Sunday’s Obituary – Mary Swank

1927 Mary Swank obit

This article was on the front page of The Monessen Daily Independent on 20 September 1927.[1]  Mary Swank was my second great grandmother and had died three days earlier while visiting her daughter in Cape May, New Jersey. She was born in 1855 in Connecticut as Marian Burd, but also went by “Mary” and “Mary Ann”.

She married Charles Schwenk in 1871 and they had four children before Charles died in 1893. The surname Schwenk evolved over time to Schwank and finally to Swank. Mary has been a difficult person to research at times due to the variations of both her first and last names! As of now, I still cannot locate a death record for her in either New Jersey or Pennsylvania. It appears that her daughters did not file one after she died.

Mary was visiting her daughter Margaret Speedy, who was living in Cape May at the time. Margaret’s husband, William Arthur Speedy, had died at sea just over a year earlier. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Margaret to be alone after losing both her husband and her mother in Cape May, while the rest of her family was in Pittsburgh and Monessen. Margaret eventually moved back to Monessen and lived with her sister Maine Cubbage and her family.

pit post-g sept 20,1927 p26 col 6

A death notice also appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.[2] Marian “Mary Ann” Burd Schwenk was likely buried with or near her husband at Braddock Cemetery (also know as Russell Cemetery) in North Braddock, Pennsylvania. There is no tombstone for Mary but there are plots and headstones for her husband, sister, and other family members at Braddock.

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SOURCES:

[1] “Mother Dead,” The Monessen Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 20 September 1927, p. 1, col. 1; digital images Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 August 2013).

[2] “Swank, Mrs. Mary,” death notice, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), 20 September 1927, p. 26, col. 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 18 September 2019).

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

#52Ancestors: At the Cemetery – Charles Schwenk

 

This is the tombstone for my 2nd great grandfather, Charles G. Schwenk, at Braddock Cemetery in North Braddock, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The cemetery is also known as Old Braddock Cemetery and Russell Cemetery. Charles died on 12 November 1893 and was buried in the G.A.R. Plot.

Charles was born in or near Norristown, Pennsylvania and enlisted in the Civil War in July of 1861.[1] He served in the 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry in both Company A and Company C, and mustered out in July of 1865.[2] But this tombstone doesn’t seem to be him, right? “Schwek” and “Co. D” don’t seem to match my Charles.

After looking at many records, I do believe that this is my ancestor. First, the stone is newer, definitely not from 1893, as are many of the stones in the G.A.R. Plot. Below is Charles’ Pennsylvania Veteran Burial Card, which was dated 1935.[3]

The information found in this record confirms what I learned from Charles’ Civil War muster rolls and pension records. He mustered out of Company C on 13 July 1865 as a First Sergeant and died on 12 November 1893.

I have been unable to find Charles’ death recorded in a Pittsburgh death register nor an obituary in the newspaper.[4] All of his military pension records, as well as his wife’s widow’s pensions, report the same death date. In the 1890 Pittsburgh City Directory, Charles is living in Swissvale, right next to Braddock.[5] In the 1895 Pittsburgh City Directory, his wife Mary Ann is listed as the widow of Charles G.[6]

In addition, Charles’ wife Mary Ann was also buried at Braddock Cemetery (according to her obituary as there is no tombstone).[7] Many of Mary Ann’s family are also buried at Braddock, including her daughters, grandchildren and nephew.[8]

Lastly, I checked the roster of Company D of the PA 82nd Infantry, just in case there happened to be a “Schwek” veteran who died on the same date and was buried at Braddock. There is no Schwek on the roster.[9]

So with the information that I have compiled from his military records, as well as census records and city directories, I do believe that this is the tombstone for my ancestor and that a mistake was made on the stone a long time after his death. Sometimes when researching our family, we find errors or mistakes and conflicting information. Comparing all records and details can help us come to a conclusion about what is most likely correct.

There is much to write about Charles’s time in the Civil War. I wrote about his marriage to Mary Ann Burd, but there is even more about his life and family when he lived in the Braddock area. Stay tuned for more about Charles.

Have you found any tombstones with incorrect information?


