Thriller Thursday – The Accidental Shooting of Walter Pennypacker

Here’s the latest installment for Thriller Thursday, a prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers.

It was Saturday the fourth of July in 1896 and Walter Pennypacker was anticipating spending a pleasant afternoon taking a carriage ride with his betrothed, Mary Finkbiner. Walter, who lived in Royersford, Pennsylvania, was about 21 years old. He was a son of the late Isaac Pennypacker and nephew of James Pennypacker, a well-known resident of Parkerford, PA. He was employed by Frank Eppehimer at the Royersford sand quarries.

It was about noon when Walter drove his carriage up to the Finkbiner residence which was in near-by East Vincent Township, near Latshaw’s nursery. When Walter arrived Mary’s younger brother, Winfield Finkbiner, was outside target shooting with his revolver. Mr. and Mrs. Finkbiner were not home at the time as they were attending a funeral. Walter entered the Finkbiner residence to let Mary know he was there. He then came back outside to talk to Winfield while he waited for Mary.

At some point, Walter apparently asked Winfield “to shoot off his revolver to see if his horse would scare at it.” But when Winfield tried, the revolver became jammed. As he was trying to fix it, the revolver suddenly discharged. Unfortunately, Walter was standing directly in the line of fire. The bullet hit him in the heart. As he fell, he reportedly said, “you have shot me.” Mary’s older brother, John, caught Walter as he fell. Blood was rushing from his mouth and nose. John and Winfield carried Walter into the Finkbiner home and quickly summoned their uncle, Dr. S. S. Finkbiner. But it was too late as Walter died almost immediately.

Coroner Howell, of Phoenixville, PA, was sent for and he empanelled a jury. The witnesses to the shooting were the three siblings, John, Mary and Winfield Finkiner. The jury questioned them and determined that “Walter J. Pennypacker came to his death by a pistol wound inflicted by Winfield S. Finkbiner accidently.” The Coroner censured Winfield for careless use of a firearm, but he was exonerated from blame in the death.

Walter’s funeral took place on Wednesday, July 8th. Services were held in the Baptist Church at Parkerford and he was buried in the adjoining cemetery. His death cast a pall over the entire region – from Parkerford to Spring City to Royersford – as both the Pennypackers and the Finkbiners were well-known and highly-regarded families. There was much sympathy for all the young people involved in the accident.

I have connections to both the Pennypackers and the Finkbiners. The siblings Mary, Winfield and John Finkbiner, were my 4th cousins, 3 times removed, and Walter Pennypacker was my 5th cousin, 3 times removed. As always, if you have connections to these families, I would love to hear from you!

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2 responses to “Thriller Thursday – The Accidental Shooting of Walter Pennypacker

  1. Richard Erbele

    my grandmother was Ida pennypacker from royersford. her brother george was a mailman in royersford. she married fred c erbele of spring city. i believe she was in her 80’s when she passed away in the early 70’s. is this the same family ?

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