Madame Blitz

Early Life

One of the most tragic events in Cottey’s history is the loss of beloved music professor Madame Blitz in 1904. Madame Blitz, née Mattie "Marie" Louise Miller, was an accomplished pianist. At a young age she was sent to Europe to study music under Adolph Samuel, Mendelssohn, and Joseph Wieniawski.3 While a student in Brussels, she was presented with the Medaille Avique by the King of Belgium for courageously saving someone from being trampled by a horse. She later married Belgian musician Dr. Edouard E. Blitz (who had a degree in dentistry). Together they studied and taught music in Paris and the U.S.

Cottey Conservatory of Music

Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard first saw Mme. and Dr. Blitz perform in 1893 at Central College in Lexington.3 A year later, when she was looking to expand the music department, she inquired whether they would teach at Cottey. Although V.A.C. Stockard thought the salary they asked was too much, she accepted their offer. The Blitzes, including their son Julien, moved into a little brown cottage next to Mother Cottey's house in 1895.*

Madame Blitz directed the Cottey College Conservatory of Music, teaching voice, vocal ensemble, and piano. In 1896 Alice wrote in the Nevada Daily Mail, "The course in music is equal to that of Boston Conservatory. With Mme. Blitz at its head, its success is insured."3 And it was successful. As soon as the school year began, the practice rooms were always occupied, and even Main Hall's parlor had to be utilized. Madame Blitz continued to run the music department for another eight years.

Madame Blitz
Madame Marie Blitz.1
Main Hall, c. 1900
Mme. Blitz taught music in Main Hall (above) until Rosemary Hall was built in 1903.
Rosemary Hall, 1979
Rosemary Hall, 1979.7

Downward Slide

In the spring of 1903, Marie seemed to be struggling with some unknown illness. Although she took three weeks off to recuperate, by Commencement everyone feared she would collapse at any moment.3 In early July, Edouard found Marie unconscious in their home. He ran across the street to Main Hall to get Alice, fearing that his wife had taken poison. Alice called Dr. Amerman and rushed back over to Marie. The doctor confirmed that she had overdosed on belladonna — deadly nightshade. He pumped Marie's stomach, and Alice and Edouard waited anxiously for her to recover. When Marie awoke, she had no recollection of taking the poison.

During the following year it became evident that Marie could not handle the demands of the music department schedule. In the words of Helen Troesch, “periods of enthusiasm alternated with those of despondency.”3 Fearing for her health, Edouard suggested they both resign. He found suitable replacements from Austria, and in May of 1904 the Daily Mail announced the Blitzes’ departure.4 Barely a week later, though, Marie was dead.

The Rose Severs its Life Stem

Madame Blitz was expected at Cottey College in the early morning of May 26, 1904.5 When V.A.C. Stockard noticed her absence, she telephoned the Blitzes' home. Receiving no answer, she walked the short distance to their cottage and rapped on the door. Dr. Blitz, on his way to the door, found his wife lying unconscious on a lounge. It appeared she had ingested carbolic acid. Drs. Amerman and L.H. Callaway were immediately called.

The physicians arrived to find Madame Blitz in a "dying condition."5 On a table beside her lay an empty bottle of the acid and a small wine glass. Dr. Callaway later reported, "My theory is that Madame Blitz thinking she could not take all of the acid at one swallow from the bottle used the wine glass. Her lips and tongue were white showing she had taken a large dose of the drug."5 Neither doctor could counter the damage, and Madame Blitz lived barely 30 minutes more before succumbing to the acid. She was 39 years old.

Both physicians acknowledged the professor's poor mental health in statements to the press. Dr. Callaway admitted, "I don’t think Madame Blitz has been right mentally for some time. She was a very ambitious woman and was working very hard, overtaxing herself mentally."5 Dr. Amerman revealed that Madame Blitz had attempted suicide twice before. "We have known for some time that Madame Blitz’s mind has been impaired," he said.5

The Nevada Daily Mail lamented, "The beautiful and perfect rose has withered and greater is the mystery of why it should have lost its color and fragrance because of the fact that the rose itself severed the life stem."5 To pay reverence, V.A.C. Stockard canceled all of Cottey's public commencement exercises except graduation. The funeral was held on Saturday, May 28th in the Blitzes' home.6

In the decades following Mme. Blitz's death, there have been many rumors of ghostly activity in Main Hall and Rosemary Hall, particularly tales of piano music playing when no one is around. While these noises have often been attributed to Vera, they could certainly be the work of Madame Blitz. She was an accomplished pianist, after all.

Documents

Important Changes in Cottey College Faculty, 1904 Nevada Daily Mail article on Dr. and Mme. Blitz's retirement. 20 May 1904.4 Click to read. Tragic Death of Madame Blitz, 1904
Nevada Daily Mail article on Mme. Blitz's death. 27 May 1904.5 Click to read or read the transcription in the Archives.
Impressive Funeral Services for Mme. Blitz, 1904
Nevada Daily Mail article on Mme. Blitz's funeral. 30 May 1904.6 Click to read.
  The Sad Ending of Life for Mme. Blitz, 1904
Mansfield News article on Mme. Blitz's death, 1904.2 Click to read.
 

Notes:

* There is some uncertainty about where the Blitzes lived. The 1900 U.S. census cites the Blitzes residing at 119 West Cherry Street, which would be in Nevada's town square, but Helen Troesch writes that the Blitzes' cottage was next to Mother Cottey's house (which was where the Ross Library stands today).

Works Cited:

  1. Campbell, Elizabeth McClure. The Cottey Sisters of Missouri. Parkville, MO: Park College Press, 1970. Print.
  2. "Sad Ending of Life For Former Mansfield Girl, The." The Mansfield News [Mansfield, OH.] 9 July 1904. Ancestry.com. Web.
  3. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. The Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  4. "Important Changes in Cottey College Faculty." The Nevada Daily Mail [Mansfield, OH.] 20 May 1904: 1. Google news. Web.
  5. "Tragic Death of Madame Blitz." The Nevada Daily Mail [Mansfield, OH.] 27 May 1904: 1. Google news. Web.
  6. "Impressive Funeral Services." The Nevada Daily Mail [Mansfield, OH.] 30 May 1904: 1. Google news. Web.
  7. Courtesy Annette Dunaway.
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