1924: The Death Of Joseph Zesut

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.

1924 - Joseph Zesut Utica Press Article

SOURCE: Utica Daily Press, Oneida County, NY, Wednesday Edition, 1/30/1924, Front Page, Daily, http://www.fultonhistory.com , Accessed Fall 2007.
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.


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.


Zesut Family Plot Marker - St. Augustine Cemetery

7 Responses to “1924: The Death Of Joseph Zesut”

  1. Carol Thibeault Says:

    This is so sad. Such a young man. I hope that some day we find out exactly what happened.

  2. Lenora Thibeault Says:

    Joseph’s horrible demise is a terrible shame. Newspaper reporting was as bad then as it is now. Just conjecture. What does “acting queerly” mean? I guess we’ll never know, but if anyone can find out, it’ll be you. The research you’re doing and the info you’re uncovering just amazes and astounds me! I’m really looking forward so much to our meeting. Can’t wait to meet some more Zesuts and see those I haven’t seen in such a long time. See you then.

  3. wrannej Says:

    I’ve seen the phrase “acting queerly” many times in newspapers from the early 1900’s – it’s typically used when describing someone’s behavior prior to a suicide. I’ve also seen the behavior called “deranged”. Have also seen it used to describe rabid dogs.

    Unfortunately there were no follow-up articles regarding the incident – nothing I could find in the Hartford Courant or Times either.

  4. Lenora Thibeault Says:

    I realize the phrase meant he was behaving in an unusual way, but I wonder just what he was doing to elicit such an observation. Who was interviewed for this article? (rhetorical question) Wish I’d paid more attention when I was a kid.

  5. Toni (Thibeault) Barrett Says:

    Hi Elliot,
    This is so awful it has caused me to cry. I can’t imagine how poor Anna felt, it must have haunted her for the rest of her life. I don’t think I ever remember anyone ever bringing the subject of Joseph up while I was a kid. Although my mother, her sisters and her mother would speak Polish whenever they got together so who knows what they were talking about. Life sure hands out some pretty hard things to deal with. I really don’t believe he committed suicide, I think it was just their way of closing the case so they wouldn’t have to investigate it further. It is more likely it was an accident. And if he was mugged he wouldn’t have had his pay check still left in his pocket.

    The information about Kasper is also incredible. It is a good lesson for making a will. Have you come across any other documents that Anna may have signed? It is something to think she couldn’t sign her name and only placed an X on the death certificate.
    Are there any papers like these on Anthony Zesut also? Did he leave a will? Or is that next?

    What a find and good investigating on your part. I worked at the Ct. Library for a year and did look for the Rzeszut family but really didn’t know where to start or who to question so I never found anything except some names in a very large book they had there. Plus I never had time to get any other information. I really liked that place, it is fantastic. Thank you for all you are doing. I feel like I have new family members that I know.

    Aunt Toni

  6. wrannej Says:

    Unfortunately the Probate documents aren’t indexed past 1920 so when you request them they end up searching by name only. When I asked for Kasper’s I also asked for Joseph’s and Anthony’s. They told me they didn’t find any for either of them. I saw both Joe and Antony’s names in the Glastonbury Land Records as “Estate Of” so I imagine there had to have been some legal documents. I also later remembered that Anthony’s widow Victoria spelled her last name “Rzesut” and didn’t shorten it to Zesut…so maybe I need to have them look for Anthony Rzesut instead of Anthony Zesut.

    I’m really amazed at what the CT State Library has to offer. Every time I go there I find something new.

  7. Łukasz Rzeszut Says:

    They was my family

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