Saturday, October 23, 2010

James Files for Workman's Comp

Another interesting set of documents included in James McGregor's probate records pertain to an on-the-job injury he sustained in 1911.  At that time, James was a station hand working for the Burlington railroad in Macon, Missouri, and had held that position for 10 years.  Then, on the 27th of November, an accident happened that appears to have changed, and may have ultimately ended, James' life.

Five documents make up the Brotherhood of American Yeomen Proof of Accidental Injury packet.  At first I assumed that the Brotherhood of American Yeomen (BAY) was a type of labor union, but once I dug into the organization I found that it was actually a fraternal insurance society associated with the Iowa State Insurance Company, through which James maintained several policies.  It's clear from the affidavits that James' injury was severe enough to warrant a claim, and that his career was ended by the events of that November day.

According to James' statement, signed on 24 February 1912, he was unloading timbers from a rail car when somehow the 10-foot long 8x10 ties broke loose.  Eight to ten beams fell on top of James, breaking his pelvis and severely bruising his left side and back.  He was confined to his bed for six weeks and to his home for four weeks after that.  Two physicians attended James, a W.H. Miller and an A.B. Miller, and both of their statements are included in the package.  Both of their accounts and diagnosis are similar, with their answer to one of the questions being of particular interest.  Question number 11 asks "Will claimant recover from accident in the ordinary course of treatment?"  Dr. W.H. Miller simply states "do not know" while Dr. A.B. Miller writes "I cannot tell. He is slowly improving."

According to James' death certificate, he died from sepsis with a contributing factor of tuberculosis prostate, a condition he suffered from for 2 years - or since early 1912 or late 1911.  I'm certainly no medical expert so I cannot say if James' accident contributed to the onset of this disease or was simply a coincidence.  I can conclude, however, that the events in the rail yard on November 27th, 1911, ended James' career.

Besides shedding light on the injury, the affidavits also give a glimpse into James' every day life.  His own questionnaire (pictured below) shows James to be fond of a beer now and then, having last visited a "saloon" two days prior to the accident.  There is also a form from a correspondent, or witness, named Mrs. Elizabeth Miles who was a seamstress in Macon.  She's essentially a character witness, having known James for 3 years and confirming James' own description of his lifestyle.  The final affidavit in the package was completed by F.T. Skinner, James' foreman, who also knew James for 3 years prior to the accident.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Introducing James and Giddie McGregor

My wife's new-found cousin has been kind enough to send some scans of family photos our way, and of those we've received thus far the most cherished is this photo of James and his third wife Ida "Giddie" Calhoun. I am uncertain of when the photo was taken, though judging from their clothing I would assume this is a wedding photo and would be dated around 24 December 1897.  It is credited to The Smith Photo Co., but I can find no information about that entity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

James McGregor's Will

Back in August I blogged about my James McGregor brick wall and mentioned that I had sent away to Macon County for his will and probate records.  Well, the packet arrived a couple of days ago and I was very pleased with the wealth of information, and number of surprises, it contained.  As to the big question about James' origins, the documents didn't contain even a hint of an answer.  They did, however, reveal some details about James' life that were previously unknown to us.

The first document in the packet was James' will, handwritten on the 3rd of February, 1914 - the day before he died.  It was obviously written by someone else's hand, for James' scratchy signature is at odds with the rest of the handwriting on the page.  The will revealed the expected - dissolution of his estate, with the proceeds distributed among his children Robert Lee, James, and Opal - but the valuable information began to be revealed immediately.  We learned that James' (the son) middle name was Pleasant, after James' (the father) father-in-law.  We also learned that Giddie Calhoun was actually James' third wife!  Until now, nothing we'd found mentioned previous wives - or children.  The will revealed both.

First mentioned was Mary Jane Jenkins, with whom James had a daughter named Mary Jane McGregor.  Digging through Missouri records online I discovered their marriage in 1882 and Mary Jane's birth in 1884.  Sadly, Mary (Jenkins) passed away on September 14th, 1884, at the age of 21.  While the record of her death attributes the cause to malarial fever, the proximity to her daughter's birth leads me to think that complications from that event at least contributed.  With the loss of the 1890 federal census it's hard to say if James' baby girl lived with him or her maternal grandparents. What is certain is that in 1900, according to the census, Mary was indeed living with her grandparents in Lingo Township, Macon County.  I suspect it wasn't very long before she went to live with them because....

Wife Number 2 came on the scene.  James married Emma Bundren on June 16, 1886, in Macon County.  With Emma he also had a daughter, May.  I could find no birth record for May, but additional contents of the probate packet places her age in 1896 at 8 years.  Those additional papers are the divorce decree issued in Arapahoe County, Colorado on February 25th, 1896.  Did James spend time living in Colorado?  It turns out that he did not, but his wife certainly did.  The same year that her divorce from James was granted, she married a man named William Baer - in direct violation of the divorce terms which stated that neither party was to marry within one year.  James married Giddie Calhoun on Christmas Eve 1897, but Emma's circumstances seem shady.  William Baer was also from Missouri, so there's circumstantial evidence to believe that the two ran off to Colorado.  It would certainly be interesting to know the whole truth of the matter.

There are many more documents and other interesting tidbits of information contained in the probate records, but this post has become quite long so I will share the rest in subsequent installments.