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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Little Francis Fishburne Cooner, Jr.

I came across a sad story today that I had to share. I was researching one of Stan's lines, the Harris line, when I came across this story. There is no blood relationship to the Cooner family.

To describe the tenuous relationship and how I came to the story, I'll set the stage.

Stan is a descendant of Samuel G. Harris and Tryphena Harris through F. Matthew Harris. But they also had a son named James Coger Harris who married Frances Logan Shell. They had a daughter named Hesterann Catherine Harris who married Thomas M. Whiteside. They had a son named John W. Whiteside who married Sarah Agnes Hamilton. John W. Whiteside died young and she remarried to her sister's husband, Martin Maxwell Wells. Martin had been married to Lenora "Nora" Jeanette Hamilton, Sarah Agnes Hamilton's sister. Martin and Nora had Lenora "Nora" Hamilton Wells who married Francis P. Fishburne Cooner, Sr. and they had little Francis Fishburne Cooner, Jr. As you can see, this is not a blood relationship to the Harris line but it was researching the Harris line that I came across the story of little Francis Cooner.

Let's look at his family.

I pointed out earlier that John W. Whiteside died young and his wife married her widowed brother-in-law, Martin Wells. What happened to John W. Whiteside?

John W. Whiteside was born 3/30/1878 in Union County, SC to Thomas M. Whiteside (1830-1905) and Hesterann Catherine Harris (1839-1908). He married Sarah Agnes Hamilton (9/1/1882 in White Oak, Fairfield County, SC to Archibald "Archie" James Hamilton and Eliza Jane Milling; DOD 11/27/1963 in Columbia, Richland County, SC).

John W. Whiteside died 10/27/1916 in a train wreck near Union Station, GA.

Greenwood Daily Journal, Greenwood, SC, 10/28/1916, Pg 4, "Mr. J.W. Whiteside Killed In Railway Accident"
Brother of Mrs. Martin Wells Meets Tragic Death On Georgia Road - Engineer Also Killed
Friends in Greenwood were greatly shocked to learn of the death of Mr. John W. Whiteside in a wreck on the Georgia Road near Union Station, Ga., yesterday morning. He, with the engineer, Mr. David B. Printup, and John Curry, colored, were pinned under the engine and killed.
Mr. Whiteside's remains will arrive tonight on the 7:30 C and W C train from Augusta and will be taken to the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Martin Wells, on Park Street. Interment will be made in Edgewood Cemetery Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock.
Engineer Printup was a brother of Mr. Dan Printup, a C and W C engineer who is well known in Greenwood.
The Augusta Chronicle today published the following account of the disaster:
"Passenger train No. 1 on the Georgia Railroad crashed into an open switch about 200 yards this side of Union Point Station Friday morning at 10:30 o'clock, derailing the engine, tender, mail car and baggage coach, and instantly killing Engineer David Printup, Machinist Jno. W. Whiteside, and Fireman John Curry, colored, all of Augusta.
"The three victims were pinned beneath the engine when it turned over, and crushed to death. The baggage car and mail car also turned over, and the Express Messenger B.T. Hubert received a slight cut on the shoulder, but is not seriously injured. The postal clerk, T.N. Colley, escaped uninjured as did the conductor, W.C. Clary.
"The passenger cars did not leave the track and there were no injuries among the passengers.
"The train had left Augusta at 7:30 a.m. bound for Atlanta. The east switch, a short distance this side of Union Point station was supposed to have been closed so that the train would keep on the main line. The fact that the train dashed into the siding instead of keeping to the main line would indicate that the switch was either defective or had been tampered with.
"Anticipating that the switch was closed, the engineer did not slow up when approaching it, thinking his train would keep to the main line; consequently when the engine turned into the siding, without lowering the speed, it was thrown from the track.
"The wrecking crew, which left immediately for the scene of the disaster, accompanied by Superintendent W.S. Brand, learned after reaching Union Point that only an hour before the wreck an engine had passed over the main line without running into the siding, which leads them to the belief that the switch had been tampered with by a careless, irresponsible party.
"Mr. John W. Whiteside, the machinist who was killed in the wreck, had been with the Georgia for a number of years, and was highly regarded by his employers as well as by numerous friends. He was 38 years of age. He resided at 1838 Fenwick Street, with his wife who before her marriage, was Miss Sarah Hamilton, of Greenwood, S.C. There are no children."

