Thursday, October 18, 2018

Seavers in the News - Accident claims Melvin Seaver Family in 1954

It's time for another edition of "Seavers in the News" - a semi-regular feature from the historical newspapers about persons with the surname Seaver that are interesting, useful, mysterious, fun, macabre, or add information to my family tree database.

This week's entry is from the Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Ariz.) newspaper dated 13 January 1954:

The transcription of the article is:

'New Mexico Resort City Mishap Site

"Truth or consequences, N.M. (AP) -- A flaming crash which sheared off half the abutments of a concrete bridge late yesterday left a toll of eight Arizona persons dead.

"Mr. and Mrs. H.F. Lafferty, Mr. and Mrs. Melvin H, Seaver, and four children ranging in age from 6 months to 10 years, all of Elfrida, died when their car crashed with a beer truck, plunged through the bridge siding into a dry creek bed, and burst into flames.

"F.M. Danley of Albuquerque, driver of the beer truck, said he saw the Arizona automobile approaching a junction with U.S. Highway 85 one mile north of this southern New Mexico resort city.

"Danley said he turned on his air horn, but the driver apparently did not hear him until he was almost onto the highway and Cuchillo Creek.

"The Ariazona car whipped down the highway, out of Danley's path, then suddenly swerved directly in front of the heavily laden truck, investigators said.  The trailer of the truck plunged after the car into the creek and the cab hung precariously on the edge.  Danley received possible internal injuries and is suffering from shock.

"Lafferty, who moved to Elfrida from New Mexico five years ago, had operated a store and owned considerable real estate in that Arizona community.  Seaver, a native of Elfrida, was engaged in ranching there.  His sister-in-law, Mrs. Vernon Seaver of Elfrida is a daughter of the Laffertys.

"The accident, worst in Sierra County history, pushed New Mexico's 1954 traffic toll to 15 and brought hundreds of spectators to the scene.  Cars were lined up for half a mile trying to reach the bridge.

"The state highway department cut a new roadbed through the creek to detour traffic around the blocked bridge.

"Identification of the bodies was by Justice of the Peace Ted Russell from papers found in the car and strewn along the creek bed after the crash.  It was impossible at this stage to identify each body individually and he did not have names of the children.

"Just four years ago another beer truck was involved in an accident a fourth of a mile north of yesterday's accident site.  Three persons were killed.  The latest accident was in clear weather and on a dry road, while other parts of New Mexico were buffeted by snow and high winds."

Another article, dated 15 January 1954,  provided the names of the children:

"Arizona Deaths

"Seaver Family

"ELFRIDA (AP) -- The mourning community of Elfrida completed arrangements yesterday for one of the most heart-breaking tasks in its history -- a mass funeral for the Melvin Seaver family.

"Seaver, 34, his wife, 30, and their four children, Phillip 7, Gary 6, Catherine 5, and Steven Leslie, 4 months, were killed Tuesday in an automobile accident near Truth or Consequences, N.M.

"The town's final salute to them will begin at 2 p.m. today in the Whitewater Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bishop Golden Fenn will officiate.

"Burial will follow in the local cemetery.  A mass grave for all six has been prepared.

"Funeral services for two other persons killed in the accident, Mr. and Mrs. Henry F. Lafferty, 62 and 36, are to be conducted at Gibbons Mortuary in Mesa tomorrow.  Mrs. Lafferty's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Phillips, live there."

There is still no definition of the names of the two wives.  Another article, dated 18 January 1954 provides the name of Mrs. Seaver:


Republic State Correspondent

"Benson -- Mr. and Mrs. D.E. Sherman of Inglewood, Calif. stopped overnight in Benson Thursday,.  They were en route to Elfrida to attend funeral services for the Melvin Seaver family who died in an automobile accident in New Mexico Jan. 12.  Mrs. Seaver attended Benson schools where she will be remembered as Thelma Sherman.  Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Sherman of Elfrida,."

The source citation for the first article is:

"New Mexico Resort City Mishap Site," Arizona Republic [Phoenix, Ariz.] newspaper, dated 13 January 1954, page 1, column 1, Melvin Seaver accident article; digital image,   ( :  accessed 18 October 2018).

I had Melvin Henry Seaver (1917-1954) and Thelma Sherman (1923-1954) in my RootsMagic family tree database, but I did not have the sames of their four children.  I added them sadly today.  

The parents of Melvin Henry Seaver are William Henry Seaver (1883-1977) and Violetta Thomsen (1891-1969), who had five children between 1911 and 1934 in Arizona.   I am not related to them - their immigrant Seaver ancestor was Henry Seaver (1743-1810) who settled in Virginia before 1770.


Copyright (c) 2018, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at

No comments: