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Discoveries: Dead Wife Saves Drowning Husband!

Newspapers are a tremendous genealogical resource to help you with your family history research. Obituaries, birth and marriage notices, and local news stories can give you details about your ancestors and describe events that impacted their lives.

Occasionally, searching through historical newspaper archives can provide other benefits as well, such as a humorous story that gives you a chuckle—or a truly bizarre story that makes you scratch your head and marvel how truth really is stranger than fiction.

The following is a good example. It's a remarkable story about a dutiful husband, Mr. Walters, who was bringing his wife's body home on a steamboat so that she could "be buried among her relations and friends." And then a terrible accident struck the boat, killing almost everyone on board. The husband, too, would have died—except for the eerie fact that his wife managed to save him!

This incredible story was printed by the Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 4 December 1855, page 2:



There was the faithful Mr. Walters, taking his wife's body from Chicago to Philadelphia, traveling on board the steamship Anthony Wayne. One night tragedy struck: all the steamer's boilers suddenly exploded, "killing nearly every one on board." The force of the explosion blasted the unfortunate Mr. Walters high in the sky—according to the newspaper article, an astonishing "several hundred feet into the air"—before he smashed back into the water nearly dead. In "his frantic struggles to keep himself afloat" he flailed against a box drifting by—"to which he clung all night long with desperation."

Yes, that floating box was the difference between life and death for Mr. Walters. Imagine his shock when the light of dawn revealed that the providential box that saved his life was the coffin containing "the remains of a fond and loving wife"—his wife, who even in death managed to save the man she loved!

Have fun doing your family history research by searching old newspapers. And keep a sharp eye out—you never know what you'll find!