SOURCES:

[1] Muster-in roll dated 27 July 1861, Compiled Service Record, Charles G. Schwenk, Pvt. Co. A, and 1st Sgt. Co. C, 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[2] Ibid., Muster-out roll, Charles Schwenk, dated 13 July 1865.

[3] “Pennsylvania, Veterans Burial Cards, 1777-2012,” digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2019), card for Charles Schwenk, date of death 12 November 1893; citing Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990, Series 1, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Harrisburg.

[4] “Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh City deaths, 1870-1905,” digital images, FamilySearch (www.https://familysearch.org : accessed 14 March 2019); citing Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh. No entries found for Charles Schwenk, including variant surname spellings.

[5] R.L. Polk, compiler, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Co., 1890), 779; DonsList.net (www.donslist.net : accessed 29 March 2018), entry for Chas. G. Swank; citing University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library.

[6] R.L. Polk, compiler, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Co., 1895), 892; DonsList.net (www.donslist.net : accessed 29 March 2018), entry for Mary, widow Chas. G.; citing University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library.

[7] “Mother Dead,” The Monessen Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 20 September 1927, p. 1, col 1; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 February 2015).

[8] Find A Grave, database and images (https://findagrave.com : accessed 15 May 2019), memorial page for Maine Swank Cubbage (1874-1938), Find A Grave Memorial no. 78041680, citing Braddock Cemetery, Braddock, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Also, Leah F. Cubbage (no. 78041679), George S. Cubbage (no. 78041678) and William H. Burd (no. 78041444).

[9]  “Pennsylvania in the Civil War, Infantry Regiments,” PA-Roots (https://www.pa-roots.com/pacw/infantry/82nd/82dcod.html : accessed 15 May 019).

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mamas out there! I thought I’d post a few pictures of moms and kids from our families.

14
My mother with her mother, Elise Gegenheimer Haberkern, in Stein, Germany, 1945.
Agnes, Cork, Jeff, summer 1945crop
My father with his brother and mother, Agnes Speck Cubbage, on the North Side of Pittsburgh, 1945.
Scan of picture
My great-grandmother, Maine Swank Cubbage, with her daughters Marian, Marge and Babe, and most likely her daughter-in-law Happy Griffith Cubbage, Monessen, Pennsylvania, 1930s.
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My husband’s great-grandmother, Mary Kelovcy Simko, with children Mary, Susan, Michael and Walter, circa 1930.
image 2011-4-2 0025crop
My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Linnemann Speck, with either Agnes (1915) or Frank (1918) in Monessen.
Linneman (front) around 1904
My great-great-grandmother, Barbara Elisabeth Nilkowski Linneman, with her children Christian, Gerhard, George, William and Elisabeth, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 1904.

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Women’s Words Wednesday – A Grieving Mother’s Letter

So much of our history is recorded, remembered, and influenced by the views our male ancestors. But that’s only part of our story, and I am fascinated by the stories of our female ancestors. I have added a new blogging category called Women’s Words Wednesday where I will post and reflect on these important words that I have found in my research, in whatever form they arise (letter, photo, official document, etc.).

Below is a letter from my great-grandmother, Maine (Swank) Cubbage, to her sister Margaret (Swank) Speedy about the illness and death of her son George. It is known who has the original letter, but my mother transcribed it many years ago at a family gathering.

George Cubbage was about two years old when he died of diphtheria on Christmas Day  1921. He was the youngest of the eight children born to Charles and Maine Cubbage. George was buried on 26 December 1921 in Braddock (Russell) Cemetery, the same place where Charles and Maine buried their daughter Leah a year and a half earlier in 1920.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for them. The letter mentions Charles (Charlie), some of their children (Lester, Marian, Minni, Artie) who were between ages 7 and 17. The letter also mentions Art (Margaret’s husband) and Bill, who was Maine and Margaret’s cousin who had lived with Charles and Maine for most of his life.

