Charles Horner and His Horrible Train Journey

Horner family 600dpiCharles Horner took his wife, Molly Owens, to California shortly after their marriage in 1880. The move was made to please her. She was born in California during the gold rush and always wanted to return there. Unfortunately, like so many other women, Molly died in childbirth. Suddenly, Charles was alone and trying to take care of a two-year daughter, Mattie, and a newborn son, Frederick.

Immediately after burying his wife, Charles and his babies boarded a train to take the long trip back to Missouri and the one person Charles needed most, his mother. Since he had a baby in each hand, Charles wasn’t able to carry much luggage, just one hastily packed bag of his own clothes. Obviously, Charles was not a “hands-on” daddy, he did not pack any diapers. None. Both babies were in diapers. Both babies were hungry.

A woman traveling by train with her own children took pity on him.  She loaned him diapers from her supply and even nursed little Freddie for him. This Angel of Mercy was only traveling a short way. When she got off the train she left Charles a few diapers and showed him how to feed the baby by letting him suck on a twisted cloth dipped in cow’s milk. That feeding method didn’t agree with Freddie. He was colicky, cried all the time, and it seemed Charles needed to change his diapers every ten minutes. He didn’t know what to do with the smelly diapers, so he threw them out the window of the train. Before long he was out of diapers.

While Charles struggled with Freddie, adventurous two-year-old Mattie kept getting away from him, running down to the end of the car to play with other children. When a young mother brought her back and saw Charles’ dilemma, he had his second angel of mercy, who provided more borrowed diapers and help with feeding the children. In this way, Charles made his way from one stop to the next, one helpful woman to the next, until he finally made it back to the depot in Mokane, Missouri, and the welcoming arms of his mother, Fannie Horner.

Several years later, Charles remarried. This picture is Charles with his second wife, Louise, and their little girl, Leona.  Mattie and Freddie are standing behind them. Mattie Horner was my maternal grandmother.

H is for Horner. Working my way through the April A-Z Blogging Challenge.



This entry was posted in A to Z April Challenge, Memoir and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Charles Horner and His Horrible Train Journey

  1. sandy says:

    LOVED the story, assume it’s part of your family tree? I do genealogy alot. Have worked on mine, hubby’s, lots of friends and used to have clients. But had to give up the clients with my bizarre work schedule and the decrease in hours at our local libraries. etc. Here through A-Z

  2. Thanks, Sandy! Yes the adventurous two-year-old was my mother’s mother. Sorry to hear your library is cutting hours. That is always bad news. I will be featuring many free online genealogy sources this month. You sound like an expert, but come back and see me again – I might find a new one for you.

  3. Diana Slaughter says:

    Great Story! That would have been a hard trip for anyone to take alone, man or woman!

  4. lauraclipson says:

    That’s an interesting story, glad there were so many helpful women on the train.

  5. How sweet! I love learning about family history. There are so many amazing stories out there–and I can just imagine that man, not knowing what to do and flinging a dirty diaper out the train window. Crazy.

    True Heroes from A to Z

  6. afshan18 says:

    wow It was like I traveled to history and relived that episode. Very well narrated Carolyn and that too a grand ma’s childhood tale. Nothing like that !!!
    Thanks for writing this and thanks for dropping by my blog

  7. Tarkabarka says:

    Amazing story! So beautiful. If you ever go to a live storytelling event, please use it. Really well told 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Tales of colors
    MopDog – The crazy thing about Hungarians…

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