Sunday, March 22, 2009

Somber Sunday - The death of Peter Hemingway

After reading the Ravenna Area Historical Society blog and the sombre Sunday article about Mad Bull attacks, it reminded me about the death of Peter Hemingway who died as the result of an attack by a bull.

First, let's put Peter Hemingway [1st cousin 3 times removed) in his place within my Hemingway family.

Peter Hemingway, b. abt 1834 in Markham Twp., York County, Ontario, d. 23 Sep 1903 in Bayham, Elgin County, ON, buried in Dereham, Tillsonburg Cem.

He married Henrietta A. Wallace, married abt 1868, b. abt 1843 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, d. 10 Feb 1905 in Tillsonburg, ON, buried in Dereham, Tillsonburg Cem.

Peter's parents were Peter Hemingway, b. 24 Nov 1806 in Canada, d. 8 Apr 1880, buried in Alymer Cem. "A" Malahide Twp. ON and Barbara Ann Fierheller, b. 1808 in Markham Twp., York County, Ontario, d. 16 Oct 1885, buried in Alymer Cem. "A" Malahide Twp. ON.

His grand parents were Josiah Hemingway and Anna Stiver.

When the 1903 death registration indexes became available a few years ago, I searched my usual family names. I found two death registrations for a Peter Hemingway who died on the same date. When I found this information, a few years ago, it was before I had access to databases. Locally, I didn't have access to the registration. I had to order the registration through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

When I received the registrations I found that in one, Peter was living at lot 3 concession 9 Bayham Township, Elgin County. He died as a result of being killed by an animal. [1] The second registration was for Tillsonburg, Oxford County, with the address given as Boadway St. Tillsonburg. The cause of death -- accident. It only said that he was born in Canada. [2]

I found it interesting that there were two death registrations for a Peter Hemingway on the same day, both caused by accidents.

In order to clear up this matter, I next turned to newspapers to see if I could gain more information. I was able to get the Alymer Sun on microfilm by interlibrary loan but for the Tillsonburg Observer, a volunteer provided me with the information.

In the Alymer Sun, 24 September 1903 it reports: " Mr. Peter Hemingway, brother to Silas Hemingway, was killed by a bull at Corinth yesterday morning. No particulars at hand." [Corinth is in Elgin County and is located between Tillsonburg and Alymer and is 18 miles from St. Thomas, Ontario.]

What happened to Peter is cleared up in his obituary that appeared in the Tillsonburg Observer Newspaper on Thursday, 24 September 1903. Peter and his wife owned a farm at Corinth but lived in Tillsonburg. The family had spent the summer at their farm and were intending to return to their home the next week. On the morning of the accident, his wife Henrietta and an "adopted daughter Miss McPhail" went to Tillsonburg for the day, leaving about 10 a.m. When the farm hand, Herb McKenzie, returned from the village before 11, he found Peter. When he went to put some horses into the stable, he saw the bull there. He took a pitchfork and drove the animal out and he discovered the body in the stall where the animal had been. Outside in a field, there was the appearance of a desperate struggle and Peter's hat and a broken pitchfork were found there.

Peter was about 18 years old when he came to Malahide with his family. They had their home in Tillsonburg for about 20 years. Peter was a Liberal and was considered "honorable and upright in dealings with his fellowmen."

Sources of Information
[1] Peter Hemingway Ontario death registration #08552 (24 September 1903) Elgin County, Ontario; copied from microfilm FHL 1854188, Salt Lake City, Ontario Archives MS 935 Reel 110.
[2] Peter Hemingway Ontario death registration #020667 (24 September 1903) Oxford County, Ontario; copied from microfilm FHL 1854281, Ontario Archives MS 935 Reel 112.

Comments: When I checked for Peter's death registration today, I searched using different variables and only the one in Oxford County appeared. I decided to browse through Elgin County deaths for 1903 to see why he was not indexed. I found the page. The copy is very faint. Although the copy I have is not dark, it is still clear enough to read. (Thanks to the volunteer at Salt Lake City.) I also checked another name on the page. It appeared in the index with the correct last name but not for the first name. The poor quality of the digital version made it difficult for the indexer. This is a reminder to browse through pages when you know a person should be on the pages as I had a copy of it, just like we did with microfilm.


  1. I wish I had your patience for research - I guess I need to spend some time learning what the steps are and where to look. I'm afraid that if I don't immediately find it on Google, I don't know what to do next! (Although I've had some good successes on Google!)

    Thanks for taking us through the steps you went through to find your information. It was very helpful for me!

  2. JoLyn

    I am pleased that you found it helpful that I gave the information on the steps I took. It is the teacher in me. Also thinking through the methodology often helps a person discover whether the reasoning is good and whether other sources should be checked.

    Google should be checked, but it is only one avenue to pursue.


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