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 John Calvin Fife

John Calvin Fife

Pennsylvania, USA
Death 14 Nov 1879 (aged 33)
Canonsburg, Washington County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Bethel Park, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 11357582 · View Source
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He was the son of John and Mary P. (Adams) Fife , and the husband of Mary Frances (McConnell) Fife. When he died, he had three children, Annie, Charles Edgar, and Catherine (Kate). Three months after he died, his fourth child, a daughter was born. She was named Calvin, but called Callie.

Newspaper accounts of the incident that killed John Calvin Fife:

From the Canonsburg Herald, Canonsburg PA, Friday Nov. 14, 1879.
Terrible Accident
Fall of a Bridge near Canonsburg-- Samuel Cochran killed-- Calvin Fife Fatally Injured-- Five others Badly Injured and Several Slightly Hurt--Aid for the Sufferers.

One of the most heart-rending local accidents which has fallen to our sad duty to chronicle, happened on Friday afternoon last. For some time past workmen have been engaged upon a new bridge over Chartiers Creek, for J. V. H. Cook, at his coal works a short distance above the railroad station at this place.

The bridge is a private one, and is to be used for running the cars from the mines on the south side of the creek to the platform on the north side. The bridge is a frame truss, 72 feet long, 9 feet wide and nine feet high, outside measure. The height of the floor to the creek is about 10 feet. John T. Roberts had the contract for the woodwork, and had the framework all complete for raising into position on last Friday morning. A solid scaffold on tressles (sic) had been constructed, and during the forenoon the eastern frame was safely put into position. This was secured by guy ropes attached to the top of the frame at each end, and tied to stakes in the ground a few rods away on each side. In the afternoon the frame for the west side was put together on the scaffold and at half past two o'clock, twenty-eight men mounted the platform to put the frame into position. The miners had been summoned from their work and a number of neighbors had collected together to assist. Mr. Roberts, the contractor, believed everything to be safe, and as every man's aid was needed, he took a position with the others to give a lift.

The heavy frame was steadily lifted, but when it was nearing it's upright position, a projecting chord caught one of the guy ropes holding the first frame, unnoticed, and the great pressure was sufficient to cause the opposite ropes to give way and cause the first raised frame to fall inwards, and in an instant the second fell back, the one directly upon the other. When the first side began to move someone gave a warning shout, and all who could, to save themselves from being crushed, sprang through the openings of the frame to the ground and creek below. In a few remarkable cases, persons were so situated that the framework fell over and around them and left them standing untouched. Frank Coleman was left standing in an opening, which appeared scarcely large enough to allow his body to pass. Mr. Cook, himself-- suddenly aware that something was wrong--turned his head as the frame passed over him. This act saved him from being carried down with the timbers.

As soon as the men could recover themselves, a sickening spectacle presented itself, four men lay crushed and mangled beneath the heavy structure. They were Samuel Cochran, John T. Roberts, Calvin Fife, and Christopher Patterson.

Several men at work upon the new railroad abutments nearby, rushed to the spot, and assisted those not disabled in extricating the injured men. The killed and wounded were the following:

Samuel Cochran, chest crushed, died in a few minutes after he was removed from the wreck.
Calvin Fife, lower part of the body badly crushed. Kidneys injured. He cannot recover.
John T. Roberts, both legs broken, below the knees, and one broken above, three ribs and jaw broken. Has suffered much but will likely recover.
Christopher Patterson, colored, right leg broken above the ankle, and the left above the knee.
Aaron Henderson, Sr., colored, knocked off the bridge and badly hurt on his face and side.
Vance Donaldson, son of John Donaldson, three bones broken in his foot.
William Dungee, colored, knee cap dislocated.

Besides these several others were slightly hurt by receiving bruises and flesh wounds. Allen Thompson was struck in the back as he jumped from the bridge. Joseph Neill was struck upon the shoulder.

As soon as the wounded were extricated from their horrible positions, messengers were dispatched for physicians, Drs. Alexander, Donaldson, and Bane, and many citizens promptly hurried to the scene, and did all in their power to give relief to the sufferers. Spring wagons were brought and stretchers were made and each carried to his home. The procession, with the dead and some of the wounded in wagons and others carried upon stretchers , as it came into town, formed one of the saddest spectacles we have seen in many a day. The three physicians, together with Dr. Barnet, and later in the evening, Dr. Lacock, gave what surgical attention was needed as rapidly as the several cases could be attended to. Dr. Dickson was absent from home at the time. The citizens did all in their power to render needed assistance.

Nothing has happened in this community for a long time that has cast so great a gloom over the people, or brought out so great an expression of sympathy. Nearly all are men of families who would suffer for want of necessities and comforts, without aid from some source.

At the request of a number of citizens the Town Council held a meeting on Saturday morning to devise some means to secure pecuniary relief fro the injured men and their families. John Chambers, Sr., was appointed Treasurer, and W. R. McConnell, Wm. Martin, and W. S. Callahan a committee to disburse contributions where and when needed. W. R. Campbell, C. M. Greer and D. C. Houston were appointed a committee to solicit contributions. To this call for aid the people of the town and vicinity have responded liberally.


From the Canonsburg Herald, Friday Nov. 21, 1879
The Second Victim.--Calvin Fife, one of the persons injured at the late bridge disaster, died from the effects of his injuries, on last Friday evening. He received the most assiduous medical attention, but nothing could avert the fatal result. Mr. Fife was in the 34th year of his age, and leaves a wife and three small children to mourn his loss. His funeral took place on last Sunday from his late residence at the corner of Green and College Streets. Short services were held at Bethel Church in Allegheny County whither his remains were taken to be interred. Many persons accompanied the procession.
Also from the same paper listed under DIED:
FIFE.-- In Canonsburg, Pa., on Friday evening Nov. 14, 1879, John Calvin Fife, aged 33 years and nine months.
Just below, listed under new advertisements:
The undersigned will sell at the late residence of Calvin Fife, at the corner of Green and College Streets, Canonsburg.
Saturday, November 22d, 1879

Two good work Horses, 1 spring Colt, 1 two-horse Wagon, set work Harness, Collars, Bridles, set of double Buggy Harness, Plow, Harrow, double Shovel Plow, 1 single Shovel Plow, 1 barrel of Vinegar, 1 barrel of Salt, 1 riding Saddle, Double Tree, Coal Shovel, Kitchen Furniture and numerous other articles not mentioned.
Sale to commence at 1 o'clock, p. m. A credit of 6 months will be given.
Mrs. Mary F. Fife.

Gravestone reads: "Death is certain, the hour unseen."

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  • Created by: Cherie Atkinson Clark
  • Added: 15 Jul 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11357582
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Calvin Fife (25 Feb 1846–14 Nov 1879), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11357582, citing Bethel Cemetery, Bethel Park, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Cherie Atkinson Clark (contributor 46796100) .