Who is Cornelia Kidd, and why is she writing Lea Wait’s Books?

Lea Wait, here. And it’s June 12 — launch day for Death and a Pot of Chowder, the first in my Maine Murder Mystery series. And, yes, it’s written by Cornelia Kidd.

There are many reasons an author writes under more than one name. That’s really the subject of another blog. (Hint: it’s usually the publisher’s decision.) But in this case, a special story goes along with my change of name.

Because Cornelia Kidd was my father’s mother.

Born in 1876, in Montgomery, New York, a farming community in Orange County, north of New York City along the Hudson River, in 1897 Cornelia married George Wait, a well-to-do local farmer. She was twenty-one and he was forty-three. They lived on his farm on the Walden Road, and by 1911 she had given birth to three children. Her second child, Thomas, had died.

Cornelia Kidd

On the evening of August 18, 1911, Cornelia and her husband and their two remaining children, Helen, aged thirteen, and George, who was three, got in their automobile to drive to Walden to hear the band concert.

According to The New York Times, “their automobile was struck by a train on the Wallkill Valley Railroad … about two miles from Montgomery, where there is a sharp curve. It was dark when the machine approached the crossing. Mr. Wait was driving about fifteen miles an hour up the slight incline to the track, and apparently did not hear the train approaching. The automobile was squarely upon the tracks when it was hit.”

Both children were thrown about twenty feet from the track, and sustained numerous cuts and bruises, but survived. Cornelia was thrown in front of the train, which ran over her. Her husband’s body was found under the wrecked automobile.

In 1911 automobiles were relatively new, and no signals marked where roads crossed railroad tracks. (During the following four years three other people died in similar accidents in the same location.) The Times also reported that during the three previous months several serious auto accidents had taken place at other crossings near New York City.

If such an accident happened today the area would quickly be swarming with police, ambulances and tow trucks, along with investigators. What happened in 1911?

According, again, to the Times, “The train was quickly stopped and the crew and passengers ran back. As they approached the crossing they heard the crying of children and found them at the side of the track. Not far away was the mangled body of Mrs. Wait. At the side of the crossing was the smashed automobile and underneath it the body of Mr. Wait. The train was run to Walden with the bodies and the children.”

Cornelia’s three-year old son, George, was my father. His sister, Helen, was taken in by their Uncle Charles, but no one in the family wanted George, so another uncle rented the family’s farm to an assortment of different people during the next fifteen years, on the condition that they also take care of George. That, too, is another story.

But when I was asked by my new publisher, Crooked Lane, to choose a pseudonym, I decided to honor the grandmother I had never met, and use her name for The Maine Murder Series. I know more about how Cornelia died than about how she lived, but these books are a tribute to her.

If you’d like to find out more about Death and a Pot of Chowder, I’ll also be launching Cornelia’s first book with three other Crooked Lane authors — Eva Gates, J.G. Hetherton and R.J. Koreto — on a special Facebook page (CLB June 12 Launch) today. I’ll be there from 2 until 3 p.m. and from 6 until 7 p.m. Giveaways, sneak peaks, quizzes — and I’d be happy to answer any questions. See you there!

About Lea Wait

I write mysteries - the Mainely Needlepoint, Shadows Antique Print and, coming in June of 2018, the Maine Murder mysteries (under the name Cornelia Kidd.) When I was single I was an adoption advocate and adopted my four daughters. Now my mysteries and novels for young people are about people searching for love, acceptance, and a place to call home. My website is http://www.leawait.com To be on my mailing list, send me a note at leawait@roadrunner.com
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14 Responses to Who is Cornelia Kidd, and why is she writing Lea Wait’s Books?

  1. hpl04943 says:

    What a great way to honor her. Best of luck with the launch.
    John Clark

  2. kaitlynkathy says:

    Congrats on the new series, Lea. I’ll be downloading the book later today. Fascinating story, too, especially since I know the place where that accident happened. I lived in Walden three summers during college because my parents had moved there right after I graduated from high school.

    • Lea Wait says:

      Strange coincidences …. ! Hope you enjoy the book! I found the NY Times story fascinating .. it didn’t exactly reflect the family version of the story (which was a bit cleaned up,) but fun to think of a time when a car hit by a train was a new problem, so got a lot of publicity.

  3. Brenda Buchanan says:

    That is one intense story, Lea. I think it is good that you are honoring your grandmother, whose death (and your grandfather’s as well) was a real tragedy. I do want to know your Dad’s story, growing up on that farm with non-relatives. Congratulations on Death and a Pot of Chowder. I look forward to reading it!

  4. bethc2015 says:

    What a sad personal story while at the same time a fascinating bit of history. My guess is that you get some of your your courage, determination, and resourcefulness from your father. He must have been quite a person to deal with all that tragedy. Thanks for sharing this story and good luck with you book launch.

  5. Lea Wait says:

    Thank you, Beth!

  6. Barbara Ross says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to read Death and a Pot of Chowder, and I can honestly say readers are in for a treat!

  7. Donna says:

    I LOVED your book “Death and a Pot of Chowder”!!!.
    I have read hundreds of cozy mysteries and this was one of the best I’ve ever read…
    Loved the characters and how some of the main characters were genuine, flaws and all… And the plot was intriguing along with the sub plots.
    When is next book?!?…CAN’T WAIT

  8. Anonymous says:

    loved death and a pot of chowder…hurry and give us the next one.

  9. Jeanne Powers says:

    I am loving Death and a Pot of Chowder; I always expect a quality book from you, but this one is exceptional in the level of characterization and the life of a fisherfolk.

    As for this post, I work at a public library and had a request to locate some newspaper articles. There was a family tragedy similar to the one that befell your grandparents in which multiple members of a family were killed by a train– don’t recall the year– but just about a year later, more members of the same family were killed by a train at the same crossing where the first accident occurred. It was a known dangerous crossing but there were at that time no warnings.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Just “found” Death and a Pot of Chowder. I always enjoy your book so know this will be no exception. Are there others to the series?

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