John J. Freeman opened a photographic studio in the Edwards Block in Fargo on September 7, 1903.
Was Victim of a Terrible Accident. John J. Freeman Crushed to Death on Elevator at Antlers Hotel. Mangled Body Fell From the Third Floor to the Pit in Basement. Mr. Freeman Had Climbed to the Top of the Cage to Instruct an Employee How to Release the Safety Device Which Set the Brake – Elevator Got Beyond His Control When He Started It. John J. Freeman, proprietor of the Antlers hotel, was crushed to death shortly after 8 o’clock last night, his mangled body falling to the elevator pit in the basement from the third floor of the building. It appears that a new elevator boy was in charge of the lift, when a sudden start operated the safety device, setting the brake. Leonard Erickson, the night engineer, was also a new employee, and did not know how to release the brake, and Mr. Freeman took him to the elevator, at the first floor landing, to show him. Both men climbed to the top of the cage, and Mr. Freeman released the device, showing Erickson how it was done.
Mr. Freeman then started the elevator with the cable and it shot upward, beyond his control, and he was unable to stop it. When the third floor was reached Erickson discovered that Mr. Freeman had been caught between the cage and the iron grating and was being dragged in between that and the side of the cage. He was badly frightened and jumped over the top of the cage onto the floor and was not injured. Mr. Freeman was dragged in between the cage and the floor and as the elevator passed the landing his crushed body fell to the pit in the basement below. Night Clerk McGinty knowing that the two men were engaged in fixing the elevator, heard the fall and at once rushed to the basement. He found the body of Mr. Freeman in the pit, but death had been instantaneous. Calling Charles Davis, a barber, from the shop on the basement floor, they together lifted the body from the pit to the floor.
Was Terribly Crushed. The skull was split from the base of the brain to the top of the head, and the sight that met those who ran to the assistance of the injured hotel man was one terrible to behold. The space between the elevator and the landing floors is a narrow one and the life of the unfortunate man was crushed out as he hung suspended nearly a hundred feet above the bottom of the elevator shaft. News of the accident spread rapidly and scores of people visited the scene of the accident even before the body of the dead man had been removed to the rooms of Undertaker McDonald. In the absence of Coroner Matthews from the state, State’s Attorney Wineman delegated Justice McLoughlin to conduct an inquest. The jury empanelled consists of W. W. Fegan, James Bell and Fred G. Wells. After viewing the scene of the accident, the inquest was adjourned to 10 o’clock this morning. While Mr. and Mrs. Freeman had lived in Grand Forks less than two years, they had made many friends, and the suddenness of the announcement that he had been killed was a terrible shock to them as well as to the patrons of the hotel. Mr. Freeman is survived by Mrs. Freeman and one son, Alfred W. Freeman, day clerk at the hotel, who with his wife and daughter have been visiting at Dickinson for several weeks. He was advised a few moments after the accident and it is expected that he received the telegram in time to catch a train that will bring him home this evening.
A Prominent Mason. John J. Freeman was almost 51 years of age and was at Peoria, Ill. After his marriage the family came to Dickinson, this state, where Mr. Freeman engaged in the mercantile business, and where they resided for eighteen years. A few years ago Mr. and Mrs. Freeman moved to Fargo, where Mr. Freeman bought a photographic studio, which was still owned by him, although managed by another person. About two years ago they came to Grand Forks, and for almost a year Mr. Freeman was in partnership with William Prescott in the Hotel Antlers. Last fall Mr. Freeman purchased the interest of Mr. Prescott and since that time had conducted the hotel himself. He was a man who made and held friends, was of a rather retiring disposition, and attended strictly to the business of the hotel, of which he was making a success, and was naturally very popular with the traveling public.
Mr. Freeman was a prominent Mason, of the thirty-second degree, and a member of El Zagal Temple of the Mystic Shrine. His greatest recreation was in attending the various meetings of the Masonic bodies to which he belonged. The greatest sympathy is being shown Mrs. Freeman in her sudden and terrible bereavement. She was about the hotel when the accident occurred, and while the news of the fatal accident was softened as much as possible, the full import almost prostrated her, but she insisted on viewing the body of her husband before it was removed from the hotel. Mr. Freeman and his wife enjoyed a large acquaintance over the state, particularly in the western part of it, where they lived so many years, and the fullest sympathy of all will be extended to Mrs. Freeman and her son in their sudden bereavement. Funeral arrangements will not be made until the arrival of Mr. Fred Freeman from Dickinson. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Tuesday Morning, August 22, 1905, Page 6)
Under Masonic Rites. Funeral of John J. Freeman Will Be Held At Arcola, Ill., Thursday Afternoon. John J. Freeman, who met such a tragic death at the Hotel Antlers Monday night, will be given a Masonic burial at Arcola, Illinois, Thursday afternoon. The relatives of Mrs. Freeman live at Arcola, and the remains were taken to that place this morning by Mrs. Freeman and her son, Fred W. Freeman, who arrived from Dickinson last night. Mr. Freeman was a member of the Masonic order at Dickinson, and the officials of the lodge asked the Grand Forks lodge to take charge of the funeral should it be held here, providing that this was agreeable to the family. When it was decided to take the remains to Arcola the lodge at that place was asked to take charge of the services, and the funeral of Mr. Freeman will be held Thursday afternoon in that city, under the auspices of the order of which he was for many years an enthusiastic member. An escort of Masons accompanied the remains from the undertaking rooms to the railroad station this morning. Mrs. Freeman received a number of telegrams of condolence yesterday from friends throughout the state, showing the high esteem in which Mr. Freeman was held by all who knew him.
The Inquest. An inquest was held yesterday by Justice Phil McLoughlin, the jury consisting of W. W. Fegan, James Bell and Fred G. Wells. All of the witnesses who knew anything of the accident that resulted in the death of Mr. Freeman were examined, including the engineer who was on the top of the elevator when it started from the main floor of the hotel to the roof. The jurors in their verdict found that John J. Freeman came to his death accidentally, at about 8 o’clock p. m., August 21, 1905, by being caught between the elevator and the wire screen upon the third floor of the Hotel Antlers in said city of Grand Forks, while attempting to fix said elevator, and falling from said third floor in said hotel to the bottom of the elevator shaft in the basement thereof. In view of this accident, the jury recommends that the city council of the city of Grand Forks pass such an ordinance as they may deem advisable regulating the running of passenger and freight elevators so as to make proper provisions for the safety of the public. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Wednesday Morning, August 23, 1905, Page 6)