Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thomas Family Train Accidents Revisited

One of the first blogs I wrote, back in March, 2012, was about the train accidents which claimed the lives of both Warren Perry Thomas (1860-1896) and his nephew Charles Franklin Thomas Jr. (1878-1899).  The original article is here: “Thomas Family Train Accidents“.

It occurred to me today that I never posted the original articles about those accidents, so I’m going to put them here, for the record.

The first article I found was this short blurb from the “Saint Lawrence Herald”, Dec 1896:


St. Lawrence Herald, December 1896.

This article, from the “New Haven Register”, New Haven, CT on 5 Dec 1896, outlines the basic facts of the first accident:

"New Haven Register", New Haven, CT.  5 Dec 1896

“New Haven Register”, New Haven, CT.     5 Dec 1896

The next article, from the “Watertown Daily Times”, Watertown, NY.  9 Dec 1896, fills in more details:

Watertown Daily Times, Watertown, NY.  9 Dec 1896

Watertown Daily Times, Watertown, NY. 9 Dec 1896

This article, from, includes an emotional interview with Charles Franklin Thomas Sr. about the accident, and finding his dead brother in the wreck:


One more from the “Brattleboro Vermont Phoenix”, page 3. 11 Dec 1896:


“Brattleboro Vermont Phoenix”, page 3. 11 Dec 1896.

Bridge Cemetery, Canton, NY.

Bridge Cemetery, Canton, NY.

Three years later, Warren’s nephew Charles Franklin Thomas Jr. was killed when the train on which he was working as brakeman passed under a bridge.  Normally there was plenty of clearance, but the bridge was being painted, and Charles was struck from behind by a piece of a the scaffolding as he walked along the top of the freight cars.  His neck was broken, and he died within minutes.

A shorter article, from the “Potsdam-St. Lawrence Herald”, 21 Jul 1899. Courtesy of the Franklin County Historical Society.

"Potsdam-St. Lawrence Herald", Potsdam, NY.  21 Jul 1899.

“Potsdam-St. Lawrence Herald”, Potsdam, NY. 21 Jul 1899.

This article about the accident, was printed in the “Brattleboro Vermont Phoenix”, 23 June 1899, page 2:

Charles F. Thomas Jr. Death, 1899

Charles F. Thomas Jr. Death, 1899

Charles’s gravestone features an image of a freight train brake wheel, a nod to the duties he was performing when he was killed.

Greenwood Cemetery, Saint Albans, VT.

Greenwood Cemetery, Saint Albans, VT.

Grandma Was a Witch?

My 11x great-grandmother, Margaret Matson [her maiden name seems to have been Margareta Ericsdottir], was the ancestor of my great-grandmother Edith Edna Curtis.

Margaret was born about 1635 in Torshälla, Södermanland, Sweden.  She married Nils Matson [also Matsson] in Sweden on 5 Nov 1651.  The couple immigrated to America in 1654, arriving at “New Sweden, Delaware“.

According to a biography written by Nils Matsson’s great-grandson Peter Matson, Nils and Margareta arrived aboard the ship Örn and were initially assigned a plantation in “Finland”, an area south of Upland, Pennsylvania.  The family then moved to land along Crum Creek near present-day Eddystone, Pennsylvania.

The Matssons did not speak English, and had a prime tract of farmland due to their early arrival at the colony.  They were, by some accounts, prosperous farmers.  This may have led to distrust and jealousy amongst the later-arriving Dutch and English.  Margaret was also said to have been a “healer” in the Swedish tradition.  In any case, in 1683 Margaret was accused of witchcraft by several people in her settlement, including (indirectly) her own daughter-in-law.  Some accounts posit that this was a poorly-conceived attempt to wrest the land from the Matson family.

Whatever the motive, Margaret and Nils were brought before a provincial Grand Jury headed by William Penn himself to face charges that Margaret was a witch.  It was the only witchcraft trial ever held in the province of Pennsylvania.

William Penn, Governor of early Pennsylvania

William Penn, Governor of early Pennsylvania

The trial proceedings are recorded in the “Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania“, and, frankly, it’s pretty funny stuff.  It’s written in Old English, which gives it a real charm, and the accusations against Margaret read like a scene from “Monty Python’s Holy Grail”.  It’s not far from “She turned me into a newt!

