Alonzo John WEMPLE

Male 1833 - 1929  (95 years)

Personal Information    |    Notes    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Alonzo John WEMPLE 
    Born 01 Oct 1833  Schenectady, NY Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 21 Jan 1929  Fort Worth, TX Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham, TX Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I2737  Wemple Family Ancestry
    Last Modified 13 Dec 2017 

    Father John Barentse WEMPLE,   b. 08 Jan 1808, Canajoharie, NY Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 04 Jun 1891, Schenectady, NY Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years) 
    Mother Phoebe Maria CHADSEY,   b. 29 Jun 1807, Rensselaer, NY Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Bef 1902, possibly Schenectady, NY Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age < 94 years) 
    Married 17 Jan 1830 
    Family ID F737  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Charlotte A. PENNINGTON,   b. Abt 1835, of Cooperstown, NY Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 16 Nov 1892  (Age ~ 57 years) 
    Married 30 Dec 1857 
     1. Frances Adelia WEMPLE,   b. 22 Nov 1858,   d. 27 Apr 1942, Bonham, TX Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years)
     2. Minnie A. WEMPLE,   b. 16 Dec 1859,   d. 06 Jan 1860  (Age 0 years)
     3. Frederick Alonzo WEMPLE,   b. 16 Dec 1859, Centralia, IL Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 May 1944, Blossom, TX Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years)
     4. Mary Elizabeth WEMPLE,   b. 26 Dec 1861,   d. 04 Feb 1918  (Age 56 years)
     5. Charles Edward WEMPLE,   b. 03 Apr 1863,   d. 12 Nov 1867  (Age 4 years)
     6. Charlette Jane WEMPLE,   b. 20 Aug 1866,   d. 28 Sep 1903, Bonham, TX Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 37 years)
    Last Modified 13 Dec 2017 
    Family ID F1145  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Pearly Lou WILLIAMS,   b. Abt 1855, Fort Worth, TX Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Bef 1930  (Age ~ 74 years) 
    Married 24 Jan 1900 
     1. Judie Newton WEMPLE,   b. 04 Jun 1901, Bonham, TX Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 Oct 1968, Fort Worth, TX Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years)
    Last Modified 13 Dec 2017 
    Family ID F1146  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • He was a railroad fireman and engineer, having 75-years of active service upon retirement. He was with the New York Central Ry from 1852 to about 1870 on the Syracuse to Schenectady, NY run as an engineer, and from about 1871 to 1885 as a switch engineer in Chicago, Illinois. He was in Chicago when the great fire broke out on October 8, 1871; he was at the throttle of the railway engine which pulled the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln into Springfield, Illinois, when the President's body was brought back from Washington, D.C.; about 1886 he went to Bonham, Texas, where he served with the Texas & Pacific Ry as a switch engine engineer in the Bonham Ry Yards until about 1927, when he retired and went to live with his son Judie Newton Wemple in Fort Worth, Texas, where he died; he was a member of the Constantine Masonic Lodge #13, Bonham, Texas. GJW

      These following newspaper articles were sent to me by Alonzo John's great-grandson, Allen Ables Wemple, Sr. early in 1995.

      Saturday, January 19, 1929
      (Headlines read as follows:) Daddy Wemple is quite ill out at Forth Worth, Texas. Information is, as this is written, cannot last much longer.

      Information reached this city Friday night that A.J. Wemple, whom every railroad man, and many of the other citizens of this city called 'Daddy,' was in serious condition in Fort Worth, where he has been living since retirement from active work on the Texas & Pacific railroad.

      Mrs. George Myers, his daughter (Frances), left this morning to be with her father and the end is expected almost any time, unless a wonderful change for the better sets in immediately.

      For years A.J. Wemple was an engineer here in the yards, running a switch engine. He had done road work, both as a fireman and engineer years ago, before coming to Texas. Back in New York he had run from Syracuse to Schenectady, if memory is right. Afterwards he went to Illinois to work. And he was running a switch engine in Chicago when the great fire broke out.

