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  • Writer's pictureKyra Mangold-Ostovich

Voices of the Past: the Drake Family

This week, we focus on an unfortunate series of deaths that surround the Drake Family.

Peter and Ellen Drake, English and Scottish immigrants, respectively, lived in the Bellwood area, now known as Munhall, with their children. Peter, a coal miner, had come to Pittsburgh in the late 1870s and purchased several mines in Bellwood.

On Thursday, January 9, 1890, John, the Drake's 15-year old son, was in their residence removing bullets from his loaded revolver when the hammer slipped, discharging a round. Ellen was hit in the head and died instantly. She was 58. According to a Daily Post article, John, inconsolable in his grief, was not arrested as the "affair was so palpably an accident that proceedings were deemed unnecessary."

John was again struck by tragedy on June 3, 1906, when his wife, Jennie (Kyle) Drake, fell 12 feet down a flight of stairs from the rear porch of their Vander place home in Mifflin Township, breaking her neck. She had been holding their 4-month-old baby who miraculously survived without injury. The family claims Jennie had been sitting on the porch with the baby when she got up to get water for the infant. While walking, she either slipped or "was overcome by a fainting spell," and landed in their yard. Witnesses say she held the baby aloft keeping it safe from any harm. She was 33. Gillen and Coulter of Homestead handled her funeral arrangements, and she was buried in the Homestead Cemetery on June 5, 1906. Interestingly enough, her death certificate lists "heart disease, sudden" as her cause of death. She was a daughter of David and Ella Kyle, both of Scotland.

Peter Drake died in his daughter's home on November 20, 1909, from chronic nephritis at the age of 83. He was survived by his children, William (Mary née Leadbeater), John, and Isaac (Sarah A. née Godfrey) Drake, Margaret (Thomas) Morris, Katherine (T. Charles) Jackson, all of Bellwood, and Mrs. Edward Ridley of England.

Peter and Ellen are buried in Old Section C, lot 25; 5 of their 6 children, along with their families, also accompany them around the Homestead Cemetery.

Information gathered from:

  • "Mother Breaks Neck, Babe Escapes Unhurt," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 04 June 1906, p. 3.

  • "Peter Drake," Pittsburgh Daily Post, 22 November 1909, p. 5.

  • "Saves Life of Baby; Mother Breaks Neck." Pittsburgh Daily Post, 04 June 1906, p. 1.

  • "The Hammer Slipped Down." Pittsburgh Daily Post, 11 January 1890, p. 3.

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