Friday, February 8, 2013

Another Cathels Family Tragedy

In November 2011, I reported on the tragedy that descended on the family of James Cathels, Jr. in the fall of 1865.  James, four of his children and his mother in law died within about 10 days of each other.  James left behind a pregnant wife and four children. And he and his wife Nancy had lost two other children before 1865.

About a year and a half before this tragedy, the Cathels had another family death in somewhat unusual circumstances - unusual enough to trigger a coroner's inquest.  James father, James Cathels, Sr., was a widower and in February 1864 was living with Peter Dysart.  Dysart had a farm on Russell Hill (the former Lester McPherson farm).  At the age of 72, James Sr. was doing some farm work there, probably to cover his board.

He got up the morning of February 5, 1864 and commented to Peter that his boots pinched his feet.  While using a last to stretch his boots, James inquired of Peter about a caucus meeting held the previous evening in the hamlet.  The exact nature of the caucus meeting is not clear, but given that the town's annual meeting was February 9, this likely was some kind of caucus meeting to nominate candidates for town office.  Whatever it was about, Peter filled him in what had happened.  James then pulled on his boots and headed out to the barn.  Five minutes later, Dysart headed out to feed the animals.  As he started to throw hay down from the hayloft onto the feeding room floor below, he saw Cathels lying there, motionless. Dysart ran around the barn to get in at the lower level and unsuccessfully tried to rouse Cathels.  While he was pretty sure Cathels was dead, he ran over to his neighbor, Stephen Russell, to have him confirm this.   Russell concurred, noting that he could not get a pulse.  They contacted the coroner and sent word to James Jr. at his farm on Scutt Mountain Road about what had happened.

A jury was convened in the Dysart house that same day to examine the body and hear evidence.  The jury included James Douglas, Michael Miller, John Fife (Phyfe), Michael Dixon, Robert F. Scott, Roman Palmer, Robert C. Scott, James Gill, James Thompson, William Lull, Robert H. Sloan, and Richard Smith.  After examining Cathels' body and hearing the testimony of Peter Dysart and Stephen Russell, their verdict was that "James Cathels came to his death by falling on the feeding floor of the cow stable and striking his head on a pole in said stable dislocating one of the upper several vertebrae of the neck causing compression of the spinal morrow which would cause death."

Several of the people connected with this case were, to varying degrees, affected by the U.S. Civil War, completing its third year.   James Cathels, Jr. must have been a little uncomfortable to see James Gill on the jury.  James Jr. had gotten into a brawl with Gill at the Hamilton Hotel in Brushland in October 1862 over a comment Cathels made about Gill's son's Civil War enlistment (see the November 30, 2011 blog entry for more about this incident).  Also on the jury was Roman Palmer, who had only recently moved to Bovina to open a cooperage.  Palmer would enlist later that year and died in battle in December 1864.  Peter Dysart, the owner of the barn where this accident took place, had lost his son Robert in the war the previous October.  William Lull's son Andrew had enlisted in 1862 and would survive the war (as did Gill's son Alexander).  Michael Miller's two brothers, Gilbert and Berry S. Miller, enlisted around the same time as Roman Palmer.  Unlike Palmer, the brothers would survive the war.   

So even while a Civil War was raging, the routines of life - and death - went on back home.  

No comments:

Post a Comment