Newspaper Nuggets: “Fatal Accident at Shelburn”, featuring Joseph S. Germain

Tombstone of Joseph S. Germain, St. Marys Cemetery, Brandon, Vermont [From Diane Tourville's collection]

Tombstone of Joseph S. Germain, St. Marys Cemetery, Brandon, Vermont [From Diane Tourville’s collection]

Burlington Weekly Free Press, April 27, 1888, page 2


A Brakeman has Both Legs Cut off by a 
Train — His Injuries Fatal.

While the freight train which left Burlington at 3 o’clock Monday morning was shifting on a side track at Shelburn, Joseph S. Germain, a brakeman, slipped under the cars and had both legs cut off just above the knee. Part of the train was being backed, and two cars and the tender passed over the unfortunate man, but his cries were heard and the engine was stopped just before its hind wheels reached him. He was taken into the depot and Dr. Stoddard was summoned. It was decided to bring him to the Mary Fletcher hospital, and the train accordingly backed to this city, arriving about 4:30 o’clock.

A consultation of physicians was had and it was found that he had not rallied sufficiently from the shock to warrant amputation. His mind was clear, however, in spite of the fact that 12 wheels passed over him, and he was able to tell how the accident occurred, where he was from, and all about himself. His making a misstep while trying to couple the cars was the way in which the accident occurred. He said that he felt the first truck pass over him but he was so benumbed that he did not feel the remainder of the wheels. His legs were almost completely severed, only a few shreds of flesh retaining connection. He continued to fail and died at 10 o’clock.

Mr. Germain was 29 years old and unmarried. He had been braking but about two weeks. His father, John Germain, who lives in Brandon, came to this city on the 11:10 train and the remains were taken to Brandon on the 3:20 p.m., train.

Joseph S. Germain was the son of Nettie Tourville and Joseph Germain. While doing research in Brandon’s vital records for Nettie, I found out their first-born was “killed by cars”, as mentioned in his death record. Joseph was born in Ferrisburgh on December 30, 1858.

This is one great example of why newspapers are so important for genealogical researches. And it goes beyond obituaries. You can get so much details of major events in your ancestors’ life. Unfortunately, happy events rarely make headlines.

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