My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Sunday, December 22, 2013

SUNDAY'S OBITUARY - Thomas O'Donnell (1827-1877) & Sophia Thompson O'Donnell (1839-1916)

NOTE: This story is about Thomas O'Donnell, my great-great-great-uncle. I found it just yesterday, and have now confirmed the county and parish of my O'Donnell ancestors. More exploration will now be necessary to find out about their life in Ireland, and maybe one day I can visit the exact town where my grandfather's family lived. But the story today is about Thomas, and it's not a happy ending for him.

Headstone of Thomas O'Donnell
St. Louis Cemetery, Louisville, KY
Thomas O'Donnell is one of six brothers of my great-great-grandfather Patrick O'Donnell (1823-1911). Thomas was born about 1827 to Richard O'Donnell (1787-1857) and Margaret (UNK-UNK). He was born in the Parish of Lisronagh, in the County of Tipperary, in Ireland. Thomas and Patrick came with their brothers William O'Donnell (1818-1882), Richard O'Donnell (1820-1899), Edward O'Donnell (1821-1860), John O'Donnell (1822-UNK), and James O'Donnell (1830-1894) to America and originally all settled in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. On December 1, 1849, Thomas, along with his brothers Richard, Edward, John and Patrick, arrived in the Port of New Orleans on board the ship Fingall.

Thomas, along with Patrick and John, soon settled in Henry County, all working as laborers with the Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington Railroad (later part of the L&N Railroad). On October 18, 1857, Thomas married Sophia Thompson (1839-1916). He was 30 years old, she was just 18. Sophie, as she was called, was one of five children born in Switzerland County, Indiana, to David Thompson (1804-1866), a Scottish immigrant, and Elizabeth Bennett (1803-1865), an immigrant from England. Thomas & Sophia in the early years of their marriage lived with her family in Eminence, Henry County, Kentucky.

Thomas rose to the position of Section Boss for the L. C & L Railroad in Eminence, and he and Sophia had six children (possibly seven): James Richard O'Donnell (b. March 23, 1858); Frances J. "Fanny" O'Donnell (b. Nov. 20, 1859); Mary T. O'Donnell (b. February 18, 1862); Sophia O'Donnell (b. February 13, 1868); Elizabeth T. "Eliza" O'Donnell (b. August 1870); and Margaret "Maggie" O'Donnell (b. April 1875).

from Courier-Journal, page 1
June 20, 1877
Thomas O'Donnell, a Section Boss on the Lexington Road, Cuts His Throat from Ear to Ear
"Jericho Station, 32 miles from this city, in Henry county, on the Short-line road, was startled yesterday morning by the news of a terrible suicide. Thomas O'Donnell, a man probably in the neighborhood of 50, was related to be the suicide. O'Donnell had been in the employ of the railroad as section boss, and, until lately, was stationed at Eminence, where he managed to save money, and became a proprietor of considerable property, it being estimated that he was worth about $20,000.
The railroad officers concluded to change his location, and a short time ago moved him to Dorset Station, twelve miles beyond Frankfort. O'Donnell brought his family with him and took up his residence there, but appeared discontented with the change. Monday he came to Louisville and yesterday morning, about 2 o'clock he appeared at the house of his brother Patrick O'Donnell, in Jericho, woke up the family and stated that he had missed the afternoon train from Louisville, and had come up on a freight train. He complained of sickness and went to bed.
About 6 o'clock yesterday morning, he arose with the family and asked for a razor with which he wanted to shave himself. His brother Patrick told him to wait until after breakfast, before undergoing that operation. Breakfast was taken, and between half-past 6 and 7 o'clock, Thomas proceeded to shave himself. Shortly before 7 o'clock his brother observed him going first to one portion of the fence then to another portion, and looking over as if to see whether there was anyone out in the neighboring farms. Patrick's supposition as to his action was far different from what it turned out to be. The farmer went to the barn to feed some hogs. He had been at his work but a few minutes when, chancing to glance up, he beheld Thomas lying flat on the ground about fifty yards from him.
Thinking that he had perhaps fallen into a fit, he went up to him, when, to his utter terror and dismay, he saw Thomas gasping for breath, and almost heard the sound of the death-rattle in his throat.  His throat had been cut in a most fearful manner from the top of the left to the top of the right ear, and the blood was streaming over him. The sight was sickening enough to nearly freeze him to the spot. The head was half dangling from the neck, such a gash had the suicide inflicted. Life was extinct in 5 minutes. An inquest was held by Squire R. W. Vance, at which Patrick O'Donnell testified as to what he had seen. The verdict of the jury was based upon the above facts.

Grave of Thomas O'Donnell
St. Louis Cemetery, Louisville, KY
The cause of the suicide is very unaccountable to the dead man's relatives and friends. He was moderately well off, was known, it is said, to be thoroughly temperate in his habits, was on good terms with all his relatives and had no financial or domestic troubles. The only cause that can be imagined was his discontent at being removed from Eminence to Dorset station. His family consists of a wife and seven children."  [Louisville's Courier-Journal newspaper; June 20, 1877; page 1]
Thomas was buried in the Catholic section of St. Louis Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. His wife Sophia, no doubt distraught, honored her husband with a special gravestone.  On the marble stone she had carved the place of his birth as well as the day of his death.
         "To My Husband
          Died June 19, 1877,
          Aged 50 years"
[This information was used - 136 years later - to be able to confirm that the 'Thomas O'Donnell' in the newspaper article, who was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Patrick, was the same 'Thomas O'Donnell' from the parish of Lisronagh, in the county of Tipperary buried here.]

Notice of Death - Sophia Thompson O'Donnell
December 26, 1916
Sophia, a widow at 38, and her six children (or seven as the newspaper article stated), ages 2 to 18, soon moved to Midway, in nearby Woodford County, where she managed a boarding house full of railroad laborers, including Thomas' older brother John O'Donnell. Sophia eventually moved back to Eminence, where several of her siblings stilled lived. She died on December 23, 1916, in Lexington, where she was living with her daughter Sophia and her family. She is buried at Eminence Cemetery in Henry County.

Mrs. Sophie O'Donnell
     "Funeral services for Mrs. Sophie O'Donnell, 78 years old, who died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. John McCullough, 348 Jefferson Street, Saturday morning, will be held Wednesday morning at 7:30 o'clock at St. Paul's Catholic Church. Rev. Libert de Waegenaere officiating.
     The body will be taken on the 9 o'clock Louisville & Nashville train to Eminence, her former home, for burial. Pallbearers will be her grandsons, Richard, Robert, Harry and T.J. Granghan, Joseph, Jack and Charles McCullough and Edwin Doyle, Jr." [from Lexington Herald, page 3; December 26, 1916]

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