Sunday, May 27, 2012

Moshassuck Cemetery Civil War Memorial

When I was in Rhode Island last summer, I went to Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls. Many of my ancestors on my Dad's side are buried here, including both my Skinner and Grant grandparents and great-grandparents. I noticed there is a monument to the Civil War in Moshassuck Cemetery and thought it made an appropriate post for Memorial Day.

Civil War Memorial - Moshassuck Cemetery
Central Falls, RI

 The inscription on the monument reads:

1861 - 1865

MAY 30, 1888

Many graves of Civil War veterans surround the monument but my family's Civil War veterans are buried in their family plots - Zophar Skinner is buried with his wife, 3 sons, adopted daughter, daughter-in-law and 2 grandchildren (including my grandmother, F. Hazel Skinner Grant). Their gravestone is pictured in a previous post here

I don't have any direct Grant Civil War ancestors but 3 grandsons of my g-g-g-grandfather, Sylvester Grant served in the Civil War. These three soldiers were the sons of Sylvester Grant, Jr and his wife, Susan L. Boomer. They are first cousins to me, three times removed. Samuel Grant survived the war and died in 1915. George S. Grant, was discharged for medical reasons and died of consumption a month later in 1863. Ira Whitaker Grant died in battle at Bethesda Church, VA on the 3 June 1864. His body was not recovered but according to family records, both he and his brother George originally had gravestones on the Grant plot at Moshassuck Cemetery. Ira's stone is missing and George's in almost undecipherable. I will write more on brothers Samuel, George, and Ira in a future post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"An appalling scene"

Right as the clerk's office was closing after a day of research in Valley Falls, Rhode Island, last summer, I found the death certificate for my great-great grandfather, Ernest Lord Mellor (1832 - 1892). I noted that the cause of death was listed as "gun shot" and knew I had to find out more about it. I had hoped to return to Rhode Island by now to conduct research in the Rhode Island Historical Society library in Providence where they have an extensive collection of Rhode Island newspapers but finally out of curiosity, I requested an obituary look-up from the reference librarian. She found a very short death notice and no obituary, but did find a page 1 account of the death.
I received the article a few days ago and it is rather shocking. (Transcription below)

The Providence Evening Bulletin, 18 May 1892, page 1.
Transcription:                              "HORRIBLE SUICIDE
Ernest L Mellor of Valley Falls Cut His Throat and Then Fired a Gun with Fatal Effect.
     Back among the trees at the east of the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad track in Valley Falls, stands the house of Ernest L. Meller, [sic] a life-long resident of the village. For many years Mr. Meller was an overseer in the mills of the Valley Falls Company, but for the past 12 or 13 years he has suffered from dropsy, and within the past year or so complications have arisen in the malady that caused life to become almost unendurable to him. Of late the disease has become more and more painful. At 2:30 o’clock this morning Mr. Meller called to his wife in the next room and asked her to prepare him a lemon so that he might suck the juice. The wife did as requested and that was the last time that she heard her husband’s voice or saw him alive.
     Soon after this Mr. Meller arose and attempted to cut his throat with a jackknife. Although a terrible gash was cut in the fleshy part of the neck, death was not produced, and the unfortunate man went to another room, took down a rusty muzzle loading shot gun from its fastening over the street door, and retraced his steps to his bedroom. Here he stood upright in the centre of the room, placed the muzzle of the weapon upward in line with his chin, and pulled the trigger. Meller fell to the floor with the left side of his head entirely blown off, and it was in that position that his relatives found him. Dr. Haines was immediately summoned and gave it as his opinion that death must have been produced instantly. Medical Examiner Garvin viewed the remains this morning, and said that the death was undoubtedly that of a suicide and deemed an inquest unnecessary. An inspection of the bedroom this morning showed an appalling scene. In one corner of the room, where the suicide fell there was a mass of gore an inch or more in depth, while the bed was covered with blood and pieces of flesh. The ceiling was a covered with spatter of blood and filled with the load of shot that crashed upward through the head of the suicide. Mr. Meller leaves a widow and three married children. He was a member of Good Samaritan Lodge of Pawtucket, and was insured for a considerable amount in the John Hancock Insurance Company of New York."
I read this obituary with growing disbelief and horror and had to put it down and out of my head for a bit before I was able to re-read it. I cannot imagine what pain could have driven my g-g-grandfather to attempt suicide in this fashion. I also cannot imagine what the effect was on his remaining family.  The gruesome description of the scene is more detailed than what one would read in a modern paper!
No surviving member of my family has ever heard of this suicide before, not even my aunt who was born roughly 30 years after her g-grandfather's death. I would imagine that everyone wanted to forget such a tragedy ever happened in the family.
I have some research to do. I have a general idea where the location of the house must have been but need to look up deeds. I also need to check probate records and tax records. I need to do more research to figure out what kind of Lodge the Good Samaritan Lodge was - many of my ancestors were Masons but I don't recognize this name. It may be another group such as the Odd Fellows.  I am also intrigued by the last line... Do suicide victims collect on insurance? Or is it forfeited? I wonder why it was even mentioned in the article. And lastly, what was sucking on a lemon supposed to do??

