Monday, October 10, 2011

Mystery Monday - Tracking Down the Death of August Kurtz

Davidson Mine Shaft
One of my big family mysteries has been what happened to my great-great grandfather, August Kurtz.  I had read from my great-great grandmother's Minnie Kurtz's obituary that August had died in an accident on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.  

But did he work on the railroad?  How did it happen?  Were there any more clues to be found regarding where in Germany he and been born?

Somewhere in the course of my research, I had determined that he had died on April 1, 1902.  I did a lot of searching for local papers with that date and had no luck in finding an obituary of news story about his death.  No luck.  Nothing.  Zip.  As sometimes happens, key assumptions we make in our research are wrong.

Recently, I contacted the Connellsville Area Historical Society.  August Kurtz had died near Connellsville, PA, so it seemed reasonable that they may be a good resource for information.  I have had a lot of success when researching other relatives by contacting other local historical societies.  I highly recommend reaching out to area historical societies in your genealogy research.

I received a breakthrough the other day when I received an email from Tom Rusnack from the Connellsville Area Historical Society.  I am not sure how he figured it out, but he found a story about August Kurtz's death not on April 1, 1902, but April 1, 1903!!  One year later.  

I would have never have thought to look there.

The article was a little difficult to read, so I have transcribed it below.
August Kurtz of Nigger Hill and Peter Russenberg of Crossland Station, two German miners, who have been friends for a lifetime, stood together on Baltimore & Ohio tracks near the Davidson Shaft Tuesday at Midnight and chatted together about old memories.  While they were standing a shifting engine flashed around a sharp curve and struck both men.  Kurtz was hurled from the tracks and had his neck dislocated.  Trainmen brought him to the depot where they ordered the Cottage State Hospital ambulance, but the man died in a few minutes.  Russenberg was taken to the hospital on Wednesday.  He has bruises and scalp wounds, but is not thought to be seriously injured.
The remains of Kurtz were taken to the state morgue, where they were prepared for burial.  On Wednesday, they were taken to his home.  The funeral was held Thursday afternoon at 2pm.  Kurtz had been employed as a miner at Davidson for a number of years. He leaves a wife and eleven children, several of them being grown up.  He had left home at a late hour, saying that he would go to the Baltimore & Ohio Express to meet his oldest son, who was expected up from Pittsburgh.  He met Russenburg and the two drunk together.  They had just decided to go to their respective homes when the fatal accident happened.  Deputy Coroner Sims investigated the cause of death and decided that no inquest is necessary.
It was very interesting to find out that August Kurtz was a coal miner.  The Davidson Shaft was a coal mine that ran vertically down over 100 feet near the middle of Connellsville, PA.   It was operated by the Davidson Shaft Mine and Coke Works.  

The article DID NOT state where August and Minnie Kurtz were born in Germany, but it gave me a great clue to track down which would did lead to their origins in Germany.....but that is the subject of my next post.

Next Post:  Julius Henry Kurtz, The Key to My German Ancestry

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