Joseph Paul Zesut, my Great Grand Uncle, was born March 18, 1900 in what is now Poland.
I learned through documents that Joseph was born in 1900, came to the U.S.A. with his mother and siblings in 1909, briefly sidestepped the factory work his father and siblings did and worked as a fireman for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad around 1917. Unlike some of his brothers I could find no evidence of brushes with the law during prohibition.
Joseph never married and had no children.
When I first became interested in researching my Rzeszut family tree all I knew about Joseph was a story he had been mugged in upstate New York and murdered in the early 1920’s. Nobody I had spoken to knew the location or exact date of his death and I had no idea where he was buried.
My father’s German ancestors came to the U.S. in the late 1800’s and settled in New York City after a brief stay in Buffalo, NY. While researching their migration path I came across the website Old Fulton NY Postcards with scans of old NY State newspapers. I never found anything in those papers pertaining to my paternal lineage but decided to search on “Zesut” and see if anything turned up. I never expected to find anything.
What I did find was an article in the January 30, 1924 edition of the Utica Daily Press reporting on the death of Joseph Zesut.
Following is a scan of the article from that newspaper. I’ve also transcribed it as some parts can be difficult to read. Be forewarned that it is somewhat gruesome.
Utica Daily Press
January 30, 1924
Hunter Finds Body Of Man Near Tracks
Mangled Corpse of Joseph Zesut, 23, Discovered by Joseph Copia – Left Foot Cut Off At Ankle Leads To Gruesome Find.
Rome, Jan. 29 – Joseph Copia, bound for his favorite hunting ground Tuesday morning, while walking along the New York Central tracks in the western part of the city, found the left foot of a man encased in a shoe lying beside the tracks, and half a mile further the body of Joseph Zesut, 23, of 403 River St, Patterson, N.J…according to an identification card found in the man’s clothing.
BELIEVE MAN TOOK HIS OWN LIFE
Dr. H.J. Teller, Coroner, was notified and upon investigation found in a pocket a pay check of the Rome Brass and Copper Company. It was further learned that he had been employed as a helper in the plant since January 3. He boarded at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on South James Street.
Inquiry at the hotel disclosed the fact that Zesut ate his breakfast at 6am as usual. It was also learned that for a week he had been acting queerly and appeared to be suffering from melancholia or despondency. It was believed that he was slightly unbalanced.
The card which he filled out when accepting the local position given his birthplace of Glastonbury, Conn. It is believed his mother Mrs. Annie Zesut is living there and has been notified by the coroner.
It is not known whether the man was walking along the tracks or riding on a train when the tragedy occurred. A track walker under Henry Meyers and Jake Metterick who was also bound for the hunt arrived at the scene shortly after Mr. Copia made the gruesome discovery.
I made some phone calls and sent some emails to find out if any other records of this event existed in Rome, NY. A local police detective looked for Joseph in their logs and could find nothing. He indicated if a paper record still existed it was in deep storage at the local courthouse and without a case number would be virtually unfindable. The coroner’s office told me they didn’t have records going that far back and neither did the State Police or the County Sheriff’s office.
I plan on ordering a death certificate at some point but it will unfortunately not list the official cause of death because it will be a genealogical copy and not a next of kin certificate. If I could prove my lineage to Joseph I could get one with the cause but I’d need to have both Anthony and Joseph’s birth certificates from Poland. I expect to have these eventually so time will tell.
Another question I had was where was Joseph buried? I found the answer to this when I stopped by St. Augustine Catholic Church’s office in Glastonbury a few months ago. The reason I went there was because my great great grandfather Kasper Zesut’s death certificate indicated he was buried at St. Augustine’s Cemetery and I hadn’t been able to find a headstone. The more-than-helpful clerk at the church office looked through their files and found the plot cards for the Zesuts. Not only was Kasper’s plot identified but so was Joseph’s. They had question marks next to the dates because the cards had been written based on very old record books that may have been in poor condition. Regardless, I was happy to know that Joesph had made his way back to CT and was interred in the family plot with his family.