Christy Jr. (my 3rd cousin 3x removed) wasn’t a baseball player like his dad; unfortunately, one thing they did share in common was death at a far too young age. I mentioned yesterday that Christy Sr. died in 1925 after a long fight with tuberculosis (contracted during World War I after he was accidentally gassed during a chemical exercise). He was only 45.
As sad and untimely as Christy Sr.’s death was, I think Christy Jr.’s death sounds even more horrific. Especially considering what he fought to overcome before his life ended so suddenly. Here’s his obituary, which explains more (courtesy of TheDeadballEra.com ):
There used to be another, more detailed news story archived online somewhere about Christy Jr.’s life, and the 1950 accident that killed him. Unfortunately, I can’t find said news story (it’s possible I first saw it in the now defunct Google News Archives). If my memory serves correctly, however, Christy was repairing something (a furnace?) in his home, which somehow triggered the explosion. I’m also fairly certain that I read he was still alive when they pulled him out of his house.
I don’t even know what to say about that, other than I have a fear-bordering-on-phobia of being burned (to the point where I can barely use a stovetop). To think of being burned over almost one’s entire body — and surviving for even a fraction of a second afterward — is unfathomable.
It seems especially unfair after considering what Christy Jr. had already overcome in his 43 years (the death of his father; the plane accident that killed his wife in front of him, almost killed him, and took his left leg). That said, until the explosion, it appears that Christy Jr. was perpetually ahead of the game in defying some very intense odds. He might not have been a baseball hero like his dad — but he was certainly a hero in his own right. I’m honored to be related to both Mathewsons!
I wish I knew more about Christy Jr. There’s very little about him available right now. If I ever find that news story (mentioned a few paragraphs ago) again, I’ll transcribe it — or at least link to it — here. I remember that it didn’t just focus on his tragedies, but shared many interesting bits about his experiences in the Air Force and as a pilot.
Meanwhile, here’s a 1914 article about Christy Sr. (courtesy of Rain Delay Central). This one mentions Christy Jr., too (apparently he was called “Sonny” and had a pup called “Polo Grounds”; I love learning little tidbits like that!). It even references our mutual ancestors and the founding of Factoryville, and — best of all — is built around an interview with Christy Sr.’s mother, my 1st cousin 5x removed, Minerva Capwell Mathewson (or “Nervy”, as it says she was called). I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
I’ve known about my famous baseball player cousin for as long as I can remember. I didn’t always know he was a cousin — or how we’re related — or in what era he played baseball (what I know about baseball could fit on the tip of a pencil). But I remember my dad telling me about him, and I remember thinking that it was very cool to have a famous relative (despite also thinking that “Christy” sounded like a strange name for a man).
Of course, his full name was actually Christopher Mathewson. Besides Christy, he was known as “Big Six”, “The Christian Gentleman”, and “Matty.”
Christy Mathewson was born August 12, 1880 in Factoryville, Pennsylvania and died of tuberculosis on October 7, 1925 in Saranac Lake, New York. As for the sport that made him famous, according to Wikipedia: “[he] was an American Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. He was among the most dominant pitchers of his (or any) era and ranks in the all-time top-10 in major pitching categories such as wins, shutouts, and ERA. In 1936, Mathewson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its ‘first five’ inaugural members.”
After I started researching my family, Matty’s name was one of the first I made a point to search. I found out shortly afterward that he’s my 2nd cousin 4x removed. Actually, my double 2nd cousin 4x removed. Confused?
Well — Christy’s (maternal) great grandparents, Stephen Capwell and Hannah Whitford, are my (paternal) 5th great grandparents. That’s one way to determine a 2nd cousin 4x removed.
But “2nd cousin 4x removed” also means that he was a 2nd cousin of my great-great grandparent (4 times removed = me, my father, my grandfather, my great grandfather, my great great grandfather). Only in this case — not only was Christy my great great grandfather’s 2nd cousin, he was also my great great grandmother‘s 2nd cousin. On the same side.
In other words: Christy’s mother, Minerva Isabella Capwell, was a 1st cousin of both Tryphena Capwell (mother of Isaac Fred Tillinghast, my 2nd great grandfather) and Nancy J. Capwell (mother of Edith Brundage, Isaac’s wife and my 2nd great grandmother). Tryphena and Nancy were also 1st cousins, by the way (not sisters). All three Capwell ladies were grandchildren of Stephen Capwell and Hannah Whitford.
Yes, my 2nd great grandparents were each other’s 2nd cousins. (And mutual 2nd cousins to Christy Mathewson.) Hey, it was the 1800’s. It happened! (I’d bet money that anybody reading this has at least one “cousin marriage” in their family history. And if your ancestors were from New England, you probably have more than that!)
Anyhow, back to “Big Six.” I’m not sure if he knew my 2nd great grandparents personally — they each had a good 30 years on him — but I think there’s a strong chance that he knew or at least crossed paths with their son, Wilmer (my great grandfather, born the same year as Christy in nearby La Plume) or one of their other children. According to Wikipedia, he attended high school at Keystone Academy (currently known as Keystone College). My 2nd great grandmother was Keystone Academy’s very first graduate, and (though I’d need to learn more to confirm) I wouldn’t be surprised if her children attended, as well. At least 3 of them remained in that region of Pennsylvania throughout their lives; even my great grandfather didn’t leave (for Santa Rosa, California) until the 1920’s.
Speaking of Keystone College — in recent years, it has honored both my 2nd great grandmother (through the Edith Brundage Society) and Christy Mathewson (by hosting Christy Mathewson Days). I’ve never been to Christy Mathewson Days — I’d love to, someday! — but as far as I can tell, it’s an annual event put together to pay homage to Christy and to the spirit of Factoryville.
There’s even a documentary about the event, which I very much want to see! Click here to learn more, and to order a copy.
I wish I had some unique family photos or stories to share (perhaps in time!). There’s tons of stuff about Christy online, though, and books about him that you can buy on Amazon (I recommend this one).
I may not know much about sports, but I’m proud to be Christy Mathewson’s “double” 2nd cousin 4x removed. By all accounts, he was a good man and a great ball player. It’s a shame that he died so young.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about his son (Christy Mathewson, Jr.) who also died at a much too young age. I found Christy Jr.’s obituary online about a year ago, and I haven’t forgotten his story since.