      Before that time, however, he was doing road work in Illinois, and when the body of Abraham Lincoln was brought from Washington City, back to Springfield, there the great commoner had lived and practised law, A.J. Wemple was at the throttle of the engine which pulled the funeral train into Springfield with the remains. He often spoke of that occasion, and quite naturally, of course, with some feeling of pride for having had something to do with the martyred president's sad home coming.

      Monday, January 21, 1929
      (Headlines read as follows:) A.J. Wemple dies Fort Worth today; Burial to be here. Tentative time of the funeral is Wednesday - hour not given.

      A.J. Wemple, mention of whose illness was made in the FAVORITE Saturday, died a this home in Fort Worth today at 1:25. A funeral service will be held in Fort Worth tomorrow, and the body will then be brought to Bonham. A funeral service will be held here at the First Christian Church sometime Wednesday, so the FAVORITE has been advised, interment following at Willow Wild Cemetery. The hour of the service had not been decided upon.

      Excerpts from an article in an unnamed newspaper


      Addressed to The Oldest Engineer in Captivity, Fort Worth, Texas, a letter received at the Post Office here recently was delivered without hesitation to the person for whom it was intended, A.J. Wemple, 117 Galveston Avenue. It is probable that no one will dispute the title with him when the statement is made that he had been a full-fledged engineer for 11 years when he piloted Lincoln's funeral train over his run. It was February, 1851, that Alonzo John Wemple, then a lad of 17, got his first taste of railroading, hauling iron and ties, getting a berth as fireman in September of the same year. The road, which connected Schenectady and Troy, is now a part of the great New York Central System, along with half a dozen other short lines, the consolidation having been made in 1872.

      Railroading in those days isn't what it is now. To begin with, the engines were dinky affairs with one pair of four and a half foot drive wheels, and burned wood. It is reported that many a mile of good rail fence along right-of-ways of the period disappeared mysteriously until the farmers learned to watch the trains go through. Wemple has seen wood supplanted and peat, soft coal, blacksmith coal, hard coal and oil burned at different times since, with electricity now looming as it final successor.


      He was on this line when the Civil War broke out, and remembers how his pity was stirred when Confederate soldiers, clad in a few rags, were loaded into boxcars and shipped into the frosty North as prisoners. Closely guarded by Union soldiers in heavy overcoats, their breaths smoking in the crisp atmosphere, they made a picture Wemple could never forget.

      In 1863 an offer came to Wemple to return to his old love, the same branch of the New York Central on which he had worked before. It was here that he piloted the funeral train which bore Lincoln's body from Schenectady to Troy - there being no bridge at Albany at that time - on the long run from Washington to Springfield, Ill., where the President's body still rests.

      Great solemnity marked the progress of the Presidential cortege, Wemple relates. A pilot train ran ahead of the funeral train and cleared the way. Both were heavily draped in mourning and ran at a constant speed of 20 miles an hour. One of the duties of the pilot train was to stop all trains on the parallel track and make them wait until the funeral train had passed.

      At each station the bell of the engine tolled in proclamation and at the larger cities the train stopped to let the populace file through for viewing of the body as it lay in state, heavily guarded.

      Coming to Texas in 1871, he had the run between Texarkana and Whitesboro, which was the western limit of the Texas and Pacific Railway at that time, and in 1888 he took over a switch engine in the Bonham yards, which he operated continuously until January of this year. Rheumatism then intervened and forced him to pay a visit to the home of his son here.


      Wemple insists that he is by no means through railroading, and that as soon as he can walk a little better he will return to his throttle. And in the meantime, if there is an engineer still on active duty who can boast a longer record than his, Wemple would like to hear from him.

      Wemple's second wife, whom he married in 1900, was Miss Pearl Williams, a Fort Worth girl. She is with him and their son, J.N. Wemple, at this time. She is a great-niece of the W.B. Tuckers, prominent in the early history of the city.

      It is a far cry from the old hand brakes and unstandardized gauge of the roads on which Wemple first worked to the air-controlled monsters of steel that now pull the nation's freight and passenger traffic across the continent, yet Wemple has one regret.

