Monday, July 14, 2014

What I found out about the Whetstones, and now I'm happy.

Evening Times (Cumberland, Maryland)
February 6, 1907

Recently I posted about the Whetstone house fire of 1906 and how the whole story of my grandmother's family in the early years of her life was pretty sad. You can read about it here. The death of two small children, Peter and Viola, and then the house fire that destroyed their home and all of their possessions except the clothes they were wearing: it all happened in 1906. Yeah, I'll confess that it made me sad. But today has another story - or rather the rest of the story - and I learned a couple of things I'd like to share with you.

I was curious as to why they might have lost two small children in a year, so I checked to see about epidemics that might have taken Peter in March and the infant Viola in November. Sure, little baby Viola might have had any number of birth complications and Peter could have had a childhood accident, but ever since I learned to look for flu deaths in 1918 or so I can't help think of epidemics. Wikipedia has a dandy list of world epidemics and pandemics which you can find here, but I warn you, if you are anything like me the challenge is to stop yourself from getting lost in it. (Look at that, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco in 1900 to 1904!) And Mom's two sisters, Evelyn and Margaret were little ones lost to cholera, so I always look for that.

And back to Peter and Viola. I see a couple of diseases that might have taken them and the one that pops out is typhoid. Maybe some time I might look for their death certificate but the list of people I want death certs on is mighty long.

But I've wandered far afield here. What I want to share with you is that Joe, Joseph Hampton Whetstone, the devoted husband and loving father, rebuilt the family home on Bowery Street and he did it within the year. The house burnt down in August of 1906 and he had it all going again by February of the next year. He was, after all a stone mason and knew his way around building stuff. What joy he must have had in his heart when rebuilding his family home.

I remember reading sometime last year about how kids from families where ancestor stories are frequent and about the triumvirate theme of disaster - enduring - resilience are themselves more resilient when facing adversity. The stories they hear are family tales of suffering a hardship, sticking with it, and then overcoming to thrive again. It gives kids a sense of the family continuing, facing difficulties and then going on to recover. That's one of the best gifts we can give children and grandchildren.

When I read the story of the house fire I felt sad for this family but I didn't know the whole story. I should have kept researching. When I did go back and look again I found this small item in the Evening News (Cumberland, Maryland) that you see up top. They went on to build a new home.

Seriously, I have to keep looking when I find records like this. Have to keep turning the page to see if there are follow ups! I could easily have missed this little mention that brought joy to my heart!


Joseph Hampton Whetstone (1858-1939) standing by
 the water pump in the yard of his new home.

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