07 April 2013

An Instance of Wifely Devotion Unprecedented in the History of Georgia

The Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia)
2 October 1892


Are Man and Wife, Though the Husband is Dead.


Which Involves One of the Leading and Best Known Families.


Is the Mausoleum of Dr. Marvin, the Late Mayor -- He Once Lived in Atlanta and was Well Known Here

A ghastly, thrilling story comes from Cordele, that progressive, thriving town down in Dooly.

So ghastly and blood-curdling is the story that many who hear are not inclined to believe it, while those who do believe it shudder when they hear it hinted.

The central figures in the story are well known in Atlanta, where they resided until a few years ago.

And both will be readily recalled by Atlantians -- those especially who were accustomed to traversing Whitehall street.

Whitehall Street, Atlanta
J. L. Schaub, Photographer [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Three years ago Dr. George W. Marvin was one of Atlanta's best known citizens. On the streets he was a well-known character, and when once seen never forgotten. For years he and his wife had lived on Whitehall street near Smith street, and there was hardly an afternoon when the weather was pleasant that they could not be seen promenading the sidewalk, sitting upon their spacious veranda or lounging around in the beautiful flower garden in front of the pleasant, happy home.

Down town the doctor was well known and by those with whom he came in contact he was liked. He was a gentleman of scrupulous neatness and apparently gave much time to his toilet. His clothing was always of the latest style and more than ordinary taste was displayed in his selections. He was not above the average size, but the immense side whiskers and heavy, drooping mustache he wore gave him something of a distinguished look. He seemed to pride himself on his personal appearance and would shun a speck of flying dust as quickly as he would dodge a mud-bedaubed buggy wheel casting off its load.

Dr. Marvin was not only partial to neat clothing, but he was especially fond of handsome jewelry. He wore a magnificent cluster of diamonds on his short front while an extra inlet was made in the linen to accommodate the fourth large diamond stud. His fingers were bedecked with the same shining stones and it was the boast of the doctor that he wore a limited fortune around with him -- a fortune any pawnbroker would gladly gather.

Dr. Marvin was abundantly able to enjoy the luxury of the diamond display. His tax returns were not at all small and his check, annually given the city, was quite a sum. On Whitehall street he owned several residences, while Smith street owes many of its pretty cottage homes to the doctor's spirit of improvement. On Marietta street he owns two or three stores, while other business houses in other parts of the city were charged to him on the assessor's books.

A few years ago, Cordele, in Dooly county, sprang up and Dr. Marvin's judgement caused him to go there and invest. He quickly became a prominent citizen and besides being elected president of the Cordele Bank was made mayor of the thriving city. There he carried with him a large gold-headed cane which all of his Atlanta friends knew.

A few months ago Atlantians were astonished to hear that Dr. Marvin was dead, but in a short time he was forgotten. A day or two ago a well-known Cordelean came to Atlanta and in talking with one of Dr. Marvin's old friends remarked:

"It's funny that he was never buried."

"Never buried!" said the Atlantian in surprise, "what do you mean?"

The Cordelean thought the Atlantian knew it all, but when he found that he did not, said:

"Well, Dr. Marvin's body is in a glass coffin in his wife's parlor. Through that coffin you can see him just as you used to see him here on the streets. He is dressed in that same faultless style, and has on all those brilliant diamonds. In his hand is that same gold-headed cane."

"When the doctor died Mrs. Marvin was going to bury him just as he is now; but some one told her that the grave would be too big a temptation and the jewelry would be stolen by grave robbers. Then she sent to New Orleans for an undertaker and had the body thoroughly embalmed, placed in a glass coffin and it is now in her parlor. That New Orleans undertaker contracted blood poison and had to have part of his hand amputated."

The Constitution's correspondent at Cordele was asked about the story, so unusual it was, last night, and here is his reply:

The Story From Cordele

Cordele, GA, October 1 -- Special -- Cordele furnishes an instance of wifely devotion unprecedented in the history of Georgia and unsurpassed by the fabled goddess.

This is a broad assertion but the story of Mrs. George W. Marvin, wife of the late mayor of Cordele, will bear me out fully in making it.

On the 10th day of July of this year Dr. Marvin saw the last of this world surrounded by his wife and friend who attended him through a long illness and his crushed and heart-broken wife. Those who witnessed the scene say they have never seen anything more thrilling and touching. Mrs. Marvin lost complete control of her nerves and raved furiously. She refused to be comforted by her friends, and as she had no belief in a hereafter she could gain no relief from the grace of him who giveth all things and taketh all things away.

She made the startling announcement then and there, that she had made a solemn compact with her husband before his death, agreeing that they would both enter oblivion at as near the same time as could be easily arranged by means of suicide. Those who were with Mrs. Marvin at the time thought of course that when the excitement caused by Dr. Marvin's death wore off, she would forget her threats of self-inflicted death and take up the weary cares of life again with peaceful resignation.

It seems now, however, that the assertion that she intended to kill herself, was the announcement of a fixed determination, and she still contemplates taking her own life as soon as she has made some arrangements for the permanent interment of her husband's remains, for the reader must understand that at this moment all that is mortal of Dr. George W. Marvin occupies a place in the late residence of that gentleman and the present residence of his widow.

An embalmer from Macon was telegraphed for immediately, upon the death of Dr. Marvin and his body was prepared for burial.

The funeral and procession was nearly a mile long, and all the business houses in Cordele were closed, showing universal respect for the man who had added so much to the city's prosperity.

But the sensational features of the situation were only begun.

For four days the body lay in the ground and the people were beginning to forget the excitement attending his death and burial.

In the darkness of a quiet night there was another funeral procession, but no carriages followed the hearse and no one on foot accompanied the dead except those who helped to dig the earth from above the coffin and bear the corpse back to the place from which the first procession had started.

In the dead of the night a few trusted friends, whom Mrs. Marvin had requested to act, went to the cemetery and brought back the body.

Next morning Mr. W. D. Alverson, a young embalmer, arrived from New Orleans, and at once began the process of embalming the body so that it could be preserved indefinitely. At the same time an Italian sculptor, who now resides in Augusta, arrived and began preparing plans for an immense mausoleum to be erected in Cordele in memory of Dr. Marvin.

The artist submitted a plan of a monument which would be a pride to any city and if the original idea had been carried out this city would have had the most magnificent tomb in Georgia. The design was of a monument to consist of a room as a base with at each corner a second set of columns of the tomb and capped with a shaft, the whole to tower in the sir sixty-six feet.

It would have cost when completed $32,000.

Mrs. Marvin intended placing Dr. Marvin's body in this tomb and then killing herself, leaving the whole of her wealth, which is estimated at over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, as an endowment to sustain a park around the monument.

But she has given up the idea of building this tomb and substituted the building of a college as a living monument to her husband's memory.

In the meantime, the body is kept in her house on Ninth avenue.

It lies in a handsome metallic casket and on a beautiful silver plate on the lid is inscribed:

"Dr. George W. Marvin, Cordele, Ga. Died July 10, 1892."

The room is darkened and the key is entrusted to Mr. Goodrich, a gentleman who has proven himself as one of Mrs. Marvin's best friends in her hours of trouble.

She now is living with her Miss Mamie Tramnell, a cousin from Meriwether county.

Mrs. Marvin proposes to erect a magnificent college of music and endow it with her total estate. She expresses her full determination to kill herself as soon as these arrangements have been made. It is a most remarkable case in the history of Dooly county and the people from the country never ceased to worry Mrs. Marvin to see the doctor's corpse, which she, of course, refuses indignantly.

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