Friday, June 26, 2015

Death by Lemon Extract

July 14, 1905 (from clipping believed to be from Bridgeport newspaper)

Dr. I. C. Hoke, a well-known dentist in Lawrence County, and who had been a resident of Bridgeport since last December, died in his dental rooms about 8:00 PM last Friday after an illness of a few hours. From the manner of his death it was evident that he died from the effects of some kind of poison.

Wednesday of last week Dr. Hoke called at the office of Dr. C. M. Lewis and stated that he (Hoke) was suffering from partial blindness and was feeling badly. Dr. Lewis prescribed for Hoke and on Thursday the latter spent several hours lying in the haymow at the livery barn. About 4 PM he made his way to his office in the Sage brick building on Main Street where he lived alone, ‘batching’ and did not appear on the street again until Friday morning when W.H. Black noticed him at the public well trying to fill a job with water. At that time Hoke was so near blind that he could not see to pour the water into the jug, which Mr. Black did for him. Hoke then asked for assistance in returning to his office, as he could not see the way and attorney Charles H. Martin accompanied the Doctor to his rooms and left him there. Later Dr. C. M. Lewis visited Hoke and prescribed for him, but he gradually grew worse retaining consciousness however until 4 PM from which time he sank rapidly expiring about 8 PM.

Under the circumstances it was deemed best to hold an inquest, accordingly Coroner Abell was notified at St. Francisville, arriving here early Saturday morning. A jury was impaneled, witnesses examined and the following verdict rendered:

“We the jury, find that Dr. I. C. Hoke died from the effect of some poison inducing gastritis and other complications; said poison being wood alcohol, presumably contained in extract of lemon.

Deceased was a habitual drinker of extract of lemon and after his death 162 empty extract bottles were found in his rooms. This number of bottles, 162, is said to have been drank by the doctor within a period of four weeks prior to his death. It is also said that Hoke stated that on Thursday morning he drank two 5 1/2 ounce bottles of lemon extract.

On the other hand there are circumstances that point to the deliberate suicide. A few days previous to his demise Hoke disposed of nearly all of his scanty personal belongings, selling for the sum of $.50 all of his extra wearing apparel, retaining only the clothes he had on him. He was hopelessly involved financially, owing everyone from whom he could borrow or wheedle a dollar.  At least a score of persons had engaged dental work of him, and from each he collected, in advance, sums ranging from $.50 to $20, stating that he had to have the money to purchase material or to use for some urgent personal necessity.

Last Saturday three different persons called at his office expecting to find as many complete sets of teeth ready for them – – they found a dead man but no teeth. Even his operating chair had been taken from him, as he failed to pay a penny on it. Under these circumstances there are many who incline to the opinion that the man, in a fit of desperation or temporary mental aberration, deliberately drank wood alcohol.


Dr. Hoke was about 56 years of age and had no relatives in Bridgeport, but had three brothers residing near Huntington, Indiana. They were notified by wire, and gave directions to have the body prepared for shipment to Huntington which was done, B. F. Bunn taking charge. Deceased also had a wife – – from whom he had been separated from some years – – and a daughter residing in St. Louis, and the latter came Saturday night, returning to her home Sunday morning. The remains were shipped on the early eastbound train Sunday morning.