Person:Helen Alford (1)

m. 19 Jan 1830
  1. Eliza Jane Alford1830 - 1901
  2. George Washington Alford1831 - 1863
  3. Robert McCullough Alford1833 - 1853
  4. Mary Maria Alford1834 - 1848
  5. Abigail Hannah Alford1836 - 1918
  6. Sara Anna Alford1837 - 1917
  7. Idena A. Alford1839 - 1839
  8. William Henry Harrison Alford1840 - 1924
  9. Frances G. Alford1841 - 1848
  10. Esther Louisa Alford1842 - 1864
  11. Martha A. Alford1843 - 1853
  12. Freelace Maria Alford1844 - 1848
  13. Helen Caroline Alford1847 - 1924
  14. Joseph Franklin Alford1849 - 1849
  • HJohn S. SlackAbout 1831 - 1875
  • WHelen Caroline Alford1847 - 1924
m. 28 Feb 1864
  1. Dr. John William Slack Gunn1870 - 1953
m. 15 Aug 1876
  1. Dr. Conrad Glenn Gunn1886 - 1968
  2. Irwin Simpson Gunn1888 - 1968
Facts and Events
Name Helen Caroline Alford
Gender Female
Birth[1] 7 June 1847 Alamo Township, Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States
Marriage 28 Feb 1864 Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, United Statesto John S. Slack
Marriage 15 Aug 1876 Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, United Statesto Christopher Conrad Gunn
Death[1] 15 Dec 1924 Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States
Burial[1] Oshtemo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, United StatesWest Oshtemo Cemetery

Helen Caroline Alford married John Slack in Kalamazoo, MI, 28 Feb 1864. John died when son John William (Will) was 4 years old. On 15 Aug 1876 Helen married Christopher Conrad Gunn and had two more sons: Irwin Simpson and Conrad Glenn. She was killed a few days before Christmas 1924 by leaking illuminating gas in her home.
Mrs. Gunn had two brothers in the late war [Civil War], William and George. The latter was wounded at Port Hudson and died from the effect of his wounds. He belonged to Company D, Sixth Michigan Light Artillery. William was in the Nineteenth Michigan Infantry, Company F, and was wounded at Resaca, Ga., was taken prisoner, March 6, 1863, at Spring Hill, Tenn., and confined in Libby Prison twenty-seven days. [Portrait and Biographical Record of Kalamazoo, Allegan & Van Buren Counties, Michigan (Chapman, 1892), pages 838 & 841]

From the Kalamazoo Gazette, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Monday, December 15, 1924, Pages 1 and 2:
Sub Headline: Leaking Main Brings Death to Mrs. Gunn
Sub Sub Headlines: Chiropractor's Mother Victim of Mystifying Attack Over Sunday. Four Others Recovering. Collapse in South Park Street Home While Looking for Cause of Fainting Spells.
One person is dead from asphyxiation and four others lie violently ill from the effect of illuminating gas which escaped from a broken main in front of the residence of Dr. C. Glenn Gunn: 2331 South Rose Street, Sunday evening.

Mrs. Helen C. Gunn 77, mother of Dr. Gunn. Seriously Ill: Dr. C. Glenn Gunn, chiropractor, believed out of danger. Romig Glenn Gunn, 12, son, recovering. Mrs. J. I. De France, 201 Prairie Avenue, nurse, said to be out of danger. All of the sick are confined to beds at the home of Dr. Gunn and are under the care of physicians. Mrs. Helen Gunn, the mother, died at 1:20, Monday morning, 10 hours after evidence of escaping gas had first been discovered. That other members of the Gunn family were not killed is considered a miracle. The nurse, the most seriously ill, was overcome three different times while Dr. Gunn and his wife swooned from the fumes.

The asphyxiation Sunday evening constitutes one of the most peculiar cases of the kind on record in Kalamazoo. With the development of the tragedy there stands out foremost the heroic efforts of Mrs. De France, nurse to Mrs. Helen Gunn, and Dr. Gunn, who strived valiantly to summon aid and to check the gas fumes, risking their own lives that those in their charge might be saved.
Dr. and Mrs. Gunn and their son had motored to Hastings Sunday to visit Mrs. Gunn's sister, who was critically ill. Mrs. Helen Gunn, who had been ill at the home of her son, was greatly improved and was left under the care of the nurse.

The first evidence of escaping gas was discovered by the nurse when callers came to the Gunn home about 3:00. A very faint odor was then discerned and the nurse inspected the kitchen stove to ascertain if the jets were closed. She attributed the odor to the stove.
The nurse then sat down to read, as the callers were visiting with Mrs. Gunn in an upstairs room. It was while reading that the nurse suffered her first fainting spell. She roused later, but could not tell what was the cause of her weakness. She told her story to a Gazette reporter Monday noon, although still in a very weakened condition.
"I couldn't discern any particular odor, but I knew something was wrong," she said. "I went to the room of my patient and found that she was not in such good condition as earlier in the afternoon. Other callers came later in the afternoon, but was said as to an odor in the house."

"At about 5:00 I became very ill. I managed to get to the room of Mrs. Gunn and noticed that her pulse was very weak - that she was failing rapidly. I forced myself to keep up under a terrible sickness which seemed to weaken every part of my body. Working my way downstairs I called my family physician and told him that I was ill and he attributed it to something I had eaten. I thought that my symptoms were that of illuminating gas poisoning. But after talking with the doctor, and receiving his instructions, I thought I would soon be better."
"About that time I decided to open the furnace draft, thinking that gas might have accumulated in the heater. I left the draft open for about 10 minutes, meanwhile examining my patient. I found her rapidly failing and I then decided to call Dr. Gunn home from Hastings. I was at the phone when the doctor came in the door. I managed to gasp out to him that something was terribly wrong, but that I could not tell what it was. That was the last I remembered for a long time."
Dr. Gunn and his wife, after reviewing the situation, went immediately to his mother's room, where they found Mrs. Gunn suffering from the effects of the gas and sinking rapidly. Dr. D.J. Scholten was called and rendered aid to Mrs. Gunn and the nurse. Efforts to save the life of the mother were futile.

