Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oh No, Not That

If there is anything else as challenging, in genealogy research, as trying to find an ancestor with a name like Smith or Jones, I’d nominate the surname Brown as a strong runner-up for that possibility.

In order to find out anything further on Emma Brown, the mystery wife of Patrick Kelly, we have to not only take a step away from the 1900 census for Fort Wayne, Indiana, but also move away from online research and delve into microfilmed documents. Thankfully, I was able to attend to a lot of this research during trips to Fort Wayne in years past. But I also had to rely on microfilms ordered through the local Family History Center, and then diligently slog through them, page by agonizing page, until I located the documents showing possibilities of matches—especially for Emma’s son Frederick’s baptismal record.

Since the 1900 census already told us that Emma’s son’s name—presumably from a previous marriage—was Frederick Brown, and since we already knew from (dubious) newspaper reports that Emma came from Logansport, the next step was to see what was available from Cass County, Indiana. Frederick’s likely year of birth was around 1898, so presumably, his parents’ wedding would have taken place in 1897 or earlier—but not too much earlier, as Emma had already reported that she was the mother of only one child. Besides, at the age of twenty five in 1900, she was unlikely to have been married before 1891.

Armed with those generous parameters, I made one more assumption before launching into the wide unknown, seeking marriage records for the Brown couple. My assumption—and fervent hope—was that Emma and her first husband were married in the Catholic Church in Logansport. Conveniently, there were records from Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in Logansport available through microfilm. In addition, I found an entry in the first volume of the Index to Marriage Record 1850-1920 for Cass County, Indiana (from the 1940 Cass County WPA collection, volume 1, Book 16, on page 312).

You won’t want to know what it says.

But I’ll tell you, anyhow.

We are now tasked with finding information—not only for someone with the common surname Brown, but with a first name of John.

Do you know how many John Browns there are out there?

Mercifully, there were a few other details. Just a few. For one thing, Emma’s husband was actually listed as John H. Brown—a minor consolation, as we contemplate further searches for the man’s information. But an understandable addition to help distinguish him from the rest of the crowd. Plus, we now have a date of April 22, 1897, for the wedding—a chaste nine months and one week prior to Frederick's birth.

The other detail? The maiden name of his wife. Apparently, Emma was listed, not as a Kaher, not as a Reseberger, but as a Carle.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just in Time

With the wedding of Patrick and Emma Kelly occurring in June, 1900, the chances of capturing their information as married couple in the Fort Wayne 1900 census was rather slim. But it would be so helpful if it were there—and yet, even more helpful if Patrick’s wife could be identified separately as Emma Brown, as she was shown on the marriage license in Allen County.

Fortunately, in my quest to match any link between the Brown surname and the Kelly name, I did locate the couple in the 1900 census. Thankfully, the date in which the survey team arrived in Patrick’s neighborhood was a bit after the couple’s wedding date. Enumerator George B. Irwin canvassed West Williams Street in Fort Wayne on June 29—ample time for the newlyweds to set up housekeeping there.

There on the page, preserved now for all to see, was the Kelly household. Patrick, as head of household, was listed as born in July, 1869. Just as his sister Mary’s listing appeared subsequent to her 1900 marriage, Patrick was listed as being married for zero years, as was his wife.

Emma’s listing showed her birth occurring in September, 1874—like her husband, also in Indiana. Since the 1900 census inquired into how many children each woman had borne, Emma’s report showed her the mother of one child, still living.

And, to confirm the speculations on the Brown surname Emma was married under, just below her census entry appeared that of two-year-old Frederick Brown, born January, 1898, to parents who were both listed as Indiana natives.

Telling the rest of the tale was the entry delineating the relationship between Patrick as head of household and the child, Frederick: that of step-son.

That helps explain why Emma was married under the surname Brown while the newspaper reports showed her sister, as maid of honor, named “Miss Kaher.” But don’t think it will be as simple a matter as seeking a Kaher family in the Logansport area. Best I can tell, there wasn’t one. And if there were a Kaher family there, related to our Emma, how would we be able to confirm that? The report in The Fort Wayne News didn’t include Miss Kaher’s first name.

On the other hand, what if the correct maid of honor’s name was May Reseberger, as The Fort Wayne Sentinel had it? Do we assume that name was the one to which we should apply the relationship of sisterhood? Or was the sister label entirely misinformed?

My guess was that the best approach might be to give up on all this mis-reporting and head to Cass County, Indiana, to see if there were any marriage records for an Emma who married a Mister Brown in Logansport—or, at the very least, any birth record for their child, Frederick.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Season for Marriages

Perhaps the peal of wedding bells lingered in the air a bit longer for Mary Kelly’s brother Patrick after Mary exchanged her vows with another Patrick—the Patrick Phillips who became her husband on May 23, 1900—for it was two weeks to the day when her brother followed suit and became a married man, too.

Mary’s brother Patrick chose as his wife a woman from Logansport, a small Indiana town seventy five miles distant from his native Fort Wayne. On June 5, 1900, the prospective couple appeared before the clerk of the Allen County Circuit Court to obtain license to be married—which event occurred the very next day.

Other than my research for our direct line’s Catherine Kelly—Patrick’s other sister who married my husband’s great-grandfather John Kelly Stevens—Patrick’s line was one of the first of the Kelly line that I successfully pursued during visits to Fort Wayne years ago. I felt pretty good about locating Patrick’s marriage license as quickly as I did—and uncovering the maiden name of his bride.

Patrick’s intended was named Emma W. Brown. Not that I groaned upon discovering that I would now have to delve into researching a surname as common as Brown—a fate almost as bad as researching Smith—but I soon discovered there might be some problems with what had initially seemed such an easy discovery.

Of course, I still had to keep in mind the possibility that listings for this family could be spelled either Kelly or Kelley. Everything had to be doubly-checked, using each of the two spellings, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

Then, of course, I had to tap dance around the usual reporting errors. Were Patrick and Emma married “this evening,” as The Fort Wayne News had it on June 6, 1900; married “this morning,” as The Fort Wayne Evening Sentinel insisted; or married “Eearly last Wednesday morning,” as the Weekly Sentinel recapped it on June 13, 1900 (and yes, you read correctly: “Eearly,” as in veery early at 6:30).

I suppose you could attribute such focus on little details to my propensity to poke fun at journalistic mistakes. But it’s the other mistakes I found that cause me to lose confidence in such reports. Take the details on the wedding attendants. Were the maid of honor and best man really “Miss May Reseberger and Edward Ryan,” as both versions of the Sentinel had it? Or should I prefer this version, found in the June 6 News:
The marriage of Miss Emma Brown to Mr. Patrick Kelly will be solemnized this evening at 6:30 at St. Patrick's church, the Rev. Father Delaney performing the ceremony. The attendants will be Miss Kaher, of Logansport, sister of the bride, and Mr. John Ryan. The bride and groom will go to housekeeping at 60 Williams street.

More to the point, if this version of the story was the one that was correct, how is it that Miss Kaher was sister to Miss Emma Brown?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Patrick

Mary Kelly Phillips may have married a man by the name of Patrick, but that wasn’t her first opportunity to become accustomed to calling that name. Mary grew up with a younger brother by that same name.

While Mary’s parents—John and Johanna Falvey Kelly—arrived in Fort Wayne from Ireland along with Mary and her older brother and sister, it was her younger brother Patrick who became the delineating mark to help the family recall the date of their arrival in the New World. Mary’s March, 1867, birth made her the last of the children added to the family in whatever unknown part of the family’s origins in County Kerry, Ireland. In contrast to the nebulous report of his sister’s arrival, Patrick’s arrival in July, 1869, was duly recorded as an Allen County, Indiana, event.

Being the first of a new generation of Kellys born in the new country, Patrick undoubtedly developed a different perspective than his immigrant older brother and sisters. And yet, being surrounded by a household of relatives who remembered the hardships of the old country, he most certainly bore the effects of those experiences, too—everything from his teenage brother’s tragic death and the loss of his sister Catherine as a new mother, to the more recent episode of his brother-in-law’s tragic end while at work one night.

That new generation was not immune to those hardships nor the legacy of their memory. Patrick, as we’ll see, had a life filled not only with the trademark uplifted Irish outlook on life, but with his own set of sadnesses and difficulties. He and his wife raised eight children—seven of whom, thankfully, outlived him. He did that all on a civil servant’s salary as a city waterworks department employee, a goldilocks existence that proved to be not too little—but not too much, either.

Studying Patrick T. Kelly’s line led me to some documentation—obtained easily enough by genealogical efforts—which revealed details that make me wonder whether I now know more than the family’s immediate descendants might know about Patrick’s situation. On the other hand, of all the extended Kelly family that I have researched (besides our own line which descends from Patrick’s older sister Catherine Kelly Stevens), Patrick’s is the only line of descendants with whom I’ve made personal connections.

Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Patrick was educated at Saint Patrick’s school in town. And yet, though spending his entire life in the city in which he was born, he somehow met and married a woman from Logansport—a woman who, leaving her family behind in that town seventy five miles away, brought her own unfortunate story with her.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

To Live Happily Ever After

To be a father of four daughters in our times would mean being a man eventually footing the bill for four expensive wedding celebrations. Not so for Patrick Phillips, whose early death meant his daughters would not have his escort to walk the aisle before exchanging those life-changing vows.

I don’t know whether to read anything into the fact that those four daughters married rather late—at least for that era—but I wonder what might have influenced the choices they made for life partners. All four girls did eventually marry—two before their widowed mother died, two afterwards. All four married men who listed their occupation as salesman. All four—despite the fact that I cannot find Grace in the 1940 census—remained in their hometown of Fort Wayne for the remainder of their lives.

Eldest daughter Helen was the first to say “I do.” She found the love of her life in Michigan native Ralph E. Landis. Nicknamed “Jake,” he was an Army Signal Corps veteran of World War I. Ralph had lived in Fort Wayne for most of his life. By the time he and Helen were married in 1926, she was nearing her twenty fifth birthday. The couple had two daughters.

The next of the daughters to be swept off her feet was Patrick and Mary Phillips’ third daughter, Margaret. At the time of her wedding, she was already twenty four—actually three months younger than her eldest sister was at the time of her wedding. Margaret’s beau was Paul E. Elliott, an Ohio native and former Indiana University School of Medicine student whose studies were cut short by family needs when his father died. Paul was an extremely successful businessman—Fort Wayne residents prior to the 1970s would remember him as “Gunnar” Elliott—and received many accolades for his accomplishments over the years. Paul and Margaret were the parents of an only daughter.

There was quite a gap in the time between these two family weddings and the next two. It seemed, for a while, as if the other two sisters were going to remain unmarried. The two remained in their mother’s household, as can be seen in the 1930 census—the old Kelly home on 1919 Hoagland—but by the end of the following year, the glue that had held the family home together all those years, their mother Mary, had herself passed away. By 1935, the unexpected began happening: second daughter Grace had a suitor. By the time she married John Fred Bushman in June,1935, she was approaching thirty two years of age. Perhaps it is no surprise that she and fellow Fort Wayne native “Red” Bushman had no children—although I can only draw that conclusion based on their obituaries; I have not yet been able to locate them in the 1940 census.

By the time of that 1940 census, Mary Phillips’ remaining daughter, Mary Celeste—still unmarried—was living in the home of her oldest sister Helen and her husband, Ralph Landis. But that was about to change. In that same year, Pennsylvania native John Kenton Miskel took the thirty three year old Mary Celeste as his bride. Though this couple also had no children, they remained close to family, living in Fort Wayne for the rest of their years.

What was interesting about these four sisters is that, not only did they all remain in Fort Wayne, but three of their spouses, at one point or another, ended up working in the same family-run business. While so many people today find themselves far removed from their hometown—and give a new spin on the term “extended family”—these four sisters, who once huddled together with their widowed mother in a humble southside home, found that closeness had become a lifelong habit.

Although Patrick Phillips’ line had “daughtered out,” his early departure fostered, by necessity, a closeness that became the next generation’s heritage. While his surname could never be passed down to future generations, his family gained an invisible but arguably more valuable legacy in that stronger family bond.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Making of Childhood Memories

So many parents have commented on how they would like to give their children a better childhood than they, themselves, had experienced. Most of us, having achieved an improved version of the American Dream our parents once chased, are able to do that for our own families.

In widow Mary Kelly Phillips case, the challenge was a bit more complicated. There is no way—no matter how much we may try—to make up for the father a child has lost in his or her early years.

But I’m sure she tried.

By the time the Phillips court case had come to the point of a verdict—and then, rebuffed an attempt to gain a retrial in June, 1914—Mary’s oldest daughter, Helen, was nearing thirteen years of age. The youngest child, Celeste, had just cleared her seventh birthday.

Fortunately, thanks to the chatty Society pages of the various Fort Wayne newspapers of the time, we can gain a glimpse of how Mary’s girls fared, sans father, in their pre-teen and teen years.

From The Fort Wayne News on October 12, 1915, we learn of Celeste’s attendance at a gala celebration of a fifth birthday for a friend. Let it be noted that the “few” friends listed along with Celeste amounted to a sizable gathering.
Little Miss Rosella, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hosbach, invited a few of her little girl friends to her home on Saturday afternoon…to help celebrate her 5th birthday anniversary. The afternoon was spent in playing games and several pretty favors were awarded those fortunate enough to prove themselves winners in the contests. At 5 o’clock the small folks removed to the dining room, where a beautiful big birthday cake and other goodies…awaited them. The dining room was decorated in pink and white and at each place at the table dainty pink baskets filled with bonbons added a pretty touch. The children who enjoyed this jolly celebration and who with presents, numerous and pretty, made this day an unusually pleasant one for Miss Rosella were Misses…Celeste Phillips…

Another interesting celebration mentioned in the August 4, 1915, Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel—complete with group photograph—was the surprise party for a grandmother and her two granddaughters. The large group was treated to a rather nice party. It’s too bad the names listed in the article didn’t seem to correspond to the individuals’ placement in the photograph. I would have liked to see if Helen and Grace were able to keep up with their peers in their choice of party frocks. I tend to think they did.

Not all the articles concerned themselves with frivolous events. There were some reports of fundraising efforts in which the Phillips girls were listed. Charitable events seemed, during that era, to be the hallmark of the more fortunate in society, though others certainly could participate in such events as a way to show their own gratitude for what they’d been given. I suppose I shouldn’t read much into such stories. Helen led an effort, herself, to raise funds at one event for the Red Cross. Even younger sisters Margaret and Celeste were apparently encouraged to participate in creating fundraising opportunities, as their names could be seen listed in this event mentioned in The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel on one Friday, August 2, 1918:
The sum of ten dollars was realized for the local chapter of the Red Cross by a group of young girls of the southside as the result of an entertainment and sale which they held Wednesday afternoon and evening… The entertainment consisted of a playlet entitled “The Dinner Party,” …Besides the entertainment the girls had refreshment booths at which they sold ice cream, pop, popcorn and other things which swelled the fund quite a little…

Perhaps all children—whether destitute or coddled—became subjects of fawning society pages during that era. I really don’t know. From the wide variety of entries in which Helen, Grace, Margaret and Celeste were mentioned over those years, it appears that there were many bright spots in their childhood. True, that might have been owing to fine, upstanding and magnanimous citizens of Allen County seeking to insure that no underprivileged child be left out of the city’s social goings-on. I prefer to think of it as a sign that their mother, though a widow, was not doing so badly, after all.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Reconsidering That Payment

The question about whether widow Mary Kelly Phillips had actually received the payment she was awarded in her lawsuit against the receivers for the Wabash Railroad Company is something that deserves consideration. After all, the Wabash Railroad wasn’t in the finest of financial conditions at the time of the 1914 verdict.

I had always presumed Mary had received what was due her—that is, until I started researching all these details. It was at that point all the doubt was introduced into my mind.

On the other hand, one quick glance at the 1920 census—the very next one after Patrick Phillips’ sudden death at work in 1912 that precipitated the lawsuit—told me that Mary owned her home free and clear. That’s right: no mortgage.

I had always presumed that Mary Phillips’ home showed as free of any mortgage in the 1920 census because she had applied the proceeds from the lawsuit into putting her financial house in order.

Thinking that one over, I realized that I was carrying my modern presumptions into the milieu I was researching. While it is the rare homeowner nowadays that is not encumbered by a mortgage, it was much more common, back in those days in which Mary lived, to own a home or farm outright. While I had presumed otherwise, Mary's home might have been free of any mortgage since the beginning when the Kelly family purchased it.

Which brought up a second question: did Patrick and Mary always own that home without a mortgage? After all, the young couple had actually moved into the home when it was property of Mary’s mother, Johanna Falvey Kelly. Could it be that, upon Johanna’s death, the young couple had received title to the home from Johanna’s estate?

I had to roll back the years to find my answer to the status of the Kelly-and-Phillips homeownership. As it turned out, the 1900 census—the year that Patrick and Mary were married and moved into her mother’s home on Hoagland Avenue in Fort Wayne—showed the house as owned with a mortgage.

Even so, it could have been possible that, though Johanna owed a mortgage on her home, upon her 1903 death it might have been cleared up as part of stipulations in her will. Yet, in the 1910 census, Patrick Phillips was shown as homeowner, still declared as carrying a mortgage.

With the 1920 census finally showing the house free and clear, we can presume the lawsuit proceeds had been sent to their intended service in clearing up those homeowner debts. But for a brief moment, just following the settlement of Mary’s lawsuit, we might have had our doubts.

Apparently, according to The Fort Wayne Daily News on June 5, 1914—not yet one full month after the verdict had been reached in the Phillips case—the receivers for the Wabash Railroad had taken the whole mess back to court, seeking to appeal the outcome.

Any sense of peace over justice achieved for Mary must have been immediately overridden by news of that about-face. If Mary had pluck and determination in bringing such a lawsuit to court in the first place, she certainly could add fortitude and endurance to those character qualities after this last turn of events. It was as if her mission was not to be obtained, after all.

Thankfully, the rebuff was short-lived, as announced in that day’s headlines: “No New Trial.”
            In the Wells circuit court Judge Echorn has overruled a motion for a new trial in the case of Mary A. Phillips, executrix of the estate of Patrick Phillips, vs. the receivers of the Wabash Railroad company. The plaintiff was some time ago awarded damages in the sum of $8,500.

Perhaps now, Mary could settle down to piecing her life back together again, and turn her full attention to single parenthood in the raising of her four children.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

And the Winner Is…

You’d think it was a knock-down, drag-out fight, this court case between Patrick Phillips’ widow Mary and his employer, the Wabash Railroad. After Patrick’s sudden death at work on May 18, 1912, Mary Kelly Phillips filed suit in the Allen County circuit court the following February.

One short month later, the defendants filed for change of venue, and the case was sent to nearby Wells County.

Over a year later, the case was still grinding its way through the justice system—albeit with the occasional hiatus for celebrity defendants to give rousing speeches in exclusive settings far from humble Bluffton, Indiana.

As the case drew to a close, the newspapers picked up their chorus again—little listings of the faintest hint of news about the Phillips lawsuit. The slightest details could pad the copy and make it seem like this newspaper—be it the Journal-Gazette, the Sentinel, or the Daily News—was the one with the scoop.

Really. Does it matter that the jury deliberations started on Saturday, May ninth, at “4:30 o’clock” and didn’t end until that evening at “10:40 o’clock”?

Not like it was front page news, anyhow. It was tucked away on page thirty of The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette that we discover—the following Monday morning, May 11, 1914—that “Mrs. Phillips Gets Verdict for $8,500.”
            All of last week was consumed by the Wells circuit court at Bluffton in the trial before a jury of the case of Mrs. Mary A. Phillips, administratrix of the estate of Patrick Phillips, deceased, against the receivers of the Wabash Railroad company, for damages and after deliberating from 4:30 o’clock Saturday until 10:40 o’clock Saturday night, a verdict was returned in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $8,500.
            Patrick Phillips was killed in the Wabash yards at Walton avenue, May 18, 1912. A suit was filed in the Allen circuit court and was venued to the Wells circuit court upon application of the receivers.
            Breen & Morris were attorneys for the plaintiff and Leonard, Rose & Zollars represented the receivers of the Wabash Railroad company.

