Aged Couple Asphyxiated By Coal Gas

William Cassel, Sr., of Astoria Found Dead and His Wife Unconscious at Their Home in This City, Her Death Following a Short Time Afterwards.


This community was greatly shocked Saturday morning to learn that during the preceding night our city had been the scene of a double tragedy which resulted in the death by suffocation of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Cassel, Sr., aged and well-known residents of Astoria, who were found at their home here, the old gentleman already cold and rigid in the sleep that knows no waking, while his wife beside him in bed was in a state of unconsciousness from which she never rallied, dying late Sunday evening. The facts connected with the sad occurrence, as disclosed by the evidence before the coroner’s jury, are substantially set forth below.

Saturday morning last, Henry Page of Vermont, a son-in-law of the Cassels, came to Astoria primarily to visit his daughter, Mrs. Atkinson, arriving about 9 o’clock. A little later he and his young grandson were up town and on their return, Mr. Page remarked to the lad that they would go over and see grandpa and grandma, his wife’s parents living just across the street from the Atkinsons. Going to the front door he found it locked. Next he went around to the back door which was also fastened. He then said that they (Mr. and Mrs. Cassel) were gone. As he walked towards the front gate, however, he looke back and saw the window shade was raised in the room they usually occupied. Returning to the house he stepped upon the porch and looked into the room and saw the old folks lying upon their bed. He called to them but getting no answer he concluded that something was wrong. Going again to the kitched door, he forced it open and went into the house. He found the door of their room closed but forced it open too, when he immediately detected the gas which filled the apartment. Opening the other doors and windows he made an examination and found his father-in-law dead and Mrs. Cassel unconscious but still alive. Neighbors soon arrived and a hurry-up call was put in for a physician. Dr. E. M. Price responded and did everything possible to restore the old lady. She lingered without returning to consciousness until 10 o’clock Sunday night when she too succumbed, as above stated, to the effects of the deadly fumes.

The Cassels’ residence where the twofold fatality took place is a large, handsome two-story house on East Broadway. They lived alone in this fine dwelling, occupying as a sitting-room and sleeping compartment a room 12x12 feet in which there was a big hard-coal baseburner stove. This heater was found closed up tight except a back draft. The old couple usually retired about 7 o’clock and seldom had any light burning. They had the room tightly shut up. There were two doors and two windows, and at the bottom of the former rugs had been laid against them to keep out the cold. The reasonable presumption is that the coal gas escaped from the stove had overcome the sleeping occupants. When the bodies were first examined, Mr. Cassel’s life had evidently been extinct for some time, as plainly shown by the condition of his body.

Coroner Dr. D. S. Ray of Cuba was notified and arrived here about 2:30 o’clock Saturday afternoon. He proceeded at once to conduct an inquest, impaneling the following jurymen: John H. Rowland, John E. Mummer, Lewis Schisler, Levi Haare, and E. M. Price. After hearing the testimony offered and making a thorough examination of the premises, the jurors rendered a verdict in accordance with the foregoing statement.

The double funeral was held today (Wednesday) at 10 o’clock in the Church of The Brethren, Astoria; and the interment took place in the city cemetery.


William Cassel was formerly one of Astoria township’s leading farmers, at that time — before a distribution among his children — owning 1,700 acres of land. He was a native of Pennsylvania, born January 29, 1832. Growing to manhood in that state, he came to Illinois in his twenty-first year and worked at the carpenter’s trade for three years.

In 1855 he was married to Miss Anna Schisler, also a native of the old Keystone State, born in York county, March 14, 1831. With her parents she moved west in 1853, coming overland in a wagon, arriving at Sharp’s Landing on the Illinois River.

Soon after their marriage, the young couple bought 80 acres of land, now the farm where their son W. W., lives southeast of town. Not having the means to pay for it, he and his wife returned to Pennsylvania to get assistance from his father. But the elder Cassel refused to help his son buy land in Illinois, though offering to assist him if he would remain in the Quaker commonwealth. This the young man declined to do and with his girl companion came back to the Prairie State, but promised his father that he would visit the old home again in two years. He did not return east, however, till after he had retired from farming at the age of 50 years.

To Mr. and Mrs. Cassel were born four children, three daughters and one son, all of whom survive the deaths of their parents. They are: Mrs. Neil Mummert, Astoria, Illinois; Mrs. Jacob Miller, Astoria, Illinois; Mrs. Henry Page, Vermont, Ill.; and William W. Cassel, Jr., Astoria, Illinois. The passing of these old folks is the first death that has occurred in the Cassel family. They had lived together 59 years and were both in a fair state of health at the time of their sudden and tragic demise. Their lives had been always industrious and very frugal, and as a result they accumulated considerable wealth. Both were members of the Church of The Brethren.

Aside from the children, Mr. Cassel has a brother, John, residing in Pennsylvania near Harrisburg and a sister, who also resides in that state. Mrs. Cassel has three brothers: Lewis Schisler of Bader, Martin Schisler of Ellisville and Benj., of Darlow, Kans. and two sisters, Mrs. Daniel Eshelman, Astoria and Mrs. Hettie Mercer, Prettie Prairie, Kans.


Published in the Argus-Search Light on 11/25/1914

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