I Just Learned My Great Grandfather Fought Three Men on a Train in 1909.
The miracle of the internet. I’ve been putting together genealogy research on my family, using Ancestry.com. I’ve built out the tree fairly well and have pretty much exhausted the site.
However, tonight, my wife is gone, I’m bored, and I Google “Cantwell” with “DePue.” I’m almost positive I’ve done this before, probably dozens of times. You see, DePue is my family’s hub. DePue is essentially Bedford Falls, except instead of New York, it’s Illinois, and instead of some falls it’s a huge lake.
Four generations ago, the Cantwells arrived from Ireland in Peru, Illinois. My great grandfather Frank Cantwell was born there—the first American Cantwell. He got a job in nearby DePue, then later moved there when he was married. Before then, he took the commuter train every day to the zinc factory in DePue, riding the train home at night back to Peru.
Hence this article that popped up on Google Reader (the click-through link is of the original microfilm scan). Out of nowhere. No one in my family has ever seen this, and it completely blew my mind.
From the Ottawa Free Trader, dated November 12, 1909:
ROWDYISM ON THE INTERURBAN LINES
To be Sternly Suppressed by Officials
MOST RECENT OUTBREAK
Took Place This Week in Depue—
Cars Were Bombarded With
Rocks and Bricks While Passing.
Rowdyism has not yet been completely wiped out on the interurban cars wich run between Seneca and Princeton but it it soon will be under the severe measures which Superintendent O’Hara, of La Salle, is about to adopt.
The latest in this line occurred Wednesday afternoon at a quarter to five in the vicinity of Depue.
An interurban car under the control of Conductor James Cantwell (note: this is a huge coincidence—this man is not related to me in the least) and Motorman Joseph Schmitz left Depue at 4:45 on its way east. At what is called “the high fence stop,” three men boarded the car. Two of these were visibly under the influence of liquor. The car was crowded with passengers at the time and the men remained on the rear platform where about twenty other people were crowded.
Bad Language Used.
At Howe’s station a little further east, a number of men and women boarded the car. While the passengers were getting on, one of the men who had boarded the car at the “high fence stop” began to swear and yelled out, “All aboard, all aboard! — — — do you want to stay here all night?”
The passengers heard the foul words spoken by the fellow and were greatly shocked. Conductor Cantwell gave the man a lecture.
Just then the fellow stepped on the foot of Frank Cantwell (this is my great grandfather), a Peru boy, who is employed near Depue, and was at that time riding home. Frank said, “Excuse me,” and then pushed the fellow away from him. The ruffian probably did not like this and began to quarrel with Cantwell and again stepped on the latter’s foot and hit him with his fist. The conductor then dragged the ruffian into the smoker and told him to behave.
While the conductor was in the smoker, one of the ruffian’s companions began to quarrel with Frank Cantwell and the conductor took him into the smoker. The third man, thinking it would be a novel thing to take up the fight begun by his companions, also struck at young Cantwell.
Women Passengers Afraid.
By this time the women passengers became alarmed at the disturbance on the rear platform and crowded toward the front of the car where Joseph Schmitz, the motorman, was notified of what was happening in the rear. Schmitz stopped the car and went to the back platform where he, with the assistance of Conductor Cantwell, threw the three disturbers off the car. One of the men rolled down the embankment and struck a barbed wire fence which held him by his clothes. The other two picked themselves up and armed themselves with big rocks which they threw at the car. None of the missiles, however, did any damage.
Bombard Car at Night.
When the same car went toward the west again at nine o’clock that night, three men, supposed to have been those who were thrown from the car in the afternoon, were standing on the track near Depue and when the car passed them, they sent a shower of rocks at the coach. When the car reached Depue an officer was found and notified; but upon making a search the policeman found nobody.
The names of the three men are known and warrants were sworn out today for their arrest. The men will be heavily prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Frank Cantwell, with whom the men had quarreled, is a well known Peru boy and of splendid reputation.
All the employees of the railway are going to start a campaign for the wiping out of little scuffles on the street cars. The conductors, who have to deal with these cases, declare they will not endure any profane language or ungentlemanly conduct on their cars in the future and Supt. O’Hara will adopt any measures necessary to check the evil.
I know very little about my own family history, and Chris’s fascination with his own has made me wonder what gems like this might be out there about previous Wilcoxes. Because this is absolutely a gem. Also, I really want to bring back the term “Rowdyism.”
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- monsterbeard said: This is awesome! Also, what a bizarre coincidence with the conductor’s name!
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- hipsterdiet said: amazing.. Frank Cantwell, with whom the men had quarreled, is a well known Peru boy and of splendid reputation.