On behalf of Mary, her lawyers, Breen and Morris, had won the case. While I’m not sure $8,500 is a “winning” for the price that widow had to pay, at least she now had means with which to raise her four daughters. It was a struggle that took Mary two years almost to the day to bring from start to finish.

And now, that episode in Mary’s life was over.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Something to Consider

If you think following family trees can be a challenge, just wait ’til you see the diagram of Wabash Railroad-related mergers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now, that’s challenging.

Before moving onward to see what decision was reached in Mary Kelly Phillips’ case against the Wabash Railroad, let’s consider that organization’s financial condition at the time Mary filed her 1913 suit in Allen County, Indiana.

Recall, if you will, her claim of wrongful death for her husband, Patrick Phillips, at the hands of his employer, the Wabash Railroad. The lawsuit was actually filed against “Frederick A. Delano and E. B. Pryor, receivers for the Wabash company.”

We’ve already taken a peek at just who Frederic Adrian Delano was. Now, courtesy of some details discovered by reader “Intense Guy” yesterday, we find that “E. B. Pryor” was most likely Edward Bailey Pryor—who did, incidentally, raise himself up from his bootstraps, entering service with the Wabash as a clerk in the auditor’s office, and finishing with a flourish as assistant to the president, before moving on to become a director with the State National Bank.

What Mr. Pryor did in the interim, after his service as assistant to Wabash’s president and before becoming president of the State National Bank, himself, is the span of time that best suits our purposes now in the saga of Patrick and Mary Phillips. It all goes back to that one phrase inserted with the details about the two gentlemen named as defendants in Mary Kelly Phillips’ case: “receivers.”

Apparently, the Wabash Railroad Company, incorporated in several Midwestern states in 1889, had entered receivership on December 26, 1911. Though this might be telling in that companies in the throes of financial woes may tend to cut corners that end up being short-sighted in the long run, only an examination of court reports could tell me that, now.

But we can guess, can’t we? I can’t help but wonder such things whenever I hear tales of cutbacks that press each of the remaining employees to the threshold of error or negligence.

There were certainly fingerprints of such financial woes showing in other newspaper reports. A May 21, 1914, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette article mentioned the arrangement of a special session of Federal Court to be held in Fort Wayne, in which of five cases against railroad companies, two concerned the Wabash Railroad. Though the settlements in those two cases, as reported in the June 10, 1914, Fort Wayne Sentinel, didn’t approach the amount sought by widow Mary Phillips, the report clues us in to the fact that she was not alone in her decision to seek redress.

Not only in lawsuits brought by widows, but in other business dealings, the Wabash Railroad continued to run from its creditors. With a new railroad depot just completed in Fort Wayne, unpaid contractors sought to foreclose on construction liens. A question of the company’s ability to pay was posed that same month by The Fort Wayne Daily News’ editorial headline on June fifth, “Suppose They Do Not Pay? Will the Creditors Sell the New Wabash Depot?”
             ...The Fort Wayne Builders’ Supply company this afternoon filed two suits against the receivers of the Wabash Railroad company, both complaints being to foreclose liens. The demand on one was $725 and on the other $900. Attorneys’ fees are asked in addition to the sums named. The complaints ask for an order of sale to be granted the plaintiffs.
            The liens are on the new Wabash depot here, and the question is what will happen if the plaintiffs are given the judgments they ask and the receivers do not pay. Will the plaintiffs sell the depot, and if so, who will want it and for what? These questions caused considerable comment in the office of Clerk Gerding when the complaints were filed.

Financial woes such as these make me wonder: even if Mary Phillips were awarded the sum she sought, would she be able to wrest it from the company? Even if the Wabash Railroad were the “Big Business” opponent portrayed in this little family history drama, with multiplied solvency issues, their giant adversarial image might turn out to be little more than a mirage.

Postcard, above right: the Wabash Railroad depot in Fort Wayne, circa 1920; in the public domain.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Talk

Taking the stand on Friday, May 8, 1914, were four Fort Wayne police officers and their sergeant—all tasked, one night nearly two years prior to that date, with investigating the death of Patrick Phillips, Wabash Railroad employee.

Of course, these city policemen were not testifying in their own hometown Allen County court system, as the high profile case had undergone a change of venue to nearby Wells County, Indiana.

By now, the trickle of news reports on the case seemed to be increasing with the string of articles beginning two days prior. This report, published the following Saturday morning in The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette on page 7, took care to name the names of each officer and their superior—and even dared to intimate that Patrick Phillips was “killed” rather than “died.”

Still, not much more was added to the tale. It was as if the newspapers were biding their time while awaiting the big word: would Mary Kelly Phillips receive the $10,000—or $20,000, or $25,000, depending on which report you believe—in damages which she was seeking?

If nothing else, this confirms to me the need to not only add historic newspapers to the mix in researching family history, but to access all court records available. Yes, there will be many dull details to sift through, but the few nuggets that can be captured through that process will be worth the effort.

While I’ll continue the story with the conclusion of this matter based on material I already have on hand, this will definitely be a vignette out of the Kelly-Phillips saga that I will need to revisit, once the rest of the documentation is in place.
Sergeant Grimme and Officers Eisenhut, Buuck, Fry and Kavanaugh were at Bluffton yesterday as witnesses in the damage suit brought by Mrs. Patrick Phillips against the Wabash railroad company, for the death of her husband, who was killed here two years ago. The officers picked up the body and investigated the affair. The case was venued to the Wells circuit court from the Allen circuit court.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Up, Up Again

Was it a friendly journalistic rivalry that entered the fray as everyone awaited the decision in the Mary Kelly Phillips case back in May, 1914?

Patrick Phillips had lost his life on the bad end of a man versus machine encounter at work one night. That was back in May of 1912. Nearly two years later, his widow was still seeking justice. It was not an easy bid for redress, as the case had had a change of venue to a small town twenty five miles removed from Fort Wayne, the city where Mary lived and where the tragedy occurred.

While not much had been mentioned in the newspapers in the interim, we’ve already discussed my hunch that public opinion—at least south of the tracks in neighborhoods like Mary’s—held strong in the widow’s favor. A vote for Mary was a vote for railroad employees everywhere—for better working conditions, or at least more respect for human dignity from their far-removed employers.

“Out of sight means out of mind” may have been the hope for the representatives of the Wabash Railroad whom Mary Phillips was suing. It was they who had requested the change of venue from the Allen County court system.

Following the granting of their request, there was hardly a word printed in the Fort Wayne newspapers about the case until just before its conclusion was reached. Of course, there can be any number of reasons for this state. One might be that there was some sort of court order demanding silence on the part of the journalists until the case was resolved. Another might have been some heavy-handed muscle flexing on the part of the big business player in town, threatening to stifle advertising income for any papers continuing to carry news on the story.