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One year later

My cousin Jane Veith died one year ago today. It's hard to believe that it's been that long already. I often find myself thinking of something I want to talk about with her and I guess that will continue for quite awhile.

Here's the cover and biography from the booklet created for Jane's Memorial service last June 5th.

Jane at Oak Beach
Jane about age 15
Jane and her Dad, Harold Charles Veith in Florida

Jane and her Mom, Anita Scanlan Veith

Jane about 2010 on cruise with her husband

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Mom - Dorothy M. Veith - Part 2

Dorothy M. Veith 1942 Age 20

My very first blog post a year ago was on Mother's Day and it was about my mom, Dorothy Minna Veith Grant. It seems appropriate to celebrate my mom in another post on this Mother's Day 2012

I've recently started scanning the photos in my mom's old scrapbooks and have found some great photos of her. Here are a few of her, possibly taken by her old boyfriend who was a professional photographer.

Dorothy M Veith 1943  Age 21
Lake Mohawk, New Jersey

My mother was born 19 August 1922 in Englewood, New Jersey. She was the daughter of Harold Theodore Veith and Minna Bertha Badendick. Mom grew up in Englewood and graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in 1940. She then attended Stephens College in Columbia Missouri for 2 years and graduated with an Associate's degree in 1942, when she was 20 years old. She worked as an executive secretary for her father at the furniture store he owned, Franklin Furniture, in Englewood until after she married my father, Warren Westcott Grant in 1952.

Dorothy M Veith 1944  Age 22
Bear Mt, New York
My mom worked part time at Franklin Furniture when we were young kids until my grandfather sold the store. She and my dad lived in their house in Little Falls, New Jersey until 2002 when they moved to a retirement community in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. Mom died just before Thanksgiving on 17 November 2006 while she was napping. She was 84 years old.

Mom was artistic and fun-loving and always looked on the bright side. My sister and I often said that she never remembered anything bad. She hated to cook, yet took on a cooking class with a bunch of girl scouts when I was around 10. I remember the theme was 'international' and we made sukiyaki out of "The Joy of Cooking". I never remember her cooking it another time! She was also a Den Mother for my brother's cub scout troop for several years

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hodges and Skinner and Freeman, oh my!

Norton Common Cemetery, Norton, MA
Over the last month or so, I've been going through all the photos I took last summer at Norton Common Cemetery in Norton, Massachusetts of Hodges, Skinner, and Freeman tombstones. I was not sure how they all linked up at the time I took the photos and since then, I've researched a lot of the names I found.

I have ancestors with all these surnames and I assumed that they were siblings and close cousins of my ancestors. What has surprised me though, is how distant most of these cousins are to each other. It seems that many of these family lines stayed in Norton (and nearby Mansfield) for several hundred years.

Zophar Skinner and Bethiah Freeman Skinner
Norton Common Cemetery,
My 4th great grandparents, the first (of three) Zophar Skinner along with his wife, Bethiah Freeman are buried in this cemetery. However, none of their descendants are buried here, and I did not find gravestones for Zophar's parents, Elijah Skinner and Abigail Hawes. However, I did find other Skinner tombstones. The closest relation to Zophar was a third cousin, once removed. This Skinner, Josephus A Skinner (1821-1853) was the 2nd in the line of three generations of Josephus Skinners. His wife was Ellen D. Hodges (1822-1893) who was at least a third cousin to the Hodges in my line.

Bethiah Hodges Freeman, Norton Common Cemetery

The oldest tombstone I photographed in my direct Hodges line appears to be Zophar's mother-in-law, Bethiah Hodges (1744-1829) - She was married to Nathanial Freeman (1744 -1829). Nathaniel's tombstone was pictured here in a previous post. Bethiah's father, Jonathan Hodge's tombstone is probably also in Norton Common Cemetery, but it is too lichen covered to be sure. It was photographed by a distant cousin and is pictured here at FindaGrave.

It's been interesting trying to see how all these Hodges, Freeman and Skinner tombstones tie into my direct line of ancestors. In most cases, I've had to extend the names I've found both forward and backwards in time to find the common ancestors. My database now contains many more distant relatives with these surnames than it did before I started this project! And it's fun to see how each of these names on tombstones links into my family tree, albeit distantly.  I've used a variety of online sources to find names in vital records. The records at,, and especially have been invaluable.