“All Tombs Around Are in Its Splendor Lost”

The remarkable gothic revival, self-designed memorial to Victorian teenage paragon Charlotte Canda was a much-visited tourist attraction during the Victorian age.

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Monument to Charlotte Canda, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. One half of a stereoscopic card, circa 1880. “Published by E. & H. T. Anthony & Co., Emporium of American and Foreign Stereoscopic views, chromos, albums, Magic Lanterns, and slides, 591 Broadway, opposite Metropolitan Hotel, New York.” Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

Charlotte Canda (3 Feb., 1828-3 Feb., 1845) was the daughter of Frenchman Charles Francis A. Canda (1792-1866), of Amiens, Somme, Picardie, and Adele Louisa Theriott (1804-1871), whom he wed 10 May, 1824.

Charlotte’s mother’s ancestors were early French settlers of New York. Adele was the daughter of Gabriel L. Theriott and sister of Augustus B. Theriott (1808 – 1866), who inherited their father’s dry-goods business circa 1823 when he was still a teenager.

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New York Times, February 11, 1886.

It has been put forth that Charlotte’s father was an officer in Napoleon’s army and that he was a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo, after which he sailed for America. However, this is likely untrue. There was a Canda in the Battle of Waterloo, which occurred in June 1815, but that man was Charles’s brother, Louis-Joseph-Florimond Canda, who served many years as an officer in the French army, married Angeline, daughter of the Marquis De Balbi-Piovera from Genoa, emigrated to the United States, was an early settler of Chicago, and died there in 1886. The purported military backstories of both Candas are told almost identically in varying sources, indicating that Charles and Florimond have been conflated.


These portrait miniatures are likely Charlotte Canda’s paternal grandparents. They were offered for sale by Boris Wilnitsky Fine Art, which stated that they carry a reverse inscription identifying them as Charles Canda of Amiens and his wife. The miniatures were likely brought by Florimond Canda to the United States.

Florimond’s younger brother and father’s namesake likely came to America with him in 1818. We know that from 1818 to 1820, Charles was a teacher in the classical department of Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall High School, according to 1906’s The Chronicles of Erasmus Hall. An entry in the New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920, notes that Canda was a professor of drawing there. He was also a skilled painter, as is proved by a Canda landscape dating to 1822 that was sold by Sotheby’s New York in May 2000.

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An Italianate landscape with figures at a classical column by a town, painted by Charles Canda in 1822.

After leaving Erasmus Hall, Canda likely taught painting and drawing privately. He was definitely doing so in November 1835, when he advertised in the New York Evening Post that his at-home classroom in Leonard Street was again open after a temporary closure. Later advertisements make clear Canda also instructed drawing at various ladies’ boarding schools in the city.

By 1837, Charles and Adele Canda had opened their own school, first located at 15 Amity Street, near Broadway. Later, they and the school moved to 17 Lafayette Place. It successfully drew both female boarding and day students who were educated and instructed in the attributes befitting a proper lady of the era.

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New York Evening Post, 26 August, 1837.

It has been asserted that Charlotte Canda was not Charles and Adele Canda’s biological child, but an adopted foundling. I can find no evidence to prove this. That she was an only child is true—however, her father had a much younger sister named Clemence (b. 1816), who lived with the family and with whom Charlotte almost certainly had a sisterly relationship, as Clemence was only nine or ten years older than her niece.

No identified painting,  portrait miniature, or daguerreotype of Charlotte appears to exist, but she was reputedly attractive. According to a 6 February, 1845 New York Evening Post article, “Nor had beauty, too, been withheld by the lavish hand of nature, to crown the rare union of charms and qualities which made her the idol of her parents, the delight of her friends, and one of the loveliest ornaments of society.” The only face we can put to Charlotte is that of the statue incorporated into her tomb, which would later please her family and so must capture at least some of her physical presence.

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Charlotte Canda. Photo by James P. Fisher III.

Charlotte grew up in her parents’ school, which developed a fine reputation; intellectually and artistically, she benefited. It is certain that Charlotte was instructed in drawing by her father, an art for which she showed strong natural talent. According to a 6 February, 1845 New York Evening Post article about her funeral, “To a singular brightness and sweetness of character, she united great quickness of mind, and an unusual degree of cultivation…. She was the familiar mistress of six languages [(English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Danish)] besides being an accomplished musician and proficient of much … skill in drawing.”

On Saturday, 23 November, 1844, Clemence Canda died at age 26 or 27. Her cause of death is not known, but a reasonable speculation is Consumption (Tuberculosis). She was greatly grieved by the loss of Clemence, and in her sketchbook, Charlotte quietly designed a grand memorial for her young aunt.

