Grandpap Died

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

Monday, November 17, 1913: Mother went to Turbotville this morning. I kept house while she was gone. She returned with sad news. Grandpap died this morning.

John Derr (Photo taken: circa 1900)
Grandma’s Grandfather: John Derr (Photo taken: circa 1900)

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


It’s hard to lose a grandparent.

Was your grandfather ill for a long time or was the death sudden? According to family records, he was born on July 16, 1823, so he was 90 years old.

You’re occasionally mentioned making trips to Turbotville to visit relatives, but never specifically mentioned your grandfather.

My thoughts are with you and your mother.

Take care.

52 thoughts on “Grandpap Died

    1. It may be the way teens think and express themselves. She stated it in a very matter-of-fact way, but noted that it was sad news which makes me think that there had seen some hope that he’d survive.

  1. I don’t comment enough on how extraordinary your site is. (but you know I’m here reading) So many of us out here would love to have this much data on our families. Always a great job, Sheryl.

  2. Aw.. what a sad time for the family. Living to be 90 in that era was rare (as Sharon noted). I, too, think it’s wonderful that you have a photo of Grandpap.

    1. I’m also glad that I have the photo. I’m probably not going to word this quite right, but somehow being able to see what he looked like makes him seem more real to me.

    1. Your exactly right–I wish that she’d described more about what she was thinking and feeling. I suppose teens sometimes find it difficult to put their feelings about the passing of a loved one into words.

    1. It sure does. I only work a few days ahead on the posts. Since this was one of the big events in the diary, I remembered it from when I read the entire diary several years ago, but I hadn’t remembered exactly when it occurred–and somehow it really took me off guard when I reached this diary entry.

  3. I’m impressed to learn he was in his 90’s. He must have been pretty tough. Your Grandmother certainly was frugal with her writing. Still it is so neat to see what her life was like. I wonder what she would think if she know a hundred years later others would read and comment on her words?

    1. I hope that she’d be pleased. I like to imagine that, in her quiet way, she’d have a little smile on her face if she knew we were reading her words and commenting.

    1. I keep looking at the photo and try to see if I can see any similarities between his facial characteristics and the characteristics of some of his descendents. Sometimes I think that if he didn’t have the beard, that he’d look very similar to some of his descendents–but it might just be my imagination.

    1. I’ve also wondered a lot about his health. Since Grandma never mentioned him by name in the diary prior to this entry, part of me thinks that he may have been in poor health for awhile–but another part of me really wishes that he’d been in good health until the very end.

  4. How fortunate to have a picture of your 2nd-great-grandfather, and to know that he spoke with your grandmother and she spoke to you… Wondering what bits of wisdom or sayings may have come down from him to you…

    1. That’s a really interesting thought. I had never thought about it, but I bet you’re right that some bits of wisdom get carried over from one generation to the next. He was a farmer in his younger years–and all of the intervening generations between him and me were part of farm families. I wonder if some old wives tales about the weather or agriculture might have gotten passed down.

  5. This diary entry must bring you even closer to feeling the real lives of your grandparents and theirs. The photo is wonderful and even though your Grandma does not elaborate and we don’t know if she was close to her “Grandpap”,we can read between the lines.

    1. Yes, I agree with doranrule. To learn this news in “real time” (for Helena) must also resonate with you, too, as you time travel. I like that you wrote your sympathy note to your grandmother as if she could hear you then as well as now.

      1. Somehow this diary entry hit me really hard. I obviously didn’t know my great great grandfather (and it happened a hundred years ago), but it makes me think about the linkages across time and generations.

  6. Was your grandmother taciturn when you knew here, Sheryl? Some people just don’t like to write and I wonder if she was a woman of few words in general or just in her diary.

    1. She was a fairly quiet women, but she opened up more to people who she was close to. I recently talked to an elderly women who knew my grandmother and she says that she thinks my grandmother was shy (whatever that means).

  7. I’m fascinated by the way she found out. Think of today when a person dies and we make all sorts of phone calls or emails to let the family know. I wonder if her mother went to visit her grandfather knowing he was sick (if he was sick that is)? Or did she just go to visit and found him passed away? Did someone send a letter telling of the news and then she went? It’s strange to think of how times have changed!

    1. They only lived about 5 miles from the town that her grandparents lived in–so my guess is that her mother somehow knew that he was very ill and went to visit.

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