John W. Whiteside
Birth: Mar. 30, 1878, Union County, South Carolina, USA
Death: Oct. 27, 1916, Union Point, Greene County, Georgia, USA
Family links:
Thomas M. Whiteside (1830 - 1905)
Hester C. Harris Whiteside (1839 - 1908)
Spouse:nSarah Agnes Hamilton Wells (1882 - 1963)
Corrie Whiteside Asbury (____ - 1944)
Calvin Clingman Whiteside (1858 - 1918)
Mary Emma Whiteside Bewley (1860 - 1940)
Elizabeth L Whitesides Sparks (1861 - 1931)
Beulah Whiteside Dorroh (1865 - 1945)
James T Whiteside (1869 - 1919)
Burial: Edgewood Cemetery, Greenwood, Greenwood County, South Carolina, USA
Created by: Share It
Record added: Jan 15, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 103612314

Lenora Jeanette Hamilton was born 5/15/1880 in SC to Archibald James Hamilton and Eliza Jane Milling. She married Martin Maxwell Wells who was born 1/29/1877 in Greenwood County, SC. They had 3 children that I'm aware of:

1) Annie Laurie Wells (DOB 2/14/1908 in SC; DOD 9/29/1983 in Richmond County, GA) married George Walker Mobley, Sr.

2) Lenora "Nora" Hamilton Wells (DOB 2/27/1912 in SC; DOD 4/27/1989 in Greenwood County, SC) married Frances P. Fishburne Cooner, Sr. (DOB 12/4/1908 in SC; DOD 5/4/1978 in Greenwood County, SC). They had Lenora Wells Cooner, Agnes Cooner, Francis Fishburne Cooner, Jr., Martin Wells Cooner.

3) Josephine "Josie" Ball Wells (DOB 11/25/1914 in Greenwood County, SC; DOD 8/17/2001) married Cronic.

Lenora Jeanette Hamilton died in the Spanish Flu epidemic.

SC Death Certificate #21131, Registration District #23a, Registered #102, Lenora Hamilton Wells, DOD 10/12/1918 in 215 Parks St, Greenwood, Greenwood County, SC
Female, White, Married, DOB 5/15/1880 in SC, 38 yrs old
Father: Archey Hamilton (sic), born in SC
Mother: Alice J. Milling (sic), born in SC
Informant: Sarah A. Whiteside, Greenwood, SC
DOD 10/12/1918 at 8:30 pm
Cause of death: Lobar pneumonia with other contributing factor as influenza
Buried: 10/14/1918 in Edgewood Cemetery

With Martin Wells' wife dead and Sarah Agnes Hamilton Whiteside's husband dead, they were living together in the 1920 U.S. Census along with Sarah's younger sister, Nell Whiteside, and Martin's 3 children. He is listed as a traveling auditor so I would imagine he needed child care and housekeeping and the two sisters pitched in. Eventually he married Sarah Agnes.

1920 U.S. Census of Park Street, Greenwood, Greenwood County, SC,Roll: T625_1694; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 81; Image: 316, Lines 60-65, "Martin M. Wells"
Martin M. Wells, Head, Owns home free of mortgage, M(ale), W(hite), 43 yrs old, Widowed, Can read and write, Born in SC, Both parents born in SC, Traveling auditor for the railroad
Annie Laurie Wells, Daughter, F, W, 11 yrs old, Attends school, Born in SC, Both parents born in SC
Lenora Wells, Daughter, F, W, 8 yrs old, Attends school, Born in SC, Both parents born in SC
Josie B. Wells, Daughter, F, W, 5 yrs old, Born in SC, Both parents born in SC
Sarah Whiteside, Sister-in-law, F, W, 37 yrs old, Widowed, Can read and write, Born in SC, Both parents born in SC
Nell Whiteside, Boarder, F, W, 21 yrs old, Single, Can read and write, Born in SC, Both parents born in SC, stenographer for lumber company

We will leave Martin and Sarah Agnes Wells now and go to Martin and Lenora Wells' daughter, little Lenora Hamilton Wells. The name of Lenora is repeated in generations so I use the full name. Nora Hamilton Wells was born 2/27/1912 in SC and married Francis P. Cooner (DOB 12/4/1908 in SC). They had 4 known children:

1) Lenora Wells Cooner

2) Agnes Cooner (DOB 10/19/1934 in Greenwood, Greenwood County, SC; DOD 6/13/2015 in Greenwood County, SC) married Robert Benton Nickles.

