William H. Cooley

Looking to buy some cotton? Cooley was your man.
Norfolk & Western compiled a list of passengers in the Thaxton train wreck and on that list was a man named W.H. Cooley from New Orleans. As was the case with all of the passengers on the train’s rear sleeper, Calmar, Cooley was uninjured.1 Outside of his hometown, which was also confirmed by the account of a fellow passenger in the Washington Post, little was written about Cooley after the wreck.

The New Orleans City Directory in 1889 and 1890 documents only one possible match for W.H. Cooley: William H. Cooley, a clerk for the cotton broker firm of Shattuck & Hoffman.2 3 4 Cooley appeared in New Orleans city directories through the year 1891 and afterward was no longer listed. So, where might he have gone? A July 4, 1889 article about the wreck in the Washington Post mentioned that Cooley had relatives in the District of Columbia and there is a William H. Cooley listed in the D.C. directories of 1892 and 1893.5 Unfortunately, that William H. Cooley was a veterinary surgeon who was already living in the city when the passenger on the train was living in New Orleans.6 Perhaps that Cooley was related to the passenger on the train, but I did not find any evidence to support it. It is unclear if the Cooley on the train moved back to Washington, DC after 1891 or if he took some other path.

Do you have more information about William H. Cooley? If you think he might have been an ancestor of yours, or if you have some additional information that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!


  1. Fourteenth Annual Report of The Railroad Commissioner of the State of Virginia, J.H. O’Bannon Superintendent of Public Printing, Richmond, VA, 1890: p. xlv. http://books.google.com/books?id=CFopAAAAYAAJ
  2. L. Soards, New Orleans City Directory, 1889, p. 258.
  3. L. Soards, New Orleans City Directory, 1890, p. 260.
  4. L. Soards, New Orleans City Directory, 1890, p. 1008.
  5. “The Story of the Wreck.”, The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), July 4, 1889, pg. 1.
  6. Washington City, District of Columbia, City Directory, 1889, pg. 137.

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