Charlotte may have been consoled by the man whom it is said intended to wed her, Charles-Albert Jarret de la Mairie, who was born 2 November, 1818, at Château de Bordes, Pontign, France. Ten years her senior, he was the son of Chevalier Henri-Rene-Louis Jarret, Seignoir de la Mairie (1778-1858), and his wife Augustine-Marie Le Gouz du Plessis (1780-1849). The family was minor French nobility, his paternal grandmother being Philippe-Madeleine de Boisjourdan, Dame de Chânay (1751-1840), and his paternal grandfather Chevalier Henri-Réne-Julien Jarret, Seigneur de la Mairie et de l’Epine (1751-1781). We know little else about Charles-Albert and nothing about his relationship with Charlotte, but we will read more of him later.

As of the day that Clemence Canda died, Charlotte Canda had less than three months to live.

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Charlotte’s 17th birthday fell on Monday, 3 February, 1845. According to the Morning Post of the following day, she had been invited to a small gathering of friends at a house on Eleventh Street, probably partly in her honor, but had followed the wishes of her parents and declined to go. At some point during the evening, at least one of these friends came around to the Canda home and begged her to join them, as the party “was nothing without her.”

Her parents had not wanted her to go out because, the Morning Post reported, “every one of her birthdays had been marked by some cross or mishap, frustrating the ordinary pleasant celebration of the day.” Now, however, Charlotte begged Charles and Adele to reconsider because it had been a good day thus far and “she wished to conclude it an agreeable manner.” Faced with the pleas of their beautiful and adored daughter, the Candas relented—the newspaper noting that, in retrospect, “every circumstance appears to have occurred that could give the keenest poignancy to the agonies of such a blow to the hearts of her parents.”

Reportage from the Evening Post of 5 February provided its readers with full details: After making the decision to let Charlotte go, Charles Canda “engaged a cab at the livery stable of Patrick Rooney, in Fourth Street, to convey him, his daughter … and a young lady residing at no. 29 Waverley Place, to the house of a friend on Eleventh Street. Canda rode with them and returned in the cab at 11 p.m. to escort the two partygoers home. The first stop was Charlotte’s friend’s house, which they reached around 11:30 p.m.

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This daguerreotype, which is the oldest known image of New York City, was taken of the Unitarian Congregational Church of the Messiah on the east side of Broadway (nos. 728-730) near Waverly Place in the fall of 1839 or winter of 1840. Charlotte would be fatally injured in just this area some five years later. The image has been flipped to show the actual view. Courtesy National Museum of American History.

“The driver, Patrick McCormick, alighted to open the carriage door, leaving the reigns of the horses loose on the seat. Mr. Canda got out of the carriage and went into the house … with the lady, leaving Miss Canda in the carriage, and the driver standing in the door awaiting the return of Mr. Canda. After the lapse of a few minutes, the horses suddenly started off and ran to Broadway, then to Fourth Street, and thence to the stable, where they came to a stand, with no other injury to the carriage than the leaves of the steps damaged,” the Post reported.

When the horses at stopped running and the driver caught up to them, Charlotte was no longer in the carriage. She had either jumped or was thrown out and struck her head near the intersection of  Broadway and Waverley Place. Two gentlemen found her unconscious in the snowy street and carried her to the New York Hotel at 715 Broadway, where medical aid was summoned.

After some confusion, Charles Canda deduced what had happened and hurried to the hotel. There he found his daughter insensible. “She had sustained such injuries as caused her death in about a half hour after the occurrence,” noted the Post. It has been put forth that Charlotte died in her parents’ arms, but there is no indication that Mrs. Canda knew her daughter had been mortally injured or that she would have had time to arrive at the hotel before Charlotte expired. It is possible that she did pass away in the arms of her father, but no primary source material I have found indicated this happened.

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The New York Hotel (left) pictured in 1875. Charlotte Canda died there late on the night of 3 February, 1845. Today, it is the site of the Tisch School of the Arts.

The following day, Charlotte was laid out at her parent’s Lafayette Place home-cum-school. While funeral arrangements were being made, a Coroner’s Inquest was held, probably in the family’s parlor where the coffin rested. The Evening Post reported, “The jury rendered the following verdict: that the deceased came to her death in consequence of the injuries received by jumping or being thrown from the carriage, with which the horses in the charge of Patrick McCormick started and ran from No. 29 Waverly Place … the said Patrick McCormick  having carelessly left the reins lying on the seat, instead of holding them, as he should have done, while he was standing at the side of the carriage, whereby he might have prevented the horses from running away.”

The funeral was held on 6 February at the Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul on Broadway at Canal Street. The Post described it thusly: “The church was throughout hung with black, and all the light being excluded from without, it was illuminated with tapers within. A grand mass for the dead was performed, and a requiem chaunted, with funeral music of the most impressive character. Notwithstanding the severity of the weather and the encumbrance of the street with snow, the funeral was attended by a great concourse of our most respectable citizens, walking on foot from the residence of Mr. Canda to the church.”

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This 1861 print shows Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its graveyard., Charlotte Canda was either buried in the cemetery or within the church itself for several years before being removed to Green-Wood.

