08 September 2013

A Tragic End in 1906

A very gracious fan of Genealogy Tip of the Day on Facebook sent me the transcription of this accident involving my great-great-grandfather's youngest son Joseph Neill in 1906. The accident was rather horrific and one does not envy the brother who was summoned to identify the body. Aside from the details of Joseph's death, the account (apparently written the day the incident happened), contains details about:

  • Joseph's son and his age.
  • Joseph's age and marital status
  • Joseph's brother's name, his residence, and his employer
  • the length of time Joseph had lived in Monmouth
  • were Joseph had resided before moving to Monmouth
No mention is made of where Joseph was from (other than the fact he had previously lived in Nauvoo) or details about his burial. It is possible that a followup obituary in the Monmouth paper may mention those items and provide the name of his wife. One can only imagine how Joseph's family--his father was living and would not die himself until 1912--reacted to the news. Now on my research list is to obtain newspaper articles from papers local to where Joseph was from (near West Point in Hancock County, Illinois) to see their accounts of the accident.

Turnbull is still a name associated with funeral homes in the Monmouth area today. I've probably ridden on those very tracks where Joseph met his demise.

We have included the entire item below. It is rather graphic.

The Monmouth Daily Review
Thursday, 15 Nov 1906


Joseph Neil Struck Near Patte Shops While Returning to His Work


Scores of Spectators Saw the Accident - Victim was Dragged for Twenty-Five Yards

While walking down the track in the Burlington yards this afternoon, Joseph Neil was run over by train No. 13.  Death came without a moment's warning as the young man was returning to his work at the A.W. Ryan coal yard.

The accident occurred in front of the Pattee Plow works and in full view of scores of spectators. Mr. Neil who resides at corner of South C street and Eighth Avenue, was home to his dinner as usual and started back to his work  for A.W. Ryan about 1 o'clock.  He left behind him a loving wife and a pretty little lad of four summers.

When Neil came to the railroad crossing he started down the track. When near the Pattee Plow Company he encountered the sand train just pulling out for the east. The train was making a great deal of steam and Neil stepped out of the way of it. The steam made it impossible for the engineer on train No. 13, due at 1:07, to see the victim who was unconsciously stepping into the jaws of death.

The fast train, a few minutes behind time, came rushing in, striking Neil in the back. He fell heavily and was caught by the cow catcher. He was rolled over several times and was dragged about twenty-five yards. About 10 yards from E Street he was run over, his body being cut completely in two. The train was brought to a sudden stop and half of the body was found outside the rail, while the other half was found underneath the baggage car. It was a most gruesome sight and was witnessed by many passengers who were waiting for No. 13 at the Burlington platform.


The acting coroner, Dr. H.H. Pillenger was then summoned and he took charge of the remains. They were taken to Turnbull morgue where at 2:30 this afternoon an inquest will be held.


Mr. Neil is spoken of as a steady and industrious young man by all who knew him. He has been employed for about two months by A.W. Ryan. Besides his wife, he leaves a little boy of four years of age. He also has a brother, John Neil, who resides in this city and is a car repairman for Iowa Central. He was notified of his brother's death and a most affecting scene took place when he viewed the mutilated body of his younger brother. The unfortunate young man was 26 years of age and came to Monmouth from Nauvoo. The sincere sympathy of the entire community is with the stricken wife and little son.

[end transcription]