Thursday, April 05, 2012


I wanted to see if I could find a newspaper account of the death of either
my great granduncle Frank McFarland or the other John McFarland
buried with my great grandfather John. I checked the local libraries 
websites to see how far back their newspaper archives went but
neither had Boston newspapers from the 1880s. Then I tried the
largest nearby city library in Quincy but had no luck there either.
I resigned myself to a trip into the Main Branch Public Library
in Boston, then realized tomorrow was Good Friday and they
might be closed early. I didn't want to wait until next week for
the trip.

Then I asked my Facebook genealogy friends which website
might have late 19th century Boston newspapers available
online and got some great suggestions. Among them was
one from Marian Pierre-Louis that I apply for an E-Card
from the Boston Public Library which would give me
access to their online link to archives of the Boston  Daily
Globe from the period. I followed her advice and ten minutes
after submitting my application I was online and found what
I'd hoped to find.

Thanks Marian!

So, here is my transcription of the story in the Boston Daily
Globe on Saturday, August 14th, 1886 with the details of the
terrible accident that took my great granduncle Frank
McFarland's life on the day before which, I just now realized,
was Friday the 13th!  One of his two brothers mentioned
in the report was probably my great grandfather:   

"Dead Under Tons of Land
Frank McFarlane's Living Burial
The Caving Ditch at Brighton And The Struggle for Life
The Successful Search For The Body
-Cunningham's Escape"

The body of Frank McFarlane, who yesterday morning at 10.30 was buried by
the accidental caving in of the sides of a ditch in which he was working, was
discovered last evening at 5.26. He was sent about nine days ago to brace the
sewer ditch on Waverley street, Brighton. On account of the treacherous
character of the soil, which is of a sandy, gravelly nature, a skilful man was
required. Yesterday morning Mr. Grace, who is superintending the construction
of the sewer, spoke to McFarlane about polling braces at the bottom of the
ditch, which was about fifteen feet deep. At first McFarlane thought such
precaution  unnecessary, but finally decided to act upon the suggestion,
and, taking Thomas Cunningham, had begun strengthening the bottom of
the ditch when one of the men above cried:

"Come out, both of you, as quick as you can; the ditch is caving!"

Cunningham immediately ran towards the nearest exit, which was at the
westerly end, and McFarlane, after a moment, started for the opening in the
opposite direction. Cunningham succeeded in making his escape while, as
the result showed, McFarlane was overtaken about half way between the
point from which he started and the exit, and was buried alive beneath
tons of sand and gravel.

All the afternoon a gang of about sixty men, many of them without dinner,
labored hard and earnestly with the faint hope that the braces might have fallen
from both sides and prevented him from being crushed. As the afternoon
wore on and the loose soil continued caving and preventing rapid headway
this hope began to vanish, and at about 5.26, when John Coughlin cried,
"Here he is!" scarcely one of the immense crowd that had gathered expected
to see anything but a lifeless corpse.

At the moment the body was found two men rushed in from the crowd which
had been roped off by the officers, and, in spite of the detaining cries of those
in charge, made straight for the edge of the ditch, crying: "Is his name Mcfarlane?
Is he dead?" They were the two brothers of the victim, and had spent the
afternoon in a wild search among the hospitals and police stations of the city
for their brother, whom they had heard was killed.The grief of these two
strong men, both of whom sat around on the ground and wept like children,
was heartrending.

It was almost an hour after the body was discovered that it could be extricated
from the earth and timbers. When this was at length accomplished, and the
body of the unfortunate man was borne in the rough and brawny arms of his
comrades carefully and gently to the ambulance which was in waiting, sobs
and exclamations of pity arose from all sides. The hands were found to be
open with the fingers close together, like those of a man swimming, while
upon the face was a calm look, as if the victim, after a brief struggle with his
hands, had desisted and become resigned to his fate.

The body was conveyed to Station 14, whence it will be removed to 13 Coventry
street, where the unfortunate man lived, Although McFarlane was unmarried
and had no family of his own, he leaves an aged father and mother, to whose
support he was the principal contributor. "

To be continued.

1 comment:

Claudia's Genealogy Blog said...

I did not know that libraries had
e-cards. I was searching for the traumatic death of my husbands great uncle and all I found was a little blurb that he died in a local hospital.

My husband said he was killed when a train traumatically amputated both of his legs.

I will have to look into the ecards.