Case Closed

Just to spoil the fun of speculation, here – at last – are the facts. And the moral is that just because something is written down in black and white, it ain’t necessarily so.

Two old men, brothers, one of them a farmer and the other his labourer, are working on the harvest. Joe, the elder, dies. I don’t have his death certificate, so I don’t know the cause, but he was 79 and in 1859 that was a ripe old age. Maybe he simply over-exerted himself. He’s buried a couple of days later, on 14 August, and no doubt younger brother Sam was upset at losing him. But the harvest has to be brought in, so Sam and Joe’s son Charlie get on with it.

Maybe Sam is grieving and his concentration isn’t so good that morning. After all, he’s 72 and he’s had to get up at 5 am to start loading the wagon. It’s a big wagon, and with a full load needs 3 dray horses to pull it. Sam takes the rein of one of the shaft horses, and off they go. At a bend in the road he stands back to make way for the horse, but there isn’t enough space and the horse steps on his foot. That’s a few hundred kilos of horseflesh, and Sam doesn’t stand a chance: he falls, and the wagon runs over his chest. An inquest is held, and two days after the accident, on 24 August, Sam is buried. In the parish register, his burial immediately follows that of brother Joe ten days earlier.

The newspaper reporter got the results of the inquest right, but he conflated the brothers and got the name wrong. To add to the confusion, the clerk who copied the details of the Probate inquiry into Joe’s estate six months later wrote the date of his death as 12.9.1859 instead of 12.8.1859. Easily done. And there we have it.

I’m sorry to disappoint my readers: no foul play, no conspiracy to rid the village of its Hardwicks, no evil characters lurking in the hedges to push old rustics under the wheels of wagons. Just a sad way for an old man to end his days.

9 thoughts on “Case Closed

  1. Cat, you say:”The newspaper reporter got the results of the inquest right,”
    What then were the results? Was the result just that there was no foul play, no conspiracy . . . . I guess, Joe’s son Charlie would have taken over the farm.

    • Everything in the newspaper report seems to be correct, the only error is that the reporter mixed up the two brothers and thought it was Joseph who was killed, not Sam. The result of the inquest was Accidental Death. Yes, Charlie inherited the farm, and having no children left it to his ploughboy (last part of my post “Hunting the Hardwicks”)

      • I can see that I have to catch up on a lot of your writing, dear Catherine. It is such fascinating stuff. I am always very interested to read about what people find out about their ancestors. I wished I could find out a bit more about mine. Love, Uta

      • Yes, where to start, that is the question. So far I have not managed to go very far back. The written information that I came across goes only back to the 1900s. From the 1800s I only know the names, birth place and dates and some occupations. That’s about it.

  2. Pingback: Still Hunting Hardwicks | catterel

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