Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Discovering Cousin Obe

In December 2014 I accidentally came across information about a cousin I had not heard about, one that was only a name in my family tree with no real information about him other than his existence.

This is my great-aunt Fannie.  Frances was born to Rebecca Payne Stewart in Hardy County Virginia in 1852.  She was married to Strother Hilliard on May 6, 1968 by Rev. William George at the home of Edward Williams in Grant County West Virginia.  According to the 1870 census, Strother was working for Edward and Mary Williams as a farm laborer. They had several children.  There are very few records documenting their family; I hit many dead-ends in researching them.

But one night while investigating a possible connection to another Stewart family in the Piedmont, West Virginia area I noticed that they had a border by the name of Obe Hilliard living with them. Recognizing the surname as prominent one in the Stewart family it took me off on another one of my investigative tangents. 

I noted Obe was a  coal miner, a typical job for the area.  And the only hint given by about him was in a Pennsylvania death record database.  That's when I happened upon the death record for Obe Hilliard.  It tells a story that brought me to tears.

Not only did I discover that Obe Hilliard was a son of great-aunt Fannie, but I learned of his tragic death.  Obe's coal mining job afforded him the opportunity to travel on the coal trains between the mines around Piedmont, West Virginia and the steel mills in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Apparently on November 14, 1908, Obe suffered a broken neck when he was hit by a train near Bridge Street Crossing in Monongahela, in Washington County Pennsylvania.  While it was determined his mother was Fannie Hilliard of West Virginia it was disturbing that he was not sent home for burial, but rather buried nine days later in Monongahela.  This caused me to wonder and worry ... 

This is everything I know about Obe.  He seems to have left our family without the proper send-off and only a very few people knowing what happened to him.  He wasn't ever discussed within the family ... he just faded away.  But I found him and have done my best to honor him as a part of my Stewart family.

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