Jesse W. Steele Death

Mother ‘O Mine – Locating the Parents of Jesse W. Steele

Death of Jesse W. Steele
“Soldier Mangled by I. and G.N. Train,” Houston Post, 13 February 1917, p. 7, col. 1.

“[I]t will be beyond the skies when Jesse W. Steele, private, company G, Third Texas Infantry, kisses the lips of that ‘mother o’ mine,’ for Monday Morning at 11 o’clock he got his summons to appear before the Great General in the final court marshal.”[1]

 

The newspaper article from the 13 February 1917 Houston Post describes how Jesse Steele, traveling home on a ten day furlough from the army, tried to hop on an International and Great Northern freight train.  In the stead he fell underneath the wheels and was killed.[2]

This raises the question, who was the “mother o’ mine” referenced in the article?

“Mother ‘O Mine”

Through various records that provide direct and indirect evidence, the mother of Jesse Steele can be identified as Sarah Ella (Thorn) Steele, born 10 May 1871 in Texas.[3]  She married Henry Franklin Steele on 15 January 1891.[4]

Lack of Immediate Evidence

The article documenting Jesse Steele’s death does not mention the names of his family members, or where he was going.  It does state Jesse was training in Corpus Christi, Texas, and his remains were to be shipped to Tyler, Texas, “the former home of the deceased.”[5]

While the article is primary evidence of Jesse’s death, his occupation as a soldier, and his “former” home as Tyler Texas, the source of the information is unknown, although it is likely from the Justice of the Peace who performed the inquest and signed the death certificate.

Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 4891 (1917), Jessie [sic] W. Steele.
Jesse’s death certificate does not list his parents, his residence, or his birth date, and there is no informant noted.[6]  J. Hamblin, Justice of the Peace, simply recorded[7]:

  • Decedent’s name as Jessie W. Steele;
  • “About 25” years old;
  • White male;
  • Death occurred in Spring, Harris County, Texas;
  • Death occurred on 12 February 1917 at 1050 AM;
  • Cause of death as “Run over by a Freight train;”
  • And the body was removed/buried in Tyler, Texas, by Wall & Stabe on 14 February 1917.

It is unclear how Mr. Hamblin acquired Jesse’s name, although the newspaper article hints at the source being a “10-day furlough in his pocket[8],” which could be the source of this information.  The rest of the information listed on the death certificate is direct evidence of the death of Jesse Steele.

His name, Jesse Steele, and possible variations, is not that uncommon, and because he was a relatively young man at the time of his death he did not have much time to develop a historic “paper trail.”  Assuming he was born in Texas, his birth would have been before Texas began mandatory birth registrations in 1903, so a birth certificate would not be available.

From the information provided by the newspaper article and death certificate it is known that:

  • He was about 25 years old,
  • Was a private in the army,
  • Trained in Corpus Christi, Texas,
  • And was buried in Tyler, Smith County, Texas.

Since he was in training for the army he was probably between 17 and 30 years old, making his birth date between 1887 and 1900.

Census Records

A search of the U.S. Federal Census records for a Jesse Steele, and variations of the name, in Texas, white male, born between 1887 and 1900 reveals:

Name 1900 Census 1910 Census 1920 Census
Jesse #1 Jesse Steel

November 1898,

Comanche County, Texas,

Parents James G. and Lucy Steela

Jesse W. Steele

11 years old

Erath County, Texas

Parents James G. and Lucy J. Steeleb

Jesse Steele

21 years old

Dublin, Erath County, Texas

Father James G. Steelec

Jesse #2 Jessie F. Steel

March 1896

Comanche County, Texas

Parents Alfred and Rachel Steeld

Frank Steel

14 years old

Comanche County, Texas

Parents Alfred N. and Rachel Steele

Jesse F. Steele

23 years old

Sidney, Comanche County, Texas

Wife Eelola Steele and two childrenf

Jesse #3 Jessie Steele

December 1892

Smith County, Texas

Parents Henry L. and Ella Steelg

Jess Steele

17 Years old

Smith County, Texas

Parents Henry F. and Sarah Steeleh

Jesse #4 Jessie F. Steel

January 1896

Van Zandt County, Texas

Parents Jessie and Millie A. Steeli

Jesse F. Steel

14 years old

Van Zandt County, Texas

Parents Eli J. and Millian E. Steelj

Jessie F. Steel

24 years old

Smith County, Texas

Parents E. J. and Millian E. Steelk

Jesse #5 Jess Steel

21 years old

Desdemona, Eastland County, Texas

Lives by selfl

a.    1900 US Federal Census, Comanche County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 4, Enumeration District (ED) 31, sheet 7B (penned), dwelling 116, family 116, James G. Steel household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T623, roll 1623.

