Friday, June 3, 2016

Darby Hogan On Division Street/Or Tracing Darby's Last Moments

     Darby Hogan is an old friend here at Ellie's Ancestors.  His name first came to our attention in cemetery records for St. Anne's in Palmyra, NY.  My third great-grandfather Cornelius Ryan and his son Cornelius Jr. are both buried with Darby as is Mathew (sic) Ryan, husband of my 3rd great-aunt Catherine White Ryan.  My cousin John made the breakthrough on finding Darby's townland in Ireland, but we're not much closer to figuring out why the Ryans are in his plot.

     After finding the above mentioned cemetery record, I did some searching on the net for Darby and found his obituary--many of you have seen it but I'm re-posting part of it below, it's such a tragic tale:

April, 1861:  Darby Hogan, who had been for 8 or 9 years, employed by the Central RR as a watchman and switch tender at the Palmyra Station, was killed Friday morning last by a train of cars passing over him.  “Mr. Hogan was returning home from the station where he had been on duty the night previous, when he was overtaken by the New York mail train going west.  He stepped from the track to allow the train to pass, and not knowing that the work train was a short distance in the rear on the same track, he resumed his position on the track- seeing which, the brakeman on the mail train made a motion with his hands intended as a warning that another train was close at hand; but Hogan mistaking this for a salutation, responded cordially, and remained on the track. 
     The noise made by the mail train prevented his hearing the approach of the work train – and the wind blew the smoke to the rear of the train and enveloped Hogan in smoke that he was not seen by the engineer of the work train in time even to check the speed of his engine.  As soon as the man was discovered, every means was taken to warn him, by the engineer, and a woman standing near the tracks, calling him by name and gesticulating violently with her hands, but such was the noise that he heard not and heeded not.  The engine came upon him unawares, throwing him across the track, and the entire train passing over him.  Hogan was nearly severed in twain, the heart and lungs being thrown some distance.  The men on the work train placed the mangled corpse on a board and carried it to the former home of the deceased about 6 rods from the scene of the disaster...

     For some reason, I always had the idea that Darby's death took place in the village of Palmyra where I assumed the train station was probably located.  Taking a look at the 1860 census I noted the place was Palmyra, NOT the Village of Palmyra.  I also noticed Mathew Ryan right above Darby's entry, something I already knew--they were neighbors.  But where were their homes located?  I'm just curious about things like that.  But then I noticed for the first time that there was no house number given for Mathew Ryan.  Could he and his family have been living with Darby?

     I pulled up the New York State Land Records database on Family Search and found Darby, or rather Jeremiah Hogan purchasing land near the railroad station in 1855.  The description of the property in the deed was fairly good, so I looked for some land ownership maps from around 1855.  I found an earlier one, but though a few of the names on it matched up with those on the description I still couldn't pinpoint the exact location.  After looking at several maps, I tried going a bit later, Darby died in 1861 so I looked for that year's map.  There he was, not just the names of those individuals surrounding his land, but Darby himself!  Why do I always do things the hard way?

     Darby's property can be seen next to the red X in the upper left, the other X towards the right is the RR Depot, both are outside the village proper.  Another map from about 1900 gave a clearer view of the area:

     I've marked the approximate spot where Darby lived and the train station to the right. This fits the land description in Darby's deed to a T.  Now I compared the old maps to current maps that gave street names and found Darby lived on Division Street!  I know exactly where that is, it's only 2 or 3 miles from my house.  I also did some conversions online using the 6 rods figure given in the obituary, (which may or may not be accurate), and it appears Darby was within 33 yards of home when he was struck by the train.  I would love to know who the woman by the tracks was, but that is probably something I'll never discover.  Being so close to his home at the time of the accident, it could well have been Aunt Catherine White Ryan though...


  1. Such a sad sad story. And I can't imagine how his family felt to receive his body in such a horrible condition. You've done a great job of detective work with this! Where did you find the land ownership maps?

  2. I did a search at Google Images for the maps Michelle.

  3. You are right to concentrate on Darby Hogan, Ellie - apart from 'pauper graves', anyone found sharing a grave with my ancestor has always turned out to be their relative, though he might have been an in-law or an adoptive parent. Strangely, I also found a relative killed by a train in similar circumstances in Australia - so hard on his family, especially if they saw it happen.

  4. Those trains were deadly, I have several relatives who didn't survive an encounter with one. My father's family worked for the RR since the late 19th century and I've heard lots of gruesome stories--I have a healthy respect for trains.