To continue last week’s theme of wacky news stories, I recently had the pleasure of cataloguing a family archive that included a wealth of photographs, newspaper clippings, books, certificates, and war memorabilia from 1885-1940s.
Even more wonderful was the amount of detail the family documentarians had put into the collection. (It’s always a little sad to come across a photo with anonymous people in an unknown setting, because the chances of it serving any useful role in research are much lower.) But that wasn’t the case here.
The real treat was a 142-page clipping book where one woman, Minnie Weller, had collected what would seem to be every newspaper clipping published in Omaha, Quincy, IL, and Chase, CO about anyone in the family from 1885-1918.
While cataloguing the entries, I was able to learn about all kinds of minor Omaha news stories that intersected with the family history. The family in question was that of Charles F. and Katherine Weller (2102 Wirt St.). C.F. was a pharmaceuticals man from St. Louis who moved to Omaha as a young man and made his career as president and owner of the Richardson Drug Company. They had eight children, were very much involved in Omaha’s social circles, summered in Colorado, and travelled internationally on several occasions.
Here are a few highlights from various Weller family news stories:
October 1889 – Harry S. Weller, one of the family’s sons (also of Richardson’s Drug Co.), was a passenger Burlington & Missouri train that collided with another in the town then known as Gibson a few mile outside of Omaha. This was Nebraska’s largest passenger train incident to date. Harry is named in several newspaper articles about the wreck – he was “thrown through the window” upon impact, and “one of his ears was almost entirely severed from the head.” It appears that he made a full recovery.
June 1904 – Over the lunch hour, an over-stocked shelf at the Richardson Drug Company’s wholesale house (902-908 Jackson St.) fell, breaking a water pipe and activating the automatic sprinkler. The first through third floor of the five-story building were flooded and approximately $20,000 dollars in merchandise were lost. The company had no insurance policy protecting against events of this nature.
(year unknown) – Will Fisher, husband of daughter Mary Weller, missed his train out of Omaha by no more than a few minutes, and caught a later one. Just outside of Omaha, the train he was meant to have been on hit a farmer’s team of horses and created a very grisly scene. It was reported that the only casualties were the horses.
September 1909 – While the Weller’s were summering in Colorado, their home was broken into by a man named Frank Wells (he initially gave police the name John Martin). Wells was arrested on Douglas Street, “bedecked in a silk hat, Prince Albert coat, lavender trousers, and carrying a suitcase. He also had on a shirt which, upon closer examination, proved to be a night gown…,” all of which belonged to Charles Weller. At the time of the last saved article, several bundles of missing furs had yet to be accounted for and Mr. Wells was to remain in custody until the Wellers’ return.
(year unknown) – During another of Mr. Weller’s trips, Douglas Bowers, a neighborhood boy rode up and down 20th and Wirt Streets on his horse, circling a lasso. When Clifford Weller, one of the family’s sons, came up the street on a pony, Douglas threw his lasso and it landed around Clifford’s neck, tightening and dragging him to the ground. He fell unconscious and injured his back, but appears to have made a full recovery. There was talk of sending Bowers to reform school.
March 1918 – Marion Crandell, a relative of the Wellers by marriage, graduate of Central High School, and faculty member at Bellevue College, was the first American woman killed in active service in France. She was buried at St. Menehould, the only female among 6,000 male soldiers’ graves.