Who was the mysterious man found fatally injured under the railroad bridge in North Hartland? In September, 1902, a man believed to be between 50 and 60 years old was found beneath the bridge. The doctor called to the scene believed that he may have lain there for up to 48 hours. He died a few hours after being found.
While it was possible that he was crossing the trestle and was hit by a train, knocking him off the tracks, it was unlikely that the engineer didn’t see him before hitting him. It was speculated that he might have been injured elsewhere and brought to the site by boat from somewhere on the Connecticut River.
The physical description has many clues, which would be helpful in today’s standards of communication – dark complexion, hair and moustache, a missing large toe on the left foot and a tattoo on the back of the left hand, between the thumb and first finger, of a star enclosed in a circle. In 1902 it would have been difficult to spread the information of this untimely death to enough places to get an identification and it is quite possible that his family never knew what became of him.
He had a few papers in one of his pockets which led authorities to believe that he was covering the area for a book, “Leaders” or a similar title. A small notebook was water soaked and almost illegible but the name Joe Kelley or Riley and Essex, Mass., was on one of the leaves.
In the Hartland Town Report one finds that the town paid $20 for a casket for the stranger, $9. to W. A. Brady, for medical attendance, $2 to N. Spafford for digging his grave, $2 to W. H. McGee for taking care of the man, $5 to Dr. E. A. Barrows for medical attendance and Rev. F. Daniels, $2 for funeral services. Cash in the victim’s pockets was $2.51.
It is easy to imagine the frustration of family and friends of this stranger when he didn’t arrive home from his trip as well as the frustration of future genealogists who may try to trace this family.
Members of the Hartland Historical Society have been using internet resources to attempt to put the word out in the Essex, Massachusetts, area about this unknown man who died in North Hartland over 100 years ago. It would be nice to have a final chapter to this mystery.
Reprinted from the Hartland Historical Society Newsletter
(See also the article entitled ‘North Hartland Mystery’)