1 Reply Latest reply on Nov 5, 2018 12:52 PM by Jenette Parish

    Death of stewardess abroad during civil unrest in Guatemala, March 1899--why did she die inland and with a new married name?


      My great-great-great aunt Catherine Jane (Graham) Wilson Bickol was a stewardess for Pacific Mail Steamships Co. between ~1885 to ~1898. She died in Zacapa, Guatemala on 7 Mar 1899. Her body was either shipped home immediately or exhumed and reburied, possibly in 1931; her grave is in Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA. She was born in Canada in 1850, but emigrated to Minnesota in 1867, married in 1871, had one daughter in 1872, and by 1875 was living with her mother and daughter (James Wilson drops off the map). In the 1880 census she is listed as a widow and worked as an attendant at the Napa (CA) Asylum for the Insane, before moving with her mother and daughter to Oakland, CA, where she began work as a stewardess. I have her death record (in Spanish) but there are no other records indicating who her second husband was (she was still a widow in 1896, but her death record indicates there was a second marriage to someone surnamed Bickol or Biesal or Bichal (perhaps a German involved in the coffee trade?). Since she would not be allowed to work as a stewardess if married, her marriage abroad is a mystery. Given the civil unrest in Guatemala at that time*, I wonder if there are State Department records about the death of a (probably) naturalized American that are not digitized. Her death was reported to Zacapa authorities by Henry T. "Enrique" Watkins, an ex-pat American who came to Guatemala in 1893 as a railroad contractor and purchased land there.


      Speculation: The PMSS Co. ship Starbuck was wrecked off the coast of Nicaragua at the end of Jan. 1899, so I wonder if she was aboard and perhaps made her way to the safety of American-owned property in Zacapa. She died of dysentery at the age of 48.

      Any help regarding her second marriage and the events leading to her death between 1896-1899 would be greatly appreciated!

      *Events of these years in Guatemala include the huge cost and failure of the Central American Expo in 1897, fall of coffee and silver prices and collapse of economy, political insurrection in Sept. of 1897 when local records in Zacapa were destroyed, assassination of President Reina Barrios on 8 Apr 1898 and subsequent rigged election of Manuel Estrada Cabrera, suspended Northern Railway construction to Guatemala City, Spanish-American war during the summer of 1898, murder of Americans and civil unrest, laissez-faire attitude of the US minister to Guatemala, W. Godfrey Hunter.