Sunday, April 13, 2014

Biographical Sketch of Julia (Bentley) Weatherwax

Biographical Sketch of Julia (Bentley) Weatherwax
by Renee M. (Harris) Zamora
12 Apr 2014


Julia Bentley was born 9 Aug 1892, Greenwich, Washington, New York to Charles H. Bentley and Emmaline Sarah Green. This was a second or third marriage for her father. She was the oldest child of their union. She had two sisters, Lousinda and Florence, and one brother George. In the 1905 New York State Census we see her future husband John Henry Weatherwax, Jr. is living down the road from her home, working as a farm laborer. Julia is almost 13 years old at this time.  John is age 23, 10 years her senior. She marries John two years later at the age of 15 on 26 Sep 1907 in Greenwich.

Julia’s was 16 years old when her first child, daughter Eva was born on 1 Nov 1908. The baby was born at home with the help of a midwife, as were all her following children. Her second child, daughter Loretta was born 9 Aug 1910. Loretta was only 11 months old when she contracted black ear syphilis, or spinal meningitis and died. Julia is 18 years old at this time, and pregnant with her third child. We can imagine how tender her emotions must have been. Her third daughter Edna was born on 16 Mar 1912. At the age of 21, Julie gives birth to her first son on 28 Nov 1913 and names him Rachel. This is rather an odd name to select for a boy, especially after three daughters. His name may have actually been Horatio, since this is what Julia would refer to him as later in life.

A fourth daughter, Mabel joins their home 15 Oct 1915.  Joy was not to last, 10 months later her little son Rachel, who is 2 years and 8 months old, gets into her medicine cabinet and drinks carbolic acid. Which was medicine used to treat horse and cattle on their farm. Rachel died as a result on 28 Jul 1916. A short five months later, Julia gives birth to her second son, Paul on 23 Dec 1916. He is born during the Christmas season and how tender their hearts must have been at that time.

On 9 Jun 1918 Julia’s daughter Edna, who is 6 year old, decides to give her little 2-year-old sister Mabel a piggyback ride. Tragically, Mabel falls backward and breaks her back. She dies from her injuries. At this time, Julia is now 25 years old, she has given birth to six children and three have died.

 Julia has two more daughters, Nancy born 27 Aug 1919, and Martha born 9 Jul 1921.

15 Jun 1922 – The Salem Press newspaper reports in the “List of Deeds Recently Recorded in Washington County Clerk’s Office” the real estate transaction of property in Greenwich belonging to John J. Weatherwax and Julia V. Weatherwax to Charles Weatherwax and Clara Weatherwax. Charles was John’s brother, but we are unsure of the details on how and why John acquired this land and sold it.

We do know that John and Julie raised their family in a two-story home on Bald Mountain. John later built a home closer to the town of Greenwich and moved the family there. The Bald Mountain home became rental property. The census records show no mortgage on their property.

Julia’s mother Emmaline Sarah (Green) Weatherwax died on 2 Sep 1923. Twenty-four days later Julie gives birth to her 9th child and 7th daughter Alice Elnora on 26 Sep 1923. Less than a month later, on 19 Oct 1923, baby Alice Elnora dies in her mother’s arms. She may have contracted black ear syphilis or spinal meningitis, family records are unclear if it was Loretta or Alice Elnora that died from this. Julia is only 31 years old but she has now experienced the death of four of her children and her mother. She must have had incredible inner strength to endure such events.

1 Jun 1925 – New York State Census shows Julia’s mother-in-law, Harriet (Hewitt) Weatherwax is living with them. John’s father John Henry Weatherwax, Sr died a couple weeks earlier on 17 May 1925.

Julia goes on to have three more daughters, Harriett born 2 Nov 1925, Mildred born 16 Nov 1927, and Alice Erma born 21 Jan 1932 (named for the doctors daughter and not after her sister Alice Elnora that previously died.)

Julia’s father Charles H. Bentley died 6 Dec 1932 in Northumberland, Saratoga, New York

Her last child a girl, Florence was born 2 Mar 1936. Julia is now 43 years old and has given birth to 13 children and 9 are still living. Both of her parents are deceased.

Julia’s two youngest children were born during the depression. This did not seem to affect the family since they had always been poor. Living on a farm meant there was always enough to eat. The family had two horses, Mabel and Charlie. Charlie was loaned out to the town of Greenwich to mow the grass. Julia bottled the fruits and vegetables grown on the farm, helping them survive the winters. The family raised animals for their own meat.  There were goats, cows, pigs, ginny hens, chicken, sheep and John’s pigeons, that he enjoyed rising. Julia’s daughters Alice (Weatherwax) Harris and Florence (Weatherwax) Wilson Fish would comment that nothing went to waste. Julia would make head cheese and even blood pudding.

