Untimely deaths in the Stone family

Mary McPheeters, Staff Reporter

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Ever heard of Amasa Stone Chapel? (Hint: It’s right next to the Binary Walkway.) For those who don’t know, Amasa Stone Chapel is named after Amasa Stone, an 1800s industrialist. He gained his fortune from a regional railroad empire right here in Ohio. 

Why should you care? Because Amasa Stone was instrumental in bringing a university to Cleveland, something the city lacked in the 1870s.

Long story short, Stone helped provide the funding for Western Reserve College (WRC) to relocate from Hudson, Ohio to Cleveland, under three conditions. First, the college would become a university and the liberal arts college be named after his son Adelbert. Second, he would be able to name a majority of the trustees to the board of Western Reserve University. Third, he would oversee the construction of the university’s building. 

WRC’s trustees agreed to these stipulations, and, in 1881, Stone gave WRC $500,000 for its re-establishment as a university in Cleveland. Later, the federation of Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology would form Case Western Reserve University, a school you might be familiar with.

Stone had a big impact on this campus. But why did he want the liberal arts college of Western Reserve University to be named after his son Adelbert? 

About 15 years prior to Stone’s gift to WRC, Adelbert, who attended the Sheffield Scientific School, was on a school geology trip to the Connecticut River. Several students decided to bathe in the river, including Stone. Unfortunately, Adelbert would never return. There is some confusion about what exactly happened, but on June 27, 1865, Adelbert Stone drowned in the Connecticut River and his body was not recovered until two days later, on June 29.

Sadly, Adelbert’s death wouldn’t be the only tragedy to befall the Stone family. Shortly after the completion of the Adelbert College building, Stone would commit suicide. On May 11, 1883, Stone shot himself through the heart in the bathroom of his mansion on Euclid Avenue. Although no one can say for sure, there has been much speculation as to why Stone took his own life. 

It was said that he had not been in good health for some time and rarely left his home in the weeks preceding his death. He also may have felt guilt over the Ashtabula Bridge disaster, a tragedy that claimed 92 lives and that he was largely considered responsible for. Additionally, it is thought that he never recovered from the death of Adelbert. It is also possible that he was worried about his business. His family would later memorialize Stone through building Amasa Stone Chapel. 

So the Stone family was done with tragedy after Amasa Stone’s death, right? Wrong. On June 23, 1901, Stone’s 24-year-old grandson Adelbert “Del” Stone Hay fell to his death from an open window. According to reports, it was a hot night and Del, who fell asleep very easily, went to get some cool air by the window before going to bed. It is likely that he sat in the window and fell asleep. 

The Stone family would escape tragedy for several years after Del’s death, until Stone’s daughter Flora Stone Mather’s death from breast cancer in 1909. She was responsible for helping fund the women’s campus that existed until Western Reserve University became permanently co-ed.

Now whenever a student walks through campus they see traces of the Stone family. Though their deaths were tragic, the Stone family has achieved a sort of immortality with their names engraved on the buildings of the university they helped create.