Grey River

David Ward
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In loving memory of Harriett and Caroline Young, age 12 years, died December 21, 1913, twin daughters of Frank and Annie Young, and niece Mary Lushman who died at 16 years.  We shall meet again.

But that’s only what the gravestone said.

“Yes, my dear.  There is much more story to those deaths than what you read on that gravestone,” Sarah Rose (Young), age 81, told me when I was introduced to her by the good people who had gathered at Grey River’s general store.  “But if you want more,” she instructed me, gently touching my arm, “you’ll have to come to my house where I’ve got a picture I can show you, of those three little girls, taken a short time before they died.”

So it was off to Sarah’s home I did go.

“Tom Young had this picture come for my late husband Victor, because Victor’s mother died when he was only eleven months.  So he didn’t know what she looked like,” Sarah said, pointing to a sweet young girl in a surprisingly high quality photograph, taken in the early 1900s, of a large group of Grey River children.  “Eleven months is not a long time to have your mother’s love,” Sarah understated.  “Today they might know what Victor’s mother died from (mastitis, breast cancer?), but back then they didn’t know what killed her.

“And here,” she said, circling three more lovely female faces, “are Mary, Caroline, and Harriett – the darling little girls who died when their house burnt down, in 1913.  Nobody knows how the fire started, but the girls’ mother was a midwife who had gone to help another daughter, named Annie too, have a baby.  The girls’ father was up the bay.  So the only one at home with the girls was a teacher who was boarding with them – and he jumped out a window when he saw the house was on fire.

“Then, a week later, the daughter that the mother was helping have a baby, and the baby, died too (of childbirth complications, both of them).  So Annie Young lost three daughters, a niece who she raised as one of her own, and a grandchild, all in one week.  After that, the poor old woman was never the same.  She just ‘got out of it - she didn’t know what she was at.’  She’d put out plates on the table, and sing out, ‘Caroline, Mary, Harriett… come for dinner.’  But of course they never did come.  Poor thing ‘just got out of it.’  Can hardly blame her,” Sarah, herself a mother of ten (nine girls), clearly understood.

“So their people (recently, respectfully,) bought them that gravestone and put it where their house was.  But that’s all I can tell you,” she concluded, trying to bring closure to what was, understandably, a difficult story to tell.  “But maybe I got it wrong, because I wasn’t born in 1913.  So if you need more, you will want to get it from somebody else.  You see, what I tell you, I got from my mother (Susanna), but she’s been dead 36 years.  So perhaps I’m wrong.  Or maybe my mother was wrong, but I don’t think so – she had too good a memory to make mistakes on things like that.  No my dear, my mother had too good a memory to make mistakes about one of Grey River’s sad stories.

McCallum’s feller-from-away, David is travelling Newfoundland’s southwest coast.  Next stop: Burgeo

Geographic location: Grey River, Newfoundland, Burgeo

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