no avatar

Trotter family endured tragedies

Kevin Collier • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:52 PM

And what happened to her only child, Clinton, 91 years after her passing, was shocking as well.

The Trotters and Heaths were early pioneers of Ottawa County, well liked and respected.

Born March 16, 1877, to Leroy and Susan Heath in Spring Lake, May Agnes Heath married William Trotter on Jan. 14, 1896.

William and May Agnes had one child, Clinton, born March 30, 1896.

In the fall of that year, William and his brother Richard became ill, warranting a trip to Ann Arbor that winter to receive treatment from special physicians. According to the Grand Haven Tribune, the Trotter brothers “suffered from an abscess” in their sides. But their conditions did not improve.

William died on Aug. 13, 1897, at the age of 24. Richard, age 19, followed on Aug. 22.

This left May Agnes Trotter a widow raising a child. Then tragedy struck again, when another brother-in-law, Manford Trotter, drowned in Spring Lake on July 27, 1898, at the age of 14.

According to the Tribune, Manford had been out rowing on the lake when his boat capsized. He had attempted to swim to it, but the current pulled it too far from his reach. A few individuals who witnessed the drama got into a boat and attempted to save Manford, to no avail.

In a little more than two years from the time she married William, May Agnes had said goodbye to her husband and two brother-in-laws.

May Agnes took a job as a postal clerk, working with her father, Leroy Heath, postmaster of the Spring Lake Post Office. By this time she had moved in with her parents, who helped raise her son, Clinton.

Things appeared to be turning around in her life until about 9:10 the morning of April 27, 1900, when two women walked into the Spring Lake Post Office and confronted May Agnes. The Detroit Free Press reported the “two vitriolic women” were swearing and shouting at May Agnes, causing Leroy Heath to intervene and escort the rioters out.

The women — identified as Jennie Davidson and her sister, Maggie Smith, both of Grand Haven — confronted May Agnes about Davidson's husband, Lesander.

“It was said that Mrs. Trotter was accused of causing trouble between Mrs. Davidson and her husband,” the Tribune reported. The confrontation was witnessed by several customers and gossip would surely follow.

After the women left, May Agnes told her father she “was going home for a few moments” and would return.

She never did.

Upon arriving at her parents’ home at about 10 a.m., May Agnes — unseen by her mother, who was at home caring for Clinton at the time — pulled a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver out of a drawer and a handful of cartridges and quietly walked out to the barn.

Noticing her absence, Susan Heath became concerned and went outdoors to call for her daughter. Receiving no reply, she ventured into the barn. Upon climbing the barn stairs, she found her daughter lying in the hayloft dead. May Agnes had shot herself once through the heart.

“The dead woman has been one of the most popular young women in Spring Lake and was a social favorite,” the Tribune reported. “(She) was a mother of a little three-year-old son, who made his home at the Heath residence.”

Physician/coroner John Mastenbroek empaneled a jury to look into the case and a strong verdict was rendered.

“We the jury, find that Agnes Trotter came to death by shooting herself with a revolver, while laboring under great mental excitement caused by Mrs. Lesander Davidson and Miss Maggie Smith, both from Grand Haven,” the Tribune reported.

While no charges were considered against the women, the two were now the topic of gossip, not May Agnes Trotter or the alleged affair with Davidson's husband, which no evidence supported.

William and May Agnes' son was raised by Leroy and Susan Heath and, as a young man, served in World War I in the heavy artillery division. After the war he moved to Chicago, where he made a career in the insurance business. After retiring in 1959, he moved back to Spring Lake.

Sadly, on March 28, 1991, two days before his 95th birthday, Clinton Trotter was killed in an auto accident while driving his car the wrong way — westbound — in the eastbound lane of I-96. The other driver, a Ludington woman, severely injured, survived the head-on collision.

While Clinton Trotter died a tragic death reminiscent of others in his family, he did live a full life. He lived a decade longer than the combined ages of his father, mother and his two uncles.


Recommended for You