One of the earliest Colonial families in the Philadelphia area was the Bonsall family, deriving from Richard Bonsall & his wife Mary, who immigrated from Derbyshire, England (ca. 1683) to what is now Upper Darby. Many of their descendants became prominent citizens in Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia counties.
By the early 19th century, many of the Bonsalls had migrated to other parts of the country, where they also gained prominence. One such individual was the lawyer, Sermon Bonsall, Esquire, a native of Philadelphia who had migrated south, first to Columbia, South Carolina, then onto the small town of Raymond, in Hinds County, Mississippi, where he became one of its most leading residents.
The Delaware County (PA) Republican, for September 10th, 1841, printed the sudden demise of Sermon Bonsall, which had occurred on August 17th, when he “was accidentally killed by a fall from his mule…” Naturally, many individuals have lost their lives while riding, but the above newspaper added the following:
What is a strange coincidence, the residence of the deceased was struck by lightning on the same day that he expired, and as nearly as can be ascertained, it was about the same moment in which he died!
The manner of the lightning was singular and unusual. The sun was shining, nor were there any indications of an approaching thunder storm, when, at a moment totally unexpected, there was a most appalling discharge of electricity, accompanied by an instantaneous peal of thunder.
The fluid descended in two columns…entering through the wall, utterly destroying the clock & strewing the floor with the fragments…
The Raymond (Mississippi) Times, for August 20, 1841, confirmed that Sermon Bonsall was indeed, “thrown by his mule and his injury, which was internal, was incurable. Mr. Bonsall was forty years of age on the 27th of January last. He was a native of Philadelphia.”
To add ‘insult to injury,’ if you will, a relative, Benjamin C. Bonsall, a son of Benjamin Bonsall & Elizabeth Hibberd, born in 1805, “was killed by lightning” on May 3, 1828 in Pennsylvania, while Enoch Bonsall, of Upper Darby, was murdered by four men on May 22nd, 1824. The robbers first “bound him to a chair,” then ransacked his home, returned and “stabbed him in the abdomen,” wounds which brought about his death the next morning. (See, Gilbert Cope & Henry G. Ashmead, ed’s, Historic Homes & Institutions & Genealogical & Personal Memoirs of Chester & Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania, Vol.II., NY: The Lewis Publishing Co; 1904: 28-29).
Years later, local newspapers in the Philadelphia area, for October 11th, 1905, would also carry the tragic deaths of Miss Josephine Bonsall, age 40, and her nephew, Wallace Bonsall, age 13, who were struck by a train as they attempted to drive their carriage over the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, at the Bonsall Avenue crossing in Fernwood (where else could it have occurred!) Both were immediately killed by the oncoming engine.
Strange bizarre deaths & coincidences have in the past filled volumes. The above is just a few examples from one Philadelphia family, which had a ‘streak of bad luck’ over time.