When the Bow Breaks

“She sleeps in peace, dear sister sleeps—
Art thou forever gone?
No, we will see thee soon again,
Where parting is unknown”— In Memory of Mary Frey by Her Sister CMB

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Edyth Miriam Embery, gelatin silver bromide print, 1909 or 1910. Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

This angelic child, pictured at the start of what should have been a long life, was Edyth Embery, born 5 March, 1909, in Frankford, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Dr. Francis Patrick Embery (1867-1939), a Philadelphia otorhinolaryngologist, and his wife Miriam Fairbairn Wilson (1875-1948), whom he wed in early 1899.  (The 12 February Philadelphia Inquirer described Miriam as wearing “heavy corded white silk, trimmed with chiffon and lace and carried bride roses. The flower girl, maid of honor, and bridesmaids wore white organdie and carried white carnations.”)

Francis Embery, known as Frank, was born at Foxchase, Philadelphia County, to William Henry Embery (1840-1914). Frank’s father was, by 1872, head of the Assay Laboratory of the United States Mint. Previously, he’d served as a sergeant in Co. A, 1st New Jersey Cavalry, during the Civil War. Frank’s mother was Annie Elizabeth Manning (1841-1921), who was of Irish descent.

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Dr. Francis P. Embery, Edyth’s father

According to the National Cyclopædia of American Biography, Vol. 29, Frank Embery attended Philadelphia’s Central High School and later studied at the Medio-Chirurgical College of Philadelphia, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1893. At first, he was a general practitioner, then moved into ear, nose, and throat specialization, eventually serving as the head of that specialty’s staff at Frankford Hospital. He was also an examiner for the Metropolitan and Penn life insurance companies. Embery was a member of the Philadelphia County Medical Society, the American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association and many other professional organizations, as well as the Masonic Order.

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Edyth’s uncle, William Embery.

Frank and Miriam Embery’s first child was a daughter, Margaret Wilson Embrey, who was born late in the same year in which her parents married. A second girl, Kathryn, arrived in 1903.

Edyth Miriam was baptized 17 days after her birth on 22 May, 1909, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia. Three sponsors stood for her: Alice Nice, Mrs. B. Wilbraham, and William Embery (1865-1956), who was one of her uncles. William Embery studied in the Law Department of the University of Pennsylvania and was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in the late 1880s. He formed a law partnership with another brother, Joseph Ryers Embery (1869-1941), and kept offices in the Real Estate Trust Building in Frankford, Philadelphia.

In 1910, little Edyth made her only appearance on a U.S. census, which was enumerated on 21 April. The entry shows a prosperous family: Frank Embery, doctor of medicine, aged 42; his 33-year-old wife; his three daughters; brother-in-law Frank T. Wilson (a dyer and finisher); in-laws Frank Warren (a dying and finishing manufacturer), and Miriam H. Fairbairn Wilson; and a 77-year-old widowed boarder named Adelaide Dougherty.

(Edythe’s maternal grandfather, Frank Wilson, was also a Civil War veteran, having served in Co. G, 7th Pennsylvania Volunteers as a private.)

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On 12 October, 1912, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Dr. Embery had funded the building of twelve brick residences on Large Street above Orthodox Street at the cost of $16,800—presumably as a real estate venture. By 1913, the Emberys had moved to 4653 Penn Street, Philadephia, whilst Dr. Embery kept a purpose-built office at 4646 Frankford Avenue. The family home was the pale blue duplex on the left, and this is likely where, in the backyard on the afternoon of Sunday, 24 September, 1916, that a heartbreaking tragedy took place.

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Philadelphia Inquirer, 27 September, 1916.

The Inquirer reported, “Half an hour after seven-year-old Edthye Embrey [sic]… had fallen from a swing when a rope broke, yesterday, she died at her home. The girl’s father, Dr. Frank Embrey [sic], was summoned from his office at 4646 Frankford Avenue but did not reach the house until a few minutes after his daughter passed away.

“She had been playing in the old swing with her sister and several friends, all taking turns riding. Edythe was standing on the wooden seat, swinging high in the air when the strands of one of the weatherworn ropes began to break. She sat down, and as she did so the rope parted entirely. Edythe was hurled out and fell on her right side several yards away. When her sisters reached her, she was unconscious.

“Dr. William H. Morrison, of Holmsburg, found she had suffered from an internal hemorrhage.”

Edyth was dead at age seven years, six months, and 19 days. Her sorrowing family laid her to rest at North Cedar Hill Cemetery, not far from her home. Sadly, her grave is unmarked.

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The death certificate of Edyth Embery.

It is unfortunate that little can be discovered about the Emberys in later years and nothing whatsoever about how Edyth’s loss affected them. Sister Margaret, known as Peg, attended Philadelphia Central High School and Swarthmore College, where she studied economics and political science. In 1925, she married Francis Joseph Allen (1899-1962), had a daughter named Margaret in about 1929, and lived a long life, dying in in Philadelphia in January 1990.

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Edyth’s sister Margaret pictured and described in the 1921 Swarthmore College yearbook.

Kathryn Embery may have married twice—first, on 7 October, 1925, to George Alexander Anderson (1897-1993), by whom she had two sons, and later to Arthur S. Bailey, who is mentioned as her husband in her father’s National Cyclopaedia entry. Ω

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North Cedar Hill Cemetery, Frankford, Philadelphia, where Edyth Embrey rests today.

Author: Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Writer, journalist, editor, historian.

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