Posts Tagged ‘Ruth A. Collins’

The Curious Court Case of Ruth A. Collins vs. East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad Company: The Death of Deaderick Collins

September 16, 2017

I first learned about Ruth Collins in 1999. I had decided to learn more about my genealogy, but all I knew on my maternal side was that my great-grandmother was named Henrietta Collins Webb. I found her as a child on the 1880 Blount County, Tennessee, census. Her mother was Ruth Collins. I was sure I had the right family when I saw that the mother’s name was Ruth. You might think the same if you were named for your grandmother, and she was perhaps named for HER grandmother, so it stood to reason that this must be my family.

Ruth Collins was listed as a widow. My BigBroBob was also researching this family, and he had seen a message on the ancestry message boards from a man named Harry who was searching for his grandmother Ivy’s father Deaderick Collins. But Ivy was born in 1881, so this didn’t seem like the same family even though Ivy’s mother was named Ruth. I suppose that we could have stretched the imagination by reasoning that Ivy was born in early 1881, and that Deaderick had died right before the census was taken. That seemed possible, except that Ivy had a younger brother Joseph born about 1883. Surely this was not the same family.

There’s also an 1870 census for Knoxville Tennessee which showed Henrietta and her little sister Maude living with their parents Ruth and D. A. Collins, and D. A. is a railroad hand. So let’s guess that the 1870 family is definitely mine.

That was it. I never found anything more that D. A. was Deaderick.

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Fast forward 18 years, and I’ve taken a DNA test. In April 2017 I matched a man named Nick. He was descended through my Henrietta’s sister Maude, but didn’t have any info on Ruth or Deaderick or their life together.

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About 2 weeks ago, I received a message from Nick with a link to a google book search. It was about a case that was reported in a book “Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Tennessee, Volume 56”.  Nick used the search term “Deaderick A. Collins”.

The name of the case was Ruth A. Collins v. East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad Co.

Here’s a screenshot:


And then the suit names Deaderick AND WHERE AND HOW HE DIED.

 

The defendant appeals in error from a judgment of the Circuit Court of Knox county, upon a verdict of six thousand dollars ($6,000) damages assessed by the jury for killing Deaderick Collins, the husband of the plaintiff. The accident which occasioned the death of said Deaderick Collins, occurred on the 2nd of October, 1871. He was a fireman on the defendant’s train, which, on that day, ran over some cattle, whereby the engine and tender were thrown from the track, and the tender upsetting fell upon said Collins killing him instantly.

The action is brought by the widow, under the Act of 1871, ch. 78, which is in the words following: “Be it enacted, &c., that Section 2291 of the Code of Tennessee, be so amended as to provide that the right of action, which a person, who died from injuries received from another, or whose death is caused b the wrongful act, omission, or killing by another, would have had against the wrongdoer in case death had no ensued, shall not abate or be extinguished by the death; but shall pass to his widow; and, in case there is no widow, to his children or to his personal representative, for the benefit of his widow or next of kin, free from the claims of his creditors.”

This Act took effect and was approved by the Governor on the 14th of December, 1871, two months and twelve days after the death of the said Deaderick Collins.

Sugar weighed in on this topic. Wouldn’t there be, he reasoned, a family story of a train accident in which your ancestor DIED? Wouldn’t there be an oral tradition that there were some children whose father was reported to be Deaderick, but clearly couldn’t be since he was DECEASED? I vote no because I have met my family, and I know how we roll.

It just so happens that I was already planning a trip to East Tennessee to attend the 150th anniversary of the church that I grew up in. I had already requested time off, enough time off that I could view the Lawton collection in Columbia, SC, plus spend the night with a Collins cousin, attend the reunion, visit Mom and Dad at the cemtery, go to the Knox County Archives, and visit with friends. This was a golden opportunity.

Then a hurricane appeared. I was planning on the trip anyway, but the trip might be dicey with a possible evacuation. The hurricane cooperated by moving westward.

At the Knox County Archives, it just so happened that the court case was on microfilm. These are iPhone photos of the microfilm.

