U-Turn: Great-Grandmother Bertha Colomy

So long ago, I touched on Bertha Colomy’s June 27, 1900 marriage to Frederick Morton French. At the time, all I knew was that they divorced by 1910. Thanks to online city directories, now I know a little more! (Thank you, HeritageQuest!)

In the 1903 Lynn, MA Directory, I found that Bertha French was living at 63 Autumn Street (where her mother Jennie and stepfather James Starbard lived). It looks like Bertha lived with her mother until about 1905, then in other locations in Lynn.

63 Autumn Street, Lynn. Author’s collection.

So Bertha was at least separated from Frederick after about three years of marriage. Although I still don’t know when the divorce took place, this clue narrows down the timeframe a bit.

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Great-Great Uncle Edwin Scott Colomy

All records indicate that Edwin Scott Colomy was born to Frank Colomy and Jennie White on Oct 28, 1878 in Lynn, Massachusetts. Like his father Frank and grandfather George, there are times in Edwin’s life that finding a supporting record has been hard! However, we are able to find out much about him.

Like his progenitors, he worked as a shoemaker from 1898 to 1906. It was a profession he returned to from 1909 to 1911 and finally in 1914. I suppose that, living in Lynn, this was a path that many took.

Edwin married nineteen-year-old Mary Abbie Johnson in July 3, 1899, the ceremony performed by L.J. Thomas. At first, they lived at home with his mother Jennie and sister Bertha until 1901 (probably when Jennie married James Starbard), then a couple of years with his father Frank and grandmother Lucy at 52 Lynnfield Street. Finally in 1904 they settled in their own place at 43 Springvale Avenue.

Both Edwin and Mary were involved in Masonic organizations; Edwin at the Knights of Malta and Mary was a Mistress of Finance at the Paul Revere Temple. Later (between 1908 and 1919), Edwin was also involved at the Paul Revere lodge.

In 1906 so many changes came into Edwin’s life. He became a conductor on the Boston & Northern Railroad. And on April 4, 1906, Mary gave birth to their son, Roy Edwin Colomy. The joy of new parenthood was short-lived, however. It seems that Mary probably did not recover from childbirth as she should; she contracted metritis, an postpartum infection of the uterus, which led to septicemia. Back then, there were no antibiotics; there was no cure. Mary quickly succumbed to her illness on May 11, leaving Edwin and Roy behind. Mary was buried in her family’s plot in Pine Grove Cemetery (Spruce Avenue, Lot 447), with the inscription, “Mother of Roy E. Colomy” on her tombstone.

Of course it was unusual for a man to be raising a newborn alone. Mary’s parents, Charles Johnson and Vera Torrey, took Roy in and raised him until his grandmother’s death in 1915.

Meanwhile, Edwin worked as a salesman, a shoe cutter, and a salesman again. Although he moved briefly to nearby Malden, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, it seems that he found time to spend with his son.

Edwin and Roy Colomy; I'm guessing this might be Red Rock in Lynn, MA.  Courtesy Deb Thompson Colomy.

Edwin and Roy Colomy; I’m guessing this might be Red Rock in Lynn, MA. Courtesy Deb Thompson Colomy.

In 1914 Edwin moved back to Lynn to his mother’s house. It seems that Edwin found love again! On April 17 he married widow Eleanor Mabel (Roach) Elwell, the ceremony performed by Arthur E. Harriman. They lived with Edwin’s mother Jennie till her 1915 death. I assume that after Vera (Torrey) Johnson’s death in April 1915, Roy moved into the home at 63 Autumn Street. I can only wonder about his youthful thoughts, having seen both grandmothers die within the same year.

It wasn’t long before the Colomy family moved just a few blocks away and began to rent at 24 Lafayette Park, which was to be Edwin’s home until 1927 (and has a lovely view of Goldfish Pond). On July 21, 1916, the family expanded as Mabel Eleanor was born.

1918 was the year that Edwin began his five-year stint as owner of a variety store at 59 Ocean Street (it doesn’t appear that this location is still standing). 1918 is also known as the year of the deadly influenza epidemic. I was just reading that it was bacterial pneumonia occurring as a result of the flu that lead to most of the deaths in 1918 – 1919. Eleanor had contracted pneumonia, and I wonder if it may have been part of this epidemic. Sadly, she passed away on December 11, 1918. She was buried two days later in Plot F, Lot 59 at Pine Grove Cemetery. Edwin obtained a two-person plot, and made sure “Wife of Edwin S. Colomy” was inscribed on her stone.

Eleanor Colomy's final resting place.  Author's collection.

Eleanor Colomy’s final resting place. Author’s collection.

At this time, Roy was twelve years old and his little sister Mabel was two. To me, this seemed like an arrangement that Edwin might be able to handle, as opposed to when Roy was born. If either child stayed somewhere else after Eleanor’s death, I don’t have any record of it. And perhaps his childless sister Bertha was able to watch the children as he worked.

Well, wouldn’t you know that good fortune smiled on Edwin again. No later than January 12, 1920, he met and married Pearl (whose maiden name I believe was Hutch). The family of four was together for a time; however, it seems that Roy joined the Navy for a period and eventually ended up in the Philadelphia area, where he met Marguerite Olive Fry. Based on their 1930 Census answers to “age at first marriage”, it seems that they got married in 1924. They went on to have eleven children, some of whom I believe are alive today. Roy and Marguerite stayed in the greater Philadelphia area, moving to southern New Jersey. Marguerite died in 1974 and Roy later in 1986. Both are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Newfield, New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Edwin continued on with his involvement in the Masons, being part of Mt. Carmel Lodge from 1923 to 1933. He also went back to being a salesman in 1925. This makes me wonder if Edwin had an outgoing personality. Sometime between 1928 and 1930, Edwin, Pearl and Mabel moved to Winthrop, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Edwin and Pearl remained there for many years.

