Harry Zimmerman (1910 – 1936)

     My grandfather Frank O. Zimmerman’s oldest brother was Harold Robert Lee “Harry” Zimmerman.  They had a four older half-brothers and sisters and a deceased half-sister but Harry was the first child of Parker L. Zimmerman and his third wife Dolly.  Grandpa would be born May 28, 1913.     Uncle Harry was born December 2, 1910 in Sikeston, Missouri.  By the time Grandpa was born, the family moved to Commerce, Missouri, where Great Grandpa Parker had a general story.


Parker Zimmerman holding Harry and Dollie Zimmerman holding Frank O. in Commerce, MO in 1913.

     Harry grew to be a large man, 6’06” in his stocking feet.  His large size probably earned him a job with the United States Engineering Department at 17 years of age.  At the time of his death, Harry was the First Mate on the government tow boat Penniman.  It was unusual for such a young man but Harry’s large size probably weighed in his favor.

     My uncle believes Harry was promoted because of his size and ability “to throw his weight around”.  In the days before strict workplace rules, workmen could be quite tough and difficult to manage.  Fist fights to settle disputes between workers or workers and supervisors were much more common place.  A tough man of Harry’s size could keep things under control and exert calm if he needed to.  My uncle feels his ability to handle situations physically could have also led to his untimely death.

     While he said Harry could have fallen into the river, he believes a disgruntled worker or workers pushed Harry into the water.  Whether they did or didn’t, we will never know but it is certainly possible.  It is unusual that so young a man with extensive river experience for his young age would fall into the river.

     Whatever the cause on July 31, 1936, the Penniman was just south of the Thebes railroad bridge by Cape Girardeau, Missouri, when Harry fell or was thrown from the upper deck of the Penniman.  Search parties including members of the Zimmerman family, most likely including Parker, Frank O. and his older brothers, along with Cape Girardeau Coroner J. A. Moore looked for Harry’s body.  The newspapers don’t say why they believe he drowned right away but all the papers presumed he was drowned.

     Harry was living in a two-family flat at 2019 Arsenal Street in St. Louis, Missouri at the time of his death.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch referenced a widow Jerilane Zimmerman and a son from a previous marriage.  The Southeast Missourian only mentions a widow.  I cannot find any record of a previous marriage or son at this time.

     On August 12, 1936, along the shore of the Mississippi River in Alexander County, Illinois.  Parker Zimmerman claimed the body and made arrangements to have buried.  Harry was interred at Fairmount Cemetery in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on August 15, 1936 after a funeral in Fornfelt, which would become part of Scott City in the 1960s.


Soldiers, Sailors and Scott City: The Deweese and Zimmerman Family Histories in paperback

     Harry was the only child Parker and Dolly would have to bury.  Parker buried two of his children from his marriage to Mellie Bollinger.  His daughter Ida died in October 1909, two months before her mother Mellie.  In 1925, Parker would bury 20 year old William Reuben Zimmerman from the effects of tuberculosis.  Tuberculosis would also kill Reuben’s wife Celia Zimmerman nee Madden in 1927.

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     Sources: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1936 edition, p. 8, The Southeast Missourian, August 1, 1936, p. 1 and August 15, 1936, p. 2

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