3) Francis Fishburne Cooner, Jr. (DOB 10/26/1936 in Greenwood, Greenwood County, SC; DOD 5/30/1941 in Greenwood, Greenwood County, SC)

4) Martin Wells Cooner

And now we are ready to share the sad, tragic story of what happened to little Francis Fishburne Cooner, Jr. who died at just 4 yrs old.

The Index Journal, Greenwood, SC, 6/5/1941, Pg 13, "Negro Boy Does Heroic Deed"
David Ruff Saved Francis Cooner, Jr., From Death In Barn
David Ruff, 13-year-old negro boy, is being given high praise for his heroic attempt last Thursday afternoon to save the life of little Francis Cooner and his success in getting the little boy out of a burning barn at the Cooner home near Connie Maxwell Orphanage. Little Francis, four and a half years old, and his younger brother, Martin Wells Cooner, two and a half, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Cooner, were playing in the barn as they often did. A fire starting in a pile of straw soon had the inside of the building a roaring furnace and the younger child ran to safety, but Francis was trapped in the loft. David happened to go to the barn for a drink of ice water, realized immediately the danger and climbed to the roof of the shed with a hatchet and removed a number of weather boards from which Francis escaped, but he already had been badly blistered from the intense heat and injured from the dense smoke and he died the next day. David was modest in talking about his unusual feat for a boy of his age. "I knew Francis couldn't get out and I climbed the fence at the barn and up on the top and I cut off the boards. I heard him crying and saying he was mighty hot. When he got through the hole I cut I helped him down to the ground. I didn't get nervous or scared, but I worked fast." Members of the family have expressed deep appreciation of David's heroic act and will reward him. The story of his valiant efforts also have been reported to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for Investigation.

The Index Journal, Greenwood, SC, 5/31/1941, Pg 13, "Cooner Child Dies Of Burns" Funeral Services Tomorrow For Francis Fishburne Cooner, Jr.
Little Francis Fishburne Cooner, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs Francis Cooner, died at the Greenwood hospital last night at eight-thirty o'clock from the home of his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. M.M. Wells of 215 Park Street, interment following in Magnolia cemetery. Dr. R.C. Long will be in charge of the rites. Little Francis, an unusually bright and lovable child, was four years of age, having been born on the 26th of October, 1936. Through his sweet and attractive disposition, he had formed a number of little friends in his neighborhood who will miss him greatly. Mrs. Cooner was the former Miss Nora Wells of this city. Mr. Cooner is bookkeeper at the Planters Hardware company. Both are well known throughout the county and their many friends sympathize deeply with them in their loss. Besides his parents, the child is survived by one little brother, Martin Wells Cooner, two sisters, Lenora Wells Cooner and Agnes Hamilton Cooner, his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. M.M. Wells, Greenwood, and his paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Cooner, Greenwood. Serving as active pallbearers will be Edward Snead, Henry Ellenberg, John Anderson, Jack Wells, and Jack Anderson. The honorary escort will be composed of a number of his little friends of the Connie Maxwell Orphanage.

My heart just hurt thinking of the poor little boy and his family. And I wanted to know what happened to his rescuer, David Ruff. Unfortunately, I didn't find any more about him. I tried to find a David Ruff born in 1928 living in Greenwood County, SC but had no luck. I guess it's possible that he is still alive at 89 yrs old. Maybe he didn't stay in Greenwood County, SC. Was he even one of the orphans from the Connie Maxwell Orphanage mentioned in the articles? It was next door and it said that little Francis Cooner had friends in the orphanage who were his "honorary escort" at his funeral. Francis' parents are dead now. Francis Cooner, Sr. died 5/4/1978 in Greenwood, SC and his wife, Lenora Hamilton Wells, died 4/27/1989 in Greenwood, SC. I know his sister, Agnes Cooner died in 2015. Lenora Wells Cooner and Martin Wells Cooner may still be alive as I didn't find a death source for them. So maybe his siblings had good, long lives. I'm sure losing little Francis was a horrible experience for them.

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