LEANDER MARION (LEWIS) TROWBRIDGE of Kingwood, West Virginia - an amazing story of survival

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Leander Trowbridge

Once in awhile in this hobby you come across a story that deserves to be told and retold.  This is just such a story.  It comes to us from the family of Leander Marion Trowbridge (by way of THE TROWBRIDGE GENEALOGY: The History of The Trowbridge Family in America, by Francis Bacon Trowbridge (New Haven, Connecticut, 1908). 

In September, 1861, early in the Civil War, West Leander Trowbridge of Kingwood in Preston County volunteered for duty to answer his countries call. He enlisted in Company F, 6th West Virginia Infantry for a period of three years.  He marched off to war leaving behind a wife pregnant with their first daughter and a young son not yet a year old.  Leander survived the war without serious injury.  At the end of his enlistment in 1864, he was discharged at Wheeling, West Virginia.  He survived the war uninjured, but fate was about to do what the war could not.

In Wheeling Leander boarded a train to return home to Kingwood.  Pullman passenger cars in those days were the definition of luxury for travelers.  The seats were richly padded and covered in leather.  The finest wood adorned the walls and floor and drapes covered the windows.  During the cold days of that autumn, a cast iron coal stove sat in a corner radiating a comforting heat for the few hours it would take to reach Kingwood.  A source of heat was a luxury those traveling in less expensive cars did not have.  Suddenly, not far down the track from Wheeling. a terrible train wreck changed Leander's life forever.  As the passenger car in which he was riding derailed, the cast iron stove tipped and spilled its burning coals to the floor.  It fell on Leander, pinning his leg to the floor as car erupted in flame.  With the car ablaze and his life on the line, Leander pulled a knife and in the desperation to save his live, amputated his own leg.  Bleeding and badly burned he managed to crawl from the blazing passenger car.  He was rushed to a hospital in Grafton, West Virginia still alive but burned and terribly maimed.  At the hospital Leander had to undergo two more surgeries to save his life.  Surgeons amputated more of his leg, probably because of the onset of gangrene.  Recovering in the hospital from his burns and the amputations, and in a very weakened condition Leander's luck went from bad to worse.  Soon after his surgeries, he contracted typhoid fever and again nearly died.  Remarkably, he recovered and in only sixty days from the time of the train wreck, he was finally able to go home to his wife and children.

Train passenger car fires like the one Leander survived was a common occurrence in those years.  A decade or two later, steam boilers in special cars located away from the passenger cars replaced the cast iron stoves.  Steam ran through pipes imbedded in the walls of the cars and the pipes were coupled together between cars so that one boiler could heat an entire train.  This innovation caused a dramatic drop in the number of fatalities in a train wreck and practically eliminated train fires. (Information courtesy "Wild West Tech" on the History Channel).

Leander Marion Trowbridge was born in Preston County, (West) Virginia on February 1, 1837 to LEANDER and HANNAH TROWBRIDGE LEWIS.  While Leander was still very young, his father died.  In those days a young, single mother with a small child had few resources or means of support.  Leander's mother Hannah took her small son and moved back home to live with her parents, JESSE and SARAH (PUGH) TROWBRIDGE.  Several years later Hannah remarried, but Leander remained with his grandparents who gave him a good education and raised him to manhood.  He must have had a great affection for his grandparents because he took on his grandfather's surname and was known the rest of his life as Leander Trowbridge.  As a young man just beginning a career, Leander made his living teaching school in Kingwood.  In April, 1860, able to support his own family, Leander married his sweetheart Dorothea Cassaday, daughter of James and Frances Cassaday of Kingwood.  Son Charles W. was born in December 24, 1860.  A year later, after Leander had gone off to war, daughter Frances was born on December 7, 1861.  During the war he was able to make occasional visits back home because on June 23, 1863 their daughter Alice, was born in Kingwood. 

After recovering from his injuries as much as possible, he again took up teaching and spent the next few years in the classroom.  On January 12, 1866 son Spencer Sheridan was born in Kingwood, followed by John Franklin on June 7, 1867.  Daughter Hannah Leota was born on November 10, 1868 followed by Emily Virginia on April 5, 1870.   Leander's health gradually grew worse and he was forced a second time to give up his profession.  In September, 1870, two-year-old daughter Hannah died in Kingwood.  After this blow, Leander decided to move his family out to the West.  In 1871 he purchased a farm in Meredith, Kansas and he lived there for the next twenty years.  In February, 1879, another tragedy for Leander and Dorothy when death claimed from them a child who was not yet a week old.  It was buried still unnamed.  In 1891 Leander decided that to give his four youngest sons the advantage of a good education, they had to move from Meredith.  The family relocated to Clay Center in Clay County, Kansas.  Leander died, probably in Clay Center, between 1910 and 1920.  Leander and Dorothy had twelve children, ten survived to become adults.

The children of Leander Marion Trowbridge and Dorothea Cassaday:
  1. Charles W., born December 24, 1860 in Kingwood

  2. Frances Addeen, born December 7, 1861 in Kingwood

  3. Alice Rosalette, born June 23, 1863 in Kingwood

  4. Spencer Sheridan, born January 12, 1866 in Kingwood

  5. John F., born June 1, 1867 in Kingwood

  6. Hannah Leota, born November 10, 1868 and died September 5, 1870 in Kingwood

  7. Emily Virginia, born April 5, 1870 in Kingwood

  8. Jesse Walker, born August 13, 1871 in Harrisonville, Cass County, Missouri

  9. Willis Chester, born October 24, 1873 in Meredith, Cloud County, Kansas

  10. James A., born August 7, 1875 in Meredith

  11. Leander, born March 27, 1877 in Meredith

  12. A child, sex unknown, born January 31, 1879 and died February 5, 1879 in Meredith

Ronald N. Wall
Modified:  24 February 2018