by Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist
The caption on the photograph read, “Car in which Simon Wesley Rinehart was killed.” It was clearly going to be a research path that would lead to tragedy. Moved by this haunting image, what follows is a glimpse into the events of late 1912, remembering the lives that are memorialized by this simple picture of an automobile with a foreboding inscription.
Simon Wesley Rinehart [1881-1912] was the husband of Clara Hughes, and the son of George N. Rinehart and Hester Moore. His family’s photograph collection has been shared with Greene Connections by the children of his nephew Russell Rinehart. (See the complete Russell Rinehart Collection). Simon makes an appearance in several beautiful turn of the century images before his series ends with a lonely picture of the car that lead to his death.
The car crashed on 24 November 1912 in the vicinity of New Freeport, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Simon’s injuries resulted in his death on 7 December 1912. A Pennsylvania death certificate and Greene County coroner’s report confirm the details. Also in the vehicle were Robert Ullom, Benson Moninger, and William Moninger.
The tragic event was not just an unfortunate accident. It appears to have been the result of an early road rage incident in the days when automobiles were the new technology trying to share country roads with the long-standing traditional forms of transport. The crash occurred following an altercation with John F. Renner who was a teamster driving a wagon of oil rig timber on the same road. The news article below provides an account of the event, seemingly presenting the story from the car passengers’ point of view. So far, we have found no criminal or civil charges filed in the local Greene County courts, which makes us believe that there may be another perspective to be shared from the wagon team that we have yet to read.
The Robert Ullom who survived the crash is believed to be Robert Smith Ullom who was the first cousin of Simon’s wife, Clara (Hughes) Rinehart. If they are one in the same, Robert Smith Ullom was killed 22 August 1913 by a train in Landisburg, Fayette County, West Virginia.
Benson and William Moninger were sons of Johnson Moninger and Mary Ellen Ullom. They survived the crash and led long lives.
**TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: The following article provides a graphic account of this fatal car crash.**
“Simon W. Rinehart Dies from Injuries” article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 12 December 1912. Transcribed by Candice Buchanan.
“Simon W. Rinehart Dies from Injuries
Victim of Automobile Accident at New Freeport,Expired Saturday Morning
Deceased Belong to Prominent Family and Was Married. Stone Thrown by John F. Renner Primary Cause of Accident, as Shown by Inquest.
Simon W. Rinehart, who was injured by an automobile accident near New Freeport, recently, died at the home of John McNeely, on last Saturday morning, Dec. 7, as the result of the injuries he sustained. The young man was carried to the home of Mr. McNeely immediately after the accident and his condition was such that he was never able to be removed.
Deceased was thirty-one years of age and a wealthy farmer of Jackson Township, being a son of George N. Rinehart, Esq., of Delphene. He had married Miss Clara Hughes, daughter of Jacob Hughes, of Nettle Hill, who survives him. Beside his wife and parents he is survived by two brothers and one sister, W. A. and Jesse Rinehart and Mrs. Ida Woodruff.
On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 24, Mr. Rinehart was driving in his automobile along the highway about three-fourths of a mile below New Freeport. In the car, beside himself where Robert Ullom and Benson and Wm. Moninger.
Ahead of them were three teams and wagons hauling oil well rig timber. Mr. Rinehart sounded the automobile alarm several times as a signal for the teams to draw to one side of the road and permit him to pass, which they would be required by law to do, but the teamsters gave no heed to the signals, whatever. Finally, at a point in the highway where there was room outside of the regular traveled track for the automobile to pass, Mr. Rinehart drove the car by on the right hand side of the teams, which was the lower side of the road. The teams and wagons kept in the usual course of travel,which was to the upper and left side of the road.
The machine was safely passing and was fully four feet away from the wagons, but in passing the second team, which was being driven by John F. Renner, the latter’s dog may have been touched by the car, but at least was not hurt, as it bounded out of the way with a yelp. This it is presumed enraged Renner, for he called to the men in the automobile to stop,then hurled a stone at the car. Robert Ullom who was sitting beside Mr. Rinehart saw the stone being thrown and said to the latter, “look out, here comes a stone.” By that time the automobile had passed all three of the teams and had turned up into the traveled part of the highway. As Ullom spoke, Mr. Rinehart turned his face backward so that he might see, and, if necessary,dodge the stone, as the top of the car was down and while his face was turned the car ran over an embankment about forty feet high. The automobile first passed through a wire fence then turned over twice.
The Moninger boys were thrown out of the car when it first overturned and escaped injury, but Rinehart and Ullom were carried to the bottom of the embankment.The former received a gash across the side of his face, one of his ears being cut in two, and his head was crushed, by being caught, it is supposed, beneath the steering wheel. The pressure upon his jaws had bursted several of his teeth. He was carried unconscious to the home of Mr. McNeely and for several days no hope for his recovery was entertained, though later his friends were hopeful,but his face was found to be paralyzed and he gradually became weaker. On Friday morning a message came from here stating that his death was expected at anytime.
Robert Ullom was seriously cut upon the face, arms and breast, but is recovering from the wounds.
Much indignation is felt over Renner’s action, particularly from the fact that he and both the other teamsters, one being his brother and the other a man named Hostetler, drove on, without even halting, after the automobile went over the embankment. No assistance, whatever, was rendered by them.
Coroner A. T. Adamson held an inquest upon the death of Mr. Rinehart Saturday evening,his jury consisting of Peter Bradley, L. R. Hawn, B. G. Potter, John Minor, H. B. Hennen and James A. Darling. In their verdict they found that Simon Wesley Rinehart came to his death from injuries received in an automobile accident,Nov. 24, that the attention of said Simon W. Rinehart, driver of the car, was called by an occupant of said car to a stone being thrown at the car by one John F. Renner, which information drew his attention from the machine, causing him to lose control of it, so that the car went over an embankment, resulting in the injuries aforesaid and the death of Simon W. Rinehart.
The funeral of deceased was held on Monday at 1 p.m., services being performed by Rev. J. M. Murray. Interment in the Centennial Cemetery.”