpenters who was employed in the work and refused to continue. The workmen had been busy all morning when Mrs. Coyan spoke of the matter to her husband. She says he told her she would drive him crazy and that he could shoot himself and her too. At this time she says she told him to shoot her but not himself.

Shortly after, Coyan picked up a revolver that they kept in their room, but which they had never kept a practice of keeping loaded, and looked into the chambers. Apparently satisfied that there were no cartridges in it, he looked around for some ammunition and being unable to find any, playfully pointed the weapon at his head on the left side, being left handed, and pulled the trigger.


To the horror of both, there was a flash of flame, a heavy discharge, and a ball from a .38 calibre shell crashed into Coyan's brain. Mrs. Coyan was frenzied with grief as she realized what had happened. She needed not to give the alarm for there were several men in the yard with her father. They were Ed Clauson, Fred Land, and Fred Merrill.

When they entered the bedroom, they found Mrs. Coyan lying beside the body of her wounded husband and crying piteously to him to come back to her. The revolver was lying on the bed, but Coyan's hand still touched it. A messenger was sent for a physician, and Dr. Reller responded. Coroner Traynor was also notified and answered the call to officiate, as he supported in his official capacity. However, the wounded man was alive when Dr. Traynor arrived and he later turned the case over to Dr. Reller.

All efforts to pacify Mrs. Coyan failed. She refused opiates, and could not be induced to leave her husbands side. "Oh, I know he never meant to kill himself" she cried. "We only had a little quarrel and we never meant anything". Between her paroxysms of grief and mutters that they had often had little differences, but each had always understood each other and they had always laughed off the quarrels. She could not talk long connectedly, but broke out in bitterness taking upon herself the blame for his death(?). "I never can get over it. I will always feel that I was to blame", and her agony was pitiful(?)


The bullet which had passed clear through Coyan's head was found embedded in the plastering of the room. However (he) lingered until 9 o'clock last night when he breathed his last. John Coyan was about 29 years old. He was employed at the Union Pacific shops as a laborer. He was married to Clara Henshaw when she was about 17 years old and their married life had been happy. The prostrated wife is left with her son George, 6 years old, and daughter Hazel, who was 4 years old a few days ago. Coyan had begun the erection of a new house but a few days before, and it was this that indirectly caused the tragedy which claimed his life as the penalty. Coroner Traynor, when notified of Coyan's death, stated that he would likely hold no inquest, although he had not really determined.

Mrs. O. Herron(?), Mrs. Coyan's grandmother at Edison, Nebraska, was notified by wire of the accident and is expected to arrive today. Neither of his parents are living and no known brothers or sisters survive. The funeral arrangments will be made later."

Personally, I can't help but wonder if John's somewhat irrational behavior was somehow the result of "trauma" in his childhood - perhaps the death of his father Robert????????