Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mystery Monday: Mystery Solved - Who was Marion Francis Chapman?

My great-grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Sparks, was married to my great-grandfather, William Farley "Farl"  Stroud, on Christmas Day 1898, in Madison, Arkansas.  She was 24 years old at the time of what was thought to have been her first and only marriage.  It was only after my mother looked at the old family Bible, that she saw entry for a marriage to a man named Marion Francis Chapman.

In October 1892, Sarah had married a man named Marion F. (Francis) Chapman in Madison County.  His birth and death dates are entered in the Bible, along with their marriage date.  This is all the information we had about him; Sarah never spoke about this man or their marriage.  According to the Bible entry, Marion Chapman died on May 23, 1896, three and a half years after their marriage.  The only other clue we had to this previous marriage was a letter of dismissal for Sister Sarah Chapman from The James River Baptist Church of God, dated December 1896, six months after her husband's death.

The James River runs through southwestern Missouri, so I began by searching the counties around it for a Chapman family.  Obituary and death record searches did not bring any results; and although I did find Chapman families in the southwestern Missouri area, I couldn't make a definite connection and the mystery remained unsolved.

Recently, an article was found in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch regarding the death of railroad worker near Springfield, Missouri in May 1896.  The man is identified as "F. M." Chapman, but the date of death is the same as that entered in our family Bible.

Train Went Over Him
F. M. Chapman, a Memphis Section Hand, Killed
Found With His Head Crushed
A Foot Also Cut Off - Said to Have Been Overworked During the Flood

F. M. Chapman, a section hand employed by the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Memphis railroad, was killed last night near Turner, a few miles east of this city by a passing train.

Reports of the accident received by the railroad company do not give did not give details and it is not yet known what train did the work.  Coroner Ormsbee left for Turner at 1 o'clock this afternoon, and an inquest will be held over the body.

The body was found by passenger train No. 2, the one that left this city (Springfield) at 5:15 this morning going east.  The dead man was found with a deep gash in the head where the skull was fractured, which had caused immediate death, and one of the feet was cut from the body by the heavy trucks.  These were the only marks on the body.

Chapman had been regularly employed by the Memphis Company and during his life made his home near Turner.  The recent rains, which have washed away and caused so much damage to the railroad's property at Turner had kept the entire force of section men working day and night, hunting and repairing dangerous places.  Chapman is said to have been on duty for three days and three nights, which caused a supposition that, totally exhausted, he fell asleep on the track and was not awakened by the approaching train that killed him.

 An inquest was held (I have found the index, but not the actual record) and presumably, his death was ruled an accident.  I have not found an obituary for him.  Based on the information, I was able to find his burial place in Webster County, with his parents and sister, making a definitive connection to his family.  Looking further back at them, I found his grandparents living in Madison, Arkansas in the late 1800's. Perhaps Sarah met Marion when he was visiting his family in Arkansas, or possibly through her brother Hiram, also a railroad worker who lived in Jasper, Missouri. 

Based on the records and Sarah's church dismissal letter, I assume she returned to her parent's home in Arkansas after her young husband's death. Hiram Sparks was married to Farl Stroud's sister, a family connection that probably led to their marriage.

Sarah and Farl were married until his death in 1939; they had three children, including my grandmother, Easie Mae Stroud.  Sarah died in June 1949 at the age of 74.

Farl & Sarah Stroud wedding picture 1898

1 comment:

  1. Interesting story. I was great you were able to find that piece of Sarah's life.