The Tragic Story of Zuma Leona Allred

Lineage:  Zuma, Andrew Jr., Andrew Sr., Thomas 1771-1858

Zuma Leona Allred was born about 1886, the daughter of Andrew Allred, Jr. and wife Disa Elizabeth Cornelius Allred.   Her tragic death resulted in a Wrongful Death Court Case in Alabama (103 Fed.55.) McGhee et al v. McCarley (Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.  May 22, 1900).

In 1893, Zuma’s father went to Texas to find work.  He left his wife, Disa Elizabeth, and their five children, the oldest 9 years old and youngest a newborn) behind in Alabama.  By late Fall it appears Andrew was settled enough to send for his family to join him.  Per court records, on December 1, 1893, Disa bought train tickets for herself and the 5 children to travel from Oneonta, Alabama to Texas (exact destination not given in the court records).

The first leg of the trip took them from Oneonta to Birmingham where they changed trains and traveled to Decatur.  There they changed trains again, but accidentally boarded the wrong train.  Disa testified the baggage master directed them to the wrong train, but the baggage master denied that saying she must have boarded the wrong train by accident.

Around sundown, the trained stopped at a little depot in Belle Mina.  By now Disa realized she was on the wrong train and the family disembarked.  The railroad agent ushered them into a small room where they could wait for the next train back to Decatur.  Unfortunately, that train was not scheduled to arrive until around midnight.

As it became dark, per court records, the rail road agent gave Disa a key and suggested she lock the door so she and the children would be safe while they waited.  Around 11:30 pm, the agent returned and knocked on the door.  When Disa unlocked and opened it, per her testimony, the agent suggested they go to another room. When she refused, he grabbed her arm and began pulling her towards the other room with intention of sexual assault.  As the struggle became more violent, Disa screamed which awakened the children.  In the darkness and very confused and frightened, little Zuma ran out of the room, probably trying to find her mother, and fell onto the tracks just as a train was rushing by.  She was instantly killed, her little body cut in half.

A full investigation followed when Disa and Andrew filed a Wrongful Death Case ($10,000 in damages) against the Rail Road and the railway agent.  However, the railway agent denied he ever assaulted Disa and produced witnesses who testified to his good character.  He also claimed his lantern was bright enough to illuminate the platform so Zuma should have been able to see the edge and the tracks below.  A witness sleeping in one of the adjoining rooms in the depot testified he did not hear any unusual noises or Disa screaming during the assault.  The engineer and fireman of the train both testified they did everything possible to stop the train in time to save the little girl.  And, finally, the baggage handler in Decatur swore he did not direct the family onto the wrong train.   The Wrongful Death Case was denied.

A devastated Disa boarded the train back to Decatur with her remaining 4 children and the body of little Zuma where they continued their trip to Texas.  Zuma’s grave has not been found.

More can be found on Zuma's tragic death and the Court Case at:

The Federal Reporter, Vol. 103, Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeals and Circuit and District Courts of the United States, pages 55 – 61;

United States Circuit Courts of Appeals Reports with Annotations, Vol. 44, (1901) pages 252-262; and

Tales of Old Blount County, Alabama by Robin Sterling, page 268.