b.    1910 US Federal Census, Erath County, Texas, pop sch, Precinct 2, Enumeration District (ED) 23, sheet 20B (penned), dwelling 405, family 423, James G Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T624, roll 1550.

c.     1920 US Federal Census, Erath County, Texas, pop sch, Precinct 2, Dublin City, Enumeration District (ED) 10, sheet 13B (penned), dwelling 223, family 293, James G. Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T625, roll 1801.

d.    1900 US Federal Census, Comanche County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precincts 7-8, Enumeration District (ED) 36, sheet 18B (penned), dwelling 317, family 335, Alfred Steel household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T623, roll 1623.

e.     1910 US Federal Census, Comanche County, Texas, Justice Precinct 7, Enumeration District (ED) 15, sheet 5A (penned), dwelling 71, family 72, Alfred N. Steel household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T624, roll 1541.

f.     1920 US Federal Census, Comanche County, Texas, pop sch, Precinct 1, Sidney, Enumeration District (ED) 69, sheet 4B (penned), dwelling 92, family 94, Jesse F. Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T625, roll 1789.

g.    1900 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 6, Enumeration District (ED) 109, sheet 24B (penned), dwelling 439, family 440, Henry F Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T623, roll 1670.

h.    1910 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 7, Enumeration District (ED) 87, sheet 4B (penned), dwelling 80, family 83, Henry F Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T624, roll 1589.

i.     1900 US Federal Census, Van Zandt County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 6, Enumeration District (ED) 134, sheet 11B (penned), dwelling 207, family 208, Jessie Steel household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T623, roll 1675.

j.      1910 US Federal Census, Van Zandt County, Texas, pop sch, Precinct 6, Enumeration District (ED) 117, sheet 6B (penned), dwelling 106, family 109, Eli J Steel household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T624, roll 1596.

k.    1920 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 1, Enumeration District (ED) 74, sheet 3B (penned), dwelling 50, family 51, Jess Steel; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T625, roll 1845.

l.     1920 US Federal Census, Eastland County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 8, Desdemona Town, Enumeration District (ED) 93, sheet 6A (penned), dwelling 154, family 157, Jess Steel; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T625, roll 1797.

Jesse Steele #3 appears to be the Jessie W. Steele that died underneath the train on 12 February 1917.  A search of the 1920, 1930, and 1940 U.S. Federal Census nationwide did not reveal a Jesse Steel or Steele, white male born between 1891 and 1894 in Texas.

Jess Steel (Jesse #5) was found in the 1920 Federal Census, but no record of him was located prior to, or after, this record.[9]

A further look at the census records for Jesse Steele #3 shows:

1900 U.S. Federal Census, Smith County, Texas[10]

 

Name Age, Race, Sex Relation Birthplace Occupation
Henry L. Steel February 1866

W M

Head Mississippi Minister Farmer
Ella Steel May 1871

W F

Wife Texas
Jessie Steel December 1892

W M

Son Texas
Jimmie Steel June 1895

W M

Son Texas
Emma Steel January 1899

W F

Daughter Texas
Jessie Steel November 1878

W F

Niece Texas
Frank Steel X 1880

W M

??? Texas

 

1910 U. S. Federal Census, Smith County, Texas[11]

 

Name Age, Race, Sex Relation Birthplace Occupation
Henry F. Steele 44 W M Head Mississippi Sawyer/Saw Mill
Sarah Steele 38 W F Wife Texas None
Jess Steele 17 W M Son Texas Fireman/Saw Mill
James E. Steele 13 W M Son Texas None
Emma Steele 11 W F Daughter Texas None
Henry Steele 9 W M Son Texas None
Lenora Steele 5 W F Daughter Texas None
Ruth Steele 1 W F Daughter Texas None

1920 U. S. Federal Census, Smith County, Texas[12]

Name Age, Race, Sex Relation Birthplace Occupation
Henry Steele 52 W M Head Mississippi Manager/Lumber Mill
Ella Steele 48 W F Wife Texas None
Lenora Steele 15 W F Daughter Texas None
Ruth Steele 11 W F Daughter Texas None
Dora Steele 7 W F Daughter Texas None
Jammie Steele 23 W M Son Texas Fireman/Lumber Mill
Henry Steele 18 W M Son Texas Laborer/Lumber Mill

Military Records

A search of online military records had no results for a Jesse Steel(e),  The World War I draft registration did not become effective until the Selective Service Act was passed on 18 May 1917[13], three months after Jesse was killed, so no military records have been located.[14]

Mortuary Records

No mortuary records were located from the Wall & Stabe Mortuary of Houston, Texas[15].

