Saturday, May 24, 2014

This Week's Research Project: 1889 Explosion Kills Two Brothers

For the last several weeks, I have been researching the children and grandchildren of Mark P Stewart (Stuart) and Julia Ann (Alexander) Stewart (Stuart), who are my maternal 3rd great grandparents. Yesterday, I decided to work on finding out:

What happened to Henry's twin brother Edward?  

When doing research you always want to move from the "known" to the "unknown" ... So I had to figure out what I knew about Edward first.

1) Edward and Henry were twins, born in December 10, 1871 in Evergreen Township, Montcalm County, Michigan.  Their parents were Mark and Julia, who were born and married in Ohio.
2) The twins are both enumerated with their parents (Mark and Julia) in the 1880 census, in Evergreen.
3) In about 1884, their father Mark dies and so in 1887, Julia applies for a Civil War Widow's Pension and lists three children (Charles, Edward and Henry) living with her that she was their sole support.  
4) In 1900, I found Henry living in Forest County, PA (along with another brother John).  Edward or Charles are not listed in either Montcalm County, Michigan or Forest County, PA in the 1900 census records under Stewart or Stuart.
5) Henry worked in the Shingle and Lumber business in 1893; and lumber was the industry of the region so it was likely that Edward, Charles and John all worked in similar occupations (or farming).

The following is my thought process ...

Knowing that Edward did not appear to follow Henry to Forest County, Pennsylvania and not knowing where Charles may be living in 1900 ... I attempted to see if I could find Edward in a 1900 US Census.  I found a record for a "Edward E Stewart" listed as a "prisoner" in Iowa, that was born in Dec 1871 in Michigan, but his parents are listed as born in NY (my Edward's parents were born in Ohio) so I wasn't sure if this was my person, but I made a notation of the record.

Next not finding an definitive answer for Edward, the next question was ... Did Edward die before the 1900 census.  So I decided to look for a death record (post 1887 but pre 1900).  

My preferred place to start research is in the death certificates at (1897 to 1922), but I found no Edward Stewart or Edward Stuart that matched my Edward.  Then I narrowed my search period to post 1887 and pre 1897, which puts me in my second favorite place to research ... FamilySearch's Michigan, Deaths, 1867-1897" collection ... which is where I found the following three death records recorded in Montcalm County for 1889.

first image, lines 252 and 253

second image, lines 252 and 253

First thing I noticed was:

Edward Stewart (age 17) and Charles Stewart (age 20) died on the same day March 28, 1889 in Hungerford, Mecosta County, Michigan (not Montcalm Michigan, which is where the death was apparently recorded) On the following image, it listed them as dying in a "boiler explosion" and their parentage information is "not known".

Something else that caught my eye, was that the person above them "William Suet" is the son of "Mark P Suet and Julia Suet" and he was married living in Edmore (which is also a location that my Stewart/Stuart branch was believed to be living in at one time) -- This information I had to file away for looking into another day ... because I was hot on the trail of Edward and Charles now.

Then I reformed my question ...

Was the Edward Stewart and Charles Stewart,
who died in Hungerford, Mecosta, Michigan
on 28 March 1889 the sons of 
Mark P Stewart and Julia Stewart? 

And what caused the boiler explosion? So then I moved on to my next favorite online resource ... historical books and newspaper accounts.

First I did a Google search for "1889" and "Hungerford" and "explosion" and found a couple historical books about factory safety from the early 1890s. Including the following:

Then I found a newspaper article in the Indiana Sentinel from 1889:

Indiana State sentinel, Volume 35, Number 9, 3 April 1889, Page 4
Next I went to the Library of Congress's Chronicling America website and found several more news paper articles, from as far away as Los Angeles, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Maysville, KY.

Los Angeles daily herald. (Los Angeles [Calif.]) 1884-1890, March 29, 1889, Page 5, Image 5

Sacramento daily record-union. (Sacramento [Calif.]) 1875-1891, March 29, 1889, Page 4, Image 4

The Salt Lake herald. (Salt Lake City [Utah) 1870-1909, March 29, 1889, Page 5, Image 5

The evening bulletin. (Maysville, Ky.) 1887-1905, March 30, 1889, Image 1


I still have not proved fully yet that the Edward and Charles killed in the explosion, are the sons of Mark and Julia Stewart but I do know know that they were brothers based on these newspaper stories. Additionally, my Edward would have been approximately 17 or 18 in March 1889; and my Charles would have been approximately 20 or 21 in March 1889 which seems to fit.

The death of these two young men being registered in Montcalm County, Michigan rather than Mecosta County, Michigan where their deaths actually occurred also gives me reason to suspect that they had "familial" ties to Montcalm county, Michigan.  In 1887, Julia was living in Rodney, Mecosta, Michigan but she filed her Widow's Pension Paperwork at the Montcalm County courthouse.

My next research needs to focus on local newspaper accounts and any historical books about the Mecosta or Montcalm county areas.  I will also try to reach out to the local public library and historical societies and see what information they can provide me about the explosion at Morgan's Mill in Hungerford.  I am ultimately hoping to find a newspaper article that says simply "local resident Mrs. Mark Stewart loses two sons Edward and Charles in an explosion in Hungerford this week".  Question is, does that story exist.   Meanwhile, the hunt goes on ...

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and Aloha,


  1. John W Stewart (b.Ohio) married my great aunt Hattie Horton in Bushnell Twp, Montcalm County, MI on 7/15/1871. Hattie and Fred (my great grandfather) were siblings. I have been trying to find out more about Hattie and Fred. John was 21 when he married and had a brother Charles (age 2) on the 1870 Census in Evergreen Twp, Montcalm County, MI. Parents were Mark S and Julia Ann Stewart. John worked in a shingle mill.
    Shirley -

    1. I would love to share information. I have very limited information on Hattie. Do you know her parents names? Was Fred younger or older? I am not even sure where she is buried.


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