Aftermath for the Morgan Family

We return to the final portions of the story as told by William H. Morgan, son of Col. Morgan, who was just 15 years old at the time of the dinner party.


Mother [Annette Sharer Morgan] later admitted that she was very ill the week following the Lakeside dinner. Her eyes did not focus properly and she felt generally bad, but simply had to keep going. She said that her eyes never were as good afterward, although she had excellent eyesight. This was the result of one bite of a contaminated olive.

Lou and Maude Brush recovered as did Mary Bates, although it took months before she completely regained her health.

About one month after the Lakeside Party, Dad noticed an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about a prominent family in Grosse Point Michigan by the name of Sayles being victims of a strange type of poisoning. Dad [Col. Morgan] immediately suspected botulism and sent a telegram addressed to the Physician attending the Sayles family, informing him that we had a similar outbreak, and suggest that he contact Dr. John Phillips at the Cleveland Clinic. The telegram was delivered. Dr. Phillips contacted, and the result was botulism was diagnosed and the culprit found to be Mammoth Ripe Olives packed by Curtiss Brothers in California.

Shortly thereafter an account of another poisoning in the Pittsburgh paper, this time in Greensburg, Pa. Another telegram and the same result, botulism caused by Mammoth Ripe Olives packed by Curtiss Brothers in California.

How many contaminated jars were distributed across the country? How many deaths were caused? The answer will never be known, but there was sufficient adverse publicity that Curtiss Brothers soon went out of business.

Many years later Mrs. Morgan and I were at the Congress Lake Club one evening. I was introduced to a woman from Detroit who was visiting an old school friend in Canton. Somehow she mentioned the fact that her maiden name had been Sayles. I couldn’t wait to ask her if she were related to the Sayles family who had been the victims of a poisoning in 1919. They were indeed her family. She had been very young at the time, and several of them had died. Since it was neither the time nor place to press for more details, the subject was dropped. It was just one more proof that it is a small world.

Tomorrow: What of the future of the other guests at the Gahris dinner party?

Part 14