Killed by a Steam Locomotive in a Coal Mine

My GEDCOM file has been online at RootsWeb’s WorldConnect for 15 days short of fourteen years. Many people have written to me over the years. And when a person takes the time to send me the key to open a door in one of my brick walls, I do a happy dance and say, “Thank you very much for taking the time to get in touch.”

Oliver Jenkins III of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is one of these people. He sent his email to both of my addresses (to be sure I would receive it) last August and wrote:

I’m hoping you are the same person who posted the following info to rootsweb:
If so:
Regarding the death of Elijah Neal, thought you might appreciate this information.

Who was Elijah NEAL?

Elijah W. NEAL was my  great-grandfather William Henderson DEMPSEY‘s first cousin. They were very close in age, Elijah being the elder by three years. Their mothers were both daughters of Elijah WOOD (1806-1885) and I wonder if the younger Elijah’s middle name may have been Wood. But I’m getting away from the subject. I want to stress that this is speculation concerning the middle name!

For a long time, I’ve had “between 1896-1900” for the year of death of Elijah W. NEAL. I hadn’t found a death record for him and estimated his death as between the time his last child was born and the 1900 census when his wife, Rebecca F. (ARBAUGH) NEAL, was seen as widowed.

Fast forward to this past August when Oliver sent me the above-mentioned email with the transcription and citation for the source giving the date and cause of death for Elijah W. NEAL.

Killed by a Steam Locomotive in a Coal Mine on 3 June 1897



Fatal Accidents 1897
June 3d and 4th. Elijah Neal and George W. Crump, Gauley Mountain mine, Fayette county, were killed by a steam locomotive in the mine. The following report was furnished by Mr. W. N. Page: “I regret to report the death of Elijah Neal and George W. Crump in our new mine Tunnell, on Thursday, June 3d, both white and leaving families. Neal’s head was crushed between the cab and rib, from which death must have been instantaneous, and Crump, who was badly scalded by steam from the safety valve, died the following morning. This accident was in no way connected with the working, but was the result of carelessness in running too fast over a new track. Only one pair of drivers left the rail, but at the high rate of speed the safety valve was knocked off against the roof. It is supposed that there was a small scale of slate on the rail, but this is not certain, but it is known positively that they were running at the time beyond the safety limit, with practically an empty engine. Neal was about 35 and Crump about 40 years of age.” On June 10th Mine Inspector John I. Absolom visited the scene of this accident and found the facts to be as stated above.
[Source: Annual Report of the Chief Mine Inspector to the Governor of West Virginia. W.E. Forsyth: Charleston, WV.1898. page 84-85; online at:]

Oliver also did a newspaper search and came up with this article which suggested Elijah’s widow might soon follow him to the grave.

Publication: The Evening Republican, Columbus, Indiana
Published: 4 June 1897
Page 1
A locomotive was wrecked in the coal mines here today. Elijah Neal, engineer, was killed and assistant mine superintendent died from his injuries received.
Neal’s wife is prostrated and will die from the shock.

Elijah’s wife Rebecca did not die from the shock. She was found in the census in 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940, always in Ansted, Fayette County, West Virginia. No death record was found for her on

However, her obituary published in the Beckley Post-Herald was located and attached as a source for her death. Aunt Becky, as she was known,  outlived her husband by 52 years, dying on 3 July 1949 in Ansted.

mrin26342-1949-rebecca-neal-obit-beckley-post-heraldPublication: Beckley Post-Herald (Raleigh Co., WV)
Published: Sunday Morning, July 4, 1949
Headline: Neal Funeral Set For Today
Oak Hill, July 3 – Funeral services for Mrs. Rebecca (Aunt Becky) Neal, 87, of Ansted will be held Monday at 2:00 p.m. at the Ansted Baptist Church with the Rev. Stanley Neuman officiating.
Mrs. Neal, who was born in Greenbrier County, died at the home of a daughter, Mrs. Lola Boalt of Ansted, Saturday at 7:15 p.m. following an illness of six weeks.
She was a member of the Ansted Baptist Church.
Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. Lola Boalt and Mrs. Ada Dufour, and one son, Raleigh, all of Ansted. Also surviving are 15 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren, and 11 great-great-grandchildren.
The body will be at the home of Mrs. Lola Boalt.

The Benefits of Having My Family Tree Online

Oliver’s email was very much appreciated as have been all correspondence received in the past twenty years my family tree has been online. My database may have missing information, it may not always have sources cited, it may even have errors. In short, it may not be perfect. But the benefits of having it online far outnumber the embarrassment of mistakes or missing citations especially when people take the time to write to me and offer corrections and additions.

Thank you to all who have contacted me during the past 20 years!


P.S. On 23 November 2016 I heard from Oliver Jenkins III. I wrote to him letting him know I mentioned him (first name only) and his random act of genealogical kindness in my post. He is not a related to Elijah W. Neal and found the information while researching for a client. He wrote, “Feel free to use my full name and email if you’d like. Extra clients always help 🙂 ” owjenkins3 @

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.