Charlotte was interred at the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Prince and Mott streets in Manhattan and the Candas took what little comfort they could in the familiarity of Charlotte’s possessions around them.

When they explored her portfolio, they found several surprises.

First, in the book Green-Wood: A Directory for Vistors by Nehemiah Cleaveland, the author writes as a friend of the Candas who has been allowed to inspect Charlotte’s belongings: “In the portfolio which contains most of her drawing, there are two which possess a touching interest. They are the last she executed. The first is an attempt to depict Cromwell in the act of looking into the coffin of King Charles.” A few days later, she drew the scene again in more detail and wrote beneath it in French, ‘Death! I must learn to look thee in the face!'”

Second, her parents found Charlotte’s designs for Clemence’s tomb. Her father added to the plans some personal symbols representative of his daughter and commissioned sculptor Robert Launitz, who worked with another sculptor, John Franzee, to create a tomb at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood. Canda was said to have paid for the memorial with the dowery he had put aside for Charlotte’s marriage, but this may be another heartrending embellishment to her story.

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The tomb of Charlotte Canda in Green-Wood Cemetery. The rest of her family, including her young aunt, Clemence, are buried or entombed there as well. Photo by James P. Fisher III.

Charlotte—and presumably Clemence—was reinterred or entombed (it is unclear to me whether the Canda memorial is comprised of burial plots or is a family tomb) at Green-Wood on 29 April, 1848, and tomb construction finished. The cemetery describes the resulting Gothic Revival structure as “in the form of a tabernacle, standing at a prominent intersection of avenues in the Cemetery. An open, arched canopy flanked by two slender spires containing a portrait statue of the young woman wearing a garland of seventeen rose buds representing the years of her life. Above her head, a star symbolizes her immortality and a stylized butterfly with extended wings in the interior of the arch denotes her liberated spirit. An ornamental parapet encloses the sarcophagus set before the tabernacle…. The exquisite carving of the tomb preserves the love, devotion, and grief of the parents for their beloved daughter, taken from them at such a special time in her life.”

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By 3 March, Charles Canda had risen in spirit enough to place an ad in the Evening Post:

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The Candas’ school kept the fire of youth around them and their pupils brought them solace, purpose, and hope. Charlotte’s fiance, Charles-Albert Jarret de la Mairie, did not fare so well, however. After Charlotte’s death, he traveled to Rome, where he met and fell in love with a married woman. Having apparently acted on this passion, he was mortified by the social disgrace that followed. Jarret fled Rome for New York in September 1847.

On 18 October, at around noon, Jarret turned up at the home of his one-time prospective father-in-law, Charles Canda. He seemed, Canda later told a Coroner’s Inquest, “under great mental excitement. During the conversation he asked me if I had the same opinion of him as my sister—he fancied that my sister despised him. I tried to ascertain the cause of his strange conduct and asked him if he had committed any crime.”

The young man denied this but “asked a great many strange questions and said he intended to destroy himself…. I told him that he had friends and that I would like him to come back later” when a Catholic priest could minister to him. “He left me at half-past four o’clock,” Canda recalled, adding, “While at my house he showed us a pistol and alarmed my family very much.” (Source: New York Municipal Archives; NY County Coroner’s Inquests, Roll No. 35 Sept-Dec 1847.)

Jarret returned to a hotel at Broadway and Reade Street run by Frenchman Antoine Vignes, who was also deposed by the Coroner. “I asked him if he would have some dinner. He replied, ‘No,’ then went to his room, and soon after this he came downstairs and asked for a carriage to return to France.”

Thus began a series of frenetic goings and comings throughout the evening…. Jarret returned for the last time around 10 p.m. and went to his guest chamber. Vignes stated that, at one point, he entered Jarret’s room and found him holding a loaded barrel revolver. “I asked him what he was going to do,” Vignes recalled. “He said he was going to blow his brains out so that he did not disgrace his family.” (Source: Ibid.)

Within mere minutes, Jarret did just that.

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Buffalo Commercial, 19 October, 1847.

The 28-year-old left three suicide notes. To his brother, Louis-Marin-Augustin Jarret de la Maire (1816-1882), he wrote, “Farewell my good Louis. Farewell forever. Farewell, likewise my good Agatha. I dare no longer write to my father or mother, neither to Henry or his wife.”

To Augustine-Marie Le Gouz du Plessis: “To my Mother: There are two pistols that I have fired without being able to kill myself. Farewell, forgive me.”

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The grave of Charles-Albert Jarret de la Mairie. Photo by Tim Milk.

Finally, to no one, or everyone: “Before dying, I ask for forgiveness of those I have rendered so unhappy, and particularly to the person who brought me here.”

As a Catholic who’d killed himself, Jarret could not be buried on consecrated ground, but Charles Canda would still have him near the family that might once have been his own. He rests in Green-Wood just outside their plot.

Charlotte’s parents appeared on the 1850 census at the helm of their still-prosperous school. There were about 20 girls in residence, as well as a number of teachers and servants. The state of New York conducted another census in 1855, in which the Candas were again enumerated at their school, which then was comprised of about 30 female students and more than a dozen teachers and domestics.

