Research Thoughts

A Mother’s Grief

I can’t seem to get Martha Wheeler Cook Johnston, and her children out of my mind.

I made the comment in my post, A Child Lostthat “I have not been able to find a newspaper article that states the details for [8 year old Henry Hosford Cook’s] funeral. It could have been large and public, or small and private. We may never know, but if I were to bet, I would bet it was small and private.” This past week I was able to find a funeral notice for him, and feelings of sadness rushed back in.

Martha and Hosford had been wintering in Miami, Florida, with Martha’s sister, Lucy, and her family. After the drowning death of her son, Martha, accompanied by her sister and the body of Hosford, began the journey by train up to Oshkosh, Winnebago Co., Wisconsin. The newspaper states that Edward W. Paine met his daughters and grandson in Chicago, and they traveled together on to Oshkosh. In Chicago they were joined by Edward’s sister, Mrs. Edward Wickwire, and her daughter, Martha. I can only imagine the moment when Martha, needing to stay calm, collected, and sane, saw her father at the train station. The relief of being able, in a sense, to hand it all over to him, and no longer have to be so strong, must have been great. She was 32 years old when her son passed away that February in 1927.

The train arrived in Oshkosh, Saturday, February 20, 1927, and a private funeral was held the next day at the Paine family home on Algoma Blvd. Henry Hosford Cook is buried in the Paine Mausoleum at Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.1 

Martha married Drew Johnston in 1930, and on August 1, 1935, Martha gave birth to a little girl they named Ardra Paine Johnston. Ardra passed away on January 18, 1936 in Olmsted Co., Minnesota. As I stated in my post She Was Hopeful Till the End, Part 2, I had ordered her death certificate from Minnesota. It arrived Monday. Looking at the certificate, I realized that t,his beautiful little girl had been sick a long time. As a three  month old baby she had developed an “abscess of right forearm.” This then was added to by an “abscess of the brain.” Martha and Drew took her to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester just before Christmas, and she was first seen by her doctor on December 17, 1935. She most likely spent her first, and only, Christmas in St. Mary’s Hospital, her parents by her side. What should have been a joyous Christmas, was instead filled with fear for the life of their baby girl. Sadly, she passed away at 7:10 p.m., January 18, 1936. How hard it must have been for her father to give the needed information for the Certificate of Death. How awful for Martha, as she must have had moments of remembering a death nine years before. They made the decision to have the baby cremated, and the certificate states that she was “Removed to Minneapolis, Minn.” Another puzzle to work through. Was she buried there? Or was she sent home to be buried in the Johnston plot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? 

Included with the certificate of death was a statement from one of  her doctors. He states: “We do not know the cause of this abscess of the right forearm; possibly it was an ordinary skin infection. No particular trauma apparently was involved. The organism concerned was the streptococcus hemolyticus.”2

As a mother, my heart breaks for Martha. But her strength shines through again, as she moved forward with her life. She appears to have taken great delight in her step-children, and grandchildren, as there are records of many visits to Florida, and vacations to Europe. And I am sure that there was much delight in the news that a much awaited grandchild was a girl, and that her parents named her Ardra.

 

Notes:

1.“To Be In Private,” The Daily Northwestern, 19 Feb 1927, p. 14, col. 1-2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 7 Jul 2016).

2. Olmsted County, Minnesota, death certificate no. 10711, Registration book: 32 (1936), Ardra Paine Johnston; Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

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