Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sympathy Saturday: Accidental Death of William Brennan

It’s been 75 years since the accidental death of William Brennan in August 1939, and four years since I first learned about him while researching my grandmother Julie’s relatives.

William John Brennan was a younger son of James Brennan and Olivine Fleury. He was born on 4 January 1892 at Trout Lake, and baptized one month later in Sheenboro, Pontiac County, Quebec. [1]

William suffered a double tragedy when he was less than two years old: his parents died within months of each other in late 1893. He and his infant sister Rose Mary went to live with their maternal grandparents, while their elder brother went to live with a maternal uncle.

In April 1914, William married Mary (Minnie) Vanasse in Chapeau, Pontiac County, not long after his sister Rose Mary married Minnie’s brother Francis Guy Vanasse there in September 1912. [2]

Francis Guy and Minnie were first cousins of my paternal grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair, who was a bit younger than they were.

William and Minnie had seven children: one son and six daughters, of whom four survived. A year after the birth of their fourth child, the Brennan family moved from rural Chapeau to the mining town of Cobalt, Timiskaming District, Ontario in 1922. [3]


Cobalt Ontario
Grand View Avenue, Cobalt. [Ont.] (1924)

One summer’s night in 1939, William was walking on a highway when he was struck by a “half ton panel truck owned by Pardon’s Service Station” on “the main road not far from the O’Brien Mill at Mileage 104”, a few miles north of Cobalt. [4] The accident occurred about 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, 19 August, 1939. William was taken to Cobalt Municipal Hospital, but did not regain consciousness. He died at 1:35 p.m. the following day. [5]

Unfortunately, it appears that William was under the influence of alchohol at the time of the accident. A witness “had seen Brennan ‘staggering’ about the middle of the road going toward Cobalt” and the attending doctor at the hospital attested that “there was ‘a strong odor’ of liquor on [Brennan’s] breath”. [6]

Later, a coroner’s inquiry “held the circumstances to have been accidental, ‘with no blame attached to the driver of the truck’ […]”. [7]

William’s funeral took place on 23 August 1939 at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. He is interred in Ste. Therese Cemetery, Cobalt. [8]

Photo credit: John Boyd / Library and Archives Canada /

Sources:

1. St. Paul the Hermit [St. Bridget] (Sheenboro, Quebec), parish register, 1873-1893, p. 335 (printed), entry no. B.3 (1892), William John Brennan baptism, 1 February 1892; St-Paul the Hermit [St. Bridget] parish; digital image, “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 8 September 2010). William’s parents were residents of Sheen[boro] township at his baptism, suggesting that he was born there. Alternatively, William was born in “Trout Lake, Quebec”, according to the 1925 death registration of his daughter on which his wife Mary (Minnie) was the informant. (“Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1936 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947”, digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : 15 September 2010), entry for Bernadette Brennan, 13 October 1925.)

2. St-Alphonse (Chapeau, Quebec), parish register, 1914, p. 6 recto, entry no. M.3, William John Brennan – Minnie Venasse [sic] marriage, 20 April 1914; St-Alphonse parish; digital image, “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 8 September 2010).

3. “Mrs. Brennan 90 years old and still going strong”, Temiskaming Speaker, 21 March 1979, p. 12a, col. 3; digital images, World Vital Records (http://wvr.paperofrecord.com : accessed 12 September 2010), Newspapers and Periodicals.

4. “Jury Exonerates Driver In Saturday Accident”, Temiskaming Speaker, 24 August 1939, p. 1, col. 7; digital images, World Vital Records (http://wvr.paperofrecord.com : accessed 12 September 2010), Newspapers and Periodicals.

5. “Jury Exonerates Driver In Saturday Accident”, Temiskaming Speaker, 24 August 1939.

6. “Jury Exonerates Driver In Saturday Accident”, Temiskaming Speaker, 24 August 1939.

7. “Jury Exonerates Driver In Saturday Accident”, Temiskaming Speaker, 24 August 1939.

8. “Jury Exonerates Driver In Saturday Accident”, Temiskaming Speaker, 24 August 1939. Also, Find A Grave, digital image (http://findagrave.com : accessed 15 August 2014), photograph, gravestone for William John Brennan (1892-1939), Find A Grave Memorial no. 72899549, Sainte Therese Cemetery, O'Brien, Timiskaming District, Ontario.

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.

2 comments:

  1. Hello Yvonne....William John Brennan was my maternal Grandfather....I am the daughter of his daughter, Mary Marion Alvida Brennan who was born in December 1917. I grew up under the loving care of his wife Mary Ann Minnie Venasse who never did remarry and spent a good part of her life residing in Toronto, Ontario...I enjoyed reaing the info you have shared...ty for posting this...Sheila

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Sheila it's me Linda. Hi Yvonne well done

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