The photograph above is a family photo. The couple standing next to the tombstone was my great grandmother, Sarah Caroline Anderson’s, sister, Fannie, her husband, Willie Williams, (yes, his name was William Williams) their three daughters and a pair of friends. They are standing next to their daughter, Goldie’s, tombstone in a cemetery in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Like all parents, the worst fear is that something could happen to one’s child. The tragedy that befell their family took place in 1912 and the story of it was repeated often in my father’s family as a flash point of grief and sympathy and a cautionary tale to stay away from strangers.
Goldie was 10 years old, vibrant, fun, and loving. Like typical kids she was shoe sliding on the February ice on the way home from school. She was skidding and sliding on the sidewalks and the frozen gutters along the streets when she was approached by a man who noticed she had no skates. He offered to give her a pair of skates if she would accompany him to his house.
That was the last time that Goldie was seen alive.
When Goldie didn’t come home from school at her usual time, her mother, Fannie, went out to look for her and retraced her usual path home. She traced Goldie’s footprints and the footprints of a man to a shoveled sidewalk and the trail was lost.
A general home-by-home search of Grand Island took place. On the second day of the search, it was reported that a strange man attempted to lure a second girl into his buggy by the promise of taking her skating. After a determined struggle, the girl broke free and told her story to the police. The search intensified. That afternoon, Goldie’s body was found in an abandoned house, under several sacks of lime. In spite of several eye witness descriptions of the man, and a $1,000 reward offered by the police, no culprit was found.
Twenty-five years later, Charles Wesley Cox, was arrested for the abduction and murder of Goldie Jane Williams. A former Grand Island man who had been living in Grand Island at the time of Goldie’s death and had moved to Colorado, remarkably recognized Cox from the day Goldie disappeared. He notified the police who went to Cox’s apartment. When confronted by the police and the eye witness, Cox confessed the entire story.
He told the police that he had lived in Grand Island under the name of Ellis Horn, later changing his name to C. T. Finnerty. He had lured Goldie to the vacant house where he hit her in the head with a hammer, assaulted her, and stuffed her stocking cap into her mouth to choke her to death. He then covered her body with mortar. He picked up his week’s wages from his employer and fled.
Goldie is still remembered in our family as a beautiful toe-headed happy little girl. She is also a symbol of tragedy and a warning known to all children.