Saturday, July 07, 2012

My latest genealogy project is transcribing Pima County, Arizona coroner's jury inquest cases. The Territory of Arizona was established in 1863 and in 1864 the legislative council met for the first time and came up with the laws to govern the territory. The laws required that each of the four counties elect two coroners, who were to investigate unusual deaths. The Coroner records for Pima County appear to have been lost for the time period prior to 1881. I know that there were cases between 1871 and 1881, because I have read all of the newspapers from that timespan and transcribed the articles describing the deaths of individuals (that was the last major project I did).

So I am looking at the surviving files between 1882 and 1912, the year Arizona became a state. The records are split up into three different archives, and so far I have gone through three boxes at the Historical Society.

The cases I have transcribed so far include homicide, suicide, accidental death, and death by natural causes. Some of the cases are rather straight forward. Theodore Orosco died from heart failure in December 1902. John Frazier was run over by a train in January 1896 while he was at work at the train station in Tucson.

Others are heart-breaking. Louis Fazer cut his throat with a razor in March 1893 because he was too old to work and didn't have anyone to support. He left a suicide note that included "I mad up my Mind not go to the Poorhouse." Lola O'Sullivan was murdered by her husband, who used a large ax to beat and chop her head to a pulp in late October 1905. The following February, the skeletal remains of her husband, Humphrey O'Sullivan were found in the Tucson Mountains with a bullet hole in his right temple.

The saddest case- Jose Angel Miranda, an 8-year-old boy run over by a hay wagon in August 1910. THe guys driving the wagon didn't stop when he was run over, either because they didn't know it had happened or because they didn't care (it isn't clear). Jose's mother, Augustina Nevara, testified:

Q. Who first told you about it?
A. I didn’t expect that. I sent my little boy for some wood, but I was washing some clothes when a little girl came there and says there is your little boy dead.
Q. Then what did you do?
A. From there I went over and picked up my little boy and took him over to my house.
Q. How far was the little boy from your house?
A. He was not very far, just across the ditch.
Q. As far as across the street or from here to the court house?
A. About as far as from here to that fence over there? (Pointing to fence in back yard about 50 feet away)
Q. Could you see that he was dead when you found him?
A. Yes sir.
Q. Did you make any examination at all of the body?
A. Yes sir.
Q. What did you find if anything?
A. The little boy I picked him up and he had made water and done a job on himself. I took all the clothes off from the body.

It is hard for me to think of that poor woman finding her son dead like that.

When I am done, I'll be preparing a book on the cases. Few people know about the files, and the stories that they contain have mostly been forgotten.

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