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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Verdict against O&M Railroad

Sumner Press November 5, 1891 The Andrew Lackey Trial


The suit of William Simms, administrator of the estate of Andrew Lackey, against the O. & M. Railroad, claiming $5000 damages for killing Mr. Lackey on the depot platform with a wrongly thrown mailbag was begun Friday. Pritchett, Gee, and Barnes prosecuting while Werner and Huffman defended the railroad.


The testimony plainly showed that the train was running through town at an unlawful speed. No witness estimated it at less than 30 miles an hour. Mr. Lackey was indeed standing on the platform and was struck by the mail sack with such force as to cause him to fall with his head striking the platform, causing a concussion of the brain which ended in death. The jury brought in a verdict of $2000 damages, which is generally regarded here as a fair one, neither exorbitant nor parsimonious.


It is very rare that a trial is held that there is not something to excite the risibilities (Editor Note: this means: inclination to laugh in case your understanding of the vocabulatory of the 1890s is a little rusty) of those present; the Lackey trial was no exception to the rule. Our bachelor friend J. W. Stanley, was all torn up while giving his testimony. The railroad attorney having asked him, "you had something to do with post office had you not?" "Yes, sir," replied Stanley, "I have but it was while Cleveland was president." "I suppose" said the attorney "that your connection to the post office was before Cleveland had his baby, was it not?" The question caused friend Stanley to blush furiously, raising a general laugh.


For any of you readers who are not Presidential historians—(ok that might be everyone but Mike Neal) Here's the explanation of this comment:


While campaigning for his first term, reporters revealed that Cleveland possibly was the father of a child born to Maria Halpin, who named the boy Oscar Folsom Cleveland. There were apparently two other men who could have been the father including Cleveland's business partner, but she chose Cleveland (and his name…) probably in hopes that he would marry her. He didn’t.


But Cleveland never denied it, mostly because the other two men were already married. And he provided somewhat for the child’s care. When the scandal broke, Cleveland chose a controversial strategy: He told the truth. And, surprisingly, it worked. He won the election.


Oscar Folsom, one of the other two men with whom Miss Halpin was involved, was also the father of Frances Folsom, the young lady whom Grover married in 1886, during his first term as President. She was just 21; Grover was 49.


Because Cleveland had been the executor for Oscar Folsom's estate, he had supervised France's upbringing after her father's death. Thus, he was his wife's own godfather....


But the comment at the Lackey trial was referring to the gossip that Cleveland had fathered Maria Halpin's child.....a Republican slur campaign slogan: Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? Gone to Washington, Ha Ha Ha!

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