I find old obituaries to be things of beauty. Not just for research sake either; I mean yes, I love finding death dates, family members, and other pertinent information but more than any other genealogy resource Obituaries can evoke great emotion. When reading through my ancestors’ obits I have laughed and I have cried.
The first obituary that caught my attention was for my great grandfather, John Wesley Tracy. My father had been told that he died in a hunting accident. Sure enough, he did die while hunting but not as you might expect.
“While in the act of leveling his gun to shoot a rabbit in a pasture on his farm near Henderson, Saturday afternoon about 4:30 o’clock, John Wesley Tracy, 63, York county pioneer, sank to the ground and died instantly, as the result of a heart attack.”(Source: York News-Times, Monday, November 30, 1931)
Then there was this one for John Wesley Tracy’s son Ray, that brought tears to my eyes.
“A sad accident occurred at the home of Wesley Tracey on Thursday evening. Mr. Tracey’s little 3-year-old boy was lying asleep on the floor near the cupboard, when the little girl climbed up to the cupboard to get a book. In some way a bottle of carbolic acid was knocked down and broken, the contents going on the little boy’s head and running into his ears. The little sufferer lived only fifteen minutes after the accident. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Little children surely die in the Lord. Mr Tracey and family have the sympathy of all in their sad bereavement.” (Source: The York Republican, Wednesday, October, 11, 1905)
Another strange death in the family, this time on my mom’s side, warranted at least three obituaries in the local papers.
“Mrs. Parmenter, one of Marion’s oldest and most highly respected residents, had passed to the unknown beyond. Her death occurred at an early hour this morning, and was, no doubt, wholly accidental, her remains having been discovered in a barrel filled with rain water, half sunk beneath the surface of the ground.”(Source: Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, May 2, 1895
“Mrs. Maria Parmenter, who has been a resident of Marion for a period of forty years, was found drowned in a rain barrel at 4 o’clock this morning. …Mrs. Parmenter was restless of nights, and would arise from her bed and go about the house seemingly in the discharge of some trivial tasks, and it is thought she went to clean out the rain barrel and while leaning over was seized with heart failure. Her head was found resting on the bottom of the barrel in about nine inches of water.” (Source: Marion Sentinel, Vol.2, Aug 17, 1893-April 23, 1896)
Then there are many that just have a unique way of putting things. As in the obituary of Adelbert Brown.
“the only surviving veteran of the Grand Army in Brown Twp., was honorably discharged from life’s warfare by the Great Commander…” “…He had been a faithful soldier in all of life’s conflicts, and the testimony of all who knew him was to his loyalty and devotion to every duty which life placed upon him.” (Source: Cedar Rapids Gazette, 1935)
And Michael H. Moses and then his wife Catherine Riddle Moses.
“Bro. Moses will be missed for he was good exemplary citizen, a very pleasant and respectable neighbor, a loving lovable and kind father and husband, and a faithful christian man. But three weeks ago he was in church and took communion. Let not our hearts be troubled, and mourn the departure of this noble man but rather thank God that we had in him such an example.” (The Lisbon Herald, Aug 9, 1906)
“…The fast failing body was tenderly nursed, until she fell asleep in Christ, and the Angel Reaper gathered her as a sheaf ripened for the harvest.” (Same as above)
And there is this one for Marshall Parmenter;
“”God’s finger touched him and he slept”, became true last Thursday at 3 a.m. when the body that had borne pain for so many years was released from further suffering. …Last winter in his own home his mind grasped a conclusion which it had failed to seize in earlier years. Consciously, frankly, and with glad tears he recorded himself as on the side of Christ and desired to be henceforth known as an humble follower of the Savior. Since that hour his expressed trust has been in, not words, not good deeds, but in Jesus Christ, and in that faith he died.” (Marion Sentinel, Dec 25, 1890-Aug 10, 1893)
For Mrs. Mabel Richard Moses “…the hand of death gently but firmly drew her gradually into the better world beyond. (The Lisbon Herald, July 9, 1914 Issue)
For Mrs. Isaac Moses it was said, “Death in taking this mother left five children among them a little Miss and little Master to grow without a mother’s care and love and deprived a husband of a faithful loving wife.” and “Her 50 years found her robust and healthy but when the fiftieth was turned the physical began to wane and gradually disease so filled her tired body that it could no longer endure its ravishings and finally broke and gave freedom to the spirit which had manifested a knowledge of God and was ready to depart and associate with Him.” (The Lisbon Herald, Jan. 7, 1904 issue)
Lastly, there are those obituaries that express sentiments that I might wish to have said of me when I die.
Maria A Tracy Forbes (my great great grandmother) had said of her, “To her death had no terrors, and with a strong faith in Him she had served for years she passed away. Mrs. Tracy was an exceptionally kind and loving wife and mother.” (York Republican, Wednesday, March 28, 1906)
When Mrs. Maria Tracy’s husband, John Edward Tracy died 12 years earlier, much good was said of him in several obituaries in all the local papers. The York Daily Times said on April 30, 1896; “Although his years were many, his enemies were few, as his long life has been spent at peace with all.” On the same day, the York Democrat said, “…the name has always been a synonym for honesty, integrity and good citizenship. No family in all this fair country from where the rising sun first kisses the summits of the Alleghanies to the sunset side, where the river of crumbling banks guards her western borders, has a prouder heritage than the Tracy’s.” and “His whole life has been a benediction to all who have moved within the circle of his influence. His purity of life and nobility of character are a priceless heritage to the dear ones left behind. As a friend he was true and sincere, as a husband consistant and devotional, as a father loving and patient and as a neighbor generous and hospitable.”
The Cedar Rapids Gazette in 1935 said of Adelbert Brown, “…had been a man of great vigor during all of his long life, his strength and endurance being remarkable. Added to this he was known as one of the kindliest of men. His thought was for others always, and he had a faculty of seeing the good in everyone; which endeared him to all who knew him.”
And the one I would most like to hear about myself was written about Margaret Gillian Brown (Adelbert’s wife). “She loved her home and made it a haven wherein her husband, children and all who came, found peace, and comfort. She was always glad to help a neighbor and many are those who remember her kindness. She might well have said with St. Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished my course. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.””(Cedar Rapids Gazette, 1932)