Tuesday, March 5, 2013

19: The Thorns

Grave of Stephen Thorn
This is a very, very exciting post for me to write. For the first time, I have actual photographs of people who are buried in the cemetery. Not of their descendants, but of the people themselves, kindly provided to me by their descendant!

This is Stephen Thorn, a shoemaker born around 1811 and a father of (at least) twelve children, five of whom are buried in the cemetery. Three of these children died as infants, one just a few months before the death of Stephen's first wife, Susan Weeks. Another child died as a teenager, and one in her twenties. A sixth child died in her twenties but is buried in a different cemetery.
Stephen Thorn
I think one thing about the past that we have trouble grappling with is that these people faced tragedies - such as multiple child deaths - that most people today don't have to suffer, and yet they were exactly like us in terms of intellect and emotional capacity. How does a father cope with the deaths of six children and the premature death of his wife? It's a question that baffles us because such a tragedy is rare today in the United States, yet it wasn't unusual in the years before the 20th century.

Here is Stephen Thorn's family in 1850, just two years before Susan's death. Their son Stephen Jr. died on May 3, 1852, at the age of 5 months, placing his birth somewhere around early January of that year. Susan died on August 16, 1852, at the age of 39.

1850 US Federal Census
In her book A Midwife's Tale, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich makes it clear just how dependent wives and husbands were on each other in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. I would guess that the same was the case in the mid-19th century as well, especially in the country where most people were still farmers or worked a trade like shoemaking. Men and women were each responsible for managing one half of the family's economy. The cloth that midwife Martha Ballard and her daughters produced was essential for the income of the household, as were the proceeds from her midwife practice. On top of that, Martha was responsible for the care of her children, her grandchildren, and her neighbors. A family that had lost a wife and mother was crippled both emotionally and financially, and it is for this reason that people in the 18th and 19th centuries remarried relatively quickly after a spouse's death.

Stephen Thorn married Harriet B. Dixon sometime before 1856 (their first child together was born in January of 1857). I have to wonder what she thought of the prospect of marrying a man with eight children. In 1850, aged 26, she was living with her middle-aged parents, presumably the last of her siblings to leave the house. Her father was a laborer who owned no property. Given that Harriet was between the ages of 28 and 32 when she was married, she was unusual for her time. Most of her peers would have been married young, in their early twenties.

Early in their marriage, Stephen and Harriet lost two infants within two years: George Thorn in 1857 and J. Lewis Thorn in 1858. Neither lived past nine weeks old. One child of Stephen and Harriet did live: Albert Thorn, born in 1861, who was living with them and his half-sister Julia in 1870.

1870 US Federal Census
He was still there in 1880, when he was 19 and following in his father's footsteps as a shoemaker.

1880 US Federal Census
Stephen Thorn died in 1891 at the age of 80. Harriet B. Dixon Thorn died in 1900 at the age of 77 in New York City.

Here is a summary of the lives of the Thorn children who reached maturity:

Sarah E. Thorn - Unknown.

Charles Thorn, who was 12 in the 1850 census, was in 1860 living with a nearby family of Sarleses and working as a shoemaker. He died of Bright's disease in 1878 in New Market, New Jersey. In 1907, his widow Lucy had his remains removed from the Episcopal Cemetery and reburied in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla. You can read more about it in this post.

Abby Jane Thorn was living in Danbury, CT, in 1860, where she worked as a hat trimmer. She died in 1865 at the age of 25.

Antoinetta Thorn married Edward Keer, a German immigrant and jeweler, in 1867 and lived in Newark, New Jersey.
Antoinetta Thorn Keer
Esther Thorn married Richard Lappin.

Frances Thorn married Abraham Van Winkle in 1865 and had three children. She died in 1875 and was buried in the cemetery, then was disinterred and reburied elsewhere in the 1920s. Read about it here.

Frances Thorn Van Winkle
Julia Thorn married William DeWitt Moose, a carpenter. They had three children, only one of whom was living by 1900. She died in 1924.

Albert Thorn married Hattie B. and continued to work as a shoemaker. Hattie died in 1904 of heart failure caused by typhoid fever and is buried in the cemetery. Albert, who suffered from paralysis, was living in the Westchester County Almshouse in July 1916, but was discharged after only a week's stay.
  1. Stephen Thorn (1811-1891) m. (1) Susan Weeks (1813-1852); (2) Harriet B. Dixon (1823-1900)
    1. Sarah E. Thorn (1837-)
    2. Charles H. Thorn (1838-1907) m. Lucy
    3. Abby Jane Thorn (1839-1865)
    4. Antoinetta Thorn (1841-) m. Edward Keer (1841-) in 1867
    5. Esther Thorn (1843-) m. Richard Lappin (1845-)
    6. Frances A. Thorn (1845-1875) m. Abraham Van Winkle (1829-1909) in 1865
      1. Adrienne Van Winkle (1867-1965)
      2. Charlotte Van Winkle (1869-1924)
      3. Charles Van Winkle (1872-1954)
    7. William F. Thorn (1849-1863)
    8. Julia Thorn (1850-1924) m. William DeWitt Moose (1837-1915)
      1. William DeWitt Moose Jr. (1877-1947)
    9. Stephen Thorn (1852-1852)
    10. George Thorn (1857-1857)
    11. J. Lewis Thorn (1858-1858)
    12. Albert Thorn (1861-after 1916) m. Hattie B. (1857-1904)

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