The article below is written in memory of Dr. John Thomas Binkley, a man who devoted his life to healing and who died tragically and alone. sbt


By Sara Binkley Tarpley
Copyright 2008

In the spring of 1909 the family of Dr. John Thomas Binkley was looking forward to the elderly doctor's birthday. His son Dr. John Thomas Binkley, Jr., of Chicago, had promised to give him a new car. Other children planned to give him a gramophone and diamond cuff links. Family members would gather in Chicago and then travel to Waukesha, Wisconsin, where the elder Dr. Binkley's children Henry Binkley and Nannie Connor owned the Fountain Inn. No one could have imagined that within a few days the Binkley name would be in headlines across the country.

Early on June 2, Dr. Binkley, his wife Calantha, his daughter Mary Upchurch, his son-in-law George Upchurch, and his granddaughter Eleanor Upchurch traveled by train from their home in Evansville, Indiana, to Chicago. After Dr. Binkley, Jr., met them at the station, the family ate breakfast at the Wellington Hotel, where some of them would be staying overnight. Having spent the morning shopping, the group lunched at a downtown restaurant. The elder Binkleys then retired to their room to rest while the others continued shopping. About four o'clock Dr. Binkley, Jr., and Mrs. Upchurch visited Dr. and Mrs. Binkley in their room; and shortly afterwards Dr. Binkley, Jr., took his stepmother and Mr. Upchurch to the Illinois Central station for their trip to Waukesha.

About five o'clock Mrs. Upchurch and Eleanor returned from another shopping expedition and found Dr. Binkley's door slightly open. (The Chicago Tribune account placed Dr. Binkley in the Upchurch room.) The doctor was sitting in a chair about eighteen inches from the bed, and the women thought him asleep until they noticed blood on his face and went screaming into the hall. A suicide?

Right: Dr. John Thomas Binkley and his family, about 1866.
Mary Isabel, Dr. Binkley, John Thomas, Jr., Henry Ryan, Rachel Eliza.

[Photo courtesy of Phillip Gowan.]