A Death by Drink or Not?

Today marks the 124th anniversary of the death of Cornelius McMahon my mother’s great-grandfather. Cornelius left Ireland with his parents and siblings when he was in his 20s, the family had lived through most of the famine but decided to leave. He settled in Ayton, Grey Co., Ontario, married and had seven children. I was surprised to find that he was ‘accidentally killed’ when reading his death record.

Naturally, I wanted to explore this more and I contacted the Wellington Archives which houses newspapers that cover Grey Co., Ontario.

Initially, when reading through the newspaper account I was impressed to read when he was attending an event in nearby Durham he…

was given a place of honour on the platform with all notable men present.

But this quickly turned to dismay when I read…

Before leaving for home he became intoxicated, being addicted to drink.

The newspaper goes on to report that Cornelius and his companion John McIntee both had imbibed too much at the event and on the journey home…

…the colt became unmanageable and on the the road leading through the swamp on this side of Varney ; that both were thrown out and when he [McIntee] went to McMahon’s assistance he found him dead.

The cause of death was declared a broken neck, Cornelius was 69 years old.

McMahon Corn. acc. death001

Mount Forest Representative Sept 21, 1893 pg.8

Another search to see if the coroner’s report had made its way into the newspaper and I found a retraction of the previous story.

…there was nothing in the evidence to show that the unfortunate man was the worse of liquor at the time of his death, and as it is alleged he was not, we cheerfully state these facts and regret the report got abroad and found its way in these columns that he was not sober.

McMahon Corn. acc. death002

Mount Forest Representative 5 Oct 1893 pg.8

So was Cornelius a drinker or not? Did the newspaper have to retract because it was an error? Or maybe the family just didn’t want it said? I am sure I will never know, and no matter what he is remembered.

Cornelius McMahon.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Ayton, Grey Co., Ontario 

Cornelius McMahon 1824-1893; His Beloved Wife Sara McCue 1825-1915; May Their Souls Rest In Peace; Sarah McMahon Wife of Michael Culliton 1886-1925 Rest In Peace. 

 

It’s Not All Unicorns and Rainbows in Newspapers

A new favorite site of mine is Chronicling America a historic newspaper site. I may be a little late to the party on this but wow, I am impressed. The site offers a huge collection of newspapers covering most of the states in the US from 1789-1924.

I do not have a lot of USA research, but there is the odd family I keep my eyes out for. A branch of my mother’s family the Stewarts left Grey Co., Ontario and moved to Manannah, Meeker Co., Minnesota. They were not the only ones to make this move, other surnames that were in both Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario and then neighbours in Manannah were the Garvey, Ryan, Gibney, Cody, McIntee families and a few others.

Margaret Stewart with her husband Michael Cody joined the exodus and you can find them on the 1897 map of Manannah in Eden Valley. The map on the Historic Map Works site also shows the land owners names right on their plot of land, you can easily see all the other families close by. And one of the reasons I was fooled about when Michael Cody died, his name is on the map in 1897, I soon discovered he was not actually living there.

Margaret and Michael Cody (so I thought) left Manannah and make another move, this time to Montana. I lost track of them for a few years but find Margaret, a widow running a boarding house aptly called Cody House in Helena, Montana. A story surfaced from a relative that Michael her husband, died in a railway accident in the early 1900s and Margaret never remarried.

 

stewart-girls

Margaret (Stewart) Cody with her nieces who helped her run the boarding house Cody House in Helena, Montana.

 

I have always kept an eye out for Michael’s death to back up this tale, I was sure it would be in the newspapers if it was true. Yesterday, within five minutes of searching on Chronicling America, I found the proof. It seems Michael wasn’t actually working when he died but traveling to find work and according to the report was under the influence of liquor when he fell off of the train! The date of the newspaper is 1892, which means that on the Meeker Co.map he actually was not the landowner, he had been dead for five years.

The Livingston Enterprise March 19, 1892

Cody, Michael - The Livingston Enterprise Mar 19 1892  copy 2.jpg

Now I know what the truth of the incident, I am not surprised that it wasn’t completely accurate, it has been over 100 years! The article also mentions that they held an inquest in Bozeman, something  I will be investigating further.

As more and more newspapers are added on-line we will truly be able to discover the day-to-day lives of our ancestors. The good times, the maybe not so good, but life isn’t always unicorns and rainbows.