Poor Albert Frantz

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on October 6, 1990

POOR ALBERT FRANTZ - BESSIE LITTLE'S SAD STORY BRINGS BACK MEMORIES
by Roz Young

 

            Alvin Funderburg visited one of his cousins in the Michigan branch of the Frantz family several years ago. The old gentleman suffered from emphysema and was nearing the end of his life. When Alvin rose to leave, he said, "I wish you'd take that box of old family photographs off my hands," indicating a box on a table. "I'm the last of the family and when I go, it will just be thrown out."

            Alvin, who is a historian of the Frantz, Studebaker and Funderberg families, all of whom are related, felt he had been given a pot of gold. Among the photographs he found a portrait of Albert Frantz, which you see here today.

            Alvin has often visited Albert Frantz's grave in the Studebaker cemetery near New Carlisle. "The grass is very green over his plot," Alvin said. "I think this means his soul is no longer in torment."

            Albert Frantz denied to the last that he had killed Bessie Little. "There's no doubt he shot her," Alvin believes, "but I think that Albert blocked the murder out of his mind. You know, the human spirit desires to confess wrongdoing. Albert was brought up in a German Baptist Brethren home, and he would have admitted his guilt if extreme fright had not caused him to obliterate the happening on the bridge from his mind. He came actually to believe he was not guilty. Isaac Funderburgh, who claimed the body, attended Albert's execution. He told me that as Albert walked to the electric chair, he looked straight into Isaac's eyes and said, 'I am innocent.' If he had not convinced himself he was innocent, I think he would have confessed at that time."

            Isaac Funderburgh, a relative of Albert Frantz and of Alvin Funderburg, was not only the undertaker in New Carlisle. He also owned the town bank, a flour mill and 1,000 acres of land around New Carlisle. When he conducted funerals, his hearse was pulled by two matched white horses, and Isaac sat up on top in a frock coat, tall silk hat and white gloves. Albert's body was accorded as much honor and dignity at his burial as though he had never disgraced the entire family.

            Lesson for children

            A chief prosecutor at Albert's trial was a young attorney, B.F. McCann, six years in practice in Dayton. He subsequently became a probate judge and a respected figure in the Dayton community. Long after the trial he married Laura Thresher and the two had three children: Franklin, Alice and Eleanor, a piano and organ teacher in Oakwood.

            "If we heard it once, I think we heard it a hundred times," said Eleanor. "Every time any of us children would complain about a course we had to take in school, Father would make us sit down and listen."

            Judge McCann addressed the children as if they were in court. "Well," he said, "You never can tell when a school course will stand you in good stead. If I had not studied physiology in school, I never would have been able to win the famous Bessie Little trial. But I had studied it, and what I learned in that course enabled me to prove that Bessie could not have shot herself twice in the head. The first shot would have made it impossible for her to pull the trigger again. So you children just settle down and stop complaining about your school courses."

            Philipps with 1 L, 2 P's

            "My father was John E. Philipps, grandson of Charles L. Philipps," wrote Lois Philipps Schmidt. "The story of my grandfather's involvement in the discovery of the body and searching for the gun is a family legend. We are so glad to have it authenticated.

            "Besides enjoying the story, I want to correct the spelling of the family name. Philipps with one l and two ps. I have some great pictures of the boathouse."

            A song for Albert

            "My mother was born in 1886," wrote M.L. Filbrun from Covington. "She often told the story of Bessie Little to my sister and me. I don't remember the details, but I do remember part of a song she sang to us written by a friend of Albert Frantz. I wonder if anybody knows the rest of it."

            Here's how it goes:

           

            Just tell them that I shot her,

            She never knew it was done.

            Just tell them she was looking

            Sweet, you know.

            She whispered as she breathed her last,

            "Dear Bert, what have you done?"

            I love you as I did long years ago. . .

            I burned to hide my guilt

            But time has found me out. . .

           

            Perhaps somebody will know the missing words and the tune.

            Once in a while when I am up New Carlisle way, I stop by Albert's grave, and the other day I went over to Woodland and found Bessie Little's small stone.

            What a sad story.