Of course, those are the dramatic symptoms of an imagination gone wild. The more likely reason for lack of further reports on the case’s progress is that there are so many holes in the historic newspaper collections available to us today. Mary's story may have sold plenty of newspapers—just none that I could access online.

Whatever the reason for the year-long journalistic silence, once that silence was breached, a curious detail emerged.

First, if you recall, the initial announcement in February,1913, cited the amount sought for damages as $10,000. I have that number courtesy of The Fort Wayne Daily News. When the editors saw fit to take up the tale again in May, 1914, the amount had escalated to $20,000—at least, according to copy in The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.

Not to be outdone, one day after the Journal-Gazette report, the rival Fort Wayne Sentinel upped the amount another five grand.

Something about all these inconsistencies—not to mention the VIP panel of players—makes me realize that it might be worth my while to actually obtain a copy of the court proceedings for this particular case. While gory as a coroner’s report, it might make for some informative reading.
Bluffton, Ind., May 8.—The big damage suit, in which Mrs. Mary Phillips, of Fort Wayne, is suing the Wabash Railroad company for damages in the sum of $25,000 for the death of her husband, Patrick Phillips, continues on trial in the circuit court, with the defense introducing evidence. Attorneys stated that the evidence in the case probably cannot be completed until some time today. As there will be long arguments, the case probably will not get to the jury before Saturday.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tick, Tick, Tick

Not a word appeared regarding the outcome of the Phillips case for over a year after The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette mentioned the change of venue to Wells County, Indiana, in March, 1913.

Presumably, during that time, Mary Kelly Phillips was somehow finding a way to travel twenty five miles from her home in Fort Wayne to follow the proceedings in her lawsuit against the Wabash Railroad.

Meanwhile, her adversaries—the “receivers” for the railroad company—existed in an entirely different universe. Theirs was a world of high finance, business deals and lofty goals. Frederick Delano, of whom many digital resources now leave testimony, was busy tap-dancing on behalf of the nation’s railroads. Whether his high profile attempts at swaying public and—more importantly—governmental opinion concerning further regulation of railroads were having any effects, he certainly couldn’t be faulted for lack of effort.

One particular appearance for the railroad president included a speech at the Economic Club of New York. On the night of April 29 of that same year in which Mary Phillips began her struggle to receive what she saw as justice in her case, her opponent was presenting a speech to the distinguished members of this New York City gathering—an address from which he would be quoted and paraphrased for years. Three dinner speakers—with “F. A. Delano of the Wabash” sandwiched right in the middle of the presentation—joined to answer the question for this organization: “Are Our Railroads Fairly Treated?”

Never mind the irony of such a topic as Mary Phillips—had she known about the occasion—would have decried as hypocrisy in excluding the fair treatment of those men on whose backs those railroad businesses were built. Seeing a man like Frederic Delano speaking on such lofty topics while putting a court case on hold back in the humble environs of Bluffton, Indiana, tells me the man had bigger things on his mind. Much bigger things.

Meanwhile, back home in Indiana, the situation may have begun to overwhelm the resources of tiny Wells County, site of the Phillips case after its change of venue from Allen County. Such changes of venue are not always welcomed by the locality now tasked with conducting the legal duties of another jurisdiction. Bluffton, county seat of Wells County, was certainly a much smaller town than Fort Wayne, where the case originated. Depending on the way such governmental responsibilities were mandated, the local county might have had to assume costs for which it, in the end, was unprepared. While the county would not have incurred any costs for criminal defendants in this case, there were most likely several witnesses to be called to the stand—all of whom had to make that twenty five mile trip, including expenses, to appear in court in Wells County.

When news of the case finally made the Fort Wayne papers again, it was not to mention any verdict—and certainly not to divulge any details that might exacerbate public sentiment any further. It did, however, tip the county’s hand in the understated mention that the case “continues to occupy the circuit court here.”

Occupy, indeed. I bet they were quite ready to be done with the issue and get back to the quiet, uneventful business-as-usual routine they were accustomed to.

Even though it was The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, again, reporting the news on May 7, 1914, it was possibly a separate Bluffton correspondent passing along the story. The brief note showed on page 23 under the column heading, “Bluffton News.”  In the article, Mary was misidentified as “Mrs. Patrick.”

And there was another curious note. Perhaps error, perhaps sign of some strategizing on the part of Mary’s attorneys, the news pinned the amount she was seeking not as $10,000, as had been reported when the news initially broke over a year before, but as $20,000.
…The damage suit of Mrs. Mary Phillips, administratrix of the estate of her husband, Patrick Phillips, against the Wabash Railroad company, continues to occupy the circuit court here, and probably two or three more days will be necessary to complete the case. Mrs. Patrick [sic] is demanding damages in the sum of $20,000, from the railroad company for the death of her husband, who was killed in Fort Wayne, May 17, 1912. The case came here on change of venue from Allen county.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Grim Reaper and His Methods

Two days after The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette announced the change of venue for Mary Kelly Phillips’ lawsuit against her deceased husband’s employer, an interesting editorial piece ran in The Fort Wayne Sentinel.

Carrying the curious title, “The Grim Reaper in Fort Wayne and His Methods,” the article was tucked away on page nine of the March 22, 1913, paper.

The composition was a litany of the misfortunes befalling Fort Wayne residents who had recently met an abrupt end by unusual means.

As you can imagine, the late Patrick Phillips made the list.
...Patrick Phillips met death by being struck by a Nickel Plate railroad train.

Whether the Sentinel had failed to read the memo on any gag order, I do not know. Theirs, however, was the one mention post change of venue—albeit complete with requisite editorial error—of anything related to Patrick’s death that I could find in any Fort Wayne newspaper subsequent to the announcement that his widow had filed suit in Allen County. That is, of course, until report of the final decision on the case.

On the other hand, apparently, those names mentioned simply in the initiating “Courthouse News” announcement as “Frederick A. Delano and E. B. Pryor, receivers for the Wabash company” represented men of quite a bit more stature than I had originally imagined. Thanks to a comment from reader “Intense Guy” yesterday, I thought it might be instructive to take a second look at who the opposing players might have been.

Perhaps the name “Delano” may have struck a chord with you. Somehow, I missed the connection. And yes, there was one. Since we are all aficionados of genealogy, let me take you on a brief family history tour.

Frederic Adrian Delano 1917
Frederic Adrian Delano was born in Hong Kong in 1863. His parents were Warren Delano, Jr., and the former Catherine Robbins Lyman. While I won’t go into the details of the entire Delano family constellation, I do want to mention that Frederic had a sister, Sara Ann Delano. This sister, though still in her late twenties when she married a widower, ended up having only one child.

