Death on the tracks – 1930 news item

A tragic story in the newspaper can lead to helping others with their family trees.

As readers of my blog know I review old newspaper to find obituaries, anniversaries, wedding and other interesting stories that I can build a family tree around and that I can share with the family of the person or persons in the news item.

I’ve created 1,315 trees to date and have contact twice that many family tree owners. The following blog post is about one of those news items I came across in an old newspaper.


A couple of days ago I went into my “To Do” folder and pulled out this newspaper front page I had captured during one of my newspaper review sessions.

blog - NEWS-OH-CO_TR.1930_03_29_0001


from that front page I isolated the “Little Child Left…” story:

blog - Stephens - family died Mar 1930 - Marion Ohio


I created a text file from the information provided in the news item:

The Coshocton Tribune

an Ohio newspaper

Mar 29, 1930



four died in train and car crash

Those who died are:

Mrs Nancy Stephens – age 60

William J B Stephens – age 33

Harriet Stephens, wife of William – age 27

Ralph Stephens, son of Wm and Harriet – age 9

alive at scene of crash is:

 Lester Floyd Stephens, son of Wm and Harriet – age 4


I then created a small tree on Ancestry dot com, to hold the newspaper screen prints; the front page and the small Item.

Tree Name: Nancy Catherine Hutchinson Stephen – death – Mar 1930 – Ohio

Tree Link:

blog - Train Car Crash - Mar 1930 - Marion Ohio - Family Tree


I then looked at the hints that were coming up and did my own search for records that could lead me to a Stephens family tree owner who did not know about this 1930 accident.

One of my search attempts got me to this link on The Newspaper collection issue:

blog - death - 1930 Mar - Nancy Stephens - Ohio

link to news item: Newspapers:

Fortunately I have an account with The Newspaper web site and was able to bring up the full newspaper page and read the story and I can now share it with my readers.

Here again is a screen print of part of the Ancestry Family tree showing those who died, the young boy who lived and the other people mentioned in the following newspaper excerpt. Pay close attention to how close more family members, came to death, that night, on the tracks, in Marion, Ohio.

blog - Train Car Crash - Mar 1930 - Marion Ohio - Family Tree

Excerpt from:

The Marion Star (Marion, Ohio)

Saturday 29 Mar 1930

Passenger Train Strikes Auto on Grand Av. Tracks

Instant Death Is Fate of Columbus Persons Coming Here To Visit Relatives, While Five-Year-Old Child Escapes Almost Unharmed

The dead are:

J. Bryan Stephens, 33

Mrs. Harriet Stephens, 28, his wife

Ralph Stephens, 9, their son

Mrs. Nancy Stephens, 60, mother of Bryan Stephens

Child Escapes

Lester Floyd Stephens, 5, miraculously survived the accident with but slight injuries. He is the only living member of the family of four which came to Marion last night to visit relatives. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Stephens

Instant death came to the four persons at 8:45 o’clock last night when Train No. 31 of the Big Four railroad, a fast passenger train running behind schedule knifed the Star coach in which the family was riding.

The Stephens family was en route to the home of the sister of Mr. Stephens, Mrs Wilson Higley, 480 Van Buren St, at the time of the accident.

They had arrived in Marion shortly before, and had just left the home of Oliver Stephens, 202 Lincoln Ave, a brother of Mr. Stephens.

One Car Crosses

A coupe driven by Wilson Higley, 480 Van Buren St. preceded the car across the tracks by a distance of 100 feet, according to Mr. Higley.

Higley saw the train approaching from the east, but not until he was on the tracks, he said. Quickly throwing the car into low gear, he sped across the tracks, and imagined that the following car would wait for the train.

He did not hear the crash, but Mrs Higley, accompanying him, said she saw the headlights of the car suddenly disappear and immediately imagined what had happened.

Bryan Stephens was a construction foreman with the F. & Y. Construction Co., of Columbus. Recently working in Toledo for that concern, he was laid off for the week-end when inclement weather halted the job he was on.

It was this lay-off that prompted the family to visit relatives here.

He is survived by three (3) brothers and two (2) sisters:

Oliver Stephens, 202 Lincoln Ave. Marion

Jessie Stephens, 1113 St Clair Ave, Columbus

Oky Stephens, 1308 Ashland Ave., Columbus

Mrs. Wilson Higley, 480 Van Buren St. Marion

Mrs. Allan Bowen, 356 Kelso Rd, Columbus.

The story is so sad because Elizabeth Higley saw what happened, the lights were there one minute and then gone the next.

Once I had populated the tree with the people in the story; family members. I was able to get many more family trees as hints. I contact several of those family tree owners and gave them the link to the tree where they would find the screen prints of news items and the links to the Newspaper collection for the Mar 1930 date.

One of the tree owners, Ashley Casey, was kind enough to reply to my message.

As I’ve mentioned above I work on hundreds of such trees and contact hundreds of tree owners, but what I didn’t mention is that only about 10% of those tree owners ever bother to reply.

I am not out for a “Thank You” when I do the work but it is nice to get one every so often and Ashley Casey did just that. She even pointed out some things on the tree that needed fixing (I was able to fix those items) and so she got some new information for her tree and she helped me keep one of my trees free of errors.


As I said in the start of the blog post it was a sad story but it does have a happy ending for me.

I hope this has given you some new information for how to work on your family trees and has provided some distraction from the news of the day.

Thank You

Jose A Munoz

From Clarkston and Covert, Michigan, USA

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