A Family Torn Asunder

WP Belt DeathEmily Walker Norvell,  the daughter of Major Edwin Forrest Norvell and Margaretta Smith Norvell,  was born March 8, 1871 in Michigan. On May 15, 1899, she married Dr. Edward Oliver Belt, a noted professor of ophthalmology and otology at Howard University,  one of the leading ophthalmologists and ontologists of the District of Columbia.

The family was wracked with tragedy in 1906 when Dr. Edward Oliver Belt and his two sons, Edward and Sinclair, died in a train crash.

Here is the story as reported in the Washington Post February 12 1906


Many of the victims in the great Baltimore and Ohio Railway disaster were residents of this city, and hundreds of the people of Washington had acquaintances among the passengers on the Ill-fated train. In no other household did death reap so great a harvest as in that of Dr. Edward Oliver Belt, a prominent occultist, of 816 Connecticut avenue, who, with, his two little sons, was returning from a visit to his brother, McGill Belt, at Frederick, Md.

Dr. Belt and his older son, Edward, were instantly killed, and the younger boy, Sinclair, five years old, died later at the hospital.  Dr. Belt leaves a wife, who was Miss Emily Norvell, of this city, and a three-year-old son, Norvell, who was confined to his bed with a broken leg.

Alarmed for the safety of her husband and little ones, Mrs. Belt summoned Dr. Morton Griffith, a personal friend of Dr. Belt, who, like him, had an office at The Farragut. Dr. Griffith readily identified the body of little Edward, but it was not till the morning was far advanced that he recognized among the charred and battered remains at the morgue the body of his friend.  As soon as the news of the accident reached Frederick. Md., Dr. Belt’s brother turned to this city and joined Dr. Griffith in his frenzied search for the physician’s body.

Dr. Belt Prominent in Profession.

Dr. Belt was forty-five years old. From his graduation from the medical school of the University of Maryland In 1885, he rose rapidly in the ranks of his profession.  For three years he was attached to the Presbyterian Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital in Baltimore, and later practiced In his old home town Frederick, Md. Dr Belt’s widow is completely prostrated with grief.

Emily Norvell Belt  died  in1952 in Maryland, where she was living with her son  Norvell Belt.  He had a broken leg the day of the accident.   Thus, he missed the deadly and fateful train trip with his father and brothers that long ago day in 1906.

Norvell Belt died of old age  in 1983.

About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in American History, Detroit, Detroit History, Family History, Genealogy, Internet genealogy, Michigan History, Washington DC and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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