For the Genealogist, or Family Roots Digger-upper as I jokingly call myself, researching ones family history involves more than just names, and dates, who married who, and a Good Book comparable roster of Begats.
There are the documents, and photographs ( Click to enlarge image, and even see the words on the building - Dark Tobacco Growers Co-Op Association, Owensboro, Kentucky ) , of course, but most importantly there are also the memories, and stories handed down from generation to generation, and the times you discover that your ancestor wrote a book, or 2, or had some books written about them.
There are also the times you discover your ancestor in the newspaper.
One such case of newspaper celebrity is at the center of the story you are about to read.
It is the fascinating story of the death, on a dark, and lonely road, of a simple family man, and farm laborer, one night in 1937 Owensboro, Kentucky.
It is the story of my Maternal Grandfather, William Jennings Wells.
It is also the story of a man named Orville Faught, and of a small cast of characters better known to the wider community than these 2 men ever were, or would be.
All of the known players in this saga are long since dead, as far as I know, except for my Uncle Paul, who was a pre-school age child at the time, and his even younger brother, and whose personal memories of that night are blended with the bitter perspective of their Mother and her memories ( My Mother was 8 years old that year ).
There is nothing to be done as far as rectifying any wrongs done my family.
No reparations are called for.
No apologies needed.
My purpose in following this story to as much of a conclusion as possible is to discover as much of the truth as I can for posterity, and to satisfy my own love of a good mystery, and my curiosity.
My Grandmother Iva Frances Dougherty Wells died in the early 1980's after a very long life, and my Mother died in 1990, much too soon.
It was their memories of the death of my Grandfather that stirred me, finally, to start digging into my family history.
Grandma always swore that, simple laborer's wife that she was, she was tricked into signing away her right to see the man who killed her husband tried, convicted, and punished for what he did.
In the spring of 1987 my Mom and I were talking again about the old story, and she mentioned, not for the 1st time, that the death of her Father was front page news in Owensboro.
This got me to wondering if I could somehow read the old newspapers and find the stories if they truly existed.
I went to the Public Library, in my hometown of Pomona, California, and discovered that I could, indeed, get my hands on the Microfilm Rolls for 1937, of the relevant newspapers, through Inter-Library Loan from the University of Kentucky.
For a week in May I spent my free time perusing every page of 2 newspapers from July 9th 1937 to the end of Sept. of that year, and discovered that Mom was right.
The big news, though, was that Grandpa's blanket covered body was there for all to see on the front page of The Owensboro Messenger!
This story was covered by the papers from July 9th to the 13th, and then nothing.
At the time I didn't think a lot about this, other than to note that this may lend credence to my Grandma's claims.
I made copies of all the articles, and had the collection laminated for posterity.
Fast forward to March 2002.
For a year I had been doing some serious work on my genealogy thanks to the internet ( some has been chronicled here in past entries of my Genealogy Archive ), and various contacts, and resources found there, and one day I took the old articles out to look at them, and suddenly I began to REALLY give the story, as presented in the paper, a closer examination.
I talked with my Uncle Paul, and asked him to write down his thoughts, and recollections, and shared with him my impressions.
I came away with a bunch of questions that only deepen the mystery surrounding the death of my Grandfather.
The following entries are transcriptions of the newspaper coverage, the memories of my Uncle Paul, and my questions, and analysis.
Who knows, maybe some reader will have further questions, or suggestions for where I can look for records.
Maybe some Faught family researcher will stumble across this series, and have his, or her, own stories to share, that will shed light on those long ago events.