“Mother was not there to impress the parting kiss upon his dying lips”

 “… [H]e suddenly passed from time to eternity.  Mother was not there to impress the parting kiss upon his dying lips, no father to wipe the damp of death from his brow.  No sister or brother to watch with him in his dying hour…”[16]

The 19 February 1917 Tyler Courier-Times has an article and obituary for Jesse Steele.  This article states, “Jesse was the oldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Steele of Chandler.”[17]

The Tyler Courier-Times ran the same article as the Houston Post on 13 February 1917, except they added more local information regarding the family of Jesse Steele.

“Deceased was the son of Mr. Henry F. Steele who runs a sawmill a few miles this side of Chandler.”[18]

These two articles confirm the findings of the Census evaluations that Jesse #3, living in the home of Henry F. and Sarah Ella Steele, is the same Jesse that fell under the wheels of the freight train on 12 February 1917.

Mother O’ Mine Revisited

Jesse’s mother is listed under several names in various records.

Source Name
1900 U.S. Federal Census Ella Steela
1910 U.S. Federal Census Sarah Steeleb
1920 U.S. Federal Census Ella Steelec
Death Certificate Ella Steeled
Marriage Record S. E. Thorne
Anna V. Steele Birth Certificate Sarah E. Steelef
a. 1900 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 6, Enumeration District (ED) 109, sheet 24B (penned), dwelling 439, family 440, Henry F Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T623, roll 1670.

b. 1910 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 7, Enumeration District (ED) 87, sheet 4B (penned), dwelling 80, family 83, Henry F Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T624, roll 1589.

c. 1920 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 1, Tyler City, Enumeration District (ED) 82, sheet 11B (penned), dwelling 239, family 266, Henry Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T625, roll 1845.

d. Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 31636 (1933), Ella Steele, Bureau of Vital Records, Austin; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017).

e. East Texas Genealogical Society, Marriage Records of Smith County, Texas, 1846-1899, (Tyler, Texas: East Texas Genealogical Society, 1972), p. 161; citing Smith County, Texas, Marriage Record Book K, p. 217, entry for marriage of H. F. D. Steele to S. E. Thorn, 15 January 1891.

f. Texas Department of State Health Services, birth certificate no. 136385 (1908), Anna V, Steele, Bureau of Vital Records, Austin; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 September 2017).  Certificate lists father as H. F. Steele, and mother as Sarah E. Steele.

Her death certificate lists her father as Willis Thorne and her mother’s maiden name as Moore[19].  A marriage is recorded in Smith County, Texas, for H. F. D. Steel to S. E. Thorn on 15 January 1891[20], and a birth certificate for Anna V. Steele, born in 1908 in Smith County, Texas, lists the parents of the child as H. F. Steele and Sarah E. Steele[21].

Summary of Findings

Jesse W. Steele died in February 1917, before the 1920 U. S. Federal Census.  Through the examination of Federal Census records, the negative evidence of Jesse #3 in the 1920 Census, along with the two articles in the Tyler Courier-Times, supports the conclusion that Henry F. and Ella Steele are his parents.  The similarities between the Jessie who died and Jesse #3 include:

Jesse W. Steel Jesse #3
“About 25” (death certificate). Born December 1892, 24 years old on 12 February 1917 (1900 Census).
White male (death certificate) White male (1900 & 1910 Census).
Remains sent to Tyler, Texas, his “former home.” (newspaper & death certificate). Living in Smith County, near Tyler, Texas, in 1900 and 1910 Federal Census.
Died in 1917. Missing in 1920, 1930, and 1940 Federal Census.
Son of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Steele (newspaper) In home of Henry F. and Sarah Ella Steele in 1900 and 1910 Federal Census.

All of the other Jesse Steeles (and variations of the name) are either too young, the wrong race, or the wrong sex.  Notwithstanding Jesse #4 moving to Smith County, Texas, at some point between 1910 and 1920, there is no record of any other Jesse Steele near Tyler, Texas.

While most documents indicate that Jesse’s mother was Ella Steele, there is conflicting evidence of her first name.  Several primary documents, i.e. marriage record, Federal Census record, and Anna V. Steele’s birth certificate, lists her first name as S. E., Sarah, and Sarah E., while all the others lists it as Ella, with no middle initial or name.

It appears that Sarah Ella (Thorn) Steele only used her first name on “legal” documents; her marriage license, daughter’s birth certificate, and the first Census as a married adult.  The rest of the time she used her middle name.