As you have no doubt by now realized, that child was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Are you beginning to see some connections? This guy didn’t make president of a railroad company for nothing. His was not the pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps stuff of beloved Middle America legend. By the time he was born, he had already arrived.

As for the mysterious E. B. Pryor, his fashionable initials may have granted him a cloak of invisibility. While uncovered in some online searches precisely as the Journal-Gazette tagged him, I have yet to find his true identity. No doubt, he had some connections of his own to augment the business intents of his colleague.

It wasn’t until the silence was broken on the verge of the court’s decision in Mary Phillips’ case that any other newspaper mentions of the incident or its prosecution could be found. Granted, there are still several holes in digitized newspaper collections—and, given the current inept state of optical character recognition technology, some mentions may entirely have been bypassed by search engines—but I find it of singular curiosity that not much was published that could have been taken as a situation for which such a change of venue might be requested.

Publicity? Not much that I could find.
Pathos? Small town gossip can do wonders for support of underdogs.

Whatever the vector was that spread such sentiments, some very important people had enough business sense to check which way that wind was blowing—and head in the opposite direction.

Photograph, above left: Frederic Adrian Delano, left, with Charles S. Hamlin, circa 1917, from the Harris & Ewing, Photographer, collection at the Library of Congress; in the public domain.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Moving So Soon?

In the Monday morning edition of The Fort Wayne Daily News on February 17, 1913, the “Courthouse News” column had carried the report that widow Mary Phillips was standing up to Big Railroads by filing suit for damages in the death of her husband, Patrick.

Barely a month later, a second report—this one in The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette on March 20—announced a change in plans:
            The case of Mary Phillips, administratrix for the estate of Patrick Phillips, vs. the Wabash Railroad company receivers, was sent to the Wells county on a change of venue from the circuit court.

Why a change of venue?

I’m not asking that question for academic reasons. I think it’s fairly common knowledge that, often, a change of venue will be requested in high-profile cases when a move away from the location of the incident is needed. This is likely to happen in cases requiring jury trials, in which widespread publicity about the incident or its players precludes a fair and impartial selection of jurors.

I’m questioning the change of venue because I’m trying to read between the lines in the few bits of information I’ve been able to glean about how Patrick Phillips’ death affected the community in which he worked and lived.

I’m also speculating on the possibility of posturing on the part of the defendants. After all, the county seat for Wells County—Bluffton, the site to which the proceedings were moved—is twenty five miles distance from Mary’s home in Fort Wayne. Just how was she—the now-destitute widow—to attend the sessions concerning her complaint? By rail? If that mode of transportation were available to her, I hardly think that would put her in a comfortable position—not to mention the cost incurred. The defendants, on the other hand, would likely not feel the impact of such cost as much.

Then, too, why move the case? I'm tempted to finger the press in spreading reports which might slant the case in Mary’s favor. After all, she—on behalf of her deceased husband—was the underdog in this case. That always makes for a good story—at least something to sell a few more copies of the latest edition.

And yet, I find very few newspaper reports about the incident besides the one that ran just after the change of venue was announced. If anything—or anyone—was spreading the word about Patrick's death, it must have been an invisible network of communication.

I’m guessing it was good old fashioned gossip that caused those railroad execs to request the change of venue.

It’s the reasons for the gossip that make me want to read between the lines. It’s there that I see a widespread support forming for Mary and her case. Think of it: Patrick had been employed by two different rail companies, so he was widely known. Then, too, there were organizations of railroad workers forming—still trying to find their voice, perhaps, but concerned over the egregious fallout from the “progress” of railroad expansion. In addition, there was the Church community—whose ties were further solidified through the extended family links and immigration trials of the newcomer Irish of the previous generation—that strengthened that solidarity.

For whatever reason the change of venue was requested on Mary Phillips’ case, I see it as indication of widespread support for the plight of this one particular widow.

Photograph from Edward Hungerford's book, The Railroad Problem, published in Chicago by A. C. McClurg and Company, 1917, page 67; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Worth of a Life

How do you calculate the worth of a life?

Ever been party to those life insurance pitches—especially the ones from the "Good Old Days"? I have a friend who sold life insurance in the early 1970s. Here’s how he was trained to sell a man on buying life insurance for his wife:
  • Consider all the work she did around the house: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, providing child care.
  • Estimate which of all those tasks he would have to hire someone else to do in the event that his wife died unexpectedly in the near future.
  • Fix a dollar cost to each of those jobs which he then would have to pay in her absence, and multiply by a large number of years.

That was one way to place a value on a life.

The year my daughter’s high school debate team took on the topic of medical malpractice, we found out that line of thinking—though examined in infinitely more detail—was applied in lawsuits for malpractice, too.

In contrast to the staggering amounts we see awarded in courts of law today, consider speculation in response to the perennial question that pops up in those philosophical discussions that wend their way far into the night. How much is a human body worth? Depending on who is answering—and how they frame the question—the value can be anything from a few dollars for the chemicals extracted from our makeup after we're gone, to twenty five dollars for those who see the question in a more entrepreneurial light. Framed differently, in light of the cost of living tissue, the value can be estimated upwards of forty five million dollars. And for my daughter’s high school friend who just received a life-sparing liver transplant? The donation of that one vital organ can only be considered as priceless.

So how did Mary Phillips determine how much she had suffered from the sudden loss of her husband’s life at the hands of negligent employers back in 1912? Surely, there were trial lawyers in town even then, eager to help her make an informed decision. After all, this one death was not an isolated incident. I’d presume a cry was arising across the land on behalf of many such widows deprived of their husband’s support in a time when it was not considered proper for a woman to work outside her home.

The fact that the Federal Employers’ Liability Act had been passed by Congress only a few years prior to Patrick Phillips’ death may have paved the way for Mary to take this bold step of pressing for redress. A growing number of work-related injuries and deaths in the railroad industry would no longer be egregiously considered the “human overhead of business.”

Though the law had a rough start—declared unconstitutional in its first form, then re-enacted by Congress—it spoke to an issue far too many had had to face in the name of “progress.” Here’s how Supreme Court Justice William Douglas characterized the legislation:
The Federal Employers Liability Act was designed to put on the railroad industry some of the costs of the legs, arms, eyes, and lives which it consumed in its operation. Not all these costs were imposed, for the Act did not make the employer an insurer. The liability which it imposed was the liability for negligence.

I wish there were a way for me to determine the steps in this particular decision-making process. Was Mary just out on a personal vendetta, seeking justice for a wrongful death?

I tend to see it more in terms of a blend of influences. As I’ll discuss tomorrow, I see signs of community support that may have encouraged Mary to not only stand up for herself, but for others in the same situation—and for those who potentially could be walking in her shoes, too. And I can’t rule out the possibility that some trial lawyers, eager to try the muscle of this relatively new law while simultaneously taking on the giants of the railroad industry, shopped the region for a potential “Jane Doe” to step up and provide that heartbreaking story to disrupt the march of “progress.”

