Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thriller Thursday - Runaway Buggy

These articles appeared August 26, 1890 in the Lexington (KY) Leader  and the Lexington (KY) Transcript.



The Fatality of a Vicious Horse, a Broken Backing Strap and a Buggy Full of Family.

    One of the most popular and in many ways one of the best young men in Lexington, Mr. Joe C. Headley, came to his death yesterday under most distressing circumstances. Mr. Headley had been out driving with his wife and child. He had gone as far as the fairgrounds, whither he went to see how things were progressing for the opening day. On the way back the horse betrayed his temper by shying and scaring at things in his path and in many ways giving his driver trouble and scaring the occupants of the vehicle. Turning into Bolivar street, Mr. Headley drove down Mill street. A backing strap broke and the buggy ran up on the horse which began kicking. Passing Hayman's Mill, Mr. Headley whipped his horse, which caused him to dash forward over the railroad crossing. There were but few eye witnesses of what followed, and they differ as to details. It appears, however, that Mr. Headley had by some means lost his lines and was leaning over to recover them while his horse was running. The baby fell out of the buggy first. The Horse gained in speed and by the recovery of one line, or some other cause, swerved to the left and dashed into the pavement between a lamp-post and a hydrant at the Northwestern corner of Water and Mill streets, where the curbing is high. The contact threw Mr. Headley head-over-heels out of the buggy, his head striking the hydrant and his body falling upon a pile of lumber just outside of Foushee & Hardesty's grocery store, where it lay with the head hanging over the lumber until assistance was had. The wound caused by the fall was a dreadful one. The blood flowed from it most copiously. Drs. Carrick and Coleman arriving upon the scene attended the unfortunate man who had been carried into the grocery store and stretched upon the floor. It was found that the bones above the ear were fracture, the top of the head loosened and an opening as big as a hen egg left above and back of the ear. The father of the unfortunate man young man, Mr. J. A. Headley, is Circuit Clerk, was notified and he at once hastened to his son's side. In tears he held his hand until life was extinct which occurred in a few minutes.

    To return to the buggy.  Mrs. Headley was following her husband in a headlong fall out of her buggy when she was caught by Mr. Will Harrison who saved her from damage beyond a bruise upon the face. She was led into the office of the Hayman Mill for rest and medical attention. The baby was picked up bruised about the head, but otherwise non the worse for its awful experience.

    The horse after breaking loose from buggy and harness ran into Foushee & Hardesty's grocery, the door of which was opened. He suffered no damage. He was a scaly brute and ought not to have been driven as he was. Mr. Headley had received him but a day or two from the country and having tried him knew that he could not be trusted. But Mr. Headley was a reinsman with a good deal of confidence in himself and hence the risk he took with his wife and baby in the buggy behind such a rascally piece of horseflesh.

    The dead man was a great favorite in Lexington, being well-known and liked. For several years he was Deputy Clerk in the Circuit Court, discharging his duties with fidelity and care. He left that office to enter upon the business of a real estate agent and to deal in real estate, in which occupation he promised to be a success, having already inaugurated improvements on North Broadway between that street and Upper, which stamped him as a man of progress.

    Joe Headley's death and the dreadful manner of it, have caused a thrill of horror through this community which will deeply sympathize with his widow and afflicted family.


 Grief of His Wife and Family at the Sudden Occurrence --
When the Funeral takes place -- General Sorrow

A little before 6 o'clock yesterday afternoon a rumor ran around the city like the current from an electric battery.  "Have you heard the news? Joe Headley has been thrown from his buggy and killed."  This was heard on every hand.  Investigation proved it to be only too true.  Not only he, but his wife and child, were precipitated on the street at the northwestern corner of Water and Mill streets by a frightened horse.  He was never conscious after the fall, and in fifteen minutes death had come.

The circumstances are as follows:

Mr. Headley was out for a pleasure drive with his wife and child.  Generally both children are taken, but this time the baby was sick and was left at home.  Mr. Headley was driving a young horse, which it is said, he had never driven before.  The animal was only four years old and full of life.  At the top of Mill street  hill the horse became frightened by the vehicle slipping on his hind quarters.  HE ran the steep declivity and dashed into a lamp post and hydrant at the bottom.  The buggy was overturned with a smash, the unfortunate father and husband was thrown head over heels on the hydrant.

That was his death.  A great crimson stream gushed from beneath his crushed skull, and trickled heavily drop by drop, into the adjacent gutter, reddening the stagnant water as it fell.  It was found on medical examination that the bones above the ear were fractured, the top of the head loosened and that there was a large opening back of the ear.  Death must have ensued painlessly.

Mrs. Headley and child were not seriously hurt, the former very slightly.  The poor wife was frantic with grief, the more so as it came on top of such tremendous mental excitement.  With difficulty, she was led away from the scene of the death by some kind gentleman.  At the house on North Broadway, when the news was announced, a scene not less heart-rending occurred.  The unfortunate family refused to be comforted.  It was an hour of dreadful desolation.

The horse which was the cause for all this misfortune ran into Foushee and Hardesty's grocery, the door of which stood invitingly open.  The fact that Mr. Headley was an excellent whip led him to risk driving an animal which was unworthy of his confidence.

One of the most pathetic in connection with the accident was the grief of Mr. J. P. Headley, the present Circuit Clerk and the father of the unfortunate man.  He was notified at once, came to the wreck before his boy's heart had stopped forever, and held his hand until the last spark of life was extinguished.  Poor Old Man.  No wonder he grieved.  Joe Headley's filial love was almost a proverb.  Marriage for him had not meant estrangement from his father and mother.  It had only meant adding new loves to the old.


It is during boyhood and early manhood that a man makes the only lasting and tender friendships of his life.  Joe Headley was for a number of years a student at Kentucky University.  His classmates loved him for many little acts of kindness that he was always ready to perform.  His teachers liked him for his studious habits and invariable courtesy.  He was most popular in the Periclean Society, where he was always to be found on Friday evening, and none will more sincerely mourn his tragic death than those who loved him in his college days.

For eight years or nine years he was Deputy clerk of the circuit court and during the many years he filled that office he was uniformly kind and courteous to everyone who applied to him for any information that he could help them to obtain. Last March he left the clerk's office to engage in real estate business, and unlike so many who were fascinated with the glorious possibilities and resources of boomed towns, he identified himself with the growth of his native city and did all he could towards enhancing the value of property here.  Elsmere Park will serve to keep his memory alive in the years to come, as he was one of its foremost promoters.

Mr. Headley married in October 1884, Miss Aline Higgins.  They have two children, both girls - Bessie, 5 years old, who was the one thrown from the vehicle yesterday and a six months old baby.

The Funeral

Mr. Headley's funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock at the residence of his father, James A. Headley, No. 72 West Third Street.  Dr. Bartlett will officiate.  The list of pallbearers has not yet been made out.

Copyright 2011, ACK for Gene Notes

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating story and so full of details. It amazes me the style of writing employed at that time. They certainly did not spare any of the gory details, did they?

    I have an ancestor who was similarly killed in a buggy accident but lingered for days with daily reports in the local paper.

    I always enjoy reading these old newspaper stories as you learn SO much from them!