Same Gun? The Sad Tale of Harry H. Pitts

31 May 2016 1:20 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

Photo by Find a Grave volunteer, Gail Kelly. Thanks, Gail!!Hattie Berryman Pitts (b. July 1876 in Massachusetts) was the wife of William (Willie) H. Pitts. Both residents of Skowhegan, they were married on 29 Sept. 1894. Their first child, Harry W. Pitts, was born in March of 1896. Their second child was a stillborn premature male infant who was born in March of 1902. These boys appear to be the only children born to them. Hattie's sister, Nellie, married Mark W. Savage in 1896 and the Savage home on Skowhegan's Alder Street and the Pitts home on the Middle Road, then sometimes known as the Waterville Road, were only a few miles from each other.

William and Hattie lived on a farm with William H.'s parents, William A. and Sarah E. (Snow) Pitts.  In Skowhegan Harry W. attended schools in the village district and in 1909 was planning on entering “Academy Grammar School, Grade VIII. He was universally popular with his school mates” [1] and Harry's death on 13 July 1909 “was a tragic circumstance [that] has attracted more than the usual amount of attention and sympathy.” [2]  A Friday July 16th article in the Bangor Daily News claimed that Harry died of “blood poison” [3], but according to his death certificate Harry W. Pitts died on 13 July 1909 of “traumatic tetanus from injuries received from [a] toy pistol”.

A Thursday noon, July 15th 1909 Somerset Reporter newspaper article reported that on July 3rd a “portion of the shell from a blank cartridge pistol, with bits of the powder or other explosive” was blown into the forefinger of Harry's left hand.  “The wound was dressed by a physician and seemed to heal nicely but the young man commenced to complain of not feeling well on Saturday last and symptoms of lockjaw developed Sunday morning, death ensuing from this disease in spite of all that could be done to combat it.” [4]

The same issue of the Somerset Reporter that reported on Harry's accident and funeral also reported in a separate section that “on Saturday last, Mrs. Mark [Nettie Berryman] Savage received a wound from a cartridge pistol. The pistol was one that had been used by her son Brooks, on the Fourth and she was putting it away. It was discharged accidentally and blew off the end of the little finger on her left hand. The wound was carefully treated at the time and has been dressed one or more times a day since but continues painful and, by reason of the well known danger from such accidents is the cause of much anxiety. The solicitude is very naturally much increased by the death of Mrs. Savage's nephew, Master Harry Pitts, resulting from a similar injury as reported elsewhere in this issue.” [5]

Lewiston Journal 15 Jul 1909On September 29, 1909 an order was placed at the Skowhegan Marble Works for a gravestone for Harry. Mr. Wm. H. Pitts paid $26.00 for Harry's stone [6] which was placed in lot 557 at Southside Cemetery in Skowhegan [7].  About two years later, on 3 October 1911, an order was placed for a stone of similar shape to be set in the same lot. The 1911 order was to be charged to Wm A. Pitts and the $38.00 was for a marker for the grave of Harry's father, 35 yr old William H. Pitts (b. 10 March 1875-24, May 1910). Father and son now rest side by side in lot 557 in Southside Cemetery in Skowhegan.


  1. “Death of Harry Pitts”, Somerset Reporter (Skowhegan, Maine) 15 July 1909, p. 1. column 3rd; Skowhegan Free Public Library.
  2. “Death of Harry Pitts”, previously cited.
  3. “The Fatal Fourth”, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) 16 July 1909, p. 12, column 2nd; Maine State Library.
  4. “Death of Harry Pitts”, previously cited.
  5. “Town and Vicinity”. Somerset Reporter (Skowhegan, Maine) 15 July 1909, p. 8. column 2nd; Skowhegan Free Public Library.
  6. Maine Old Cemetery Association, The Marble Records, “Harry Pitts” (No place, privately published, 2006).  Volume 74, Page 82.
  7. Town of Skowhegan [Maine] Cemetery Information, Town of Skowhegan, online.

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