Mar. 4-8, 1919

Mar 4

Went to school. They got a message that Edgar is awful sick and for Mr. Williams to come. Mabel wanted me to go so I came home at noon and got ready in a hurry, the train left at 3. had supper at Conde, on the train all night and nearly roasted, arrived at St. Paul about 9. got to Rochester at 1:30 in the daytime, Edgar died at 1:50 this morning, he suffered terrible but was conscious to the last. He said he wasn’t afraid to go. had a cafeteria dinner, couldn’t eat much, went to the “undertakers”. there we viewed the corpse. the poor kid looked just terrible. he is so thin, Mrs. Williams took his lodge pin off and gave it to me, he had a nice new suit, just what I liked. He will never know how I love him. Stayed at the Florence hotel in room 31. slept with Mrs. William’s cousin, cried myself to sleep. the worst day I ever spent in my life. Oh why do I have to be left alone.

Mar 6

Got up at 6 and started home at 6:45, got to St. Paul about 11. Had dinner, rested in the depot. Went up to the business part of the city, rather nice place but awful dirty, got Edgar a $5 boquet of flowers, went to a millinary store, stayed at the depot until supper time. Had supper and went for a walk. Waited for our train until 8:30, slept from 10 to 12.

Mar 7

Some drunken boys got on the train and they just acted terrible, they were a Basket Ball Team, two of them were not drunk, one came and apologized to Mrs. Williams and I for the way the others acted. So nervouse I couldn’t sleep until about 3. Arrived at Conde about 8. Just had to wait a few minutes, got home about 1:30. I just hated to come back to Cresbard knowing that Edgar would never be here again. All the Williams’ were at the train, also mother-papa-Flossie & the Sheldons. Had dinner at Williams’ but couldn’t eat. I came home about 5 o’clock. I just thot I couldn’t bear to come in the house. looked at pictures of Edgar and read his letters. Poor boy he wanted so to get well so we could be happy together, took a bath and went to bed at 8.

Mar. 8

Slept until nearly 10, mama pressed my skirt and veil, got ready, ate dinner, went down to Williams’ at 1 o’clock, I walked with Catherine and the funeral was at 2. There was an awful lot of flowers and they were lovely. Mr. Sheldon talked awful nice and the singing was nice too. They sang Beautiful Isle of Somewhere, Jesus Savior Pilot Me and Saved by Grace and Harriet played a funeral march. I had my last long look at Edgar about 3:15, he looked awful – not at all like he really was. Billy, Tommy, Mahlon, Basil, Gerald, and Andy were pall bearers. They put my flowers and card in with Edgar. went out to the cemetery there I had to leave him forever. got back at 4 o’clock, stayed at Williams’ all night. looked at all the flowers, read letters of sympathy, helped get supper, went to bed at about 9. Aunt Emily Williams acted awful crazy. Aunt Leah threw a glass of water on her. Catherine and I slept together in Edgar’s bed.

Edgar dies at 1:50 AM on March 5, 1919.

The only page I have of Clara’s actual journal is this one, which contains the clipping from the mortuary about Edgar. But it also contains a small corner of her handwritten entry.

Clara has combined the events of March 4th and 5th into one journal entry labelled March 4. The good news is that they were all able to visit with Edger before he died, and Edgar was conscious enough to know they were there and able to tell them he wasn’t afraid to die. Remember, he was only 20 years old.

The next part is simply heartbreaking. Clara goes with the family to actually view the corpse at the undertakers and comments that he looks terrible, so thin. The lodge pin that Edgar’s mother removes could have come from a couple of different organizations that were in Cresbard at the time. I was surprised at how many service organizations there were in Cresbard and Faulkton in the early 1900s. But perhaps these organizations provided a social life for many in town. I found many such organizations through reading obituaries, which listed memberships of those who recently passed away: Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows,

American Legion, Ancient Order of United Workmen, Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), Order of the Knights of the Macabees, Modern Woodmen of America, Modern Brotherhood of America, Knights Templar, The Shriners, to name a few. And The Order of the Eastern Star (affiliated with the Masons), The Ladies of the Maccabees of the World (affiliated with the Maccabees), and The Daughters of Rebekah (affiliated with the Odd Fellows) for women.

Masonic Lapel Pin

I suspect Edgar was either with the Masonic Lodge 159 (AF and AM) of Cresbard or the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I. O. O. F.) New Empire Lodge No. 199 of Cresbard.

AF and AM are for Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. F and AM are for Free and Accepted Masons. In the United States and most parts of the world, it does not matter if you join an F & AM lodge or an AF & AM lodge. Every lodge in the United States is under a Grand Lodge in the state where it is located.

And then Clara expresses the regret so much a part of life and death: “He will never know how I love him.” She spends the worst day of her life, crying herself to sleep with Mrs. Williams’s cousin, who is probably Edna Evans, the only cousin I can find that doesn’t live in Wales and lives in South Dakota. She is in Powell with her new husband, which is only about ten miles from Cresbard – enough to catch the train to Rochester with Clara and the others. 

They stay at the Florence Hotel, and oddly, Clara makes note of the room number. Who knows what details become important on transformative days such as this.

