Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Heads Up

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.



When I saw the amusing photo from this week’s Sepia Saturday challenge, I immediately thought of my mystery children whose photo I have used several times.

John Jr. and Bob and unknown woman New York beach 1921 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
John Jr and his sister Bob with Cutey, the poodle
and unknown woman
A beach in New York, probably 1921

I made myself promise not to use it again because I have nothing new to add to the story. So I won’t.

Instead I challenged myself to find an ancestor who was born, married or died on April 1st. There was only one: John F. Breeden, my first cousin three times removed. Born 1 April 1853, he was the third child of George and Lydia Jollett Breeden, my 2x great-grandfather’s older sister and brother-in-law.

Spending most of my research time on my direct line means that my research on collateral lines is slim, so I went in search of John Breeden’s great story. What did I find? I found the April Fool’s joke was on me. I had entered his wife into my database with John’s brother. But thanks to Sepia Saturday, I now have that fixed.

John’s story is rather unremarkable. He married Mary Susan Patterson on the 6th of January 1876 in Augusta County, Virginia. They had two children, Sarah Ann and John Dodge. Then at the ripe young age of 36, John died. The end.

However, John’s brother James Madison Breeden and one of James’s grandsons offer a bizarre, if not twisted, answer to the prompt photo of the “headless” and “body-less” boys.

Like many of his neighbors, James Madison Breeden worked for the Norfolk & Western Railroad in Shenandoah, Virginia. He worked his way up to the responsible position of Track Foreman. It was in doing his job that he fell, striking his head on the tracks. He died from the injury.

Snipped from death certificate
James Madison Breeden
James Madison Breeden

OBITUARY: James M. Breeden, aged about 60 years a highly respected citizen of Shenandoah died on Tuesday in the Roanoke Hospital from injuries received while at work at Shenandoah the day previous. Mr. Breeden had been an employee of the N. & W. R.R. for many years and on account of his advanced age he had been given light work around the shops and yards at Shenandoah. About 10 a.m., on Monday he started to cross the turn table and in doing so slipped and fell striking his head and fracturing his skull from which he never regained consciousness. The remains of the deceased arrived at Shenandoah on Tuesday night. Mr. Breeden was a consistent Christian and a member of the United Brethren church for many years. He is survived by a widow and three sons, J. Vernon Breeden, of Roanoke, and D.B. and J.W. Breeden, of Shenandoah. The funeral took place on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the United Brethren church. Interment which took place in the Cemetery at the church was in charge of the Odd Fellows and Red Men, of both of which orders the deceased was a member.
SOURCE: Page News & Courier, Friday 21 May 1915

The obituary did not mention that James Madison had four grandchildren (plus one on the way), all children of his oldest son Joel Vernon. This next story concerns only one of them:  Maxwell Peary Breeden.

Maxwell was born to Joel Vernon and Zaida Maiden Breeden 30 November 1909. He grew up in Roanoke, Virginia. He worked as a clerk for a printing company and ten years later was advertising manager at a local department store, which probably put him in a strong financial position when he married Dorothy Ann Lewis in 1932. During World War II he served in the Air Force. Afterwards apparently he returned to the advertising business. At his death he was employed at Houck & Co., a major advertising firm in Roanoke. Whatever troubles Maxwell struggled with in 1968 are not revealed through online search, but a death certificate makes it clear that he was not a happy man.
 
Snipped from death certificate
Maxwell Peary Breeden
Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Mercy!

For cheerier stories of good times at the beach, please visit Sepia Saturday.

 PS – Happy Birthday to cousin John Breeden who would have been 164 today. 

Wendy
© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

22 comments:

  1. A sad end for both of those people, but I'm glad they did not actually lose their heads. I like the way you didn't use that first photo again.

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    1. I figured you would appreciate my "restraint."

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  2. James Madison Breeden, "on account of his advanced age" was given "light work?"
    Advanced age? He was 60!!! My, how times have changed!

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    1. My thoughts exactly! In fact, I was going to insert a parenthetical expression of shock and dismay, but I didn't.

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  3. Very clever theme matching.
    I shared Deb's feelings about sixty being advanced age!

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    1. Really! What would those reporters say about us?

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  4. That was good how you went about trying to find someone born, died, or wed this day. Interesting stories about your ancestors. Sad about the tragic death though with the railway. Wonder if the family was compensated in some way?

    betty

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    1. I don't know about the compensation. It's a good question.

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  5. The actual details of death in Jame's Obituary would probably not be given publically today (?)
    {Health & Safety& Lawyers i suppose......}
    And Poor Maxwell.
    A troubled line.

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    1. Oh heavens no -- it would take up too much space for one thing, not to mention privacy issues.

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  6. Well, what a sad end for both men. To die of a fractured skull after slipping at the ‘adanced age’ of sixty! I wonder if the cub reporter wrote the obituary. And poor Maxwell, to ‘lose his head’ by his own hand.

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    1. I'm sure you can relate to that "slipping" incident, but of course, you're not at an advanced age!

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  7. I liked your inventive idea of looking for an ancestor linked to an event on April 1st. I know in England in 1901 life expectancy for men was only 50, so perhaps 60 was regarded as an "advanced age" - mind you the statistic was skewed by the high rate of infant mortality at the time. Seeing on paper the stark statement on cause of death strikes home Maxwell's sad state of mind. I found that when, following various family rumours, I traced my great uncle's death certificate of 1917 to read "cut his throat" - dreadful to think of!

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    1. I'm just too chicken to kill myself, especially if it involves pain. At least a gunshot would probably be immediate. Slitting one's throat would be horrifying feeling yourself dying. UGH. My in-laws' neighbor killed herself by putting a plastic bag over her head. I cannot imagine feeling the struggle to breathe yet not rip the bag off.

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  8. A very creative way to write a good story of ancestors. The details of old newspapers reports, especially those of accidents, reflect how much modern journalism has moved away from good storytelling to the visual medium of television. Reading about the facts is so much better than a 10 second soundbite with a quick camera scan of the scene.

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    1. I guess today we could look at the footage from the security cameras.

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  9. You are lucky to know so much about those ancestors/er cousins. How they lived and worked, as well as met their ends. It's so often difficult to find correct dates for many relations.

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  10. You always amaze me how you take a Sepia Saturday post and make it your own. Nice work!

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  11. Interesting post Wendy. And you found a neat way to tie it in with the theme.

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