Tag Archives: accident

Thriller Thursday – Poor Little Thomas Bechtel

Are you up to date with all your vaccinations and immunizations? Are your children? Today’s Thriller Thursday posting is a reminder that life in the 19th century was fraught with hidden dangers. It was a time when even a minor scratch or cut could cause horrible suffering and even death…

It was late August of 1876 and eleven year old Thomas Bechtel, son of Thomas Sr. and Annie,  was enjoying the dog-days of summer. He and his younger brother were outside playing in their yard in East Coventry Township, Chester County, PA. The younger boy was holding a stick and chasing his big brother. Thomas stopped short and his younger brother accidentally poked him just above the ankle with his stick. It was a minor cut and neither the brothers nor their parents gave it much thought until a couple of days later. At that point Thomas’ leg began to swell and become inflamed. Thomas suffered terrible pain for the next few days, finally dying of lockjaw (now known as tetanus) on August 31, 1876.  His obituary was published in the Montgomery Ledger (a Pottstown newspaper) on September 5th. He was just shy of his twelfth birthday.

Thomas was my 3rd cousin, 3 x’s removed. His parents were Thomas and Annie (nee unknown) Bechtel and his paternal grandparents were Charles Bechtel and Isabella Jack. If you also have connections to this family, feel free to contact me.

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!

Thriller Thursday – John A. Bechtel’s Accident

It time for Thriller Thursday, a prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers. This week I have the story of the tragic train accident that took the life of John A. Bechtel of Reading, Pennsylvania.

John A. Bechtel was born March 6, 1843 in Pennsylvania. While I do not know who his parents were, according to census data, his father was born in Germany and his mother in Pennsylvania. In August of 1861 he enlisted in Company H of the Pennsylvania 88th Infantry and served in the Union Army in the Civil War.

In the mid 1860s John married Salinda Klemmer. Their four known children were William, Charles, Daniel and George. Per census data, there were also three other children who presumably died young. The family lived in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

John was a long time employee of the P&R Railroad having worked for them for about 20 years. On April 23, 1891, he was working as a hind brakeman on a freight train on the Lebanon Valley line. It was 8 o’clock in the morning and the train was at the station at Womelsdorf where it had stopped to unload some cargo. John was standing on the hind platform of the caboose. The train jerked and John, who was about to put on the brake, lost his footing and fell onto the track.

As many as fifteen cars then rode over his legs. Both legs were horribly crushed – one above the knee and the other below. Dr. Horace Livingood was summoned and dressed the injuries. Incredibly, John was awake and conversing. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Reading and his family was summoned. He died shortly after noon, surrounded by his wife and 3 of his four sons.

A coroner’s inquest was held and it was determined that his death was from “accidental injuries.” Though John was described as a “careful railroader,” this was not his first accident. Apparently he had also fallen off a caboose at Wernersville a short time before. Sadly, John had been planning to quit his job at the railroad that week. He planned to move to Duluth, Minnesota where one of his sons was living. Unfortunately, he never got that chance.

If anyone has information about John’s parents or how he connects with other Bechtels living in the southeastern Pennsylvania area, I would love to hear from you.

Thriller Thursday – William S. Shaner’s Terrible Death

Today’s Thriller Thurday posting (a prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers) is the tragic story of William S. Shaner.

William S. Shaner was born November 24, 1840, probably in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest child of Thomas Maberry Shaner and Naomi Strickland. William had a hard childhood in so much as his mother died October 4, 1849 just months before William’s 9th birthday. He and his younger siblings were apparently taken in by relatives or apprenticed out as none of them are living with their father in the 1850 census.

While there are a couple of other William Shaners in Chester County of similar age, it is believed that he is the William Shaner, age 9, living with the family of David (aka Daniel) Benner in East Coventry Township, Chester County, PA in 1850. (William’s younger brother, Davis E. Shaner, is living with Henry and Elizabeth Shaner and is listed on the same census sheet, just 2 families later.) Mr. Benner was a carpenter, and although William did not become a carpenter himself, it is possible that he was originally placed with the Benners to learn that trade.