So how did Mary Phillips arrive at the amount for which she was suing? The case opened with the amount set at $10,000. Did she calculate all the lost wages on her husband’s behalf, or put a dollar figure on the cost of living—while raising four daughters—for ten more years?

An amount the size of $10,000 from 1913—the year the suit was filed—would equal $238,095.24 in today’s dollars, according to an inflation calculator (found courtesy of fellow blogger Sheryl Lazarus’ recent post at A Hundred Years Ago).

Based on some of the medical malpractice lawsuits my daughter had researched a few years ago for her debate team, I thought that amount was somewhat conservative—not much more than many people take out in life insurance. For comparison, I took a look around online to find any current cases pending. One, from an incident a month ago, was seeking “more than” $50,000 for an employee hit by a Metra train in Chicago. That certainly was smaller (in today's dollars) than the amount equivalent to what Mary Phillips was seeking. And yet, it wasn’t anything like the phenomenal results some attorneys were bragging about for other recent cases—awards stretching into the multiple millions.

That, however, is now.

Then, Mary Phillips—really, her attorneys, for whom the courtroom was their stage and their platform for whatever ideological mission they may have pursued—was not at the crest of a wave, but at the beginning of a long, difficult process to turn around the way things had “always been” into a new type of “fair.”

As with anyone bargaining over a new position, she was likely to find the “ask” was not ultimately the “take.”

Photograph by Andres Rodriguez, Columbia; courtesy Wikipedia; released into the public domain by the photographer in 2009.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A New Suit

What’s a widow to do when she’s left, on account of the workplace death of her husband, to feed and raise four young daughters by herself?

The date is May 18, 1912. The place is Fort Wayne, Indiana. Just-widowed Mary Kelly Phillips is out shopping for a new way to provide for her family.

Her options present a bleak picture: though according to the 1920 census, she could read and write, there is little information to tell us how much education Mary had received in her younger years. Married in 1900—the couple was now five days shy of their twelfth wedding anniversary—she had spent the last twelve years being a housewife and mom to four young daughters. Further, indications from city directory records show that, of the few women who did work outside the home, their “career” options in that era were limited.

Though we now are accustomed to life in a lawsuit-happy culture, I don’t know how prevalent that option—or even knowledge of it—was, back in 1912. Certainly, in the case of Patrick’s untimely death, there were many questions to be answered. I get the sense of it that there weren’t many people out there, back then, willing to ask those questions.

I’ve yet to explore how widespread such attempts at litigation were to hold Big Railroads’ feet to the fire, as far as demands for corporate responsibility were concerned. As we will see in a few days, Patrick’s death was not a rare occurrence in that line of work.

Initially, my main interest in locating newspaper reports about Patrick and Mary Phillips was to discover details about their lives. How unexpected a find this saga was to me, when I first began exploring the holdings at the Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne years ago. As the story unfolded—from first finding records of the wedding announcement for Patrick and Mary to news of his violent death to reports of her decision to stand up to big business with a lawsuit demanding $10,000 in damages—I’ve learned that researching family history is so much more than just knowing your own family’s story. You have to know the story of the times in which they lived.

Finding the page ten entry in the column “Courthouse News” in the February 17, 1913, Fort Wayne Daily News certainly piqued my curiosity about the realities surrounding that seemingly harmless ditty we all sang as children: “I’ve been working on the railroad.” It certainly wasn’t anything like the song made it seem.
            Mary Phillips has brought suit against Frederick A. Delano and E. B. Pryor, receivers for the Wabash company, to recover $10,000 damages for the death of her husband, Patrick Phillips. She alleged negligence on the part of the defendants. Breen & Morris are attorneys for the plaintiff.
            Patrick Phillips was a switchman and extra conductor for the Wabash company. On the night of May 18, 1912, he was ordered to make up a train and was engaged in doing so when the accident which caused his death occurred. The plaintiff alleges that Patrick Phillips went to a switch to throw it, but owing to the fact that there was no light on the switch and none in the vicinity he could not see clearly where he was going. A car door and other rubbish were thrown about and the ground about the switch freshly dug up, the plaintiff claims, and the victim of the accident stumbled over something and fell under the wheels of a moving freight train. He was crushed, death coming instantly. The plaintiff is suing on behalf of the estate of Patrick Phillips, of which she is administratrix. Besides the widow, there are four children, the oldest being eleven years of age.
Above right: Ink and charcoal drawing, unidentified Russian artist, 1893; via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Post-Parting Blues

After losing a husband, especially in those early years of the twentieth century, a widow didn’t have many opportunities to support herself. Compounding that dilemma with multiple children, then factoring in the loss of both her parents and only sister, left Mary Phillips with limited options once she lost Patrick in that unexpected work incident in 1912.

Just in case she came up with a way to support her family, I took a peek at the next census record to see if she were listed as a working woman.

The 1920 census didn’t provide much help. Though her oldest daughter, Helen, was now eighteen and employed as a stenographer for a printing company, Mary’s own “occupation” was listed as “none.”

Interestingly, though, that same census record revealed that Mary owned her home, free of any obligation to pay a mortgage.

Granted, Mary—now fifty two herself—still had three daughters of school age living at home, including twelve year old Mary Celeste. In addition, the household included a lodger—though on closer inspection, it turns out to be Mary’s own baby brother John Kelly, now forty two, who worked as a conductor for the railroad, himself. Perhaps he and his sister had made financial arrangements to help her through this difficult challenge.

Knowing that, by 1920, this era was experiencing a number of changes—including that of women working outside the home—I thought I’d look up some city directories to see if Mary was listed as a seamstress, or took in laundry, or found some other home-based way to make ends meet.

The closest city directory available for Fort Wayne after Patrick’s death was for 1917. Admittedly, that was five years after his passing, but at least it provided a snapshot of a date prior to that 1920 census. And yet, even here, the listing only mentions Mary as “widow Patrick H.” followed by that same home address. Other women on that page were shown as having occupations, but not Mary.

Could it be that John took on the responsibility of supporting his brother-in-law’s four children as well as his sister?

While that would have been magnanimous of him—and while he most likely made sacrifices on behalf of the distraught family—that may not have been the case, as indicated by headlines appearing in The Fort Wayne Daily News nine months after Patrick’s death:
Sues Wabash for $10,000
Does Mary Phillips for Death of her Husband

Monday, October 14, 2013

Life Without Possibility of Papa

"The widow, together with four little daughters, aged ten, eight, 
seven and five years, respectively, survive."

Nameless though they may have been, Patrick Phillips’ wife and four little girls faced an uncertain future in Fort Wayne after his sudden passing in May of 1912.

