Tragic Accident Ends Life of Sanford Brown

Sanford Harrison Brown is the 3X paternal great grandfather of my husband, Richard T. Richardson.  He was born about 1841 in Kentucky.  In 1862 he married Minerva Jane “Mary” McDonald in Monroe County, Indiana, and with her fathered eight children including a daughter, Laura, who married Joshua Reece Richardson.

quarryblog

In January 1896, Sanford reportedly went to work at the Consolidated Stone Quarry as a night watchman.   It was his duty to “look after the boilers and get up the fire in the morning.”   On Wednesday, March 11, 1896, it being a relatively quiet night, Sanford, who was a hard worker and having nothing better to do, decided to help a fellow employee, Robert Fisher, unload coal cars.  One car had already been unloaded and they were starting on the second.

Sanford was assisting Robert in letting down the car to a position opposite the coal shed.  Several of the cars were coupled together, and Sanford climbed on the front car which was loaded with stone.  Suddenly the car on which Sanford was standing broke loose from the others.  So he set down his lantern and started toward the brake at the other end of the car.  This was the last he was seen alive.

It is supposed that in trying to reach the brake in the darkness he stumbled over a slab of stone and fell headlong to the track where he was immediately run over by the cars following in the rear.  He was found dead lying on the track, his remains horribly mangled.  According to the coroner’s report, the “car wheels had cut diagonally across the breast from the right shoulder to a point midway between the left shoulder and the hip.”  He died instantly.  The time of death was established between 7:15 and 7:25 PM.

At the time of his death, Sanford was believed to be between 54 and 56 years of age depending upon who did the reporting.  He was survived by eight children including:  Laura, Richard, Sarah, Emanuel, Minnie, Florence, Lou and Harry.  Burial was in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington by the side of his wife who had died in 1888.  His estate at the time of death was valued at only $50 leaving his children nearly destitute.

On May 1, 1896, a suit against Consolidated for $10,000 in damages was filed in Monroe County circuit court.  The case was heard before a jury in January 1897 and a small judgment was secured (the amount of the judgement, as reported in different Bloomington papers, varied from $1,250 to $2,500).  Soon afterward it was set aside “by reason of error in the trial process.”  A second trial was then scheduled for the spring of 1897.  It was also heard before a jury, and that jury deliberated 20 hours before reaching a verdict.  Three ballots were taken.  The question was whether or not Sanford was working at the time of his death.  Jury members were evenly divided on the issue.  As no agreement would be reached, they were dismissed without providing a verdict.  There is no evidence of a third trial.

Hopefully the older Brown children, at least three of whom were married by the time of Sanford’s death, were able to care for the younger children.  But no more information about that is known.

Blog post by Randi Richardson