A Tragic 1906 Death in Monmouth

There’s a single tombtsone for Joseph Neill in the West Point, Illinois, cemetery. It stands beside the larger stone for his parents, Samuel and Annie Neill. Like most stones it tells little about John’s life and nothing about the tragic nature of his death.

The story of Joseph’s death is chronicled in the Monmouth, Illinois, Republican-Atlas of 22 November 1906 where the writer goes into somewhat excruciating detail. Joseph’s name is actually incorrect in the headline where he is styled as “John Neil” instead of Joseph. The headline reference was likely an accidental one to his brother John who also lived in Monmouth. It is the only known name error in the newspaper item.

John Neil Meets Terrible Death

Struck by No. 13 Near Pattee Plow Shops Last Thursday Afternoon

Body Cut Into Two Parts

Unfortunate Man was Returning to Work After Noon-Day Meal—Passing Down Right of Way Approach of Fast Passenger Not Noticed.

Joseph Neil, an employe of the Hyraulic Stone company, was struck by No. 13, the fast Chicago train at a point just north of the Patee shops Thursday and killed almost instantly.

The train was just pulling into the depot when the ill-fated man was hit and as it was traveling at a low rate of speed he was rolled along for a distance of twenty-five yards before he was pushed down onto the tracks.

The newspaper indicated that the incident happened on Thursday–the same day of the week the newspaper was printed. While the paper does not say “Thursday last” or “last Thursday,” it seems reasonable that the reference is likely to the previous Thursday, 15 November 1906 as the article concludes with a mention of Joseph’s burial in the West Point, Illinois, cemetery.

The “Patee” shops is a likely reference to the Pattee Plow Company which was operating in Monmouth at the time. Spelling error aside, the reference to the “shops” was sufficient to assist locals in known where the accident took place. That’s an important reminder that newspaper items do not always have all the detail that a modern reader would like.

The account even indicated for whom Joseph worked. That’s helpful as well given the short amount of time he lived in Monmouth and the fact that he’s not listed in many local records there.

We’ll follow up with the rest of the article which goes into more detail–perhaps more than a reader may like. Joseph’s a brother to my own great-grandfather Neill and while I am not a Warren County resident, I’ve likely ridden the train over the set of tracks where this incident  took place (assuming that while the tracks from Monmouth to Chicago have been replaced they’ve not been physically moved).

Joseph’s tragic death provides more food for thought than just research reminders–we will concentrate on the genealogical reminders in our future post. Those other “real life reminders” are just as important as well. Joseph left a wife and a young child behind as survivors after his tragic demise.

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