Having been sensitized to the plight of children who, at an early age, have lost a parent—writing about their stories beginning here and here—I couldn’t just leave that newspaper excerpt lie. Nameless is virtually the same as faceless, as far as remembrances go. I can’t just walk away from these five without letting their struggle be remembered.

We already know that young widow’s name, of course, for it was our exploration of the Kelly family that led us to zoom in on John and Johanna Kelly’s second daughter, Mary. We’ve already found her as a newlywed in widow Johanna’s household in the 1900 census.

The 1910 census provided us a handy listing of the four surviving children of Patrick and Mary Phillips’ household. Helen, the oldest, arrived a little more than a year after Patrick and Mary were married. Just over two years later, she became big sister to Grace, who entered the household the same year her grandmother exited it.

I often wonder if Patrick wished for a son by the time daughter number three appeared. A year and a half after Grace’s entrance, younger sister Margaret joined the family in March, 1905. By March, 1907, the youngest daughter—alternately documented as Celeste M. and Mary C.—ended the listing as shown in the 1910 census.

With daughter number four, let us not be tempted to assume that was the completion of the family. Apparently, Patrick and Mary had two more children, though I’ve not been able to find any record of whether they were stillborn, died in infancy, or succumbed in early childhood.

Considering the tragedy that befell the family in 1912, I often wonder how much of their father these young girls might have remembered. At the age of five, particularly, it is doubtful there were any memories at all—especially in an era preceding that of ubiquitous photography. Even the older children may not have had many recollections of their father. I recall one co-worker telling me she was twelve when she lost her mother to cancer; as much as she loved her mother, she only had vague memories of her.

As far as I can tell, the Phillips girls’ mother never married after Patrick’s death. In an age in which it was more common for young widows to remarry, Mary never took that opportunity. Perhaps there was no such opportunity in her case. On the other hand, I remember Marilyn Bean telling me how complete the devastation was when she lost her own husband at a young age—there never was anyone else for her after that point, young children at home or not.

Of course, there is no way to truly know what the dynamics were in the Phillips family leading away from that devastating loss. There is no diary left, journaling Mary’s every thought. There are no records of the children’s pleas for their Papa to come back, nor a distraught mother’s desperate attempt to explain to such young ones why that no longer could be so.

There were, however, faint traces of childhood activities reported in the community sections of Fort Wayne newspapers from which I can glean a sense of what life was like for this family after the loss of husband and father. From these pieces, we’ll take a few days to consider what the signs might tell us.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reconstructing a Family Constellation

Though the early and sudden death of Patrick Phillips was a tragedy for his family to endure from May 18, 1912, onward, at our distant vantage point, we can begin to dissect the documentation to piece together his family portrait.

That day’s article in The Fort Wayne Sentinel was part news report and part obituary. Other than a brief funeral notice, no other entry eulogizing the man appeared in any city newspaper after that first day.

Determining Patrick’s own family is somewhat difficult. Though the newspaper mentioned that he was born at home on Dawson Street, there is no such street in existence in downtown Fort Wayne now. While I can locate census records for his earliest childhood, they don’t list any street names alongside the numbered households. The most likely household—that of a Michael and Catherine Phillips—has names to match those siblings identified in his death report…with the exception of a daughter listed at the very point at which his name should have been inserted.

The 1880 census shows the household of Catherine Phillips—now widowed—to include Patrick at about the right age, mysteriously supplanting the Betsy who would have been just his age if this were the household of the 1870 "Michiel Philip" family. A death index seems to corroborate this speculation, handily showing Michael to have left the scene at a premature age, himself. If, that is, we have found the right family.

Given my uncertainty over what I’ve found, it was indeed helpful to notice the names included in the list of Patrick Phillips' survivors:
Besides the widow and four children mentioned above, Mr. Phillips is survived by three sisters and one brother, as follows: Mrs. E. A. Betz, of South Bend; Mrs. C. Moore and Mrs. M. DeMoss, residing at 1816 Hoagland avenue, this city, and Thomas Phillips, of Baker street.

Indeed, looking on the very page of the 1900 census where Patrick the newlywed lived in his mother-in-law’s household, only two doors down can be spotted a Catherine “Phillip” living as mother-in-law in the home of Thomas and Catherine Moore. Considering my mistaken presumption that the “C” in this “Mrs. C. Moore” referred to her husband’s first name rather than her own, that was an easy find.

Mrs. M. DeMoss was more of a challenge. For whatever reason, I had no success locating her at However, hoping that the Irish Catholic tradition in Fort Wayne would hold true for this part of the extended family as well, I took a peek at the databases, seeking any Catholic Cemetery entries for the DeMoss family. There was only one: for a Marie, dying July 24, 1936. As the entry mentioned that her last residence was actually Long Beach in California, I had my doubts, but when I cross referenced her with her sister Catherine Moore’s burial place, the numbers matched up. Evidently, the lone DeMoss relative was buried in the Moore family plot—a plot, incidentally, which appears to tell its own litany of tragedies.

Linking Catherine and Marie as Phillips sisters was easier than the next task: that of finding their brother Thomas. Patrick’s obituary, strangely, inserted the detail that his brother lived on Baker Street.

I began to discover why anyone thought to mention that.

Apparently, there were two Thomas Phillipses in Fort Wayne in 1912.

And that’s not all: evidently, they both married women named Jennie.

And neither family lived on Baker Street.

Now what? Starting back at the 1900 census, I figured I’d plod ahead, taking a look at both of them. Since Thomas-and-Jennie-number-one lived on Bass Street, I thought perhaps they might be victims of newspaper reporting error. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time that has happened. On the other hand, just in case the reporter amazingly got this right, I thought I’d take a look at Thomas-and-Jennie-number-two.

Unfortunately, this second couple on whom I had pinned my hopes also disappointed me. Even farther away than Bass is from Baker, this couple lived on Orchard—not likely fodder for journalistic mis-reporting. Besides that, their children were named Pearl and Russell. Keeping in mind this would be a family of Irish Catholic descent, I decided to go with couple-number-one and their slightly more Catholic-named progeny, Lew and Edna.

By the entry for the 1910 census, our couple was still on Bass Street—though truth be told, the badly mangled entry was my incentive for unfolding my tale from the 1900 census.

Come 1920, though, we get the proof we were seeking, with Louis and Edna’s parents showing up on none other than Baker Street, a change that must have occurred shortly after that barely-legible 1910 census was noted.

After grappling with that quandary of which Thomas-and-Jennie, I thought I’d leave well enough alone. Someone else can find Mrs. E. A. Betz of South Bend, Indiana—whoever “E. A.” might turn out to be. But if “Marie” can be “Mary” and “Catherine” can be “Cassie” then I feel a bit more confident that this 1880 household of the widow Catherine was the childhood home of Patrick Phillips. While that doesn’t explain why the three year old in that 1870 census was a daughter and not the son Patrick that I would have expected, those census records are not prone to sterling accuracy, either.

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