It Happened in 1916

I’m always on the lookout for gravestones with variations of my mother’s maiden name, Purinton. I was particularly intrigued by a Maquoit Cemetery stone for a Purington family on which seven of the eight death dates were 1916.

Hiram PuringtonI speculated that the family died of the flu or in a house fire. Trouble is, the flu pandemic was in 1918 and ’19, at the end of World War One. I scoured the 1916 Brunswick Record for information, but found nothing – no fire, no death notes. My own genealogy files didn’t list this family on any of our distant branches. So, I tucked away the puzzle for several years.

Recently I went to my old standby,, a subscription genealogical database. There I found the story of Hiram Purington and his family.

Hiram L. Purington, a painter, was the son of Charles W. and Maria (Wheeler) Purington. Charles was a farmer in West Bath; Maria died when Hiram was only nine. In the summer of 1896 in Boston, Mass., Hiram married Ina B., a daughter of Andrew and Mary E. (Gould) Gallaway of Gardiner. They made their home on Crescent St. in Bath.

Two years later they had their first child, Lucy. I have to wonder if Ina struggled in her pregnancy or if Lucy had a difficult birth for Brunswick town records list a payment to G. M. Elliott for medical attendance on family’s behalf.

By 1914, the family had increased to nine – both parents and seven children. I picture them living in close quarters, barely subsisting on a painter’s wages, colds and other viruses passing from one child to the next. In November of that year, the family lost both their eldest and their youngest children, sixteen-year-old Lucy and seven-month-old Ernest.

It seems as though the family never recovered their health, for in 1916 the deaths came one right after the other. Lillian, age nine, died in January, Father Hiram and five-year-old Herman on July 13th, Mother Ina in September. Baby Purington died without having been named.

Though their grave marker indicates otherwise, three siblings remained: Mary, Maria Frances, and Violet. They, too, would die: Thirteen-year-old Mary in West Bath in February of 1918 and Maria Frances in the Augusta State Hospital, April. Finally, Violet died in Hebron in July 1919.

Lucy Ellen Purington (1898 – 6 Nov 1914)
Ernest L. (Nov 1914 – 10 May 1915) 7 mos.
Lillian Bestroe Purington (27 Jan 1907 – 23 Jan 1916)
Herman Purington (1911 – 13 July 1916)
Hiram L. Purington (17 Apr 1871 – 13 July 1916)
Ina B. Gallaway (c 1878 – 11 Sep 1916)
Infant Baby Purington (1916 –1916)
Mary E. (1 Jan 1905 – 16 Feb 1918)
Maria Frances Purington (18 Dec 1902 – 5 Apr 1918)
Violet Rose Purington (4 Jun 1908 – 12 July1919)

I found no death certificates for Herman and Infant Purington. But baby Ernest died from bronchial pneumonia. The rest of the family, beginning with Lucy and ending with Violet five years later, died of pulmonary tuberculosis.

I don’t know who bought their modest headstone. Perhaps it was Charles. I can well imagine him struggling to compile names and dates for his only son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. And because someone did that, we know they lived.


About Barbara Desmarais

Writer and amateur historian
This entry was posted in Purinton & Silva Genealogy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to It Happened in 1916

  1. Deb Gould says:

    It’s sad to read this the second time, too, Barbara! Oh, those mysteries — it’s what keeps us all digging, prowling, learning.

  2. Delia says:

    TB strikes again. Dang, girl, I never knew the extent of all of this even though my own grandfather had it too.

    • Didn’t you tell me that generations of your family had consumption? Genetic predisposition, perhaps?

      • Delia says:

        What I keep seeing is how it can lie dormant for many years before it manifests. Scary stuff now that drug resistant TB is now a reality. You have to remember those early families all lived near each other – each one of James’ sons had property side-by-side in Topsham – and TB is transmitted thru the air – coughing, etc. Easy to see how so many family members got it.

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