Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Louise Gipe, Heroine of St. Francis Dam Disaster, Attempts Suicide.


Dam Heroine 1928

Attempts Suicide 1930

Webmaster's note.

According to researcher Tricia Lemon Putnam, Gipe survived and by 1940 was married to Walter Whitcomb and living in Los Angeles. Vida Louise Earhart-Baker-Gipe-Whitcomb died in 1985 in Huntington Beach, Orange County, Calif.

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Home Telephone Girl Shoots Self In Heart.

Mrs. Louise Gipe, 1216 Main Street, Santa Paula, telephone operator for the Oxnard and Santa Paula Home Telephone company, who late yesterday afternoon was found lying on a bed in her room bleeding freely from a bullet wound one inch above and directly over her heart, is recovering today.

According to the police report of the shooting, she shot herself because she was despondent over an avalanche of bills.

Dr. R.C. Illick was called to the injured woman's bedside and rendered aid.

After allegedly shooting herself with a .45 calibre [sic] automatic pistol, Mrs. Gipe fell on the bed. Then realizing she was seriously hurt, she called the telephone office, telling Mrs. L. Brock, operator, "Send a doctor, I'm pretty bad."

The operator called Mrs. J.F. Allwood, 1291 Main Street and asked her to investigate. She found the receiver down, hanging by the cord where it had fallen as Mrs. Gipe lost consciousness after calling. Dr. Illick and Police Chief Thornton Edwards were summoned.

News story courtesy of Jason Brice.

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Operator in Suicide Try.

Santa Paula, April 17. — After shooting herself just above the heart with a .45-caliber automatic pistol early this afternoon, Mrs. Louise Gipe, 35 years of age, a telephone operator, called the telephone office for help and collapsed on a cot in her room at a boarding-house at 1216 Main street. She was not expected to live.

Still conscious when police arrived, she declared she was despondent over financial affairs, but the officers found a letter in the room indicating an infatuation for Fred Hall of this city, who had ceased his attentions to her.

Hall, when questioned by police, said that the woman was moody, hysterical and extremely jealous and that he had checked his attentions to her because she was constantly upbraiding him about associating with other women. Hall declared she recently requested him to buy her a small pistol to carry with her, but she refused. She obtained the pistol that she used from the room of a special deputy sheriff in the boarding-house.

"Send a doctor. I'm pretty bad!" was the appeal heard by a startled switchboard operator a moment after the tragedy. Mrs. J.F. Allwood rushed to the boarding-house, summoned a physician and police. The woman had shot herself an inch above the heart, the bullet penetrating her body and the door to her room, dropping to the floor in the hallway.

Mrs. Gipe has been a telephone operator here about five years, but little is known of her family history. About ten days ago she is said to have sent a 17-year-old son to Oklahoma and moved to the boarding-house. Police late today had not succeeded in locating any relatives.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.

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Heroine of Flood Attempts Suicide.

Santa Paula, Cal., April 19. — Heroine of the St. Francis dam disaster, Mrs. Louise Gipe, 35, a telephone operator, was near death here today following a suicide attempt. She told officers she shot herself when spurned by the man she loved.

Mrs. Gipe was one of those who stayed at the switchboard when the waters from the St. Francis dam flooded the surrounding country.

News story courtesy of Lauren Parker (as published in New Castle, Penn., News) and Peggy Kelly (as published in Lima, Ohio, News).


Story: Victims & Heroes

Thornton Edwards


Louise Gipe


Reicel Jones, Althea Marks


Eddie Hearne


Lee Shepard, Stanley Baker, John Messer

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