Monthly Archives: June 2011

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!

Wordless Wednesday – Harry and Charlie

Here’s another Wordless Wednesday post (as suggested by members of GeneaBloggers)

Harry and Charlie Garner

Credits: family photograph of my grandfather’s twin brothers, Harry and Charlie Garner; scrapkit is one of my own

This is the Face of Genealogy

Sisters

This post is in response to a request by Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers to post a “This is the Face of Genealogy” photo. His request was prompted by the “Inbreeding” photo used by LAWeekly to advertise an upcoming genealogy conference. My guess is the “Inbreeding” photo was an attempt to be humorous. It was, however, undeniably in poor taste. So here’s my contribution to the Geneablogger community response.

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.

Wordless Wednesday – WWI Vet

Another Wordless Wednesday post.

WWI Vet

Credits: Family photo of my great-uncle; scrap kit is one of my own.