Tragedy Revealed – The Story of Stacy Cutter
For this writer, the story of my great-great-uncle Stacy Cutter begins with a tattered note left by his sister, my great-grandmother, Edna Cutter Lindsey. The simple hand-written note on a piece of scrap paper simply stated : “Stacy died – suicide Reading, Penn.” There were no additional details, but I was intrigued. The information came to me more than 40 years ago, but additional facts remained quite elusive as I conducted occasional research. However, this week I was finally able to locate the story in a Pittsburgh Press newspaper account from Oct. 10, 1923. It was a shocking discovery.
Stacy was born in Geneva, New York in 1892 (full name Volney Stacy Cutter) to Volney Willard and Isabella J. (Phelps) Cutter, the last child born into this family that lived into adult years. While his older brothers were known to cause plenty of mischief in their neighborhood, Stacy (as he came to be known) seems to have led an uneventful life during his childhood years
By 1910 Stacy was living in Williamstown, New York with his older sister Ada Bailey and her husband Edward, and he was working as a painter. Later, in 1911, he lived at 700 1/2 Montgomery Street in Syracuse, New York and still worked as a house painter. In September 1911, he decided to enlist in the US Navy.
The Syracuse Herald of September 7, 1911 includes a brief story at the bottom of page 3, where Stacy said he enlisted because he, “had always had a great desire to see the world.” He enlisted as an apprentice seaman and would soon be departing for Newport, Rhode Island for training.
Just a year later, in September 1912, he attended the funeral of his father Volney Cutter. While the family was together, a set of professional photos was taken, including several with Stacy wearing his navy uniform. In a listing of heirs of Volney Cutter, Stacy’s address was listed as Parnell Ave., Chicago, which was the home of his aunt, Clara (Spaulding) Weber.
Little is known of Stacy during the next seven years. Evidently he did see some of the world as a seaman, as he sent his sister Edna two photographs of ships on the Atlantic and in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France. But at some point he left the navy and returned to his home town of Geneva, New York. At one time, he worked as a bell-hop at the Kirkwood Hotel, located at the corner of Exchange and Castle Streets in Geneva.
About 1919, Stacy married Ruth H. Cyphert (b 1898, PA) and they lived in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburgh. The marriage did not last however and they separated after two years, “when, she said, he failed to provide for her.” Ruth then returned to the home of her parents, John and Minnie Cyphert. The story takes a disturbing turn on October 8, 1923.
According to the Pittsburgh Press, Stacy went to the restaurant owned by Ruth’s father and asked to see Ruth who joined him, along with her father. After a brief conversation, Ruth went into the kitchen and Stacy followed. It was then that Ruth’s brother noticed that Stacy had a revolver and the young man moved to protect his sister, shielding her from danger. Stacy immediately… “ended his (own) life by firing a bullet into his heart.” He was about 30 years old.
As a historian, I am left with many questions about this couple and their story, but the most important issue is… What could possibly cause Stacy’s frustration and anger to build to the point that he would apparently plan to murder his estranged wife or possibly others, but then take his own life?
Stacy was buried in an unmarked grave in the potters field at Vandergrift Cemetery, Vandergrift, PA.
Ruth (Cyphert) Cutter later married John Clyde Adams and they made their home in Elyria, Ohio. Ruth passed away May 21, 1983 at the age of 85.
My great-grandmother’s hand-written note led me on a search for the facts and the tragic truth has been revealed. However, the personal details are lost to the passage of 95 years and many questions remain unanswered.
© Jeffery J. Michaels / Plain English Publications 2018
(Quotations allowed with attribution to this blog)
The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA. 10 October 1923.
The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY. 7 September 1911.
Personal papers of Edna May (Cutter) Lindsey.
Family Bible of Volney and Isabella Cutter.
Federal Census of 1910 – Williamstown, Oswego County, New York.
Estate documents of Volney W. Cutter 1912.
Cemetery records of Vandergrift Cemetery, Vandergrift, PA.
Cemetery records of Riverside Cemetery, Cleveland, OH