George Smith is my great-grandfather, but the relationship can’t be proven through documents. He is the unrecorded father of my grandfather, Arthur (Art) Washburn Davis.
Art was born in Plymouth 25 May 1913, the illegitimate child of Carrie Clyfton Washburn who was just 17 years of age. There is no father listed on his birth record.
|Arthur "Art" Washburn Davis|
I’ve written about this before, but I never met my grandfather. He and my grandmother Mildred Booth were married briefly and he didn’t stay in regular contact with my father. I started researching Arthur’s ancestry out of curiosity and it’s been an incredible journey. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work has been “finding” Arthur’s half-sister, Dorothy (Dot).
So many people are closed-mouth about the skeletons in their family's collective closet, but Dot is very open about it. When her mother was elderly, she told Dot that she was involved with George Smith as a teenager and became pregnant. Dot said the Washburns and Smiths were very familiar with each other, and she even knew George's parents names.
I easily found George's birth record: George Brewster Smith was born Kingston 17 Sept 1894, to Patrick D. Smith and Mary A (Brewster), residents of Kingston, father a rope maker, born Kingston, mother born Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Dot also said that before Art was born, George was killed in an accident in Middleborough, when he was sitting on top a load of furniture in a wagon and his head struck a bridge.
I wondered if this was true or one of those fanciful stories that pass down through a family, so I did some checking around. It turns out Dot was very accurate.
From the Middleboro Gazette, Friday, April 4, 1913
Fatality at East Middleboro
George B. Smith, 18 years of age, of Plymouth, a son of Patrick Smith of that town, met a horrible death at Waterville, Monday afternoon. He was driving a load of furniture from Middleboro to Plymouth for Mr. Watson, a teamer, of Plymouth. As he neared the railroad bridge near the Waterville schoolhouse he stood up while going down the hill to "sight" the load, and ascertain if it would go under the bridge. Finding that he could not do so, it is surmised he dropped the reins, and while trying to adjust some of the furniture on top of the load, the horses started, and he was pinned between the girders of the bridge and the load, and almost instantly killed. The body was first seen on the load by Howard Bryant, a scholar at Waterville, who in turn notified William Murray, agent at the East Middleboro station. He notified the authorities. The body was removed from the load, and Dr. A.V. Smith, assistant medical examiner, viewed the remains, and gave the cause of death in accord with the circumstances, the young man being strangled in being caught under the bridge. His body was taken to Plymouth next day, where his relatives reside.
There has been some talk of the clearance of the bridge being too low, and Patrick Smith, the father of the victim, has been in conference with the town authorities regarding it. Town counsel Washburn is looking up the county commissioners' decree, which was made when the bridge was built, to see where the liability, if any, is located.
|Waterville School, Middleborough (Source: Images of America: Middleborough)|
Carrie wasn't the only girl in town that George impregnated. Apparently George got involved with Carrie after he was newly married to another young woman, who had already given birth to a son.
On 24 June 1912, George B. Smith of Plymouth, Laborer, age 17, born in Kingston, married Helen Pearson of Plymouth, age 17, born in Plymouth.
Earlier in the year, Helen gave birth to a child:
20 March 1912, George E.C. Smith, born Plymouth, to George B. Smith and Helen Pierson, father a laborer, both parents born Plymouth.
George’s death is recorded in Plymouth. He died 31 March 1913, 18 years, 6 months, 14 days, Male, white, married, accident crushed between bridge and load of furniture, teamster, born in Kingston, parents Patrick D. Smith born Kingston and Mary Ann Brewster born South Boston.
What a tragic, senseless way for such a young man to die. And he certainly left a mess behind, with one baby too young to remember him and another unborn son he’d never meet. I wonder how things would have turned out if he wasn't killed that day. Would he have acknowledged Arthur as his son and helped support him? Maybe then Arthur wouldn’t have had the difficult life he experienced, being raised mostly by (step) family, although it was never easy being an illegitimate child. The only way Helen and Carrie could support their children was with the help from family, who likely were embarrassed by their daughters' pregnancies.
It seems George (Junior) may have also been raised by family as in the 1920 census he is living with his grandparents. Art's grandparents did not do the same, as he was first sent to live with (presumably) strangers and then with his new step-father's sister.
Carrie went on to marry and had ten more children. Although they struggled to get by financially, it seems she had a long and happy life. She certainly did a wonderful job raising a person like Dot.
I do not know what Helen's future held.