Monday, August 01, 2005

Railroad Death

From: Perry
My 2gg-grandfather (Edward Wells, b.3 Jul 1853, Letcomb, Berkshire, England and d. 30 Jun 1887, perhaps Boston, MA) worked on a railroad in New England, and was said to have been crushed to death between two cars. He was a brakeman, age 35 when he died. He left his second wife, and a son, Burtis Edward Wells, when he died. How would I go about learning whether this is true or not, and further information about what railroad it was, if so? His death record is not helpful. Thanks in advance! -- Perry

His death record is helpful in this manner, for you now have:
-- the death date
-- place of death

Now you begin searching surviving newspapers, most likely on microfilm, for a report of the train accident. These were "big news" so you are sure to find a cover story write-up. Yes, his obit might also prove useful. Look in the papers for the week or two following his death. Please note:

1877 RAILROAD STRIKE. A Google search located information on nationwide strike which officially began 14 days following your 2nd great-grandfather's death. That is mighty interesting timing, he died when tensions had mounted to a nearly unbearable point, I would imagine. "14 July 1877, A general strike halted the movement of U.S. railroads. In the following days, strike riots spread across the United States. The next week, federal troops were called out to force an end to the nationwide strike. At the "Battle of the Viaduct" in Chicago, federal troops (recently returned from an Indian massacre) killed 30 workers and wounded over 100." See:

-- THE BOSTON GOLBE. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "The Boston Globe [...]was founded in 1872 by six Boston businessmen, led by Eben Jordan, who jointly invested $150,000. The first issue was published March 4, 1872 and cost four cents. It was originally a morning daily when it began Sunday publication in 1877. In 1878, The Globe started an afternoon edition called The Boston Evening Globe, which ceased publication in 1979."

-- DAILY ADVERTISER, BOSTON HERALD & BOSTON TRAVELER. "The Daily Advertiser was established in 1813 in Boston by Nathan Hale. The paper grew to prominence through the 19th century taking over other Boston area papers. [...] The old Boston Herald was founded in 1846 by a group of Boston printers jointly under the name of John A. French & Company. [...] Even earlier than the Herald, the Boston Traveler was founded in 1825 as a bulletin for stage coach listings. In 1912, the Herald acquired the Traveler, eventually becoming the Boston Herald Traveler, in 1967."

-- Family History Library Catalog: Place Search> Boston, part of Massachusetts. Then selecting periodicals and looking through the list of 1 item. I also did a keyword search for Boston Globe, and then Boston Herald, and didn't find anything relevant.

-- THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION site proved fruitless, since unfortunately it lists accidents post-1975, too late for your inquiry.

-- North East Rails 1805-1900 Accidents & Wrecks. This site looked interesting, but I didn't have time to look into this in detail. My impression is that this site leads to hiring a researcher.

-- National Railway Historical Society

-- DearMYRTLE. Death by Railroad. (for info on railroad mailing list.)

Do report back on your progress. Other readers will benefit from your experience, Perry.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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