Charles Canda was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on 5 June, 1849, at the Marine Court of the City of New York. His intent to do so had been registered by the city on 13 July, 1839.

In June 1855, Charles Canda applied for a passport. In the application, it was noted that he was 5’7″ in height with a medium forehead, gray eyes, a Roman nose, a medium mouth, a round chin, dark brown hair, a dark complexion, and an oval face. In the application, he attested, “I, Charles F. A. Canda, do solemnly, sincerely, and truly swear that I am a citizen of the United States, having been naturalized in the city of New York.” Scrawled on the side of the application is a note reading, “To be accompanied by his wife, Adele Canda, age 50 years.” The assumption is that the Candas traveled to France.

On 10 September, 1858, the New York Times mentioned the Candas as professional references in an ad for a young ladies school run by Madam K. F. Canchois.

Five years later, in July 1860, Canda again applied for a passport to undertake more travel accompanied by Adele. His physical description remained the same, save that his hair was no longer dark brown, but gray. Earlier that year, the Candas had been enumerated on the 1860 U.S. Census of New York City. Their school was closed and Charles and Adele lived in retirement with two servants.

Charles Canda died, aged 74, on 27 September, 1866. He was buried at Green-Wood on 29 September. Charlotte’s mother lived until 1871, dying in France.

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A drawing of Charlotte’s tomb from 1850’s Greenwood Cemetery Visitors Directory.

For many years after Charlotte’s death, her magnificent tomb was a well-known tourist attraction—one of the official highlights of a visit to Green-Wood. Generations learned the sad story of her tragic end and shed a tear for the beautiful teen as they stood before her statue.

In 1899, more than 50 years after she died in the New York Hotel, poet Daniel Pelton rhapsodized after a visit to the park-like cemetery:

“Turn’d to the left, I seek the intricate round,
Where Charlotte Canda decorates the ground,
Like Sirius, fairest of the starry line.
Yet death seems setting on that heavenly shrine;
All tombs around are in its splendor lost,
And all must bow before its mighty cost.
Yet who would envy, who would take her place,
Though not possessed of any wealth or grace.
The dread of pain, tenacity of life,
Increase with woe, and feed on mortal strife;
In vain the roses round her bloom,
Vain may the polished marble shine,
In vain the sculptured image show
Charlotte in life almost divine.
Still, all is night beneath the gorgeous tomb,
And the black grave wears the same dismal gloom.
Thou lovely flower, too delicate for Earth,
‘Tis only strange such beauty here had birth;
Supine it fell before the autumnal blast
To rise to Heaven when wintry storms have passed.” Ω

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Stereoview of the statue of Charlotte Canda, circa 1880. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Will the Circle be Unbroken: The History of the Heltons

“I was standing by my window,
On one cold and cloudy day
When I saw that hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, lord, in the sky?”

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From left: Silas, Milo, and Nellie Fay Helton, a modern copy of a vintage albumen print, circa November 1902. Print: Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

I do not own the original of this photograph, but I purchased this copy from the purported owner, so I reproduce it here with the caveat that the original is not in my collection copyright, but the research is solely my own.

According to the seller, the photo, taken in Monticello, Indiana, bears the inscription “Nellie Fay, Milo, and Silas.” It shows a trio of children stood before a late 1880s or early 1890s cabinet card that almost certainly portrayed their parents. The photograph was propped against a desiccated funeral floral arrangement of a broken wheel, which signified that the family circle was compromised. There was a note attached to the arrangement, but the writing is too small to read.

A search through public records led me to Nellie Fay Helton (b. April, 1891), Milo Charles Helton (b. 24 June, 1895), and Silas Warren Helton (b. June 1893), the children of farmer Charles Milo Helton, born 19 November, 1859, in Whittier, Indiana, and his wife Emma Florence Hart, born November 1867 in Cass County, Indiana. The pair married 20 March, 1887.

Charles’s parents were John Helton (b. 18 Nov., 1825)—also recorded as Hilton—and Susan Vernon (b. 1828). Both originally from Ohio, they married in Indiana 2 March, 1848. Charles, who was the third son and fifth of seven children, grew up on the family farm in the township of Washington.

Charles’s father died at age 40 on 10 June, 1865, but he does not appear to be a Civil War casualty. He was laid to rest in Miller Cemetery, Deacon, Indiana. By the enumeration of the 1870 census, Charles’s brother William had assumed the family patriarchy. The situation remained unchanged in 1880.

Silas W. Hart was 5’10”, blue-eyed, and white-haired. He was of the Protestant faith, could supposedly neither read nor write, and received an annual Civil War pension of $72.

Emma Hart Helton was the daughter of Silas W. Hart and South Carolina-born America Rodabaugh (1838-1880). Silas Hart came into life in Fayette County, Indiana, 6 November, 1836, the son of John Hart and Indiana R. Baldwin (13 June, 1815-18 Dec., 1880).

