Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Aftermath of a 1909 Accident

On the morning of February 22nd 1909 a train wreck occurred in Delmar.  A clear signal had been given for the right a way on the track to a southbound train but the train ran into two engines sitting on the track.  The first couple of train cars behind the engine exploded into fire. Seven people were killed of which four were clerks working in the mail car. Also Princess Trixie, a performing vaudeville horse, was killed.   One of the clerks, John W. Wood from Wilmington, would be cremated in the wreck.  The accident is a story in its self but this post is about the aftermath of the accident that affected John Wood. 

One well written version of the accident can be found here

Even in 1909 there were personal injury lawyers and Josephine Wood, ex-wife of John Wood, filed a damage law suit against the railroad.  John had married her in 1901 and they had a son in 1902 by 1906 she had moved out and was living with someone else over in Baltimore, a divorce proceeding was started on grounds of adultery and a divorce was granted in November 1908 but it had to wait a year before it was final, the accident occurred before the year was up.  Josephine’s lawyers had the divorce degree set aside.  

In the court case it was determined that John made about $1,100 a year as a mail clerk. The lawyer tried to prevent the divorce degree being entered into the record.  Several railroad people from Delmar were called to testify in the case. 

In May of 1910 the court awarded Josephine $2,000 from the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington railroad company.  In July of 1910 Josephine Wood and John Harper filed for a marriage license in Baltimore. The son, John Thomas Wood, would live with his Aunt Eliza and her husband, George Johnson, in Washington DC for a while but by the 1920 census he was living with his Mother and John Harper in Baltimore. 

There is no newspaper indication any other lawsuit was filed on behalf of the other accident dead. If the details of the settlements were made known it might well be the settlement for Princess Trixie, the horse, exceeded the amount paid to all the families of the seven dead.

Some history on the main players;

John W. Wood (1878-1909) was the son of Captain Thomas David and Rachel Taylor Wood. Captain Thomas David Wood was Dockmaster for Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington.  John would marry Josephine R. Simpson (1884-  )in 1901.  They would have John Thomas Wood in 1902 when she was 17 years old. 

Josephine R Simpson was the daughter of Edward Simpson and Rebecca Simpson.    Edward A. Simpson would die in 1896.  Rebecca Simpson would later marry William Clark.

After the accident the son, John T Wood was placed with his Aunt Eliza T. Johnson of Washington DC she was the Administratrix of John Wood Estate which included a $1,900 life insurance policy.

Josephine and John M. Harper, ages 25 and 27 respectfully, filed for a marriage license in July of 1910.  In April of 1929 a divorced was given the couple and she was allowed to resume using the name Josephine R. Wood. 

On December 23rd 1932 Josephine’s mother died.  Josephine’s sister, Mary Simpson Robinson would also die in 1932. Josephine’s brother Oliver L. Simpson had died in 1923.  After 1932 it is unknown what happened to Josephine.

John Thomas Wood (1902-1961) would marry Dorothy I. Sparks ( -1987) about 1925, they would live in Baltimore where he was a metal salesman.  They had one daughter Dorothy Ann Wood (1927-2003).  John would die at age 59 in 1961. 

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