Further Research Needed

A search of Find a Grave, Billion Graves, as well as Cemetery Records of Smith County, Texas, Vol. I-V did not reveal the burial location for Jesse Steele or his parents,[22] although the newspaper article said he was buried in Liberty Hill Cemetery.  A search of records at the Smith County, Texas, County Clerk’s office, including land and probate records, may reveal further documentation of this family and of Jesse Steele.

Jesse’s short military service record is not available online, but may be available at the National Archives and Records Administration in St. Louis, Missouri.  These records may list the parents, and more specifically, the mother of Jesse Steele.[23]


[1] “Soldier Mangled by I. and G.N. Train,” Houston Post, 13 February 1917, p. 7, col. 1; online image, The Portal to Texas History (https://texashistory.unt.edu : accessed 3 September 2017); Jessie W. Steele was ran over by a train while going home on a ten day furlough from the army.

[2] Ibid

[3] Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 31636 (1933), Ella Steele, Bureau of Vital Records, Austin; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017).  Also, 1910 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 7, Enumeration District (ED) 87, sheet 4B (penned), dwelling 80, family 83, Henry F Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T624, roll 1589.  Also, 1900 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 6, Enumeration District (ED) 109, sheet 24B (penned), dwelling 439, family 440, Henry F Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T623, roll 1670.

[4] East Texas Genealogical Society, Marriage Records of Smith County, Texas, 1846-1899, (Tyler, Texas: East Texas Genealogical Society, 1972), p. 161; citing Smith County, Texas, Marriage Record Book K, p. 217, entry for marriage of H. F. D. Steele to S. E. Thorn, 15 January 1891.

[5] “Soldier Mangled by I. and G.N. Train,” Houston Post, 13 February 1917

[6] Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 4891 (1917), Jessie [sic] W. Steele, Bureau of Vital Records, Austin; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017).

[7] Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 4891 (1917), Jessie [sic] W. Steele.

[8] “Soldier Mangled by I. and G.N. Train,” Houston Post, 14 February 1917

[9] A nationwide search of online records did not reveal any Jess, Jesse, Jessie, or other variations, with the last name of Steel, Steele, Stiel, and other variations that can account for the Jess Steele in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census in Desdona, Eastland County, Texas.  Any white male that fit the description could be found in other 1920, and subsequent, Census records.

[10] 1900 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, Henry L. Steel household.

[11] 1910 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, Henry F, Steele household.

[12] 1920 US Federal Census, Smith County, Texas, pop sch, Justice Precinct 1, Tyler City, Enumeration District (ED) 82, sheet 11B (penned), dwelling 239, family 266, Henry Steele household; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 3 September 2017); NARA microfilm T625, roll 1845.

[13] National Archives, “World War I Draft Registration Cards,” National Archives, Military Records (https://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww1/draft-registration : accessed 3 September 2017).

[14] A military records request and information regarding the death of Jesse Steele has been sent to NARA, but as of the due date for this assignment, nothing has been returned.

[15] A search online as well as the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, Texas, on 6 September 2017 did not reveal any records for the Wall & Stabe Mortuary.

[16] “Death of Jesse Steele,” Tyler Courier-Times, 19 February 1917, p. 1, col. 3; microfilm image, Tyler Courier-Times March 1916-February 1917, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, Texas

[17] “Death of Jesse Steele,” Tyler Courier-Times, 19 February 1917

[18] “Jesse W. Sreele War Ground to Death by I. & G. N. Train. Was en route to Tyler,” Tyler Courier-Times, 13 February 1917, p. 7, col. 1; microfilm image, Tyler Courier-Times March 1916-February 1917, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, Texas

[19] Texas Department of State Health Services, death certificate no. 31636 (1933), Ella Steele.

[20] East Texas Genealogical Society, Marriage Records of Smith County, Texas, 1846-1899, (Tyler, Texas: East Texas Genealogical Society, 1972), p. 161; citing Smith County, Texas, Marriage Record Book K, p. 217, entry for marriage of H. F. D. Steele to S. E. Thorn, 15 January 1891.

[21] Texas Department of State Health Services, birth certificate no. 136385 (1908), Anna V, Steele, Bureau of Vital Records, Austin; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 September 2017).  Certificate lists father as H. F. Steele, and mother as Sarah E. Steele.

[22] East Texas Genealogical Society, Cemetery Records of Smith County, Texas, Vols I-V, (Tyler, Texas: East Texas Genealogical Society, 1981); a search of all five volumes did not give a burial location for Jesse Steele or his parents.

[23] A records request has been mailed to the National Archives and Records Administration, but there has been no response.