In the meantime, Dr. Gunn began a search for the gas leak and inspected the house from cellar to attic. As he proceeded from room to room he became saturated with the fumes and, without realizing the fact, became weaker and weaker. Mrs. Gunn engaged in helping the doctor and in caring for the aged mother and the nurse, experienced the same difficulty and was soon forced to give up. She was put to bed and became violently ill. Romig, the son, had retired earlier in the evening, not realizing the seriousness of the situation. He was taken critically ill and placed under the care of a physician.
In the course of two or three hours investigation the source of the escaping gas was found and the gas company was notified. Workmen were engaged repairing the break during the greater part of the morning. Although the crack in the main was found outside the house the gas had followed the pipe through the foundation and into the basement.

After hours of physical effort during which time he had been called to stand at the bedside of his dying mother and had besides been burdened with the responsibility of saving his family from asphyxiation, Dr. Gunn collapsed. Weakened physically by the gas fumes and by his frantic attempt to locate the source of the fumes, and torn mentally by the tragedy which had stalked into his home he was forced to yield to exhaustion.
Irwin Gunn, of Hopkinsburg, a brother of Dr. Gunn, had been notified of the serious illness of his mother late Sunday night and arrived at the Gunn home here at 12:30 just before the aged woman died. Dr. J.W. Gunn, Watervliet, another brother arrived in Kalamazoo early Monday morning. They took charge of the household.
Mrs. DeFrance, the nurse, would not leave her patient with whom she had been given charge. Realizing that her own life was in peril, she worked desperately to summon aid and also to render care and attention to Mrs. Gunn. “It is the Golden Rule of our profession never to desert a patient,” Mrs DeFrance stated.
Mrs. Helen Gunn, the deceased, was born in Oshtemo and had made her home during most of her life at Watervliet. She had been with her son Dr. Gunn during a recent illness but was rapidly on her way to recovery.

Dr. R.G. Cook, coroner, stated Monday that an inquest into the death would be conducted. He did not announce the date of the hearing nor the jury.
The gas which came from the outdoor main had seeped into the Gunn house through every crevice and crack and through masonry until every room was saturated.
Dr. Gunn and his family moved into their new home at 2334 South Rose Street one month ago. They formerly resided at 724 John Street.

1860 Census:
Name: Hellen C Alford
Age in 1860: 13, Birth Year: abt 1847, Birthplace: Michigan
Home in 1860: Oshtemo, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Post Office: Kalamazoo
Household Members:
John W Stuart 62 = step-father
Martha Stuart 44 = mother / Martha McCullough Alford
Abigail Tollet 24 = Abigail Alford Follett / sister
William H Alford 20 = William Henry Harrison Alford / brother
Esther L Alford 19 = sister
Helen C Alford 13
William A Lewis 6 = son of Abigail
Martha Lewis 4 = daughter of Abigail

1870 Census:
Name: Helen Slack
Age in 1870: 23
Birth Year: abt 1847
Birthplace: Michigan
Home in 1870: Oshtemo, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Post Office: Schoolcraft
Household Members:
John Slack 39
Helen Slack 23
Henry Harby 29
Lucy Harby 25

1880 Census:
Name: Helen C. Gunn
Age: 32
Birth Year: abt 1848
Birthplace: Michigan
Home in 1880: Oshtemo, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Spouse's Name: Conrad C. Gunn
Father's Birthplace: Massachusetts
Mother's Birthplace: Ireland
Occupation: Keep. House
Household Members:
Conrad C. Gunn 32
Helen C. Gunn 32
William Slack 9
Stephen Whtney 19
Fannie Sherwood 24

1900 Census:
Name: Helen S Gunn
Age: 52
Birth Date: Jun 1847
Birthplace: Michigan
Home in 1900: Almena, Van Buren, Michigan
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Marital Status: Married
Marriage Year: 1876
Years Married: 24
Father's Birthplace: Massachusetts
Mother's Birthplace: Ireland
Mother: number of living children: 3
Mother: How many children: 3
Household Members:
Christopher Gunn 52
Helen S Gunn 52
C Glenn Gunn 13
Irwin S Gunn 12

1910 Census:
Name: Helen C Gunn
Age in 1910: 62
Birth Year: 1848
Birthplace: Michigan
Home in 1910: Almena, Van Buren, Michigan
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Spouse's Name: Christophe C Gunn
Father's Birthplace: Massachusetts
Mother's Birthplace: Ireland
Household Members:
Christophe C Gunn 64
Helen C Gunn 62

1920 Census
Name: Helen C Gunn
Home in 1920: Watervliet, Berrien, Michigan
Age: 72
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1848
Birthplace: Michigan
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Spouse's Name: Christopher C Gunn
Father's Birth Place: Massachusetts
Mother's Birth Place: Ireland
Household Members:
Christopher C Gunn 72
Helen C Gunn 72
John W Gunn 49
J Harry Gunn 24

Image Gallery
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Kalamazoo Gazette, pages 1 and 2, Monday, December 15, 1924.

    Kalamazoo, Michigan. News of death by leaking illuminating gas.

  2.   Find A Grave.