“I Am An Aunt No Longer”

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, April 9, 1912:  I was an aunt for one brief half a day yesterday, but didn’t know it until this morning. I was so disappointed when I heard it was dead. My little nephew was buried this afternoon. The baby I never saw. I feel like crying, when I think I am an aunt no longer.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I also feel like crying as I write this post, even though the birth (and death) happened a hundred year ago. It’s never easy when a baby dies.  . .

I’ll give you a bit of background information. Grandma’s oldest sister Besse was married to Curt Hester, and they lived a several miles from the Muffly farm.

Surprisingly, Grandma never mentioned her sister’s pregnancy in the diary.  There’s just this entry about the birth—and death of her nephew.

Besse only had one child who survived beyond infancy–D. Curtis. He was born in 1915.

This has been a rough April for Grandma. This is only the second death mentioned  in the fifteen months that Grandma had been keeping the diary. The first one was mentioned  just five days earlier on April 4, 1912 when a girl from her Sunday School class died.

An aside–I looked through the old microfilms of the Milton Evening Standard and could find neither the baby’s death (which didn’t surprise me) nor the friend’s death (which did surprise me). Milton is about 6 miles from McEwensville and maybe the death of a teen after a long illness just wasn’t considered important enough to put in the paper–though I have seen other McEwensville obituaries in the paper.

29 Responses

  1. Isn’t it amazing how the events of our ancestors’ lives touch us…even now? I felt like crying too! I appreciate your ‘side by side’ diary and how you relate and connect with your family.

    • You’re so right, events from our ancestors’ lives can still touch us many years later.

      Thanks for the nice note. I really enjoy doing this blog, and it’s always wonderful to hear when others especially like a post.

  2. How very sad for everyone… A sadness that reaches down the ages. What a shame the papers made no reference to either. Are there cemetery records?

    • I know that Grandma’s sister Besse and her husband Curt are buried in the Watsontown Cemetary–and that there is no grave site for an infant on their plot. I assume that the baby was buried somewhere else (maybe he was buried in McEwensville–but the grave is not located on any family plots that I’m aware of).

      Based on the diary entry, I think that the friend of Grandma’s who died probably is buried in the McEwensville Cemetery. Someday, if I find time, I may walk around the cemetery and try a find a stone for a female about 16-years-old who died on April 3, 1912.

      • It’s sad to think of little one’s graves forgotten and unmarked, isn’t it. Hope you find more about the young girl some day when time permits.

        • It is very sad–but, as you suggest, I think that it was relatively common not to mark the graves of newborns a hundred years ago.

  3. I was surprised at the depth of Helena feelings, expressed in just a few short lines — probably heightened feelings, coming so close on the death of friend that so close to her age. Right a tuff April for young Helena.

  4. Poor Helena, April hasn’t been a good month. She must have looked forward to being an aunt. Was this her first?

  5. [...] wrote that her nephew died shortly after he was born. I wondered how much infant mortality has decreased over the [...]

  6. That is surprising that you couldn’t find an obituary for the friend. I wonder why?

    • One possibility is that it was in a different paper. Milton is located about 6 miles from McEwensville. The Milton paper definitely included obituaries from McEwensville–but maybe not all.

      Watsontown is only about 3 miles from McEwensville and in 1912 there was also a paper called the Watsontown Record and Star. The obituary may have appeared in that paper, but the Record and Star is long gone and I have no idea where I might be able to find 1912 issues of it.

      For anyone who is interested, a few 1916 issues of the Watsontown Record and Star are available online on the My Watsontown site at:

      http://www.mywatsontown.com/?page_id=1243

  7. How sad…so touching…

  8. [...] routines. She’s had a rough week with two deaths—a friend died  after a long illness and her sister Besse’s son died shortly after his [...]

  9. So sad… I’ve often been very disappointed when looking for obituaries or other death records. Sometimes they don’t seem to have ever been written and sometimes they are so brief they contain little or no useful information or clues about a person’s life. When I wrote my mom’s obituary I made sure I included all kinds of pertinent information in case a future descendant comes looking for it in the newspaper some day…

    • Your mother’s descendents are lucky. Unfortunately many families apparently don’t think about what sorts of information descendents may find useful.

  10. Sheryl,

    I think I found a death record for the baby at http://www.health.state.pa.us/indices/indices%20-%20death/1912%20Death/D-12%20H-I-J.pdf

    The entry reads:

    Hester, ______; 40305; Watsontown; April 8.

    It looks like a non-certificated copy of the death record can be ordered for $3. Perhaps that might give you the information about where the child was buried.

    Information on ordering is at:

    http://www.portal.health.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/public_records/20686

    • Thanks, P J. It’s awesome to have found this. I’m going to order a copy. I’m impressed with your research skills. You’re good.

  11. [...] emotional state. This is the first time that Besse has been mentioned in the diary since the death of her newborn child in early April.  Hopefully she was doing all right. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  12. [...] not living at home. She must have made a fuss over Jimmie when she visited. In April 1912 Besse had a baby who died shortly after birth. Maybe she transferred some of her maternal feelings to her little [...]

  13. I see in the comments that you were ordering a copy of the death record of Besse’s baby. Did you ever get that? I hope you don’t think I’m being nosey, I am really interested in family history. (I watch “Who do you think you are?” all the time!)

  14. [...] in 1912, Besse had a baby that died shortly after birth. On April 9 Grandma [...]

  15. [...] also faced some difficult times. The previous year she had a baby that died shortly after birth. On April 9, 2012 Grandma [...]

  16. […] “I Am an Aunt No Longer.” In early 1911 a teenage girl named Helena Muffly started a diary that she kept until the end of 1914. Two lifetimes later her granddaughter began blogging each entry on the 100th anniversary in which it was written. The entire blog is fascinating, but this entry is especially poignant because Helena’s older sister gives birth to a baby who only lives a few hours. He’s buried before Helena even knows of his existence. What an awful day that must have been for the entire Muffly family. […]

  17. […] second baby of Besse and Curt Hester that died in infancy—they previously lost one in 1912. On April 9, 1912, Grandma […]

  18. […] Grandma’s married sister Besse recently lost a baby. The three-day-old infant died on May 23. This was her second newborn to die. She also lost a baby in 1912. […]

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