There was a preliminary hearing, held on 7 Dec 1683, that saw Nils Matson posting a bond of 50 pounds to ensure the good behavior of his wife.  The trial date was then set for the 27th of December.

At the actual trial a couple of different Swedes were available to translate for Margaret, who, as previously-stated, did not speak English.  Margaret plead “not guilty” to the charges, then the first witness against her took the stand.  Henry Drystreet testified that:

“He was tould 20 years agoe, that the prisoner at the Barr was a witch, and that several cows were betwitcht by her; also, that James Saunderling’s mother tould him that she bewitched her cow, but afterwards said it was a mistake, and that her Cow should doe well again, for it was not her cow but another person’s that should dye”.

Got that?  Henry got up and said he had once been told that Margaret was a witch, and his proof was that Mrs. Saunderling said that Margaret had bewitched her cow, but later told him she was mistaken because her cow was fine and it had been someone else’s cow that had died.  Compelling stuff.

The next witness was just as convincing.  Charles Ashcom took the stand and testified.

“Charles Ashcom attested, saith Anthony [Matson]’s wife being asked why she sould her Cattle; was because her mother [in-law] had bewitcht them, having taken the witchcraft of Hendrick’s cattle, and put it on their oxon; she might keep but noe other cattle.”

So, Charles’s point seems to be that he asked Margaret’s daughter-in-law why she sold her cattle, and she told him that Margaret had bewitched the cattle, taking a spell off Hendrick Jacobson’s cattle and putting it on some oxen.  As a result, the wife sold her cattle and wouldn’t own any more.

Charles then got into some more serious accusations:

“That one night the daughter of ye prisoner called him up hastily, and when he came she sayd that there was a great light but just before, and an old woman with a knife in her hand at ye bedd’s feet, and therefore shee cryed out and desired Jonathan Symcock to take away his calves, or else she would send them to hell.”

This one’s a little tougher to decipher, but it seems that Margaret’s daughter-in-law [the Matsons had three sons and no daughters] called Charles in the middle of the night to say, “You just missed it!  I was asleep, and then suddenly an old woman appeared in a flash of light at the foot of my bed!  She had a knife, and she said if John Symcock doesn’t take his baby cows off our property this spectral, knife-wielding woman would send us… or the calves… she wasn’t entirely clear on the matter… to hell!  Totally was not a dream.  At all!”

“She turned me into a newt!”, indeed.

Witch Trial (etching)

Witch Trial (etching)

The next witness, Annakey Coolin, testified that she and her husband had a calf die, “they thought, by witchcraft”, so they boiled the heart of the calf, presumably to draw out the witch.  When they were boiling the heart, Margaret came to their door and asked them what they were doing.  They told her they were boiling the flesh, and Margaret told them they should have boiled the bones of the calf instead.  This statement was, they said, accompanied by “other unseemly expressions”.  There was apparently another story told by Annakey about how Margaret had gotten out of her canoe and bewitched some geese.  That story is, unfortunately, only alluded to in the court transcript.

Finally, with the help of the interpreter, Margaret took the stand in her own defense.

“Margaret Mattson saith that she values not Drystreet’s evidence, but if Sanderlin’s mother had come, she would have answered her.  [She] also denyeth Charles Ascom’s attestation at her soul, and saith, “Where is my Daughter?  Let her come and say so.”  Annakey Cooling’s attestation concerning the geese, she denyeth, saying that she was never out of her canoe, and also that she never said any such things concerning the calve’s heart.  The Prisoner denyeth all things, and saith that ye witnesses speak only by hear say.”

In other words, “None of that happened, and none of you actually saw any of the things you’re testifying about.”  The jury deliberated and returned a verdict:

“The jury went forth, and upon their returne brought her in guilty of having the comon fame of a witch, but not guilty in manner and forme as shee stands indicted.”

That’s one of my favorite parts:  “We find you guilty of people thinking you’re a witch, but find you not-guilty of actually being a witch.”  Case closed.  Nils paid a 50 pound fine to ensure her good behavior for the next six months (kind of a probation), and they went home.

Nobody ever accused anyone else of being a witch in Pennsylvania after that.

Sarah Spencer Curtis – (1823 – 1893)

Sarah Spencer, my 4x great-grandmother, was the ancestor of my great-grandmother Edith Edna Curtis, who married Oscar Krueger.  The identity of Sarah’s parents was not known, so I’m putting what I know about her here so that I can organize the information in one place.

