My wife and I have been transcribing these letters in chronological order and 85 or so in, we are still just beginning to scratch the surface. I wanted to stop to write a message here, though, because it is at this point- in mid-December 1907- that tragedy strikes the Gleasure family. On December 19, 1907, Joseph is working on the Boston and Albany railroad coupling cars when he is crushed by the train cars and killed instantly. The obituary the next day from the Boston Herald reads:
TWO MEN KILLED ON NEW HAVEN TRACKS
One Crushed Coupling Cars, the Other Run Over About the Same Hour.
Two men were killed about the same hour last evening upon the tracks of the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad, one in the South station and the other in the South Boston cut.
About 10:30 o'clock Joseph Gleasure, 25, married, residing in Allston and employed as a brakeman on the road, was coupling cars in the South Station when he was caught between them and terribly crushed, death being instantaneous. His body was removed to the City Hospital morgue by Undertaker Jones....
*Just a note- the paper got a few things wrong- Joseph was 21, not 25 and he was not married
I went into this project knowing about Joseph's death ahead of time, but that didn't make reading and transcribing these letters any easier. Even 105 years later, I find terrible sadness in what happened to Joseph and couldn't help but come to tears at a number of points when reading his letters to Frank from back home. Joseph had one thing on his mind for many years in Listowel: to make it to America and be back with his friends in Natick. For several years, he told Frank about his desires to be back in America and how hard he was studying; how he wanted to be involved in the Customs and whether Frank could give him any information about it. And finally, he did make it across the ocean and joined his brother again in America. This of course, is called the American dream, and it was a dream that many were trying to achieve at this point in time- to find a better life in the United States.
While I'm grateful that we have this treasure trove of family lore to give a voice and context to the voiceless records that I've found on the family, I can help but wish that I could see some of the letters that Joseph wrote back home to Listowel from America. I want desperately to believe that in the six months between when he landed and when his life was so tragically cut short, that he was happy, that he was doing what he wanted to do and that he was enjoying life with his big brother that he hadn't seen in so many years.