Catalog of Misfortune: Railway Accident

1910 US Census, Lawrence Co., OH, Charles W. Clark Household

Freight Conductor Killed.

At 3:20 o’clock this morning, Chesapeake and Ohio Freight Conductor J. B. Lutz stopped his train near Sewell and on the bridge crossing the New River. While standing there a following train ran into the caboose, instantly killling Conductor Lutz and causing serious injury to Rear Brakeman Hugh Ratcliffe. The approaching train was seen by Lutz and Radcliffe, [sic] and the latter jumped and landed in the river, fifty feet below.

“Freight Conductor Killed,” The Washington Post, March 13, 1907, p. 12.

This was my great great grandfather, John Ballard Lutz. When he died in this accident in 1907, he left a wife (Flora Belle née Fox) and eight children between 19 years and one month of age.

Three years later, we find Flora Belle married to Charles W. Clark in Huntington, West Virginia.1 On 3 or 4 May, the household is in Lawrence County, Ohio, where they turn up in the US Census enumeration for that county.2 Along with the married couple are his two children (Laura M. and William A.) as well as her children (Lola, Harry, Alta, John, Margaret, and Madeline).

This census record presents one question: Where was Connie Marie Lutz? She would have been a 12 year old, between Harry and Alta in the pecking order…. Perhaps the census taker missed her in the welter of the eight children he was able to record.

In a flash of the collision of that train, the lives of this family were inextricably and suddenly changed. Flora Belle, who had been a housewife, relying on her husband’s railroad income, suddenly had to find an income while raising her children. By the time of the 1920 census, Flora Belle is living in Huntington, West Virginia again, and listed as a widow.3 She later took in boarders and ran a rooming house. It was a completely different life than it would have been because of that wreck on the Sewall Bridge.

1 Register of Marriage, Cabell County, West Virginia, 13 Feb 1910, marriage record of Charles W. Clark and Mrs. Flora B. Lutz, West Virginia Division of History and Culture, West Virginia Archives and History, digital image: : accessed 22 January 2011.

2 1910 U.S. Census, Lawrence County, Ohio, population schedule, Union Township, ED 94, p. 10A, dwelling 197, family 198, Charles W. Clark household; digital image, ( ” accessed 22 January 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1202.

3 1920 U.S. Census, Cabell County, West Virginia, population schedule, Huntington, Ward 3, ED 22, p. 4A, dwelling 56, family 79, Flora Lutz household; digital image, ( ” accessed 22 January 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1950.

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