According to multiple sources, Sarah was born in Ohio, likely in Miami County.  Her death record gives the date of her birth as 23 May 1823.

The first record I have of Sarah is her marriage to Daniel Curtis on 15 Oct 1840 in the records for Miami County, Ohio.  The document doesn’t have much in the way of data.  It just says:

“No. 153, Daniel Curtis & Sarah Spencer.  Harvey Hoover sworn as to consent of Lady’s Mother – Gent – to age. Were married by me October 15th 1840, Burrell Pickinings, J.P. [Justice of the Peace]”

Curtis / Spencer Marriage, 1840

Curtis / Spencer Marriage, 1840

So we know Sarah’s mother was alive in 1840 [and can infer that her father probably was not], and that Harvey Hoover was their sworn witness.  This is important because we can find a marriage record from the same county on 20 Oct 1836 for Harvey Hoover and Rebecca Spencer.  We can reasonably assume that Sarah and Rebecca were sisters.  In fact, Sarah and Daniel Curtis’s first son was named Harvey Hoover Curtis.  He was my 3x great-grandfather.  Rebecca Spencer was born in Ohio on 15 Mar 1819 and died in Pipe Creek, Indiana on 6 Nov 1868.  Her death record might yield some clues to her parents.

Sarah and Daniel Curtis had four known children.  Their daughter Anna Jane Curtis (1841-1924) was born in Troy, Ohio in 1841, their son Harvey Hoover Curtis (1844-1917) was born in Little York, Ohio in 1844, son John Spencer Curtis was born in Miami County in 1846, and Samuel Crawford Curtis (1851-1927), was born in the town of Bunker Hill, Indiana in 1851.

The middle name “Crawford” for Samuel might be a clue to the identity of his mother’s parents since there is no Crawford family on the Curtis side.  Sarah’s half-brother Newton Jones had a son named Orren Crawford Jones.  Sarah’s daughter Anna Jane Curtis had a son named Francis Crawford Hedrick.  I’m guessing the name Crawford comes from Anna’s side of the family, and may be the maiden name of her mother.

One theory about Sarah’s parentage came from a user on who sent this message:

“I know [Sarah Spencer’s] mother was Anna Jones and step dad is Sam Jones, but don’t know her mom’s maiden name.  I am finding her mother as Anna Jones married to Samuel Jones. I think she was Anna Sutton then married a James Spencer then Samuel Jones, then died at her daughter Eliza Cain’s house in Indiana.”

The evidence for this narrative:

  • Anna Sutton married James Spencer 29 Nov 1810 in Preble County, OH.
Spencer/Sutton Marriage, Preble County, Ohio, 1810.

Spencer/Sutton Marriage, Preble County, Ohio, 1810.

  • There is a death record for James Spencer in 1825 in Ohio.  Unfortunately there are no details in the record beyond that.
  • Anna Spencer married Samuel Jones 6 Sept 1825 in Miami County, OH.

There is certainly evidence to support this version of events. The part about Anna Sutton marrying James Spencer has a kink, as she was said to have been born in 1795-6, so that would have made her 14 or 15 at the time of her marriage, but she could have been married young and/or also been making herself a bit younger when answering the census.  Marriage at 15 was not unheard of at that time.  If we accept this version, Anna marries James Spencer who dies about 1825. This jibes well with the father implicitly dead in the 1840 marriage record for Sarah Spencer. Then Anna remarries to Samuel Jones, who dies between 1850 and 1860.  She then goes to live with her daughter until her death.  The progression from Miami County, OH to Pipe Creek, IN is a good fit to be the right family and she’s living next to Rebecca Spencer, so I’m fairly confident Anna Jones is Rebecca Spencer’s mother.  It’s just a matter of proving that the Anna Spencer who married Samuel Jones in 1825 is also Anna Sutton who married James Spencer in 1810.  This theory is further supported by Sarah Spencer’s son being named James Spencer Curtis.

Other bits possibly related to this theory: Thomas Spencer married Mary Jeffries in Miami County, OH on 6 Aug 1835.  He is also the right age and place to be a possible sibling to Sarah Spencer.  John was born about 1811, which jibes well with the 1810 marriage of John Spencer and Anna Sutton.  The family moved to Franklin, Indiana sometime around 1840, following a similar trajectory to Daniel and Sarah.  In the 1870 census there is a Mollie Ludy living with Anna who was born in 1838 in Ohio.