At age 26, on 16 August, 1862, Hart enlisted as a private in Company G, 73rd Indiana Infantry. “The [regiment] was mustered in at South Bend on 16 August 1862, with Gilbert Hathaway as colonel. Its men came from all over the northern part of the state, with sizable contingents from LaPorte, Valparaiso, Crown Point, Michigan City, Plymouth, Calumet, and Logansport,” wrote W. H. H. Terrell, in the Report of Adjutant General, Indiana, Vols. II and VI. “The regiment went immediately to Kentucky, where its first assignment was to chase Bragg’s forces south into Tennessee. By 20 November the regiment was at Nashville. For several days at the end of December 1862 and the beginning of January 1863 [there] was in heavy fighting at Stone River.

“In April 1863 the 73rd was assigned to Colonel A. D. Streight’s Independent Provisional Brigade, which had the mission of penetrating the enemy’s territory and cutting its communications. Embarking at Nashville, the regiment sailed down the Cumberland and up the Tennessee, landing at Eastport, Mississippi. From 30 April to 2 May they were in heavy engagements at Day’s Gap, Crooked Creek, and Blount’s Farm, all in Alabama. Colonel Hathaway was killed at this last engagement, and five days later Colonel Streight himself surrendered. The enlisted men in the regiment were soon paroled and returned to Nashville while the officers were sent to Confederate prison camps.”

In 1864, the regiment served picket duty along the Tennessee River. “In September they were ordered to Decatur, Alabama, where they held off an attack on 1 October. On 26 October, Hood with 35,000 men besieged Decatur, but was held off. In the winter of 1864-1865 the 73rd moved to Stevenson, Alabama, then to Huntsville, then to guard the Mobile and Charleston Railroad with headquarters at Larkinsville.”

img-3On 1 July, 1865, the regiment was mustered out at Nashville. Silas Hart left the infantry as a full corporal and returned his wife America and his children in Indiana. After America’s death on 4 December, 1880, Silas married twice more. A 2 August, 1911, Richmond Item story about his third and very “winter marriage” to Ellen Donhower is left.

Silas served as post master in Galveston, Indiana, and later was a jeweler in Richmond, Indiana. He ended his days in the National Military Home in Dayton, Ohio. From the admission records of 20 April, 1922, we know that at age 86, Silas was 5’10”, blue-eyed, and white-haired. He was of the Protestant faith, supposedly could neither read nor write, received an annual Civil War pension of $72, and was suffering from severe dementia. His stay at the home was brief: Silas Hart died 24 May, 1922, of chronic cardiac dilation. This is not the last time readers of this article will encounter fatal medical conditions of the heart.

“Mrs. Helton suddenly sank on the shoulders of her husband and expired before she could be gotten out of the vehicle.”

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The Helton children’s parents can be seen in this closeup.

The loss of the 1890 Census to a 1921 conflagration prevents a glimpse of the young Helton family in the first years after Charles and Emma wed. (A comprehensive article on the 1890 census and its near total destruction can be read at Prologue.) The enumeration would have shown Charles and Emma’s firstborn children, twins Earl Dick and Pearl, who arrived safely on 21 June, 1888. Next came Flossie Fern, born in January 1890.

(An interesting aside: according to Isaac Blickenstein and Louis G. Keith’s book Multiple Pregnancy: Epidemiology, Gestation, and Perinatal Outcome, “One recently reviewed historical account from a rural German community during the 18th and 19th centuries showed that maternal mortality during the first 42 days postpartum was not significantly different among mothers of twins compared with mothers of singletons. On the other hand, mothers of twins who delivered twins a second time were almost four times more likely to die, compared with mothers of twins who later delivered singletons.” Other more recent studies show multiple gestations associated with a two-fold increase of risk of death.)

Charles and Emma would have seven children in total including Silas, Nellie Fay, Milo, and a final boy, Harold, who arrived in March 1898. The farm on which all were born was six miles southwest of Logansport, rented from E. G. Wilson. Years later, the Logansport Pharos-Tribune would note that Charles Helton was “one of the most successful farmers and well-known residents of the county.” (Backing up this claim, the 12 November, 1891, Logansport Reporter stated that an expensive horse was stolen from Charles.)

Unexpectedly, stunningly, the children lost their mother on 2 November, 1901. The Elwood Daily Record of 11 November describes what happened: “Mrs. Charles Helton, a sister of C. N. Hart of [Kokomo, Indiana], died in a buggy while coming here on a visit from her home near Monticello. She was accompanied by her husband, and when about half way here, and while they were eating a cold lunch, Mrs. Helton suddenly sank on the shoulders of her husband and expired before she could be gotten out of the vehicle. Heart trouble was the cause…. Mr. Helton turned around and returned home with the corpse of his wife.”

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Marshall County Independent (Plymouth, Indiana), 15 November, 1901.

