November 17, 1908





Falls While Attempting to Board
Moving Elevator -- Clings a
Moment to Grating of
Shaft, Then Drops.

Mrs. Emma Frances Caufield, wife of Dr. E. A. Caufield, 3523 Wyoming street, St. Louis, was instantly killed at 1:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon by falling twelve floors through an elevator shaft in the Commerce building. As the unfortunate woman fell through the open door of the elevator shaft her fingers grasped at the iron grating, clutched it for a brief moment, then relaxed their hold and she fell to her death in the sub-basement, 150 feet below. When her husband and friends reached her she was dead, almost every bone in her body having been broken by the fall. Dr. W. A. Harroun, whose office is in the Commerce building ,was the first person to reach the body. He said that death had resulted instantly.

There were only two eye witnesses to the tragic occurrence -- Miss Frances Weatherby, a stenographer in the offices of the Rio Grande Valley Colony Company, who had accompanied Mrs. Caufield to the elevator, and Frank Marks, the elevator operator. The statements of these two witnesses as to the way in which the accident occurred differ materially.

Mrs. Caufield, in company with her husband, Dr. E. A. Caufield, had gone to the offices of a company on the tenth floor of the Commerce building, where they engaged in conversation with J. D. Cameron, the manager of the company. Mrs. Caufield suggested to the steographer, Miss Weatherby, that they go to the top floor of the building. The two women left the office together and walked down the corridor to the elevators.


"I stepped up to the elevator, and pushed the button to signal them," said Miss Weatherby. "I saw the car coming up and I turned to see if Mrs. Caufield was following me. As I did so I observed that the adjoining elevator had stopped at that floor and Mrs. Caufield was in the act of entering it. One foot was on the floor and of the elevator and the other foot was still on the floor of the corridor. Before she could enter the cage the elevator appeared to start, for I saw her foot raise with it until her skirts were pulled up several inches. It seemed to me that she tried to step up into the elevator, but it moved up quickly and Mrs. Caufield was thrown over backward.

"As she fell into the open shaft she clutched at something, I think it was the iron grating, then she fell. The elevator quickly dropped to the level of the floor again, so that if she had been able to retain her hold on the grating she would have been knocked loose by the elevator anyway."

In relating her story to her employer, Mr. Cameron, about two hours after the accident, Mrs. Weatherby was in almost a total state of collapse.

"I can still see that poor woman as she clung to the grating just for an instant. I was too horrified to move. I just stood and looked, and then she let go and I ran to the office," she said.


Dr. Caulfield, when seen last night at his apartments in the Baltimore hotel, was unable to talk coherently.

"I cannot believe it; I cannot realize that she is dead," he moaned. "Just look," and reaching over he picked up a photograph of his wife. "Do you realize that only a few hours ago I was with her, alive, well and happy; and now to think -- poor girl, poor little girl."

Dr. Caulfield said that when his wife left the office in company with Miss Weatherby, he remained with his friend, Mr. Cameron.

"It seemed just a moment until I heard a scream, and Miss Weatherby staggered down the corridor crying that Mrs. Caulfield had fallen down the elevator shaft. When I reached the elevator the operator was walking up and down in front of the cage, and repeating over and over again 'I wasn't to blame. It wasn't my fault.' "

The alarm spread quickly through the building and W. B. Frost, manager of the building, immediately sent word to all the available doctors, so that within three minutes after the accident medical assistance was at hand. The coroner, Dr. George B. Thompson, was notified. He viewed the body and ordered it taken to Eylar Bros. undertaking establishment.


The accident happened at an hour when many persons are away from their offices and practically no excitement was noticeable about the building. When seen at his office, Mr. Frost signified his willingness to help in any way in arriving at a solution as to how the accident occurred, and submitted this statement from the elevator boy, giving his version of the accident:
"I stopped at the tenth floor of the building and this woman, Mrs. Caulfield, stepped into the car. I noticed there was another woman standing in the corridor. As I shut the gate or got it almost shut, someone said, 'Wait a minute,' Then Mrs. Caulfield grabbed the door. I had started the elevator and was about four feet above the level of the floor when the lady fell from the cage. She fell kind of on her knees and then rolled over into the open shaft. She caught at the grating for just a second, then she let go and fell. I couldn't help her because I didn't dare drop the elevator down on her."

For some time after the accident the boy, who has been in the employ of the Commerce building for about three weeks, was hysterical. When seen last night he appeared to have regained his composure, but on advice of Mr. Frost he refused to tell his parents' name or give his address.

"The boy has made a complete statement to us as to the way this accident occurred, and this is the statement we have given to the newspapers," said Mr. Frost. To this statement the boy concurred.


The friends of Mrs. Caulfield say that she had a peculiar horror of the fate which overtook her. She was, according to the statement of her husband, a very careful woman in places of possible danger. Only a few moments before leaving the office she had expressed her horror of the accident which occurred in New York a few days ago which resulted in the death of Harvey Watterson. To her friends she often said:

"What an awful fate it must be to die by falling a great distance."

"Mrs. Caulfield was the daughter of J. C. Hewett of St. Louis, and was well known in literary and social circles in that city. She leaves one child, 2 1/2 years old, who is with friends in Joplin, Mo.

The father and other relatives will arrive in this city this morning. Telegrams have been sent to the following persons: J. J. Hewett of St. Louis, a brother; Mrs. S. V. Bryden of St. Louis, J. H. Robertson of Des Moines and Mrs. Huntoon of Joplin.

An inquest will be held by the county coroner this afternoon.