 “Oh why do I have to be left alone?” she asks the universe.

They have an early start the next morning as they need to make their way back to Cresbard: Rochester to St. Paul, St. Paul to Conde, Conde to Cresbard. Makes for a long day. They have a long wait in St. Paul, from 11 AM until 8:30 PM on the overnight back to Conde. They head into town for some shopping. Needless to say, Clara is not impressed with the city – “awful dirty,” she notes. Clara bought flowers for Edgar (not sure why noting the cost was important – maybe this was expensive) and visited a millinery store. 

The overnight train ride back is difficult, thanks to drunken players from a basketball team. Clara is so nervous she can’t sleep. They finally arrive to Conde at 8:00 AM, only to jump off and catch the next train back to Cresbard, where they arrived at 1:30 PM. I can only imagine what a long trip back home this was, Clara heartbroken to be going back without Edgar.

They were met at the Cresbard station by a large grew: the entire Williams family, Clara’s parents and sister, and the Sheldons. Mr. Sheldon was the Reverend L. J. Sheldon of the Methodist Church. He brought his wife and 8-year-old son to South Dakota when the miistry transferred him to the Cresbard church in 1916, where he served until 1920.

Part of the Williams family – Edgar’s mother and some of his siblings.

The whole crowd heads over to the Williams for dinner. And then Clara goes home, where she buries herself in pictures and letters. What kills me is that at this moment, she is thinking about HIS feelings rather than her own: “Poor boy he wanted so to get well so we could be happy together.”

The next day was the funeral. During the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the heartbreaking results of the orders that have been given across the country has been the forbidding of funerals. The same was true in 1918-1919, at least in the large cities. “In Rapid City, the mayor decreed that all funerals must be conducted in the ‘open air,’ to prevent the spread of the flu at funerals.” 

Clearly, there was no such prohibition in Cresbard. It even sounds like the service was even open casket, which allowed Clara to get one last look at Edgar (at 3:15) and to leave her flowers and a card with him.

Rev. Sheldon performed the 2 PM service, a service, not surprisingly, filled with music.

Songs at Edgar’s Funeral

“Beautiful Isle of Somewhere” – lyrics by Jessie Brown Pounds and music by John Sylvester Fearis, written in 1897. This song was played at President McKinley’s funeral, which increased its popularity at funerals.

Beautiful isle of somewhere
Somewhere the sun is shining
Somewhere the songbirds dwell
Hush then, thy sad repining
God lives and all is well

Somewhere, somewhere
Beautiful isle of somewhere
Land of the true
Where we live anew
Beautiful isle of somewhere
Somewhere the load is lifted
Close by an open gate
Somewhere the clouds are rifted
Somewhere the angels wait
Somewhere, somewhere
Beautiful isle of somewhere
Land of the true
Where we live anew
Beautiful isle of somewhere

“Jesus Savior Pilot Me” – lyrics written in 1871 by Edward Hopper, music by, music by John Edgar Gould. 

Jesus, Saviour, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee.
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boist’rous waves obey Thy will
When Thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
‘Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

“Saved by Grace” –  lyrics by Frances J Crosby, music by George Coles Stebbins in 1891

Blind from birth, Francis Crosby, usually called Fanny, was one of the most prolific writer of hymms and gospels in the world, having completed over 8,000 songs.

Someday the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!

And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

Someday my earthly house will fall;
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be;
But this I know—my All in All
Has now a place in heav’n for me.

Someday, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessed Lord will say, “Well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.

Someday: till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior opens the gate,
My soul to Him may take its flight.

Funeral March – The most famous funeral march comes from Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in the third movement written in the 1830s. If you play it, you will recognize it on the first chord. And as it turns out, I think I have only ever heard the first 11 chords. Listening to it and imaging a time before this song became a cliché, and imagining it played at Edgar’s funeral was heartwrenching.

The pall bearers included Edgar’s brothers, Billy, Tommy, Mahlon, and Basil. Gerald (Pershing) has been mentioned many times in this diary as he always seemed to be at Edgar’s side. I haven’t been able to identify Andy.

Clara followed them to the cemetery to say goodbye for the last time and then returned to the Williams’s house, where she stayed all night. Unfortunately, it appears that the evening was not drama-free. And unfortunately, it often seems to be the case that a death in the family brings out the worst in people.

Aunt Emily Williams, the one acting crazy, is the sister-in-law of Aunt Leah (Williams), Edgar’s aunt. I’m not sure what acting crazy looked like (wish I knew!), but it was bad enough that Aunt Leah actually threw a glass of water on her! Replace that with wine and it sounds like Real Housewives!

But that night, Edgar’s younger sister Catherine, who is Clara’s age, and Clara sleep together in Edgar’s bed. Thinking about her grief makes my heart hurt.

4 thoughts on “Mar. 4-8, 1919

  1. So stoic and steadfast in completing the requirements of proper living . Would young
    people of today do all she did without a complaint. A rare find in today’s world!


  2. So stoic and steadfast in completing the requirements of proper living . Would young
    people of today do all she did without a complaint


    1. So true. I think that is what draws me to this journal. Amazing. And I worry about our resilience as a nation.


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