Saturday, July 16, 2016

Family In The News: Clearing Up the Carroll DeJong and Alberta Weber Mystery

      We’re all curious about those partially-told family tales.  The ones that hold mystery.  We know just enough facts to wonder what’s behind them.  I had one particular piece of information passed along by relatives that’s been lingering around for quite a while.   Well…..recently I was able to clear up that lingering mystery.  
    Here’s the background:
       Carroll Stone DeJong married Alberta Clara Weber (my grandfather, Harry Lawrence Weber’s sister) on November 2, 1940 in Spencer, Indiana.  He was 49 and she was 32 at the time they married.  I had very little background on Carroll, other than he was from Chicago.  And it seemed that his time in the family was brief. The only hints I had earlier that this may be an unusual circumstance were that he is buried near Alberta in the Weber family plot at St. Joseph Cemetery in Indianapolis. And the death year of 1940 on his tombstone pointed out his young age at death.1940 Locomotive No. 1550, Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, Flickr, Part of: Everett L. DeGolyer Jr. collection of United States railroad photographs; No known copyright restrictions 
      The mysterious fact I had stored about Carroll’s life was merely a note about him being in a train wreck. The train wreck information was passed along in the family over a 75-year time frame. That’s all that remained of the story.  I presume that the circumstances and exact timing faded as time passed.  My mother never spoke of him.  My aunts who have helped me along with family history didn’t have any more details.  So that’s where this history stopped….until now.
     Investigating this lingering mystery:
     As I was recently gathering more ideas to spice up my “Family In The News” stories, I came across this train wreck note in Carroll DeJong’s record.  It sounded perfect for researching in, my latest obsession.  So, I fed in Carroll’s name, along with the location Indiana and 1940 as the time frame. I hit the search button, hoping for a hint to solve this mystery.  That’s when I found the surprising details of this newly-wed tragedy. 
     The news I found was of a horrible collision of Carroll and Alberta DeJong’s car with a train on November 30, 1940, in Benton County, Indiana.  The couple was married only one month.  Two articles appeared in The Indianapolis Star, on December 1 and 2.  The news was also carried in the Rushville (Indiana) Republican.  The articles describe the car being lodged under the train and dragged for several hundred feet. Mr. DeJong was thrown out and killed instantly and Alberta was wedged in the twisted wreckage for 90 minutes as rescuers worked to remove her.  From the description of the accident it’s surprising that Alberta survived. She was driving the automobile and didn’t remember any warning of the train.    Below are the two Indianapolis Star news articles:
1 Dec 1940: Chicagoan Dies In Grade Wreck --  Bride Extricated Alive After Car Is Dragged Several Hundred Feet  
Indianapolis Star, 1 Dec 1940, Carroll and Alberta (Weber) DeJong
2 Dec 1940:  Crash Victim’s Funeral Today  --  Carroll DeJong’s Bride of 4 Weeks Is In Lafayette Hospital
News: 2 Dec 1940, Alberta & Carroll DeJong, Indianapolis, IN-------------------------------------------------------------
       The mystery of the DeJong train wreck is no more.  The newspapers once again illuminated a piece of family history.   Even though this is a tragic event, it does bring another chapter of the family story into focus.   We know also that Alberta Weber DeJong recovered from her serious injuries.  She didn’t remarry.   Alberta came home to Indianapolis to live near her large family.  She died at the age of 86, 55 years after this tragic accident, and is buried next to Carroll.   
     Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties,
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Copyright © 2016, Nancy Niehaus Hurley

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