Saturday, August 1, 2015

Stay Away From the Big City

Thomas Fulford was the brother of my great great grandfather. He was one of those people who I only learned of because they were listed on one of the census records.

When you do family history research there are a lot of these folks. They show up on a census or bible record as being in the family but then you don't know what happened to them. When the next census was done, ten years later, they aren't listed. I probably have hundreds or thousands of these people in my records.

Thomas Fulford was the youngest son in the family of Col. Thomas and Susan Fulford and was born in 1840. On the 1850 and 1860 census he was living with the family in the Straits area of Carteret County, North Carolina and then he disappeared.

In my records I just showed that he died sometime after 1860 but had no other information about him. With the Civil War just after that, I assumed he had enlisted and died or just moved away by the time the 1870 census came out.

Recently I obtained some family estate records from the period and one of them was a $20 promissory note to Ralph Martin signed by Thomas Fulford on September 18, 1860 in New York City.

Promissory Note

The note was very unusual and I had no information about him or other family members living in New York and wasn't sure why this would be in the family records. I decided to check Census and City directories in New York for him.

He was not and there was only one Fulford listed who had been born in North Carolina, a distant cousin Captain William Hawkins Fulford. Captain W. H. Fulford was a Sea Captain who operated out of New York and sailed literally around the world many times in the 1860-1870s.

I had newspaper records of him regularly delivering cargo to Carteret County, North Carolina around this same time and wondered if Thomas Fulford had hired on as a member of his crew and that is how he ended up in New York. It was certainly possible since they were close to the same age and Capt. Fulford's father and siblings lived in the area.

So if Thomas Fulford was living in New York in September 1860, what happened to him?

I started checking the death records which were available online and found a listing for a Thomas Fulford on October 11, 1860. It didn't have any details other than a name and date so I contacted the City of New York to see if they had death certificates from this period.

I was surprised to receive the ledger below, which shows the Thomas Fulford who died October 11th was born in North Carolina and 21 years old, which matched my great uncle.  

Then I noticed the second page and cause of death listed as Confluent Smallpox. It wasn't unusual for Sailors to contract Smallpox while traveling to other countries and then bring it back to port towns. Philadelphia had a Smallpox epidemic in 1860 and New York had over 2,000 cases even though effective vaccines had been available for over 40 years.

New York City Death Certificates October 1860
Confluent Smallpox was one of the more severe forms of the disease where the blisters form over the entire surface of the skin and the fatality rate was double that of the ordinary type. It was a gruesome and painful way to die. The death certificate shows Thomas died at a hospital but does not say which one.

He was buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery. In the family records I found a receipt to Griffin Titus for the funeral and grave marker. The total cost was $66.00 and $21.25 was for a grave marker.

Funeral bill
I decided to try and locate his grave. Trinity Church Cemetery is an old one and they have tours for tourists to show the graves of famous people, such as Astors, Audubons and former NYC Mayor Koch who are buried there.

I found a New York City Historian and newspaper columnist who wrote about Trinity Cemetery and he was kind enough to respond to my email. I asked if there were records to identify the location of old graves. He had a copy of a book published in 1931 "Gravestone Inscriptions of Trinity Cemetery, New York City, New York," that listed all the legible markers.

There was one for Thomas and the marker was shown in the "Parish Ground" of the Eastern Division of the Trinity Church Uptown Cemetery.
Book excerpt
The cemetery office has an archivist who checked the area. He said he could not locate a marker but from the description in their records he gave the location as "behind the Church of Intercession near the tree stump altar."

There are thousands of graves in the cemetery and I don't know if I will ever get there to check myself but plan to try.

1 comment:

Ruby said...

The "visitor from Starkville" is actually lil ole me from Tupelo. I love the way you just keep looking till you find something. Such a fine feeling when something does pop up. I looked all over Texas (well, two or three counties) for years looking for kinfolk who went there after the war. The father did not come home from the war ("was never seen after Shiloh") so the widow had taken the kids to Texas. I finally found that the last of them had died in a house fire. Some kind lady responded to my query at one of those county sites. Sad but closure.

I need to see a picture of Mary F. on her golf cart! I have been Googling Cortez on Google Earth and it is fascinating. Even saw mangoes on a tree. Show Mary how to do that. I saw the church and the house where some of you stayed....just can't get a good ground level view of the front of her house. Saw the side with the white fence and the closed shutters.