Monessen Jan 1 1922
Dear Sister
It has been a long time since I wrote to you. and what a lot has happened since then.
Just two weeks ago today I wrote you a long letter and told you all about my trip to Swissvale. George and I went on Friday and stay till monday. and Uncle George got our George a nice pair of tan shoes for his birthday. and he wore them home and that was the last he wore them he called them his pitty shoes. When I was writing that letter he was playing around here as well as he ever was. and him and Lester and Marian and I sat here until after eleven o’clock that night and him and Lester were carrying on high. you know how he was just at the age when he would try any thing or say any thing he saw the rest do. and he always was bright for his age. even the Dr. said he was a wonderful boy. Well we went to bed. and all went to sleep and about one o’clock he wakened me crying to get in my bed and coughed then just like the croup. he dedn’t sleep much untill morning about six he fell a sleep and slept until dinner time. I brought him down and he ate dinner with us we had soup and he was always fond of that and he ate some. but I saw what I thought was a very bad cold he was feverish and horse but didn’t seem to be sick. I dressed him and he played around a little while and then ask me to by O baby him. and I took him and he went to sleep. and when he woke up I saw he was getting worse. I greased him with campherated oil. but when Charlie got up at four o’clock he said if I were you I call the Dr. and tell him how he is and may be he want have to come so I did. But as soon as I told him he had a high fever and a croupie cough he said why that sounds like diptheria and I will be right over. he came over. he came and looked at him and at his throat and said that is what it is. and he said call up my wife and tell her I won’t be home for supper for an hour. he said put him to bed and I will be right back and he went but was only gone half hour and he came with the anti toxine and put it on both of his legs. and watched him for a while and then went but he said before he went he would be back in two hours and he would have to put a tube in his throat for it was closing up fast. he told us to be ready. he said he would have to have three to hold him and he said we would have to do it because we could not call any one else in. so we called Charlie home and we had everything ready when he came back. he looked at George and shook his head and said there is no use waiting. He is changing color now. So I held him in my arms and Charlie held his head and Marian his feet. and he got the tube in all right. and it was wonderful the change that came into his face. when I went out of the room he said if it had been two hours later he would of been dead. Well the next day he put more anti toxine in him and all the rest of them. he said it was the very worst kind of diptheria. it was the black diptheria. he put anti toxine in him four different times and we had to tie his hands down to his sides to keep him from pulling the tube out. he did get it out one night about one o’clock and started to choke right away and Marian called the Dr. and he came so fast. I don’t know how he got here – he just threw his over coat on over his pajamas and run. I thought that night he was gone for sure. I didn’t think he could stand to have it put in again but he did. Marian and I held him and he went to sleep as soon as it was in again. after that Charlie didn’t go to work no more he stayed home and we never left him night or day. he got over the diptheria all right. The Dr. took the tube out on the fourth day and he could breath all right but the next day we noticed he was worse and we called the Dr. to come right away and when he came and examined him he said phenonia had set in. he told us before that we would be lucky if we could get him through with out it. that was on Thursday that he said he had phenonia. well be both worked with him night and day and on Friday evening he turned over on his said and went to sleep and slept for over two hours. he was still sleeping when the Dr. came in at nine o’clock. he said how is he. neither one of use said a word for we didn’t know whether that was good or not. we thought he might be in a stupor of some kind. but when the Dr. looked at him he was just tickled to pieces. he said why his pulse is normal and he is sleeping just as natural as can be. we you can guess how we felt. well all day Saturday he seemed to improve and the Dr. was come in about nine o’clock in the evening to see him for the night. he said he is no worse only he was flity. he just talked all the time. well that night we both sat there untill two o’clock and then I laid down across the bed and slept till five and got us and Charlie layed down. and George knew us both all the time. he talked to me. and just coaxed me to take him up. he reached his arms up around my neck. and said by sehlep mama but I told him he would frize if I took him up. and then he said he was freezing just to get me to take him and that is the way he talked on and I gave him watear as he called it at half past six. and then I noticed a change in him and I called Charlie and said this baby is worse or dying and Charlie jumped right up. but George just gasped three times and was gone. the Dr. got here in time to see him breath his last. he said he had phlurises of the heart is what made him go so quick. he heart got paralised. well I have told you the best I could all bout his sickness. but I can’t attempt to tell you what a house this is. they all thought so much of him and he was always ready for mischief. I thought it was hard when I couldn’t be with Leah when she died. but I found out that is not the hardest part of death. we could fix Leah just the way we wanted to and the kids could all kiss her good by. but as soon as George died, the undertaker came and I got the clothes ready that I wanted on him. but he said. I am very sorry but we are not allowed to dress him. I said well if I had known that I would have dressed him my self but he said he would of had to take them off again. It was the law. he just rapped and rapped him in white muslin and layed him on a stand that he had and left him in the room until the health officer came – and he sealed the room up and disinfected the room body and all and left it that way for two hours and then the undertaker came and put him in the casket with a glass top and all you could see was just his face not even his hair nor his ears nor his hands. it was supposed to be sealed but I found out it wasent. I found the catch on it and opened it. and kissed him. no one knows that but you now. I wish now that I had let the kids kiss him too. I don’t think it would of hurt them. we were not allowed to have no funeral just the family and no one was allowed to come in all the time he was sick or we of been fined $50. They allowed the men to go to work but they were not allowed to go near his room. that is why Charlie quit work and stayed home and helped nurse him. We had two large cars. Charlie and I and Lester and Minni and the casket went in one and the rest of them and the minster went in the other one. that roads were awful rough too. Poor Bill is taking it awful hard. he dont cry he just groans and that is worse. They took the sign down yesterday and Charlie is going back to work to morrow and the kids to school. then is when I will miss him more than ever for he was always where I was. Lester and Bill have no work the mill shut down the day before Christmas. I don’t think I will ever think the same of Christmas again. The kids were waiting on Christmas they had been saving their pennies to get trimmings for a tree. I had told them if they got enough trimmings I would get a tree. they wanted one so bad for George. Artie had got him a little tin??? as George called them. he was crazy about autos. Bill was planning to go to Pittsburg after Christmas and get him one that he could ride in. but he never saw any thing he got for Christmas. They are all wrapped up yet. I hadent got him anything yet, we had him down street the Saturday evening before he got sick and he saw santa claus. and shook hands with him. I intended to get him a kick a bobcle. we could hardly get him away from them but we didn’t get down street again and when I called up the store where they was Friday evening they were all sold. they said they would have some in on Tuesday and Charlie said that would be alright for he would not be able to play Christmas any how. and sure enough he wasn’t. I think I have told you all now. if there is any thing else that I have forgot to tell you, why you ask me and I will tell you. I took a wreath down for Leah’s grave. I couldn’t think of coming away and leaving flowers on one and nothing on that poor lone grave. George dident have as many flowers as Leah had but they looked nice. what he did have Bill got him a pillow that was a great deal bigger than the one Leah had and it said George across the center and Lester got him a big bunch of carnations. I tryed to get a bunch of sweet peas for Leah’s grave but I couldn’t get them. I am sending you a couple of little yellow flowers off George’s pillow. He was always picking dandelions. he said there were a tame dandelion with another name. Well I will close now. we are all well at the present and hope this will find you both the same. Tell Art that we both thank him for his offer. and if we find we cannot squeeze through we will be glad to know we have a friend waiting to help us out.
Good by
Your Sister
Maine

