November 20, 1916: A. T. Fox has his last laugh

On this day in Duluth in 1916, sixty-year-old A. T. Fox finally made good on a threat he had making for years. Fox was a resident of Maple, Wisconsin, who had worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad for over thirty years, 26 of them as conductor on the run between Duluth and Ashland. He visited Duluth frequently and was well known in the Zenith City, where he often stayed at the Spalding Hotel. According to friends, Fox liked “to have his little joke.” One of his favorites, apparently, was to tell the clerk at the Spalding each time he checked out, “Well, I guess I’ll go home and kill myself.” He had reportedly been making the statement for years. But this time he meant it. When he reached his home in Cable later that morning, he put a gun to his head and fired. He had apparently been distraught after losing his job the year before. He tried his hand at farming in Cable—his final trip to Duluth was to buy farming tools—but his wife and two children lived in Ashland. Fox was found by a friend, E. J. Dougherty, to whom the suicide note was addressed. It offered no explanation but explained there was $50 in his pocket to help with funeral expenses, and that if his wife “will not take care of [his body],” the railroad conductor’s union would make sure he received a proper burial. On November 25 the paper reported that when Fox’s brother heard about the suicide, he “was taken with a severe stroke of paralysis immediately after the shock of the news.”