Thursday, February 17, 2011

Further Information on the Mary Whiteman Story

Here is an (almost) instant update on the story just posted about the 1866 death of Mrs. Mary Moore Whiteman. In that post, I noted that I had not found any other references to the horrific events of  November 25, 1866, other than the one paragraph linked to in the post. Well, someone else did find another reference to it, and it helps to fill in some of the blanks left from the first story. A reader of this blog, Donna Peters, forwarded to me a story that appeared in the December 4, 1866 issue of the Village Record, which I believe was out of West Chester, PA. Here is how they told the story:

ACCIDENT DISTRESSING ACCIDENT - TWO PERSONS BURNED TO DEATH. - On last Sabbath evening, about half past seven o'clock, while Mr. JACKSON WHITEMAN , of Mill Creek Hundred, Delaware, was at meeting in Ebenezer Church, his wife attempted to fill a coal oil lamp which was lighted from a vessel containing nearly two gallons of oil, when the blaze from the lamp flashed into the can causing it to explode, enveloping her in one sheet of flame. She called to her sister, a little girl of about twelve years of age, to save her babe. The little girl ran upstairs with the child and laid it on a bed, returning in a moment with the babe to the stairs, she found them in a flame. She ran down the other stairway with the child and ran to Mr. John Ballyabout two hundred yards distant and told him her sister was burned to death. He immediately ran to the house, threw open the door, the room being full of smoke, waiting a moment for some to escape, he then threw several buckets of water on the place from which the smoke seemed to proceed, and soon all was darkness. He called and no one answered; returned to his own house to procure a light when sad to relate he found the body of the oldest child, a boy of four years, lying on the floor much burned and disfigured; he lived about an hour. Upon the stairway lay the body of the mother burnt to a crisp. The babe was considerably burnt about the head and recovery is doubtful. Had her sister not been there to give the alarm, the house and contents would all have burned together.
There are a few revelations I'd like to address in this more comprehensive account. First, we now know why Andrew J. Whiteman was not home when the incident occurred -- he was at a church meeting at nearby Ebenezer Methodist. Second, we now know who the heroic neighbor was who saved the house, even if he was unable to save Mrs. Whiteman or her children. Well, we sort of do. I haven't seen the original of this article, but I'm sure the name "Ballyabout" is just an OCR error. That probably leaves us with "John Ball, about two hundred yards distant". The only John Ball I can find in MCH lived in Milltown, and was the father of future Senator (and future post topic) Lewis Heisler Ball. There is a J. Ball listed as the owner of a house on Polly Drummond Hill Road, just south of Ebenezer Church, but I don't know if this is the same person. This house, though, is further than two hundred yards away. If the distance is reliable, there are two houses on the 1868 Beers map within this distance. One is John Cloud's house, southwest of the A.J. Whiteman house. (This is, of course, assuming that A.J.'s house was there in 1866, which I am no longer as sure of. I may have to revisit the whole Whiteman houses subject sometime.) The other nearby house was one owned by William Bell, which stood on the northwest corner of Paper Mill and Smith Mill Roads. The firefighting neighbor may have been a tenant in this house.

Andrew Jackson Whiteman, about 1914

Another loose end that this account clears up (again, sort of) is the identity of the sister who rescues the baby and fetches the neighbor. I had speculated before that it might have been Susanna Moore, the soon-to-be second Mrs. A.J. Whiteman. The Village Record story states that the sister was twelve years old, which, you would think, would tell us exactly who it was. As it turns out, though, Mary Moore Whiteman had two twelve year old sisters at the time -- twins Ida and Eva (who also went by Emma). While there is no way to know which one it was, I can give you a quick side note on each. Eva (or Emma) later married William Chandler, son of Abram Chandler, a miller in Milltown. Ida would, in 1889, marry William Little, and the following year give birth to a daughter named Lora. Lora would be a teacher in Stanton for many years, and would later have the former Lora Little Elementary School named for her. [Irrelevant side note: I went there for its last two years.]

Finally, this longer story of the tragedy seems to tie up one final, sad loose end. As noted in the first post, I could not find any sure evidence of the existence of the baby in the 1870 or later censuses -- certainly not with its father and step-mother/aunt. This story seems to imply that the baby's survival was not likely. This would sadly explain why I was unable to locate it.

I want to thank Donna Peters again for sending this article to me to share (she is a descendant of several major families in the area, and has sent other very interesting information to me. At some point I'll have a post with more details about an already-mentioned, fascinating MCH resident.). If anyone else ever finds any additional information about any post, please feel free to share it, either through the comments section or directly to me via email. I can pretty much guarantee that anything you find interesting, someone else will, too. (Not least of all, me!)

New information added 7/25/11:
Thanks to further information from another descendant of several local families, we now may be able to fill in some of the final holes in this story. Andrew J. Whiteman and Mary E. Moore were married at Ebenezer Church in 1860, in a union that would see far too much tragedy. First, Mary gave birth to twins in September 1861, but they sadly died the same day (maybe stillborn?). In January 1864, the Whitemans welcomed a son, Achliff (Cliff) R. Whiteman. It was Cliff who died in the fire with his mother that November night. Somehow, it feels good to finally be able to give him a name.

The injured "babe" in the story was Essie Mae Whiteman, born in May 30, 1866. That would have made her six months old at the time of the fire. It seems she did, in fact, survive the fire and its aftermath, but died a year later, in December 1867. One can only imagine that it may have been from complications relating to the tragedy the year before.

Finally, we now know when Andrew remarried, to Mary's sister Susannah Moore. It was in April 1870, and they would go on to have five children: Arthur, Bertha, Jesse, Irma, and Edwin. Finally, this information looks like it puts the final pieces and names into place for this story. Thanks again to the contributor for giving these poor children names at last.

1 comment:

  1. I've added some new information to this post, including, finally, the names of the Whiteman children. I think this may finally plug the remaining holes, and put this story to rest. See the last three paragraphs above.