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The Life of Donald Joseph Telfer, as Told Through Newspaper Articles (A #FamilyHistory post)

Photo: My great-grandfather, Donald Joseph Telfer, stands in his WWI uniform
Genealogy comes to life when stories emerge from the list of names, dates, and places; and with the abundance of online resources, stories and pieces of stories are easier to find than they used to be. Digitized newspapers provide details into our ancestors' lives that otherwise might be lost.

Recently, I searched on newspapers.com for my great-grandfather, Donald Joseph Telfer. Newspapers.com is a subscription site, but it does offer a free 7-day trial. I didn't bother to cancel after my trial, as I had good success in finding articles that were useful to my research. I knew that I would most likely find an article about my great-grandfather's death (he died in a tragic mining accident), but I was surprised to find several other interesting articles about him.

The earliest article I found was about his time in the Army during WWI. I have a photo of him in his uniform, but really didn't know anything about his service. Not only did the article give me a better understanding, but it also contained a quote by him. I have never seen anything written by my great-grandfather, or otherwise heard his voice, so it was a real treat to see his words jump off the page. 

The article stated:
Donald Telfer, son of George Telfer of Ashwood, Or., might have been in Europe yet with Company 9, Eighth infantry, if it hadn't been for General Pneumonia. He arrived overseas with his company just two days before the armistice was signed, spent seven weeks in a hospital in France and got another ride across the Atlantic. He is in Letterman Hospital and as soon as the doctors think he is sufficiently recovered will get his discharge and go back to ranching in Ashwood. "When I see the condition some of the boys came home in, I think maybe I wasn't so unlucky, after all," is the way Telfer views the trick fate played on him.
Donald Telfer's WWI service
 Donald Telfer's WWI service Sun, Mar 9, 1919 – Page 40 · The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon) · Newspapers.com
I have to hope that Donald Joseph Telfer remained positive throughout the years, because he experienced some heavy trials during his short life. The next article taught me that my great-grandpa was stronger than 4 horses, or at least watched over by angels: 
Reports were received here today that a bolt of lightning had earlier in the week killed four horses hitched to a wood wagon driven by Donald Telfer in Jefferson county. Telfer was stunned to unconsciousness, but uninjured.

Two years later, he experienced an even more shocking event, one that all parents fear:
Helen Telfer, nine-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Telfer of Ashwood died Saturday afternoon at the home of her uncle, Archie Telfer, one mile south of Redmond. She is survived by her parents, one brother and two sisters, George, Goldie Inez and Alta May.

Helen Telfer's death
Mon, Oct 20, 1930--Page 5 The Bend Bulletin (Bend, Oregon) Newspapers.com
It was fairly common for newspapers back then to report on vacations, visitors, or even dinner parties, but this short little sentence carries more meaning when I realized it came just a few days after Helen's death:


Mr. and Mrs. Donald Telfer returned Tuesday their home at Ashwood.




Less than five years later, tragedy struck again, but this time it was Donald that ultimately did not survive. I am amazed that he was not instantly killed.

Victim of a 100 foot fall in the Oregon King mine near Ashwood, Donald Joseph Telfer, 38, died in the St. Charles hospital early last night, shortly after he was brought here from Jefferson county.
Mr. Telfer was working near the 500 foot level in the Trout creek mine about noon yesterday, when, so far as it can be ascertained, he was thrown off balance by a descending bucket. His shoes slipped on damp timbers and he fell head downward in the steeply slanting shaft.
Otis Musgrave was working near the 600 foot level and happened to look up just as the miner started to fall. Musgrave partly stopped the force of his companion's descent, but Mr. Telfer suffered numerous fractured bones, including a fracture of the skull. It was this injury, the attending physician believes, that resulted in his death.
Dr. Raynard Jones and C.H. Irvin were called out from Redmond shortly after the accident occurred. Because of bad roads, especially on the steep hill immediately west of Ashwood, ambulance trouble developed and it was late in the evening when the injured man was entered in the St. Charles Hospital.
Mr. Telfer, despite the grave injuries, was conscious part of the time and talked with the physician.
The Ashwood mine victim formerly lived in Redmond, but moved to Jefferson county to work in the Oregon King, opened in 1934 by the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company. Mr. Telfer is survived by his widow and four children.
The body was taken to Redmond last night by C.H. Irvin, mortician.
Funeral services will be held tomorrow in Redmond. Two of Mr. Telfer's children are buried in the Redmond cemetery.

Fri, Feb 8, 1935 – Page 1 · The Bend Bulletin (Bend, Oregon) · Newspapers.comThough my great-grandpa lived only a short time, thanks to family history research, including articles found on Newspapers.com, I can get a glimpse into his life and personality. What an example of enduring hardships with a positive outlook! 
Have newspaper articles ever given you insight into your ancestors' lives? Tell me about it in the comments!

Comments

  1. People then were made of some tough stuff. What a neat way to learn about your family's past!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Life really was tough back then! I'm really enjoying researching the newspaper articles.

      Delete

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