Again I must thank GeneaBloggers, and not only for the prompts that spur me on with great ideas to keep me writing!
I just made a fantastic discovery and all because I had dropped by GeneaBloggers to look through today’s blogging prompts. I read through some great posts written by bloggers in the “Sunday’s Obituary” category. I do have some family obituaries but I don’t have them scanned (as of yet) to my pc. I wasn’t sure what to write about.
I started to think of my great-uncle Eddie (George Edward Stewart) who died under very suspicious circumstances in 1931. He was working on a yacht sailing out of Hingham Harbor in Massachusetts and one night Uncle Eddie fell into the sea and drowned, his body washing up on a beach several days later. There was an official inquest as there was some suspicion that he didn’t fall but may have been pushed over, due to his not being reported missing until a couple of days had passed. I recall my aunt telling me how the family was pretty much besieged by news reporters but I’ve never been able to find a newspaper account of the story.
Thinking that this story would be a good subject for my post I tried to locate an obit again, visiting several newspaper archives and coming up with nothing. But while searching for newspaper accounts in Ancestry.com I noticed that they had many articles from the Lowell Daily Sun, beginning in the 1890′s. Lowell MA, home of my Burnett family who had emigrated there from Halifax, Nova Scotia in the 1880′s and were still there for some years after the turn of the century.
I edited my search from Stewart to Burnett, not really thinking that I’d get a hit. But I got a hit!
I found this newspaper article covering the death of my great-grandfather, Francis (Frank) Burnett. I had collected a copy of his death record from the Mass State Archives some years ago and from that I knew the date of his death at the age of 33 (20 Jan 1894), that he was an engineer living in Lowell MA, and that the cause of death was a “throat infection”.
The following article appeared in The Lowell Daily Sun on Saturday, January 20, 1894.
I had guessed that he might be employed by Whittier Mills in Lowell, but it was pure speculation on my part, only because his father William was listed in a Lowell City Directory as being a watchman there. Finding this article regarding his death has made that a certainty, along with verifying what I had already known about him.
Sadly, his wife Sarah (Porter) Burnett would outlive him by only a year and a half, leaving their two children orphaned; my paternal grandmother Ethel M. Burnett, 9 years old when her mother died, and her brother Francis O. Burnett who was just 4 years of age. Sarah Porter came from England in 1882 and was undoubtedly a “mill girl”, her occupation given on her death record as “operative”. Perhaps this is how she met and married Frank. And perhaps this is why she died so young, the life of a mill girl filled with many occupational illnesses that lessened longevity by a good many years.
I also thought when reading the article that it was probably a major concern of the doctor to state publically that the vaccination was not to blame for Frank’s death, to soothe any public fear of vaccination that the story would be sure to create. Perhaps he was also under some pressure from Whittier Mills to preclude any possibility of a lawsuit, or on his own part if he was the doctor who administered the vaccine?
I’m so excited to have found this!
February 16th, edited to add two more newspaper clippings:
20 Jan 1894, The Boston Globe:
22 Jan 1894, Lowell Daily Sun: