Thursday, November 30, 2006

Another Death On The Rails

Homer L. Skinner was born in 1883, one of 12 children of Perry Scott and Emily Jane (Posey) Skinner. Homer and his wife Bessie (Riffle) had six children, Lester, Mildred, Beulah, Warren, Earl and Kenna.

Twenty-some years after this photo was taken, Homer was killed taking a shortcut through the railroad tunnel at Copen1. John Burgett tells us that the tunnels that are cut through the hills are carved out of the rock to the dimensions of railroad cars. There is no, absolutely no, room between the cars and the walls of the tunnel. Inside the tunnels there are alcoves carved into the stone, just barely deep enough for a man to flatten himself into if he's surprised by a train. Since the tunnels are shaped so tightly around the cars, those alcoves are a man's only hope. Those of us who whose closest contact with trains is sitting in our cars waiting for the train to pass can't imagine the unforgiving might of a train moving through those narrow stone tunnels.

His obituary2 tells us Homer was struck in the Copen Tunnel by a B & O train February 21, 1923. We also learn that he wasn't immediately killed but was taken to the Buckhannon Hospital (the only hospital in the region at that time) barely alive. He died within three hours of reaching the hospital.

His widow Bessie later married William McPherson, a brother of Dee, Frank and Tom McPherson of Burnsville.

Click on this image of Homer Skinner's death certificate to enlarge it.

To the right is another photo of Homer, taken about the same time as the one above. Left to right are Earse "Pid" Henline, and Homer Skinner standing, and Charlie Ratliff and Coy "Frank" Henline seated.

1. There is a tunnel at the end of the Clover Fork leg of the B & O's line, where it passes from the Little Kanawha River watershed into the West Fork of the Monongahela River watershed. Likewise, there is a tunnel at Copen where the line passes from the Little Kanawha River watershed to the Kanawha River watershed.

2. David Parmer has a copy of Homer L. Skinner's obituary. These photos are also from his collection.


  1. This is my grandfather, thank you who ever posted this

  2. Bernadette Skinner-HartsoughFriday, August 07, 2009

    Homer was not the child of Abigail and Stuart. Bessie Riffle, his wife, was the child of Abigail and Stuart. I believe Homer's parents were Perry S. Skinner and Emma J. Posey.
    Warren Lambert Skinner was one of Homer's sons. Warren was my father. It is nice to see Grandpa Homer remembered.
    Bernadette Skinner-Hartsough

  3. Bernadette, I've made the correction about Homer's parents in the text of this entry. Thanks for bringing my attention to the oversight. If you can give us the data of Homer's siblings, we'll get them into the records. Please send them to