      When they chose between the various gauges of track width which then obtained, ranging from three feet to six feet, the experts decided on a width not much greater than the minimum of that day, he declares. He recently tried to visualize the present size of rolling stock, in comparison with the Rocky Mountain giants of today, had they adapted the six-foot gauge as the standard. At least it would not be necessary to hook up seven of them to one snowplow, as he saw done in one New York blizzard.

      The following articles were sent to the compiler on Oct 27, 1997 by Allen Ables Wemple. A type written note is attached to the first article and reads as follows: From the desk of Allen Wemple. Reference the January 21, 1929 notation on the attached news clip for the Blossom Texas Museum, Alonzo John Wemple died on that date. The news story is from FORT WORTH, (Texas) STAR-TELGRAM newspaper, possible January 18 or 19, 1929. Signed, Allen Wemple, Sr., Midland, Texas, March 21, 1997.

      The article runs as follows:

      Handwritten note: Jan. 21 - 1929

      America's oldest locomotive engineer, A.J. Wemple - 95, 118 East Tucker Street, on on the verge of death, it was announced yesterday by his son, J.N. Wemple. He was stricken with a heart attack five days ago and on Thursday physicians declared his had only 32 hours to live. He was resting comfortably last night, but growing weaker.

      Wemple was at the throttle of the engine which pulled the funeral train of President Abraham Lincoln and for 36 years was an active engineer on the Texas & Pacific Railway.

      He operated the miniature locomotive over the street car tracks on Main Street which led the parade in 1923, marking the diamond jubilee of the founding of the old fort and the fiftieth anniversary of the City of Fort Worth.

      Born in Schenectady, N.Y., three years after the first train was put in operation in 1830 at Charleston, Wemple jockied his first locomotive from Albany to Troy in 1851. The eight-wheeler was gaining prominence for hauling both passengers and freight then.

      Wemple moved to Illinois in 1873, four years after the first transcontinental railroad was opened. This was the eve of the great expansion which in the Central and Middle Western States, was characterized by wild speculation with lines being being extended so rapidly that they were far ahead of the demand for carriers. In 1870 there were 52,014 miles of railway in the United States. This was increased 128,320 in 1885, a year before Wemple came to Texas.

      He made his home at Bonham, and went to work for the Texas & Pacific Railway, just 10 years after the railroad had extended it's lines to Fort Worth. He came to Fort Worth in 1922 and after operating a switching engine in the local yards for a short time was put on the pension list. His first wife died in 1892 at Bonham and he married Miss Perlie Lou Williams of Fort Worth in 1900. If he lives until Thursday they will have been married 29 years.

      Mr. and Mrs. Wemple are making their home with their son, J.N. Wemple. They also have another son, Fred A., at Blossom and a daughter, Mrs. Fred Myers, of Bonham, who is at his bedside.

      The second article, which is from the BONHAM, TEXAS DAILY FAVORITE dated October 1, 1928, reads as follows:



      Numbers of friends of A.J. Wemple, who for many years lived in this community, are sending him cards congratulating him on his birthday - he is 95 years old today.

      For many years, Mr. Wemple, as has often been stated, ran a switch engine in the Bonham yards, being on the day shift when switch engines bloomed night and day in these parts. (It is as much as they can dare to bloom these days just parts of the year.)

      Dad, as the railroaders called him, could shunt the cars up and down the tracks to beat the band. He learned way back yonder, before they had any of these super-heated, monkey-motioned, trail-wheel engines we now have, and such a thing as a booser adjunct was not even dreamed of. In those good old days an engineer either got over a hill or he doubled. Now he gets over, if he has the tonnage, for the booster makes things go.

      Here's to Dad,
      The engineer,
      Who handled the air
      Many a year.

      Who rounded the horn,
      Made the coal chute,
      With many a puff
      And many a toot!

      Grand old Daddy,
      We're glad you're alive
      At the patriarch age
      Of ninety-five!

      Stay in there,
      And pitch good ball.
      And be a hundred,
      With no trouble at all.

      Numbers are sending Dad post cards, and you might as well join the throng. Mail them to him at 1118 East Tucker street, Fort Worth.

Home Page |  What's New |  Most Wanted |  Surnames |  Photos |  Histories |  Documents |  Cemeteries |  Places |  Dates |  Reports |  Sources