March 14 — Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?
The Emmens (or Emmons, depending on who you ask) branch of my family show up almost daily in the Brooklyn Eagle. They threw parties, raised money for Cuban refugees and the Red Cross (two of the Emmens daughters married Cubans – one being my great great grandfather), and generally made news just by the fact that the family lived in the same section of Brooklyn for over 50 years. Henry, the patriarch, is affectionately referred to as the “mayor” in his obituary, so you can kind of get a feel for the family’s notoriety. They were locals in a small town that seems utterly foreign to me, having spent time in the bustling borough that is Brooklyn today.
There are a lot of great newspaper articles featuring the Emmens, but by far the most interesting is Catherine (Killeen) Emmens’ obituary.
Catherine was born in Ireland September 19, 1826 to James and Catherine Killeen. The family immigrated to New York around 1841 (I haven’t been able to find records of this, so I’m not sure which family members immigrated). September 1, 1847, Catherine married Henry Emmens in Brooklyn. They had at least 12 children and seemed to live relatively comfortably. I always have the impression that they were “rich,” but I’m not sure if that’s factual, or if it’s due to the juxtaposition of the rest of my family tree, which is composed of poor immigrants living in tenements. Either way, I’m pretty sure they were well-to-do. My grandmother’s cousin, Noreen, says that Emmons Ave was named for the family, but I’ve never looked into it.
Anyway, back to the obituary.
Henry died on December 19, 1899 of pneumonia. Being locally famous, his obituary shows up in a lot of papers. Catherine died shortly after her husband on January 26, 1900. Her obituary shows up frequently as well, both for her popularity, but also due to the cause of death attributed by her physician.
From the New York Post, January 28, 1900:
In a quiet corner of Greenwood Cemetery there is this morning an open grave. But a short span away there is a mound, the sod of which was laid but six short weeks ago. Before dusk to-night all that remains of Mrs. Catherine Emmens, seventy-four years of age, of No. 114 Second place, Brooklyn, will be lowered into the open grave by six sorrowing sons, who six weeks ago performed the same sad office for their father. The physician who attended Mrs. Emmens says she died of a broken heart. The death certificate states in a matter of fact way that it was pneumonia. Mrs. Emmens had been united with her husband for fifty-three years of happy wedded life. They were separated only six weeks by death.
Mrs. Emmens was born in Ireland on September 19, 1826, but she came to New York city when fifteen years old. When she met Henry Emmens only two years older than herself, they fell in Love at first sight and were married.
The couple celebrated their golden wedding on September 15, 1897, and a year later Mr. Emmens celebrated the semi-centennial of his business career. At their side during these happy events were six sons and three daughters, nine children living out of thirteen born to Mr. and Mrs. Emmens.
It was only six weeks and three days ago that Mr. Emmens contracted the cold which developed into the pneumonia that caused his death. He had frequently said that he wished his wife would die first, and almost on his deathbed he told one of his daughters, “She won’t be long after me.”
Mrs. Emmens took her husband’s death much to heart. Before that she had been ailing only with the troubles common to her more than three score and ten years, but immediately after the funeral she began to droop. Day by day she pined away and, a slight cold settling in, developed into the same disease that parted her husband from her.
I saw one of the daughters in the Second place home last night.
“I suppose that mother had pneumonia,” she said, sobbing, “but the doctor said that she died of a broken heart. After father’s death we had to carry her downstairs every day to the parlor, where the large picture of father hung, and when she would look at it and say ‘That’s Henry’ the sight would comfort her. She wanted to go to him and died.”