Wow. This is by far the most personal item we have in our family heirlooms and records. Maine’s words so clearly captured a mother’s grief.

“but I can’t attempt to tell you what a house this is … I thought it was hard when I couldn’t be with Leah when she died. but I found out that is not the hardest part of death.”

I think too of her sister Margaret who received this letter and learned of her nephew’s death (Leah had been visiting Margaret when she died). We have no pictures of George, and only a couple of Leah. I am so thankful that we have this transcription of Maine’s words to her sister, as heartbreaking as it is to read.

Have you found any letters or diaries in your family history? Have you read their words to better understand your ancestors?

Fearless Females Friday – Women’s History Month

Scan of picture

Since today begins Women’s History Month, my blog posts in March will focus on the stories, records, photos and words of my female ancestors.

Above is a picture of some of my Cubbage women, taken in Monessen, Pennsylvania in the mid-1930s . In the back center is Maine Swank Cubbage, the matriarch, who was married to Charles Cubbage. This is the only image that I have of Maine! The women around her are daughters Marian, Marge, and Gladys “Babe.” I believe the woman at the top right is Maine’s daughter-in-law, Gladys “Happy” Griffith Cubbage. Apparently no one named Gladys used that name!

I looking forward to sharing about my fearless, beautiful female ancestors!

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.