The Truth Concerning the Death of Corinne Elliott Lawton
Corinne Elliott Lawton Died on January 24th, 1877. The lore surrounding her tells the story of a young woman who fell in love with a man below her station in society – a man her family could not accept. Refusing to give their blessing, her family forced her to marry a wealthy man she did not love.
One her wedding day, the story goes, dressed in her gown, she took her father’s best horse to the shore of the Savannah river and drowned herself rather than marry the man her family chose.
It’s a tragic story of love and sorrow told, and retold, to visitors of Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery where this memorial statue stands. It’s a tale overshadowed only by the tragedy of how little truth there is to it.
In truth, according to the diary of her mother, Corinne died of a sudden illness accompanied by a fever.
From her mother’s diary:
“In the evening of Sat. 13, Corinne went to bed, promising Lulu & me that she would keep her bed till she was well. How that promise was to be fulfilled, who could have tho’t? Her sickness seemed so light.
On Sunday I sent for Dr. Houston. After church many of the family came in – some to inquire after the sick ones, some to see Florie Lawton who arrived Thursday. Among the visitors was Wallace Cumming – his last visit to us!
Corinne felt very weak & begged me not to have her see any visitors – as she could not talk. Yet very little seemed the matter. All that week she was in bed & had light fever at times. Thursday night her aunt Lou Gilmer stayed & slept in her room,
Lulu being sick.
Friday evening she was very bright but had a restless night. I watched beside her much of the night. Saturday night I stayed with her. Then came the days of darkness which I cannot record. Their story is kept by Him who has said: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Wednesday morning, Jan. 24, at 7:40 A. M. she drew her last breath.”
Corinne most likely died of Yellow Fever – a disease with a sudden onset and a mortality rate of 50% in severe epidemics. Savannah did suffer an epidemic of Yellow Fever in 1876 that continued into early 1877 when Corrine died. She was 30 years old.
Many thanks to Ruth Rawls whose blog and research were instrumental in telling the true tale of Corinne Lawton.
You can read more from Ruth Rawls about Corinne at this link.