Collection Spotlight: Marquette County Coroner’s Reports

We recently finished indexing our Marquette County Coroner’s Reports, making them far more accessible and easier to search. They run from 1872 and through 1986. The reports were produced for murders or suspicious deaths, as well as for suicides, mining and other industrial accidents, and sudden illnesses.

Here are a selection of some of the coroner’s reports:

Coroners--Mining

The most typical type of coroner’s report: a mining accident. Joseph Maletto died due to a fall of ground in the Lake Superior Mine in Ishpeming on August 12, 1898.

Coroners--Drowning

Another typical coroner’s report: Michael Fitzgerald fell from the ore dock and drowned.

Coroners--Telephone

This report from 1900 is the first mention of someone dying by electrocution in Marquette County, in this case due to a telephone wire.

Coroners--Murder

Here we have one of the rarest forms of coroner’s reports: a murder. The middle line was obscured by a fold in the paper, but the full cause of death reads that Harrison Howard came to his death “by blows struck by a rock in the hands of Jacob Brown and delivered by him which caused the death of Harrison Howard.”

The coroner’s reports often also contains transcripts of testimonies and autopsies. Here is the first page of the testimony for the Harrison Howard case:

Coroners--Murder-2

The testimonies go on to reveal that Harrison was a crippled salesman traveling with Jacob and John Brown, a father and son from Ohio looking for work in the UP. Harrison mentioned how much money he had in the bank to Jacob Brown ($350) and showed him his certificate that would allow him to withdraw the money. Jacob then killed him on the side of the road in the middle of  a stormy night. Jacob threatened to kill his sixteen year old son John as well, but did not. John eventually made his way to the police and told them what had occurred.

The coroner’s reports are obviously of use to genealogists. However, they are also a rich mine of information about life in Marquette County throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The index gives a brief description of the cause of death for each person, so you can search it by exact name or by type of death. They are also just fascinating to look at, and they are all open to the public! You can stop in and look at them at any time. (Note: we keep them at our off-site storage location, so we will need up to 24 hour’s notice to pull a report).

The Coroner’s Index can be accessed on the Genealogical Resources page on our website. To learn more about the coroner’s reports, or other collections that we possess, e-mail us at archives@nmu.edu or come in Monday through Friday from 8 AM-5 PM.

Written by Annika Peterson

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