Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Life (or death) is Stranger than Fiction -Notice from the Connecticut Courant 1807

The following death notices appeared in the Connecticut Courant, February 25, 1807.


--On the Allegheny Mountain, Mr. James Pollock, son of Justice Pollock, of Westmoreland County. He was horribly murdered by two Frenchmen, who were taken.

--In Green Village, (N.J.) Mr. Isaac Miller, jun. by the upsetting of a waggon.

--In Conway, Mr. Thomas Billings, (From Springfield) aged 72 : He fell from his chair in the fire, and was shockingly burnt.

--In Stockbridge, Mr._ Leighton : he fell from a tree which he had ascended in pursuit of a squirrel.


  1. Death notices showing how transient life is and how capricious death is have long fascinated me, too, M. And the 19th century seems to have specialized in them. You're right, part of the fascination here is three such notices in one paper at one time.

    A thoughtful researcher who knows something of my roots in northwest Louisiana recently sent me an obituary in this vein, from my Birdwell family. It's from a newspaper called Bossier [Louisiana] Banner, 7 May 1891, and is the obituary of James Birdwell, son of John Birdwell, who was a brother of my ancestor Aletha Birdwell Leonard.

    Entitled "Life Is a River That Runs Up Stream," the obituary begins, "Died: On Cash Point, Bossier Parish, April 25th, 1891, Jimmie, youngest child of John and M.F. Birdwell, aged 9 years, 5 months, and 19 days.

    While attempting to check a runaway mule, Jimmie fell from the cart and a wheel ran over his body, causing internal injury. After lingering nine days, he passed into the arms of One whom he loved and trusted, and amid the shadows of death he said to a near and dear one he was not afraid to go for God would take care of him," etc.

    The Victorians knew how to write these stories of horrific death visited suddenly and very unjustly on too many folks with style. And how frequently it does seem many of our ancestors witnessed things like this, as children fell into fireplaces and down wells, or men were dragged to death in front of their wives and children by mules run amok, as they came home in the evening from plowing their fields.

  2. Thank goodness for records like this, because at this time period the death records rarely recorded a cause of death.