Contradicting this theory is the fact that two of Anna’s children with Samuel Jones list “Anna Harmer” as their mother’s maiden name (Joseph R Jones’ marriage to Emma Fox in 1905 and the biography of Eliza Jones’s husband David Cain, written in 1898, which says: “[David Cain] married, in Pipe Creek township, Miami county, Miss Eliza Jones, a native of this county, born in 1831, daughter of Samuel and Annie (Harmer) Jones.”).

Another theory comes from a marriage record from 12 Nov 1818 in Miami County, Ohio where a James Spencer married a Sarah Jones, or a Sarah Young (depending on which transcription you trust).  Again, since Sarah Spencer’s son was named James Spencer Curtis, this could be a relative.

I’m following up on all these leads to see if I can determine which is correct.

Daniel Curtis & Sarah Spencer

Daniel Curtis & Sarah Spencer, my 4x great-grandparents, were the ancestors of my maternal grandfather, Lloyd O. Krueger.

Daniel Curtis was born 25 Dec 1814 in Butler, Ohio to John A. Curtis and Catherine Hoover (a distant relative of president Herbert Hoover). Daniel was a descendant of Samuel Curtis who came to Rowen County, North Carolina from Northamptonshire, England.  The lineage is as follows:

Samuel Curtis (1710 – 1797) oo Mary Lovitt (1713 – 1808)
James Curtis (1752 – 1795) oo Nancy Mast (1757 – 1851)
John A Curtis (1781 – 1864) oo Catherine Hoover (1787 – 1856)
Daniel Curtis

The Curtises and the Hoovers were Quaker families, or as they called themselves “The Friends”.   Many of the records for the family are records from Quaker meetings where happenings in the religious community were documented.

Sarah Spencer was born 23 May 1823 in Ohio, likely in Miami County.  At the time of this writing, I am not totally sure who her parents were, although I am following several leads.

I do know that Sarah had an older sister, Rebecca Spencer, who was born in Ohio on 15 Mar 1819.  Rebecca married Harvey Hoover on 20 Oct 1836 in Miami County, Ohio.  They ended up having six boys and one girl, and living in Pipe Creek, Indiana.

Hoover/Spencer Gravestone, from

Hoover/Spencer Gravestone, from

Daniel Curtis and Sarah Spencer were married almost exactly four years later on 15 Oct 1840 in Miami County, Ohio by Burrell Pickinings, Justice of the Peace.  Sarah’s brother-in-law, Harvey Hoover, was their sworn witness.

Curtis / Spencer Marriage, 1840

Curtis / Spencer Marriage, 1840

The couple’s first son was named Harvey Hoover Curtis after Sarah’s brother-in-law.  Harvey Hoover Curtis was my 3x great-grandfather.

Harvey Hoover Curtis & Mary Jane Hutchins, c1910

Harvey Hoover Curtis & Mary Jane Hutchins, c1905

[As an aside, this photo, taken in Great Falls, Montana (likely for their 40th anniversary in 1905), is interesting to me because my grandmother is wearing a brooch with a photo of a couple on it. Is it an older photo of them? A marriage photo for one of their children?  A cousin of mine and descendant of the family believes that the brooch photo might be their wedding photo from 1865.  To me, it looks like a photo of her sister-in-law Anna Curtis Hedrick (see portrait below).]


Close-up of Mary Hutchins’ brooch.

After their marriage, Sarah Spencer and Daniel Curtis stayed in Miami County, Ohio for several years. Their daughter Anna Jane Curtis (1841-1924) was born in Troy, Ohio on 20 Sept 1841, their son Harvey Hoover Curtis (1844-1917) was born in Little York, Ohio on 20 Jan 1844, and the birth record of son John Spencer Curtis (1847-1904) says he was born in Dayton, Ohio on 25 Aug 1847.

Anna J Curtis Hedrick, from & Judy Christensen.

Anna J Curtis Hedrick, from & Judy Christensen.

Shortly after that, the Curtises moved to Miami County, Indiana where they are in the 1850 census for Pipe Creek Township.  Daniel and Sarah’s youngest son, Samuel Crawford Curtis (1851-1927), was born in the town of Bunker Hill, Pipe Creek Township, Indiana in 1851.

Samuel C. Curtis, from and the Lacy Family Tree.

Samuel C. Curtis, from and the Lacy Family Tree.

