I need to take a moment here and give a big thumbs up to the Wyoming State Archives, particularly Wanda (a research volunteer). I sent an email on Monday (11/7) to see if Louis' death certificate existed, and the cost to obtain a copy. In less than 48 hours, I had a digital copy of the death certificate in my inbox with a note from Wanda stating that she had also looked for a newspaper article about Louis' death (more on that in a minute), but wasn't able to find one. The best part? NO CHARGE FOR THE CERTIFICATE! We now refer to Wanda as "Ms. Awesome" in my house.
Okay, back to regularly-scheduled programming ...
So this isn't as much of an "update" as I hoped. Louis' death certificate shows his birth date as 17 Sept 1877. Ten years before any other mention of his birth. It is obviously wrong because he is listed as being 35 years old. If he had been born in 1877, he would have been 45 years old. Clearly, this is not a big help as far as narrowing down his birth date is concerned.
However, now that I know his date of death, I can (hopefully) locate his obituary.
You'll notice that his cause of death is "fracture at base of skull caused by truck overturning." Here's the story I was told by my grand aunt, Josephine -- Aunt Jo -- (Louis' daughter) before she died in 2009 [she would have been 5 years old at the time of his death]:
The truck did not belong to Dad, it belonged to a neighboring homesteader. Still another neighbor wanted to ride along. The trucks in that era did not have cabs wide enough for three men so Dad rode on the back. Grandma Lanctot [Eliza Bourke] had filed for homestead land and time was running out for her to get her house built. Dad had been over and dug the basement on her land and the lumber was to build her house. I don't know if anyone ever told her the lumber was for her house. The cause of the accident -- they came around a curve in the road and met a car with bright lights which blinded the truck driver. They thought Dad tried to jump and his coattail caught on the lumber and threw him under. His neck was broken and the hub of the wheel rested on his temple.Obviously, her facts were a little skewed, but she had the general idea of how he was killed. This is the first ancestor I've run across who did not die of natural causes -- and it makes me a little sad. He was so young. My grandfather was only 15 months old when his father died. He never got to know him. I wonder if that's what caused him to be such a wonderful father and grandfather?
In any case, there is also an address listed for Louis' place of death on the certificate. I Googled 1249 East 2nd Street, Casper, Wyoming, expecting to see a little grassy area or some farm land. No. It's the Wyoming Medical Center. Apparently folks weren't real keen on following directions back in the day. See the little blurb about "if death occurred in a Hospital or Institution give its NAME instead of street and number?" I rest my case. So it appears that one of two things happened: (1) he died on the scene and was pronounced dead after he got to the hospital; or (2) he lived for a very brief time and died at the hospital. In either case, I get some comfort in the thought that his pain was not prolonged.
So ... off to find more sources for a birth date. Again.