The Minor Children of Deaderick Collins 

I’ve been reading old newspapers online: newspapers.com, Chronicling America at the Library of Congress website, and most recently GenealogyBank.

Of course, there are still lots of newspapers that aren’t available online, and you have to go Old School with reels of microfilm and a microfilm reader.

This latest obsession started when my new DNA cousin Nick found that my 2x great-grandfather Deaderick Collins was killed when the train, on which he was a fireman, derailed. I found a newspaper account on microfilm.

Then I found online several more accounts of the same event, and then I found other accounts where 2 of Deaderick’s brothers, Hiram and Landon, were also killed in train accidents, and his cousin Richard, who was an engineer, was killed when the train’s boiler exploded. The more sensational the story, the more likely to be published. I had only heard of Deaderick and Landon Collins before I learned about the others by reading the newspapers.

It has been quite amazing to find these forgotten people.

*****

There’s a good bit of unexplainable detail surrounding Deaderick’s wife, the former Ruth Gamble. I can’t explain why she had 4 children after Deaderick died in 1871, for a total of 7 children: Henrietta, Maude, Charles, William, Birdie, Ivy, and Joe. She sued the railroad and had been awarded $6000 in a court case that went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. A little bit of money can certainly make one more attractive.

Just how attractive? I asked the Internet to convert $6000 in 1874 to modern dollars. Here’s a screenshot.


That’s pretty darn attractive.

I wondered, though, what was Ruth’s mental state after her husband was crushed to death by a train car? She had 3 little children, the youngest under a year. How was she supposed to support a family? I would be numb. I was numb when my then-husband left in 2002. There was a new house payment, a car payment, a child in private college, and a child in high school. And attorney’s fees. I remember thinking, “What will become of us?” And I thought if he hadn’t left, if he had died, at least I could hide the truth of what a scoundrel he was.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the facts of the two cases are the same, but the despair had to be similar.

Ruth was ill in 1913. I knew this from some old letters. I asked Chronicling America who supported this family story.



She died not long after the last newspaper account, but I can’t find an obituary.

*****

I suddenly realized that I hadn’t checked GenealogyBank for news about Ruth and Deaderick. I had been using the free 7 day trial subscription for about 24 hours when this revelation hit me. Surely there would be confirmation of the train wreck or Ruth’s death.
There was nothing on Ruth, but Deaderick?


From the Knoxville Press and Messenger, February 3, 1875:

QUORUM COURT

Qurum Court proceedings — Justice Jno. L Moses in the Chair:

M. D. Swan was appointed guardian of Henrietta, Isabella, Maud, Mag and Charles Deaderick Collins, minor children of Deaderick A. Collins. 

Y’all? Who are Isabella and Mag?

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2 Responses to “The Minor Children of Deaderick Collins ”

  1. Katrina Says:

    I think I signed up for newspapers.com but did not find information. I don’t know if they have a African-American section or not. But that is interesting your were able to discover so much on your family that way

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth Rawls Says:

      Miz Florrie’s granddaughter said the same thing about newspapers, and when I tried newspapers years ago, I couldn’t find anything either. I tried again this year, and I watched the tutorials which helped immensely. I *think* there is an African-American section on GenealogyBank. I’ll check.

      Like

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