The mystery of James Killeen’s death (1868-1900)

Helena Killeen, my great grandmother came from a large family of 10 children. The question of what happened to her brother James was only magnified by his death certificate which seems to read “killed by trains.” The 1900 death rolls provide only that very small amount of information as to how he died in Ottawa on 17 October 1900, at age 32. He was buried from St. Ann’s in Sebastopol, in the Renfrew area, but the records there do not indicate what happened.

Canadian Atlantic Railway locomotive No. 15, blocking the lower end of Elgin Street (about where the Queensway runs today.) Natl Arch C-6317

Canadian Atlantic Railway locomotive No. 15, blocking the lower end of Elgin Street (about where the Queensway runs today.)
Natl Arch C-6317

The new microfilms of the Ottawa Journal now online through were one way to try to find something out.

A short report headlined “Killed by Train” told the story of the discovery of his body at the Canadian Atlantic Railway yard. Interestingly, it suggested he had been hit while using the crossing… and a short article — elsewhere on the same page — headlined “The Killeen Accident” offered the railway’s version: he was found 300 yards from the crossing and must have been on their right of way, not using the crossing, at the time of his death.

James had been working for Dominion Bridge Company, which was building the interprovincial bridge. He was apparently living in Eganville and working in Ottawa, possibly staying with a brother in the city. Could he have been coming back by train and fallen off? .. or was he sleeping by the trains waiting for an early morning trip back home to Eganville?

We know a little more about what happened to him, but still more to find out.


Back To Ireland Through The Killeen Family

Helena Killeen (1863-1950) married Peter Dolan (1863-1946) (picture left) in Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa on 15 Nov 1885. Their fifth child, was Gertrude Pearl (1894-1978), my grandmother.

Helena’s father, Dennis Benjamin Killeen (1829-1914) was married to Ellen O’Brien.

It’s through Dennis Benjamin that we’ve been able to trace the family back to Ireland.

His father Denis Killeen is mentioned in a history of Ottawa published in 1927  [A.H.D. Ross, Ottawa: Past and Present (Ottawa: Thorborn & Abbott, 1927), p. 39]:

“the first white child born in the Township of March was Patrick Killean, whose father, Denis Killean, was in Captain Monk’s employ, and the second was Benning Monk.”

An earlier mention of the same information came in a talk by Mrs. M.H. Ahearn,  “The Settlers of March Township,” which was first read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa on 10 March 1899, and later published by the Ontario Historical Society [Mrs. M.H. Ahearn, “The Settlers of March Township,” Ontario Historical Society, Papers and Records, vol. 3 (Toronto: 1901; reprint, Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1975), pp. 98-99].

Denis, born around 1786 in the parish of Meelick in East County Galway, Ireland, had served under Captain John Benning Monk in the 97th Regiment of Foot. He had apparently then followed Monk to March township as some sort of domestic (or “soldier servant,” in Mrs. Ahearn’s words). He later received a patent from the Crown, in 1828, for 100 acres at Concession 3, Lot 11, March township.

Thanks to Mary Catherine Moran for these details from her website Ottawa Valley Irish.