The Marshall County Independent reported a slightly different tale: “Her husband, thinking she had fallen asleep, drove several miles not knowing she was dead.”

The eldest children’s shock and horror at the sight of their dead mother in the buggy may have left lasting scars. Conversely, the youngest children, Milo and Harold, probably could not recall the incident, or even their mother, in later years. But no matter how much they remembered, did not care to remember, or could not remember about their mother and her death, the Helton children had inherited from her a genetic propensity toward heart disease, attacks, and failure. As the decades went by, many clan members would die from these medical causes.

On 4 November, Emma Hart Helton was buried, according to her death certificate, in the “IOOF cem,”—presumably the International Order of Odd Fellows Lodge 107 Riverview Cemetery in Monticello, although her grave is unmarked. I think it highly likely that three of the youngest Heltons—Nelly, Milo, and Silas—posed for the photo with their mother’s dried funeral flowers on the first anniversary of her passing in November 1902.

Unlike many widowers with young children, Charles Helton did not remarry and the eldest daughters, Pearl and Flossie, probably took on the mother’s role vacated by Emma’s death. However, Pearl and Flossie did not abandon their education to care for younger siblings. The two girls and brother Earl graduated from Monticello High School in 1908 and Pearl would eventually leave the family farm to study in Chicago.

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The White County Court House, Monticello, Indiana, as the Heltons would have known it. Colored postcard, circa 1910.

The Helton family can be found on the 1910 Census of White County, with all surviving members accounted for. On Christmas Eve of that year, Earl married Hazel Vera Eads (1888-1960). Their first child, a boy named after his paternal grandfather, was born in 1911.

Death blighted the family circle once again in 1914. Pearl Helton died in Chicago on 13 January. I cannot locate her death certificate, but it is highly likely she died of a fatal heart condition such as myocardial insufficiency. Her body was returned to her family and she was buried in Monticello, perhaps beside her mother at Riverview. Her grave is also unmarked.

In the Pharos-Tribune of 21 November, 1918, reported that “Charles Helton, with his daughter, Miss Flossie Helton, left Tuesday for Wausaukee, Wisconsin, where they will reside permanently. A son, Milo Helton, is already there and they will be joined at Hammond by another son, Earl Helton, who with his family will also go there to make it his home…. They will live on a large farm which they have purchased near Wausaukee.”

Earl and Hazel did not pull up roots and follow. They would settle in Hammond, Lake County, Indiana, where Earl worked as a crane operator in a car shop and later as a machinist. Earl and Hazel and had six children after Charles Milo: Harry Thomas (b. 1914); Robert James (b. 1917); Joy Mae (b. 1918), George Dick (b. 1922), Gladys Dee (b. 1926) and Richard Earl (b. 1929).

img-4While searching for newspaper articles that mentioned Earl and Hazel, I came across the one at right, from the 28 December, 1935, issue of the Hammond Times, and other issues throughout the 1930s. Hazel Helton was a Spiritualist, as is my own father and are my own paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents. I was both christened and married at the Spiritualist Church of Two Worlds in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

There is much misunderstanding of Spiritualism, but the clearest explanation is that its adherents believe in life after death and that the dead can contact the living in numerous ways. One way is through mediums such as Fred Sundling and Ruth Coyle, mentioned in the article. At the end of every Spiritualist service several mediums take turns giving messages from departed loved ones and spirit guides. If Earl attended the church with Hazel, he may have received regular communications from his long-lost mother and sister Pearl. To hear more from their dear departed, the Heltons may also have visited Camp Chesterfield, Indiana, a Spiritualist summer retreat that opened in 1891 and is still in service today. There, the messages, readings, table-tipping, and séances were a comfort and an assurance that, to quote the famous hymn, the circle would be unbroken, by and by.

At age 71, from acute coronary occlusion, Hazel’s earthly chair was vacated 11 May, 1960. Earl Helton lived on for another four years, dying 30 August, 1964, of coronary myocardial infarction in Crown Point, Indiana. He is buried with his wife at Oak Hill Cemetery, Lake County.

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Earl and Hazel Helton. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Faye Helton Lane and Linda Lane Hedges.

Flossie Helton married Malvin Christ Monsen. He was born 2 June, 1890, in Marinette, Wisconsin, to Norwegan immigrants Olaf Monsen and Hansine Anderson. Malvin came to his long-time home in Dunbar, Michigan, as a child and attended the Dunbar School. His 1917 draft registration describes him as short, of a medium complexion, with blue eyes and light-brown hair, and partly bald. (We know from his 1942 draft registration that he was 5’5″ tall, 150 pounds, and was by then completely bald.) He served with the United States Army during World War I from 1917 to 1919. In France, he was shot in the thigh of his left leg and received the Purple Heart.

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Malvin and Flossie Monsen from the book “Dunbar Remembered Centennial 1888-1988.”

