Cemeteries, Death

“Killed By The Cars”

I posted about the guided cemetery tour I took last weekend. Here’s one of the stories I learned while I toured.  I hope I’m remembering all the details accurately.   It’s an interesting tale.

“Killed By The Cars” Pic taken on 10-9-12

According to this monument, John and Electra Peer were “Killed By The Cars” on July 17, 1896.  John’s name is on one side, his wife Electra’s name is on the other.

This headstone has intrigued me for many years.  “Killed By The Cars,” what does that mean?  Henry Ford didn’t start mass producing the Model T until 1914.  Sure there were people developing cars before this, but what are the odds that this couple would have been killed by not only one, but “Cars,” plural?  Was it a typo?  Was there a family out there with the last name, “Cars?”

I FINALLY got an answer to this on Saturday night, 10-13-12.  Here is John and Electra’s story:

On July 17, 1896, John and Electra were paying their respects at the cemetery out in Novi, Michigan.

Plaque at the Novi Cemetery. Pic taken on 9-14-12

Electra had family buried there.  For those of you who have never been to this part of Michigan, there are train tracks running all over this area to this day.  The Novi Depot was located near this cemetery and some people believe that the town was named after this station.  No. VI  (Number 6)  

Anyways, people of yesteryear aren’t so different from people of today.  The story goes that John heard the train coming and didn’t want to be stuck waiting for it while it changed cars and such.  He thought it was going to be a slow moving train.  (This was before the bridge was built.)  John decided to attempt to beat the train across the tracks in his horse and buggy.

Novi Cemetery. Pic taken on 9-14-12

Unfortunately, the train was moving much faster than he had anticipated.  The horses made it to the other side.  John and Electra did not.  They were:

“Killed By The Cars.”

Railroad cars.  History is so much fun!  I’m not sure why John and Electra weren’t buried in Novi, but it’s an interesting story.

Have a great day


23 thoughts on ““Killed By The Cars””

  1. Ms. Hoffman
    Nice story and photos.
    I saw the headstone and was intrigued, as you were. You solved that for me so I don’t have to dwell on it!



  2. Who the word cars date back to the time of King Arthur cars and bones. So they died in a brutal act most like the orphan children who where living on the orphan train.
    By in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s they would ship those children around and used from farm labors.
    Go to the shoe tree it is part of the tale of what happened.
    This story gets way more darker as it goes, and that Howe tomb holds the most darkest of the darkest ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very interesting post. Many fascinating inscriptions can be found on old grave markers that can yield interesting stories, new pieces of knowledge, or good fiction fodder. Better to be killed by a railroad car than a seventies rock band…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Same type of headstone with the same inscription different couple. Found in south Lyon cemetery in south east mi. What are the odds that same thing was written on headstone for different couple. Is it possible that ‘cars’. Is an abbreviation for some sort disease?? Brian


    1. It’s the SAME couple, as this pic was taken in South Lyon Cemetery. Story was told by a local historian in the area. The Peers died while visiting the Novi Cemetery, but were buried in South Lyon. Sorry to spoil your disease theory! LOL


  5. Thank you, Juli. Visited my mother’s grave today, drove around and saw the headstone. We wondered, “Family feud between the Peers and Cars?” Certainly not two cars killed both of them. Searched for the family feuds..nothing. Then, I saw your posting. It cleared all things up. Do you know, did they have children?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing this. I was doing some research and found the same “killed by the cars” and I wondered – did he run out in traffic or was it train cars? Thanks for clearing this up for me. I guess this couple weren’t the only ones. What a horrible way to die though – trying to beat a train- and losing. It makes you think.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have just found this article. I am English and some of my ancestors emigrated to Michigan in the 19th century. From another person’s research I was told that Thomas Walter Prickett was “killed by the cars” and for ages I was puzzled by this. So thanks for clearing up this mystery. He died in Pontiac in 1841 and is buried in Drayton Plains Cemetery, Troy, Oakland County.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Glad to see this post. I was looking at a burial receipt for ancestor who died in 1874, ”killed by the cars.” Thanks.


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