I spent seven years investigating the murder of my aunt, Hallie Fromm. She died at the age of fifteen in 1924. Hallie was my mother’s oldest sister and—for whatever reason—not only was her name never mentioned by my mother but she was the best-kept secret in Kansas.
We visited her grave and decorated it each Memorial Day without fail. After all, most of my mother’s and my father’s family are buried in the same cemetery under the wide open sky in the flint hills of Kansas. On that day every year, Mom would say, “Hallie’s boyfriend killed her.” Her tone of voice told us not to ask additional questions.
Why am I writing about Hallie today? I think about her often. Would she have become a favorite aunt along with my Aunt Mae Lawrence? I’d like to think so. I also like to believe I have many of her character traits and personality quirks. Hallie was adventurous in a time when it wasn’t proper for girls to behave so and she lived and died for her dreams. She aspired to a life in a world larger than her imagination. Unfortunately, Hallie never had the opportunity to explore that world and sometimes I like to think her spirit traveled the globe with me.
Once I asked my mother to tell me what happened to Hallie and it went something like this: “Hallie and her boyfriend Leo wanted to get married and Mom and Dad forbade it. Hallie said she would run away to marry her boyfriend, but he shot and killed her.”
During my research of what really happened to Hallie, the most common story I was told had a slightly different twist: On an icy night in January, 1924, Leo showed up at Hallie’s home in the country. They had previously agreed that if they couldn’t have her parents’ blessings for their wedding, they would commit double suicide. Hallie’s parents refused to allow the marriage. Leo shot Hallie and then turned the gun on himself. Hallie was fifteen and Leo was twenty-four.
My research and continuing investigation into the mysterious circumstances of Hallie Fromm’s death led me to genealogical research dating back to 1817. I uncovered the layers of family secrets one at a time.
I took my genealogical research a step further and interviewed as many direct descendants as possible. I learned the most from acquaintances that had crossed the lives of members of the Fromm family. Their stories provided personal and historical information one could never find in a file. And many of those don’t match my mother’s account.
There’s more to come from the Fromm Chronicles in Slice of Life Monday Blogs. Mondays will also be reserved for several other series involving the military, mental health, sounds of silence, and other issues. Wednesdays are reserved for book reviews.
Have you ever had to know why something happened in your family? What do you do when you have more questions at the end of your research than you had at the beginning and there’s no one left to ask?
I still have a lot of questions about Hallie and how she really died. The sheriff or ‘the law’ as it was called back then was best friends with Hallie’s father and grandfather so he was never contacted. The grandmother allegedly gave a statement the following day but to whom, I’ll probably never know. I do know Jane Fromm, Hallie’s grandmother (and my great grandmother) forbade her son, Earl Fromm (my grandfather) to allow his daughter Hallie to wed Leo.
What I don’t know is who really murdered Hallie Fromm.