After the war, Malvin farmed, and in 1922, he became the first rural mail carrier for the area, a position he kept until in 1957. On September 25, 1925, he married Flossie Helton, and by the enumeration of the 1930 Census, the couple had an infant son Wayne (1929-2011), who was known throughout his life as “Swede.” Flossie’s father Charles Helton also lived with them. The old man passed away 30 July, 1934. The Pharos-Tribune of 2 August reported his last journey: “The body of Charles H. Helton, who died at his house In Goodland, Wis., was brought here this morning to the Prevo and Son funeral home, where services were held…. Burial was in Riverview Cemetery.”

Malvin died in Iron Mountain, Dickinson County, Michigan, on 15 November, 1975. Flossie lived for a little more than a year, dying on Christmas Day, 1976, in Kingsford, Michigan. Both are buried in Dunbar Memorial Gardens.

Swede Monsen “graduated from Pembine High School in 1948. After graduation, he proudly served his country in the United States Air Force as a flight engineer including missions in the Berlin Air Lift, Korean War, and Vietnam. After 23 years of service, he and [his wife] Betty moved to Peshtigo [Wisconsin] where he owned and operated Swede’s Standard Station,” recounted his obituary after his death on 20 February, 2011.

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Wayne “Swede” Monsen

“Years later, Betty and Wayne moved to Pembine, Wisconsin, and owned Swede’s Place Bar and Restaurant and Swede’s Garage. They relocated to Milwaukee and worked for Doug Rohde Grading Co. for 17 years, finally coming home to his boyhood family farm in Dunbar.”

Swede was buried in Dunbar Memorial Gardens. But this branch of the Heltons live on, with two daughters, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren surviving him.

The informant—Nellie’s daughter Aleatha—did not know the full name of her  grandmother, filling in the blank line with “unk. Hart.”

img-2Nellie Fay Helton married Harley Ward Phebus (b. 1891) on 2 May, 1914. The 1920 Census placed the couple and their daughters, two-year-old Agatha and six-month-old Aleatha living in a lodging house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1930, the Phebuses had a home in North Arsenal Avenue, Indianapolis. Harley worked as a salesman and Nellie as a waitress in a restaurant. By 1936, he had changed his job career to watchman. Sometime shortly afterward, Phebus returned to an earlier career—auctioneering, eventually joining the company Ace Liquidators, as his obituary (left) detailed. Harley was sometimes referred to in newspaper advertising as “Col. Harley Phebus.” He indeed served in World War I, but I can obtain no more information on his service than his draft registration, which described him as short, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a pale complexion.

Harley Phebus was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis on 15 January, 1962. Nellie died in a retirement home in Zionsville, Indiana, in May 1972, aged 81, of cerebral arteriosclerosis. She was buried 30 May in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis.

As I read her death certificate, it saddened me to note that while the informant—Nellie’s daughter Aleatha—knew the name of her grandfather Charles Helton, she did not know the full name of her grandmother, filling in the line with “unk. Hart.” It is speculation whether this spoke of Nellie’s trauma on that long-ago November day when a buggy containing her dead mother arrived at the door.

The registrar reported Milo was missing his right eye and his left index finger at the first joint.

Milo Helton, as previously mentioned, removed to Wausaukee, Wisconsin, by 1918 when his father and Flossie joined him. The year previous, he filled out a Word War I draft registration that stated he was of medium height, a medium build, and had brown eyes and brown hair. It does not appear that he served during the war.

The date of Milo’s marriage remains elusive, but his wife was Maud E. Woosencraft (b. 1900), the daughter of Welsh immigrants. They had four children: Thomas C. (b. 1933), Gwendolyn M. (b. 1934), Dorothy L. (b. 1935), and Donald M. (b. 1938).

In 1942, Milo Helton filled out a World War II draft registration card. At some point between the two wars, he suffered a serious accident. The registrar recorded that Milo was missing his right eye and his left index finger at the first joint. I suspect that this trauma was caused during his employment as an electrician at a lumbar mill in the 1920s. Milo died only a few years after the World War II draft, on 14 March, 1946, and is buried in Dunbar Memorial Gardens, Dunbar, Wisconsin. Maud did not follow until 25 January, 1961, but today she lies beside him.

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The headstone of Milo and Maud Helton at Dunbar Memorial Gardens. Photo by Accidental Genealogist.

Silas Helton, the other brother who would not move to Wisconsin in 1918, married Velda Scott Eldridge on 2 June, 1915. (His wife was born in August 1897 to Oregon and Bertha Scott Eldridge.) Their daughter, Pequetti Marge, arrived 11 June, 1917, and Velda was pregnant again when the United States entered into the first World War. Silas was either conscripted or voluntarily joined the fight. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, he served from 8 July, 1918, to 8 February, 1919.

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Pequetti Helton in 1937. Her resemblance to her father Silas when a child is striking.

Silas returned safely to Monticello, where he met his son Paige Hart Helton, born 9 September, 1918. Silas took up work as slate cutter and later as an insurance salesman.