As stated above, the family appears in the 1850 census for Pipe Creek Township, Indiana. Daniel is listed as a farmer from Ohio. Their children Anna, Harvey, and John are also listed.

1850 Census, Pipe Creek, IN

1850 Census, Pipe Creek, IN

They are also in Pipe Creek for the 1860 Census. Daniel is again described as a “farmer”, and Harvey, John, and Samuel are still at home. Daughter Anna had married William Oscar Hedrick (1838 – 1909) on 26 Jul 1859 and they had moved to Jonesboro, Indiana by 1860.

1860 Census, Pipe Creek, IN

1860 Census, Pipe Creek, IN

There is some evidence to suggest that Daniel Curtis served as a Private in Company E of the 100th Regiment of the US Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. This has not been confirmed.

Son Harvey Hoover Curtis enlisted in the Union Army on 5 May 1864 as a private with Company C of the 151st Indiana Infantry.  He was discharged from service on 29 Sept 1864.  He reinlisted on 31 Jan 1865 and was honorably discharged for a second time on 19 Sept 1865.  His service garnered him a pension of $12/month starting in 1907.

In 1870 the family can be found in the census for Rutland, Michigan. Sons Samuel and John are living with their parents, but John is married and his wife Lenora Ayers (“Eleanora” in the census), and son Charles are also listed in the same household. Daniel is still listed as a “farmer” and Sarah is listed as keeping house.

1870 Census, Rutland, MI

1870 Census, Rutland, MI

In 1870 daughter Anna Hedrick was in Hastings, Michigan with her husband and family, and son Harvey was in Rutland, Michigan with his family where he was listed as a stone mason in the census.

By 1880 Daniel and Sarah had moved back to Bunker Hill, Indiana where Daniel is listed as a “laborer” and Sarah as keeping house. You can see their son Samuel in the census directly below them:

1880 Census, Bunker Hill, Indiana

1880 Census, Bunker Hill, Indiana

At that time daughter Anna was living in Grinnell, Iowa (the eventual home town of my great-grandmother Edith Curtis) with her family.  Harvey was in Bunker Hill, Indiana near his parents, and John Curtis was in Fairfield, Iowa with his family where he was listed as a laborer for the railroad.  By 1885, however, John would move to Grinnell as his sister had.

On 17 Jun 1882, John S. Curtis’s infant son Casheous M. Curtis (who was born on Valentine’s day that year) was one of 50 people killed by a tornado which swept through Grinnell.  He was buried in Hazelwood Cemetery in Grinnell.

Grinnell Tornado Damage, 1882 (US Weather Service)

Grinnell Tornado Damage, 1882 (US Weather Service)

Sometime around 1885 Daniel Curtis died.  I haven’t found any death record for him, or a burial site.  In the 1885 census for Grinnell, Iowa, Sarah is living with her daughter Anna and is listed as “widowed”.

1885 Census, Grinnell, Iowa

1885 Census, Grinnell, Iowa

A record exists from “Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903” ordering a headstone for a Daniel Curtis who died 3 Sept 1885.  It’s not clear at all that this is my grandfather since the town listed is Martin’s Ferry, Belmont, Ohio.  As far as I know Daniel never lived there, so it seems odd that this would be where he’d choose to be buried.  I’m very skeptical that this has anything to do with my family.  Martin’s Ferry is in a totally different part of Ohio than anywhere Daniel is recorded to have lived.

Headstone order, 1885.

Headstone order, 1885.

In any case, Sarah seems to have lived with her daughter Anna in Boone, Iowa, until her own death.  She died there, in her daughter’s home, on 13 Jun 1893 at 3:40pm from “phthisis pulmonalis“, a form of tuberculosis, from which she had suffered for four years.

Sarah Spencer Death Cert, 1893

Sarah Spencer Death Cert, 1893

There was a short notice published about the funeral in the local paper:

Boone County Republican June 21st 1893 pg 5.

Boone County Republican June 21st 1893 pg 5

Her death record says that Sarah was buried in the Linwood Cemetery in Boone, Iowa, on 14 Jun 1893, but according to the cemetery office there is no marker for her grave there, and the Boone County Library was unable to locate her in the cemetery records.

So there are many mysteries that remain to be solved.  Who were Sarah’s parents, and when was she born?  Was Daniel a Civil War veteran?  When did he die?  Where are Daniel and Sarah buried?

The search goes on.