Shortly before 1940, Mabel married George Willis Archibald. They went on to have two children and eventually moved to Stuart, Martin County, Florida.

The Depression and World War II must have had an impact on Edwin’s usual salesman occupation, for in 1942 he worked for the Works Progress Administration. Of course, that job probably only lasted as long as the WPA did. Edwin eventually went back to sales, probably with the post-war boom.

As they got older and probably because they were so far away from both of his children, Edwin and Pearl moved to Stuart, Florida in mid-1951. They had only a couple of years to enjoy the sunny weather, for on January 8, 1953 Edwin died of coronary thrombosis. He was buried on January 14 at Fernhill Memorial Gardens and Mausoleum in Stuart, where his daughter Mabel was later buried in 1967.

Much more can probably be said about Edwin and his progeny, but at this point I enter into living memory and territory more familiar to my cousins than I.

Great-Great Grandmother Jane “Jennie” White

Jane E. White (just about always called Jennie) was born circa 1855 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Job R. and Elizabeth Phoebe White.  She was the youngest daughter and second youngest child out of a total of eight children.  Her older siblings were:  Edgar Douglas, William Faulkner, John David, Frances A., Milton K. (later James M.) and Mary Roberts.  Her younger brother was Theodore W.

Previously thought to be a picture of Bertha, the identified time points to it being Jennie.  Courtesy Deb Thompson Colomy.

Previously thought to be a picture of Bertha, the identified time points to it being Jennie. Courtesy Deb Thompson Colomy.

It appears that most of the White family immigrated to the United States in the late 1860’s to live in Lynn, Massachusetts.  For some reason, Jennie lived apart from her parents, with her sister Fanny and brother-in-law Harmon Burns, in 1870.  Perhaps that was close to her job as a machine stitcher (probably in the shoe making industry).

On January 17, 1873 Jennie married John Williams, who also worked in the shoe making business (maybe they worked together?).  Their married life was very short-lived however.  John contracted consumption and died on July 21, 1873.

As I wrote here, Jennie and her sister Mary found themselves pregnant and on October 11 1875 married Frank L. Colomy and John M. Goodwin respectively.  This pregnancy resulted in my great-grandmother Bertha.  On October 28, 1878 Edwin Scott was born and on January 4, 1883 Jennie gave birth to an unnamed stillborn son.

From we’ve seen from Frank’s frequent absences, Jennie functioned basically as a single mother much of the time.  When the children were young, she took in boarders, and as we saw here, she relied on Bertha to supplement the family income.  It is no surprise that Jennie and Frank were divorced by 1900.

Eventually Jennie found love again.  On July 24, 1901, she married James Starbard, a widower and a shoe trimmer.  Like Jennie, this was his third marriage.  Jennie moved to James’ home at 63 Autumn St.

James and Jennie were married ten years when James died of nephritis on November 23, 1911.  It seems that her son Edwin lived with her and James during this time, and later just with Jennie from 1914 until her death on December 28, 1915.  Like James, she also died of nephritis.  Both James and Jennie were buried in Pine Grove.

James and Jennie Starbard gravestone.  Author's collection.

James and Jennie Starbard gravestone. Author’s collection.

Great-Grandmother Bertha Elizabeth Colomy: Between Percy and George

Once Bertha returned from her escapade with Percy St. Clair in 1892, she settled back at home in Lynn, Massachusetts. She witnessed the dissolution of her parents’ marriage and eventually got a job as a stitcher with one of the many shoe manufacturers in town.

Despite the stain on her virtue, Bertha still managed to attract a man her own age who asked to marry her. Frederick Morton French was a dry goods salesman in Lynn, and he and Bertha were married on June 27, 1900 by Rev. Tillman B. Johnson (probably of First Baptist Church). I know nothing about the nature of their marriage; but in any case, they were divorced before 1910. I found Frederick in the 1910 Census living with his family with a marital status of “D”.

For some reason, I could not find Bertha in the Census (typical of the family, I think!). However, I don’t think she was very far away. In 1911 she lived at 32 Autumn Street, just down the road from her mother Jennie and stepfather James Starbard. On February 11, 1911 she was wed to James Spratt by Donald H. Gerrish (of St. Paul’s Methodist Society).

On December 28, 1915, Bertha’s mother Jennie passed away, just four years after James. Bertha apparently inherited the house at 63 Autumn Street, for James is listed at this address in the city directory in 1916.

63 Autumn Street, Lynn.  Author's collection.

63 Autumn Street, Lynn. Author’s collection.

By a very odd coincidence, December 28 brought death once more in 1919. James had contracted and died of lobar pneumonia. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery. Once again, Bertha was a single woman. I don’t know how long it was before she met George Edmund Pleau, but it was obviously no later than February 1921 (nine months before the birth of my grandfather).

There are little bits and pieces about Bertha that I’ve gathered from my grandfather and aunt (who never knew her but knew of her). From the 1930 Census, I know she still played piano since she gave lessons. In fact, my aunt claimed that the piano that my grandfather had actually belonged to Bertha first. Bertha obviously loved music, and perhaps that is what attracted her to George. There had been some opera glasses in the family that were supposed to belong to Bertha. Finally, Bertha had a talent for painting. Growing up, a beautiful life-like picture of a leopard hung in my grandparents’ basement. My grandfather claimed that he also had her painting of a lion, which got lost in one of his moves. Today, my sister has this beautiful painting in her living room.

Painting by Bertha Pleau.  Author's collection.

Painting by Bertha Pleau. Author’s collection.

And so that is Bertha’s life up until her third marriage. The remainder of her time can be seen  here. I think her mother Jennie is deserving of the next look at the family.