Wrenchingly, nine-year-old Paige died of Myocardial insufficiency at Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis, 22 August, 1927. He joined his grandmother, aunt, and others of his clan at Riverview Cemetery. Pequetti did not inherit the Heltons’ heart disease. She thrived and grew into an exceptionally beautiful and talented woman. Silas and Velda must have been both relieved and proud.

By 1930, the Heltons were decamped to Crawfordsville, Indiana, where Pequetti attended the town high school, playing the bassoon and marching in a new band uniform of “dark blue, trimmed in gold [with a] Sam Browne belt and Pershing hat,” according to the 1932 yearbook. Shortly thereafter, Pequetti won an MGM screen test and enrolled in the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music at Indianapolis’s Butler University. On 19 May, 1940, as she was about to graduate, the “blonde, blue-eyed senior from Lafayette will rule as queen on the annual Butler University Day May celebration…in the formal gardens of the fairview campus,” gushed the Indianapolis Star. The day included folk dancing, a Woman’s League ball, a concert, the play Robin Hood, and a feast.

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Pequetti Helton’s engagement announcement.

For the next several years, Pequetti’s life was a round of dramatic performances, social gatherings, and weddings in which she was maid of honor or a bride’s maid. Then on 18 July, 1943, the Star reported her engagement to U.S. Navy Ensign Anthony J. Marra with a large photo of the bride-to-be (right).

After their marriage on 7 August, 1944, the couple lived for a time in San Pedro, California, and later made their home in Indianapolis, where Anthony Marra operated a construction company. They had three sons: Ronan Scott (b. 1947), Anthony J. (b. 1949), and Steven C. Marra (b. 1954).

In 1942,  her father Silas registered for the World War II draft from Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana. He was 5’6″, 145 pounds, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion. From this time until the late 1960s, I can find nothing to elucidate his life. Silas passed away on Christmas Eve, 1968, of cardiac arrest, in Home Hospital, Lafayette. He was buried on 27 December with his family at Riverview Cemetery in Monticello. Velda, who worked as a clothing seamstress and fitter, died in June 1989 of an acute cerebral hemorrhage and also rests at Riverview.

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Pequetti in February 1967, pictured with the famous Dr. Joyce Brothers.

In the 1950s, Pequetti took up charitable work. She was for some time the president or other officer of the Benefe Guild, which undertook good deeds such as raising money for needy families, buying books for hospitals, and making donations causes such as restoring Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. “To raise finds for their work the guild sponsors an annual card party and a style show, and a rummage sale at the Coffee Street Branch of the Center. The membership sews an extensive doll wardrobe during the year for the Dress-a-Doll-at-Christmastime-to-Help-a-Child Project,” reported the Star on 25 October, 1959.

One must wonder, however, whether Pequetti found the life of a mid-century housewife satisfying, no matter how socially prominent she was and how much charitable work she did outside the home. She may have intended to become a Hollywood starlet, a stage actress, or something else entirely. It is tempting from my own 21st Century position to ascribe boredom and frustration to a life lived dressing dolls and holding teas or card parties. I hope she felt fulfilled and never dwelt on chances lost to her.

img-4The Marras were often mentioned in the society pages of Indianapolis newspapers, such as the article (left) on a spectacular open house during the Christmas season of 1968. Another item in the Star discussed the party the Marras threw at their golf and country club after Ronan graduated from Wabash College on 7 June, 1970.

During the 1970s, Pequetti was still frequently in the Society pages. She was a member of the Sunnyside Guild, which sponsored lectures by noted female speakers, and Pequetti was often pictured with them.

Pequetti died of basal cell carcinoma at 3:45 a.m., 10 June, 2001, at St. Vincent Hospital. She was survived by her sons, her husband, and 10 grandchildren. She is buried in Washington Park North Cemetery, Indianapolis.

The youngest Helton, Harold, never married. In 1920, he lived in Zero, Adams County, Nebraska, working as hired hand on a farm. The 1930 census placed Harold in Alameda, California, rooming and working as a vacuum salesman. In 1940, he lived in Pittsburg, Contra Costa County, California, in a boarding house, working as a carpenter. Harold Helton died 5 September, 1967, in Napa, California. Ω


Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Lyrics written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon with music by Charles H. Gabriel. The song was later rewritten by A. P. Carter and includes the lyrics quoted at the top of this article.

There are loved ones in the glory,
Whose dear forms you often miss
When you close your earthly story,
Will you join them in their bliss?

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
In a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?

In the joyous days of childhood,
Oft they told of wondrous love,
Pointed to the dying Savior
Now they dwell with Him above.

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
In a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?

You remember songs of heaven
Which you sang with childish voice,
Do you love the hymns they taught you,
Or are songs of earth your choice?

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
In a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?

You can picture happy gatherings
Round the fireside long ago,
And you think of tearful partings,
When they left you here below

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
In a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?

One by one their seats were emptied,
One by one they went away;
Here the circle has been broken
Will it be complete one day?