Saturday, August 8, 2020

Sepia Saturday: On Track and Off

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday challenge depicting an electric tram or cable car got me to thinking about my great-grandfather’s death certificate.
Death certificate for Stephen Slade
father of my paternal grandfather
The cause of death was hypostatic pneumonia resulting from a crushed pelvis sustained when he was struck by a streetcar.

I thought surely such an accident would have made the newspaper, but it didn’t. However, the news reporters were all over the story in March 1899 when a prominent citizen of Portsmouth, Virginia was killed by an electric car when he was out shopping for ice for his sick wife. As the headline said, he was “Horribly Crushed.”
from Virginian-Pilot 4 Mar 1899
Details of the accident reveal that he did not die on impact. In fact, there was plenty of time to call a number of doctors to his aid. They all looked at the mangled mess and shook their heads knowing there was nothing to be done.
from Virginian-Pilot 4 Mar 1899

Mr. Peed was conscious and implored those surrounding his couch to turn him over, that he was suffering excruciating agony. He knew well those who were about him and called them by name, and especially did he ask to move his legs that he might sit up.

But that was impossible, for he had been horribly mutilated, his lower abdomen being crushed and that part of his body from the waist to just below the hips was in a state horrible to behold and terrible to contemplate. His head, too, had sustained awful wounds, around which the bruised blood had settled. Just over the right forehead a ghastly looking puncture presented itself, looking as if a three-edged weapon had been used with great force.

I wonder if my great-grandfather’s injuries were anything like this.

Bystanders reported that the accident might not have happened had the victim not been deaf. They described what they saw:
from Virginian-Pilot 4 Mar 1899
A prominent Crawford street merchant said he heard some one hallowing for a distance, it seemed to him, of a square, and then looking down the street, saw the car strike Mr. Peed, pass over his body, and then, as if being released from the current, again pass over him, by a backward motion.
Another gentleman made no effort to conceal what he knew, and was positive that the fender of the car struck Mr. Peed, threw him against the end of the car, and he fell, and the car passed once over his body forward, and then again backwards. The wheels of the right hand half of the front truck passed over Mr. Peed.  

What a horrible scene! But because I am so immature, I can’t help focusing on the unfortunate man’s even more unfortunate name: Peed. OK, I am sure PEED was a fine family name. It probably is a variation of PEAT. I wonder if the name had German origins. Before spelling became more standardized, court clerks recorded what they heard. In my family, the German accent resulted in the name “Ebert” morphing into “Eppard.” Maybe that happened in Mr. Leroy Peed’s family too.

The Peed name is common here in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. My mother used to tell the story about a talent show or recital, I have forgotten which, that she attended as a young adult. The emcee who introduced each performer announced, “Next, Martha Sue Peed at the piano.” We all laughed at that story – immaturity is a family trait.

As a teacher, my mother one year had a class with two students with unfortunate surnames: Buzzard and Sweat. I wonder how people put up with jokes on their name. I would be pronouncing them “Byu ZAARD” and “Sweet.”

When I was a teacher, I worked with a fine gentleman who was an outstanding teacher of grammar and literature: Mr. James Butts. When I left teaching to stay home with the kiddos, I was replaced by another outstanding English teacher: Mr. Marvin Fanny. Butts and Fanny – same department, same school. What stars aligned for that to happen?

I went off track this week. (Pun intended.) 

Get back on track with more street car adventures at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. What a shocking way for your great grandfather to die! I recall researching some church death records seeking ancestral information -- and I was shocked by how many people had "hit by a train" listed as cause of death. Thank goodness unfortunate accidents like these prompted safety changes over time.

  2. Terrible way to die! You would have hoped death on impact but not one filled with agony. Last names sure can be interesting and downright funny at times.


  3. What a horrible death for both your grandfather and Mr. Peed. Whenever I hear some of those unfortunate last names, I can't help but wonder what elementary school was like for those poor kids.

  4. My 2x great grandfather was killed when he was thrown from a wagon.

    Over the years I have come across several names that I would have changed along the way. While it's bad enough to have a first or last name that needs changing, when combined together they can really make you wonder. Why when Candy married Mr. Cane did she not keep her maiden name? But no, she was Candy Cane.

  5. That's a terrible way to die. My great-grandfather died in an oil field accident and I did find the 1919 newspaper stories about it. They went into excruciating detail.

  6. Sad story of accidental deaths from trolleys. I enjoyed thinking of how names have close meanings to other things.

  7. I'm also immature. I immediately focused on his last name. I've never heard the last name, Peed. There's a local family whose last name is Pigg, another unfortunate name.

  8. My great grandfather designed a 'catcher' to be used on the fronts of trolley cars but I don't know if it was ever actually used? His invention was listed in a San Francisco newspaper however? As for names - I went to school with a gal whose last name was Turnipseed. Or there was the dentist I went to named Dr. Sleeper. That's not the funny part though. When I married & moved away, my new dentist recommended to me by a friend, was Dr. Wakeman. A pure coincidence. What are the odds? :)

  9. I can only echo other bloggers in saying what a terrible way to die . One summer we were in Kaprun, Austria where the year before a fire broke out in the wooden cabins on the cable car taking skiers to the higher slopes, with a great loss of lives . On the topic of names, I have come across in my days of working in a college library of a student called Wynter Snow!

  10. Back in the day, reporters seemed inspired by terrible accidents to turn out more creative and dramatic stories than what we get in today's newspapers. I stumble across a lot of horrible accident reports in my newspaper research that are fillers from some distant place but added for sensational color.

    The unfortunate name is not unlike the name of a girl I knew in high school, Imma Shue. And I worked with a German conductor who changed his surname when he became music director of an America orchestra. Perick instead of Prick. Languages are funny.