Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mary Gray Danforth Wheat-A Pair of Mules Back a Wagon Off a Bridge -The Result

I introduced Mary Gray Danforth Wheat in the post Augustus Walter Wheat-The One-eyed Merchant of Marthasville.  This post tells the story of her death.

From The Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 5, 1886 -- page 11 Column 2


A Pair of Mules Back a Wagon Off a Bridge -The Result.
By Late grandfather of JGKlein, inherited by father of JGKlein, used with permission [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A horrible accident occurred at Pope's bridge on the Chattahoochee river, ten miles from Atlanta, Wednesday morning, in which Mrs. Augusta Wheat lost her life, and her nephew was hurt, and narrowly escaped death too.
Mrs. Wheat lived about fifteen miles from Atlanta, and at the time she was killed was coming to Atlanta. Early Wednesday morning, Mrs. Wheat, accompanied by her nephew, a young man named Danforth, left their home in a two horse wagon, drawn by two mules. The day was a pleasant one, the roads were good, and as the mules trotted over the road, Mrs. Wheat, nor her nephew had no thought of the terrible calamity which awaited them. In reaching Atlanta it was necessary for them to cross the Chattahoochee river. Their most direct route was by the Pope bridge, and at that bridge the accident happened. A portion of the bridge is covered, and on either side of the roofed portion the sides of the bridge are protected by guards. When the team reached the bridge, the mules hesitated in stepping upon it. Young Danforth pushed them with the whip and they finally stepped upon the bridge, but advanced jumping, prancing, and shieing. Finally they came to the covered part of the bridge and stopped. The young man tried to force them on, but they refused to move forward and began backing. The young man sprang out, and grabbing one of the mules by the bridle, attempted to lead them over the bridge. He succeeded in stopping them in their backward moving and started them through the bridge but after they had advanced a short distance they again stopped and again commenced backing. The young man lost all control of the mules, and in a second they pushed the rear end of the wagon against the guard, which gave way. The instant the guard gave way the rear wheels of the wagon dropped over the edge of the bridge, and in another second the wagon was hanging in the air and the mules were on the bridge. The mules made a desperate effort to hold their own, but were quickly drawn over the edge of the bridge, and together Mrs. Wheat, the wagon, mules, and the young man, dropped into the river, a distance of eighteen feet. The water was not deep, and the instant the young man could regain his feet he began a search for his aunt. The search resulted in finding the lady dead. He carried her to the land, and then secured help from some one near by. The body was removed to a residence, and then several persons joined in recovering the mules and wagon. Both mules were badly hurt, and one of them died soon after he was taken from the water. The wagon was almost completely demolished. Mr. Danforth was considerably bruised by the fall.

There is also a handwritten account as follows:
Mrs. Augusta Wheat D 9/29
Res 15 miles from Atlanta beyond the Chattahoochee River was driving to Atlanta with her nephew F.W. Danforth in a two mule wagon. The team started accross Pope's Bridge on the river but balked and started to back up. The wagon was pushed against a guard post. Danforth having lost control of the team the guard post broke and wagon, mules, Mrs. Wheat and Danforth dropped into the river 18 feet below. Mrs. Wheat was instantly killed. One of the mules was fatally hurt and Danforth was uninjured. He is 50 years old and a well to do farmer of Cobb County. Note: was Mrs. Wheat related to Augustus W. Wheat?

The answer to that is yes. She is actually Mrs. Augustus Wheat. How do I know? Her nephew is Mr. Danforth.

I have searched for quite some time for the location of Pope's Bridge. I finally reached out to a facebook page covering Douglas County, GA entitled Every Now and Then I was delighted that +Lisa Cooper put a great effort into checking out the location for me. Jeff Champion of Champs Clocks was contacted. He is considered an expert about the stretch of the river in question. He started out by finding a map with the names of people living in the area:
Note the Pope families near the river
  • From +Lisa Cooper : He is guessing that Pope’s Bridge is at the Highway 78 bridge crossing…the Bankhead Highway crossing. Look at the map he provided me. There were two Pope homes just west on Turner Ferry Road which is Bankhead/78. Turners Ferry was the crossing through the Civil War. I’m told the map was drawn in 1895 and represented folks in the area at that time.
The Georgia Genealogy page on Facebook where I had posted a query jumped into action, finding this article from The American Engineer, Vols 19-20 January 29, 1890:

Thank you to Shanna O'wen and Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt for finding this article!

I forwarded the article to Jeff Champion. Here is the reply:

"I attached a new map. The Howell Green ferry became Queen's ferry and joined with old Gordon Road near Charley Brown Airport. Near to where Six Flags is on the river. Proposed bridge would have been maybe where hwy 139 crosses now. That makes it look more like Green and Pope's bridge WAS in fact hwy 78 bridge location."

A few weeks passed, and I got an email from Jeff Champion:
"Pope's Bridge mystery solved, for real this time
Turners ferry is hwy 78, Howells ferry is at I-20 and Green and Pope's Bridge was old Gordon Road altered slightly when Charley Brown airport went in.
See the circa 1887 map. Sorry my estimate was off. OLD GORDON RD is the answer we were looking for."

Starting at the top, Turner's Ferry is the vicinity of the Current Hwy 78 Bridge. Then see Green & Pope's Bridge which is at or near the Old Gordon Road Bridge. Then see Howell's Ferry which would have been just North of current I-20.

Old Gordon Road doesn't go all the way to the river anymore. The roads were changed when the airport was built. The current location would be on 139, the bridge crossing Mableton Parkway SE and Martin Luther King Jr Drive SW.
This makes sense because if the wagon left Mary's home heading to Atlanta, it would have been in the area. Mary is shown as living in District 1273 in the 1880 Census.

For reference, the location of the bridge would be about one mile upriver from Six Flags Over Georgia.

Mary was the daughter of William and unknown. Her stepmother Mary Egerton Danforth. She was born about 1825, probably in Old Campbell County, Georgia. Her siblings were James, Alziria, Albert, John C, and William M. Her burial place is unknown, but probably in Douglas County, Georgia.