Three-Year-Old Nettie Delaney Dies In A Horrific Accident & A Homeless Man Performs A Selfless Gesture – 1904
A kind act can transcend time. When researching our previous story about Times Square this tragic, but touching story was found.
Combining accounts from The New York Tribune, The New York Herald and The New York Times, this is what happened on August 31, 1904:
POOR, BUT A GENTLEMAN
With His Only Coat He Taught the Morbid a Lesson.
Nettie Delaney, three and a half years old, of 14 West One Hundred and Thirty-Third Street, was run over and killed almost in front of her own home yesterday afternoon by a horse drawn heavy truck carrying stone.
Every day, it is said, trucks drive rapidly westward through 133rd Street on their way to stables, and children several times have narrowly escaped being run down.
Just west of Fifth Avenue and leading a caravan of three stone trucks, Alphonso Greer of 137 Morris Street, the driver of the truck, in order to pass two furniture vans, had to turn to the north side of the street. He did not see the child running across the street until she was directly under the horses feet, and it was then too late to stop the horses.
The heavy wheels passed over the child’s head, crushing it badly.
A menacing crowd gathered quickly. Greer whipped up his horses to try and get away, but several men grabbed the bridles and refused to allow him to proceed. He probably would have been handled roughly but for the timely arrival of policeman Farley. He arrested Greer and took him to the East One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth-Street police station. A charge of homicide was made.
Keeps The Morbidly Curious From Gazing
Somebody carried the little girl’s body into a drug store a few doors away at Fifth Avenue and 133rd Street and put it on the floor. A crowd of men, women, and children crowded into the store spilling out to the doorway to view the child. Then a young man about twenty-one years old, evidently a laborer from his dress, stepped from the crowd, and, removing his coat. spread it tenderly over the mangled face of the dead child, hiding it from the gaze of the morbidly curious. Then, without a word, he turned and left the store.
About an hour later after the accident the young man, in his shirt sleeves, walked into the police Station where the body had been taken. He told the Sergeant that he would Ike to have his coat if they were quite through with it.
“It is the only one I have,” he said, “and as I have no job just now I sleep wherever I can and use the coat for a pillow.”
The young man was asked to give his name and address. He declined to give his name, and said that he had no home at present. The policemen were touched by his act, and the Sergeant made up a small purse for him. He was at first inclined to refuse the gift, but the Sergeant insisted, and he left with his coat and enough money to procure food and shelter for several days.
If Greer was convicted of homicide there is no online record that can be found. In 1910 the U.S. census lists the 26-year-old Greer working in New Hampshire as a laborer at a brickyard. That is the last known fact about Greer.
Unfortunately the name of this virtuous young man performing an act of decency is lost to posterity forever. Modesty aside, maybe if he later had a family, he shared this story with them.