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Ruth A Collins vs The ET Va & Ga RR Co

No 8929 February 14, 1874

Came the parties by their attornies and came also a Jury to wit, JH Mynatt, JA Ogg, Jefferson Jett, Wash Morrow, HC Ogg, JC Chiles, JC Johnson, JR Johnson, JP Ford, John Sayne, WL Kennedy and JW Ventis all good and lawful men citizens of Knox County, who having been tried elected and sworn well and truly to try the issues joined between the parties having heard all the testimony in the cause and a portion of the arguments of counsel from rendering a Verdict are respited until the meeting of court Monday morning next.

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No 8929 February 16, 1874

Came the parties by their attornies and came also the jury heretofore Sworn in this cause to wit JH Mynatt, JA Ogg, Jefferson Jett, Wash Morrow, HC Ogg, JC Chiles, JC Johnson, JR Johnson, John Sayne, WL Kennedy, and JW Ventis, who having heard the remainder of the arguments of counsel, from rendering a verdict are again further respited until the meeting of court tomorrow morning.

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No 8929 February 17, 1874

Came the parties by the attornies and came also the Jury heretofore sworn in this cause to wit JH Mynatt, JA Ogg, Jefferson Jett, Wash Morrow, HC Ogg, JC Chiles, JC Johnson, JR Johnson,  JA Finch, John Sayne, WL Kennedy, and JW Ventes who upon their oaths do say that they find the matter in favor of the plaintiff and assess the Plaintiff damages by reason of the premises in the Declaration mentioned at the Sum of Six thousand dollars. It is therefore considered by the court that the Plaintiff have and recover of the defendant the Said Sum of Six thousand dollars the damages assessed by the jury together with all the costs of this cause for which execution may issue.

 

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No 8929 February 19, 1874

Came the defendant by attorney and entered a Motion for a new trial of this cause.

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February 21, 1874

Came the parties by their attornies and came on for hearing the defendants motion for a new trial of this cause which motion having been argued by counsel and considered of and well understood by the Court it is considered by the court that the motion be overruled and a new trial refused.

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Tuesday March 3rd 1874

Court met pursuant to adjournment

Present and Presiding

The Hon. E.T. Hall Judge &c.

Came the defendant by attorney and (illegible) an appeal in the nature of a writ of (illegible) to the next term of the Supreme Court of Tennessee to be holden at Knoxville on the Second Monday of September next from the actions of the court in refusing to grant a new trial of this cause. And tendered to the Court its bill of exceptions which is signed and sealed by the Court and ordered to be made a part of the record in this cause. And the Defendant having entered into bond with Security as required by law Said appeal is granted.

Here’s a fun fact: Ruth’s Supreme Court case was to be heard on the “Second Monday of September”. I viewed this court case on microfilm on the second Monday of September, after traveling about 500 miles to view it.

The upshot of all this? Ruth and her attorney sued the railroad. There was a jury of men. She won. The railroad wanted an appeal, which was first denied, then granted, and the case went on to the Tennessee State Supreme Court. She won again, although the physical record cannot be located.

If there was a railroad accident, wouldn’t that be in the newspaper? I asked this question at the East Tennessee Historical Society, and spent a good bit of time scrolling through the microfilm.

Microfilm of the Knoxville Chronicle, October 4, 1871

Yesterday afternoon the down passenger train ran over a cow, a mile east of Sweetwater, which threw the engine and express car from the track, badly wrecking both and causing the death of the fireman, D. A. Collins. The express messenger, J. J. Tibbs, was injured slightly, but beyond these no one else was hurt.

Mr. Collins’ death is universally regretted by his friends. He leaves a wife and three children. His remains were expected to arrive this morning, and will probably be interred this afternoon.

Now I need a map of the Sweetwater area of the ETVGRR in 1871, and I need to find where this man was buried, most probably in Knoxville.

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I spent the next night with my long-time friend Susan who lives near Sweetwater. When I headed home the next day for cats and Carolina, I drove over a bridge that crossed the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad. I took a quick look east to the direction of the accident.

Ruth went on to have 4 children after Deaderick’s death.

Good night, Deaderick. I’m thinking about you.