At some point in the 1850s, William’s father Thomas married a woman named Margaret. Together they had a son Thomas Jr., born in 1859. By the time of the 1860 census, both William and his younger sister Phoebe had moved back home and were living in Uwchlan Township with their father and his new wife and son. Oddly enough both William (then aged 19) and Phoebe (then aged 14) are listed as having attended school that year.

On December 21, 1864, William married Sallie Milligan at the Lutheran parsonage at Lionville, Pennsylvania. Together they had two known children, Jefferson S. in 1865 and William in 1869. In 1870, the couple and their sons were living in Uwchlan. Sadly, Sallie died in 1876. And it was only about a year later, on December 20, 1877 that William S. Shaner met his tragic fate.

William was an employee of the American Wood Paper Company of Spring City, PA. Paper-making was a big business in Chester County, PA. As early as 1800 there were at least 8 paper mills and by 1874 there were reportedly 37 paper mills in the county. The American Wood Paper Company, where William was employed, was noted as being a pioneer in the use of wood as a raw material for making paper rather than the traditional rags, linen and cotton.

Paper-making was a hazardous industry and due to the nature of the machinery and the pulleys, personal injury was a constant threat. Sadly, William’s life was claimed in just such an industrial accident.

It was about 5 o’clock on a Thursday morning, and William was in the process of shifting some belts on one of the pulleys in the paper mill. Unfortunately he became entangled in the belt and was pulled between a fly wheel and the stone floor – a space of only about 5 inches in height. Although his co-workers attempted to stop the machine as soon as possible, it was too late. Just about every bone in William’s body was crushed. His neck was broken and his spine was fractured. In addition, his left arm was wrenched from the socket and his ribs were crushed. Physicians believed that his death was nearly instantaneous. His death was ruled a tragic accident.

William was 37 years old when he died. He was widowed and the father of two young boys. His sons apparently moved to West Chester, PA and were raised by their grandfather and step-grandmother, Thomas Shaner and his wife Margaret.

My connection to William S. Shaner is that he was my 3rd cousin, 4 times removed. If you also have a connection to this family, I would love to hear from you.

Thriller Thursday – The Accidental Shooting of Emma

Well, it’s time for another installment of Thriller Thursday – an on-going blogging prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers. Today I have the story of my 3x’s great-aunt, Emeline Newman Moyer Hallman.

Emeline Newman was born in December of 1852. She and her twin sister Rebecca were the youngest children of Abraham and Rebecca (Derr) Newman. For many years Abraham operated a stage coach between Norristown and Pottstown, Pennsylvania. By 1860, however, the family had taken up residence in Limerick, PA, (near Pottstown) where Abraham eventually followed the occupation of farming.

About 1871 Emma married a neighborhood boy, Charles K. Moyer. He was the son of Henry Moyer and Esther Krause. Charles and Emma had two daughters, Ella and Ida. Charles died in 1906, leaving Emma a widow. In April of 1910 Emma married John G. Hallman. John was a blacksmith. He was also widowed, his first wife Catherine Umstead having died in 1906 as well.

On the morning on September 12, 1910, Emma and her new husband were having their breakfast. The time was about 7 o’clock in the morning. As they were eating they heard a commotion. They looked outside and discovered a chicken hawk among their fowl. John got up and went to the sitting room to get his gun. As he walked back into the kitchen he tripped. The gun bumped against the door frame and discharged. Through a bizarre twist of fate, the bullet hit Emma in the back. She was actually still seated at the breakfast table when it happened. Although a physician was summoned, it was to no avail. Emma unfortunately died within a few minutes.

Emma was 56 years old and the mother of two grown daughters. She was buried in the Limerick Church Cemetery next to her first husband Charles K. Moyer. In addition to her daughters, she was survived by sisters Matilda Linderman, Mary Evans (my great-great-grandmother) and Rebecca Lightcap.

As a post script to this story, I also happen to be related to John G. Hallman. He was the son of John Hallman and Hannah Grimley and was my (half) third cousin, 4x’s removed. His first wife Catherine Umstead, was the daughter of Nathan Umstead and Eliza Shaner, and was my 2nd cousin, 4x’s removed. After the death of Emma Newman, John apparently married a third time. In 1920 he was enumerated with a wife named Mary Elizabeth. She died prior to 1930 and he died in 1937. (In case you are wondering, I have no information on the cause of death for the first or third wives.)