Monday, December 30, 2013

McBride Tragedy at Stanton Crossing -- Follow-Up

In the last Mid-Week Newsbreak post we got the sad story of the McBride family, and the possible eventual consequences from the incident. To quickly summarize the tale, early on the morning of Christmas Eve 1897 T. Wesley, Jennie, and young Carrie McBride were on their way from their White Clay Hundred home into the market in Wilmington. While crossing the PW&B (now Amtrak) tracks south of Stanton, the family's wagon was struck by a train, killing Mr. and Mrs. McBride and severely injuring six year old Carrie. There was then one last article that mentioned a possible lawsuit against the railroad, which I hypothesized might have lead to the building of the underpass at the crossing, still present today.

Now, thanks to some typically marvelous research by Donna Peters, we do have a little bit more information about the family and the after-effects of the accident. None of it substantially changes anything about the story, but it does help to flesh it out a good bit. Frustratingly though (for me, at least), we still don't have any concrete evidence to support my claim about the underpass.

First up we have some more background about the McBride family, prior to the accident. It comes from a Christmas Day article in The [Philadelphia] Times, from which the portraits included here also come. (The complete article can be found at the bottom of the post. You should be able to click on it for a larger version if it's difficult to read.) Oddly, it gives Mr. McBride's name as George, although from primary sources we know it was Thomas Wesley. Maybe he went by George for some reason? Anyway, it says Wesley (I'll call him that, as that's how he's referred to in other articles) was born in Christiana, but I think it was on a farm located exactly where Christiana Hospital is now. From a 1937 aerial picture, it looks like the house may have been in the middle of the main parking lot in front of the main hospital entrance. [I was over there a few times last month and probably parked right where he played as a child.] Sometime in the mid 1870's Wesley "was seized with the gold fever and went West." He ended up in Colorado and "amassed a small fortune". When his father died in 1893, Wesley returned home to Delaware.

Thomas Wesley McBride

After coming back east, McBride met a young widow named Jennie Bradley. Four years earlier, in February 1889, Jennie Donoho married an Irish-born Brandywine Hundred farmer named Bernard Bradley (they may have wed at the Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church on Philadelphia Pike near Bellevue). In August 1891 the couple had their first child, a girl named Carrie Rose. Carrie would also be their last, as only a month later Bernard succumbed to typhoid fever. Jennie remained a single mother for a little more than three years, until her marriage to Thomas Wesley McBride on January 23, 1895. Sadly, bride and groom would have less than three years to live. Carrie, though, was a different story.

As the Times article covers in more melodramatic detail, Jennie McBride was more or less killed instantly when the train struck, and Wesley was mortally wounded, dying a short while later. The articles written that first week all say that Carrie's injuries were severe, and they say or imply that she was not expected to live. They were wrong.

After recovering from her injuries, Carrie Bradley ended up living with an uncle in Wilmington, according to the 1900 Census. In 1910 she was in the household of another uncle (or so it says, although he may have been an older step-cousin). There she met a man named Edgar V. Sheldon, who (at least as of the 1910 Census) was also living there as a boarder. On June 28, 1911, Carrie and Edgar were married. Two years later, June 9, 1913, their first child (Edgar, Jr.) was born in their home near 30th and Washington Streets in Wilmington. As best as I can tell (and thanks to more finds from Donna) the Sheldons had six children, equally divided between boys and girls. One son died in Alaska in 2009, and another in Delaware in 2012. The second one, Cifford M. Sheldon, was the owner of Brookside Lanes bowling alley in Newark. Carrie Rose Bradley Sheldon died in August 1978, more than 80 years after the newsmen had predicted her demise.

The last little tidbit we have (seen above) is regarding the lawsuit that was hinted at in the earlier article. We still haven't found anything to say what the eventual outcome of the case was, but this report shows they weren't fooling around. That $45000 suit in 1898 would be worth well over $1 million today. It may very well be that as a condition of the lawsuit, or as an attempt at mitigating it, the railroad constructed the underpass so as to remove the dangerous crossing for future travelers.


  1. Fascinating...thanks for all the research!

    1. Thanks. Sometimes it's amazing where a story will go, from only a simple short blurb, when you tug at the thread hard enough.