October 12, 1929: Fatal Gun Accident Destroys Family


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA

October 12, 1929: Tragedy swooped down upon a happy rural home in Frederick Township and snuffed out one small life and left a broken-hearted, remorseful brother, eight other grieving siblings, and two devastated parents.

Six-year-old Thomas Heimbach had found a shotgun behind the kitchen door and picked it up. As he was walking across the floor with it, the gun discharged and the entire load hit his 13-year-old sister Mildred in back of her left ear, tearing away the entire rear of her head. Death was instantaneous.

The father had placed the shotgun in readiness to get a hawk seen hovering over their chicken house, and had intended to put it away before the children got home from school. Busy working in the barn, he lost track of time. The coroner made an immediate investigation and declared that the shooting was purely accidental.

A daughter, three-year-old Beulah, is the only sibling still alive, at the age of 91. It is reported that little Tommy suffered remorse the rest of his life for this tragic moment.

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