Even with all that they were able to product, the farm could not meet all their financial needs. John worked for a local man peddling eggs around town using a horse drawn cart. Julia worked for Frank Hollister as a farm laborer in Clark’s Mill. He would provide transportation to and from work since she was unable to drive. She would also do housework for him. All the children hired out as farm laborers to help support the family. Most of the children did not graduate from high school. Hattie and Martha quit school to work in a glove factory in Schuylerville. The older children helped raise the younger children and their education suffered for it.  

Census records state the Julia attended school and was able to read and write. However, her daughters Alice and Florence tell that their mother was very embarrassed by the fact that she could not read or write, and do not believe she ever attended school. It is likely the census taker was given inaccurate information to conceal this fact. They did eventually teach their mother how to print her name, but her signature was illegible. They would sign documents and write out checks for her.

The fact that Julia was illiterate was demonstrated further when later in life she cooked “gains burgers” for her daughter Alice’s family. It was actually dog food; shaped into patties that resembled uncooked hamburger.

John was able to read, and would read the bible to the family. Julia was a faithful long time member of the Methodist Church. There were some talents in the family. John was an artist and enjoyed drawing sketches, and Julia was able to sing.

One evening John was bringing the horse back to the farm during a thunderstorm. He was next to, or holding onto a metal pole when lightning struck. He survived but not long afterwards, he developed cancer of the neck. While John lay dying, Julia still needed to work to provide for the family. Most of Julia’s children were married or working, the two youngest were still in school. This meant no one would be home to tend to John. Her daughter, Alice at the age of 14, left school to stay home and take care of him. Alice lost a year of school tending to her father, and was unable to graduate from high school. She later commented that the sacrifice was worth it to take care of her father. John died 8 Jun 1946.

A year after John’s death on 2 Jul 1947 The Salem Press reports on the Deeds Recently Recorded in Washington County Clerk’s Office, the real estate transaction between Julia Weatherwax to Joseph D. Wilbur and Etha Wilbur of Greenwich; property in Greenwich. The family farm and home are now gone.

Julia and her two youngest daughters now move back and forth between family members’ homes. For a while, they live with daughter Hattie (Weatherwax) Hyde in Troy, NY. There were family squabbles over money and how they were treated during their time there.

Julia’s daughter Alice was working for the Grand Union grocery store in Glens Falls prior to her marriage on 2 Jan 1955. One day as she was cashiering she noticed laying on the conveyor belt a loose diamond. It must have fallen out of a customer’s engagement ring. She handed it into the office lost and found. The owner never returned for it, so Alice later received the diamond. Her mother never had anything of value so Alice took the diamond to the jewelers to have a ring made for her. Julia wore that ring for the rest of her life.

24 Feb 1955 – The Times Record, Troy, NY article “Greenwich Man Dies Leaving Mill” tells of Julia’s only surviving son, Paul’s death. He was working at Thomas Paper Mills, north of Schuylerville, when he died from a sudden heart ailment when punching out at the end of his shift. He was only 38 years old. A wife and four young children survived him, the youngest only 2 months old.

28 Oct 1958 – The Saratogian newspaper reports, Julia moves from Troy to home of daughter Mrs. Felix Brown and family on Bald Mountain. This is her daughter Edna.

Julia later moves to Battenville and lives in a trailer with her daughter Eva’s family. The trailer catches on fire and is a total loss. The family salvaged a few family photos with burnt edges. 

On 16 Dec 1966 Julia’s daughter Eva (Weatherwax) Rissue dies after a long illness at the age of 58. This was Julia’s 6th child to die before her.

In later years, Julia lives with a family in Fort Miller. The name and relationship to this family is unknown. She is removed from the home because she is not eating right. She is sent to a nursing home in Granville. Afterwards, she spends brief periods living with daughters Martha Hubbard, Florence Wilson and Alice Harris in their homes.

While living with Martha, her daughter Alice’s children, James and Brenda came to visit. A rather humorous event happened that they love to retell. Their grandmother, who was getting some dementia, was sitting and eating a huge bag of store bought popcorn. This was very appealing to the children, so Brenda asked her grandmother for some. There was no response. Brenda asked her again. The response this time was grandma suddenly flinging the bag of popcorn across the room at them. This caused the popcorn to explode all around the room. Brenda was so afraid she had done something wrong. Aunt Martha rushed into the room and upon learning, what had happened asked Grandma why she did that. Grandma did not have a reason why.

As Julia’s health failed, she went to live with her daughter Alice (Weatherwax) Harris family in Queensbury, NY.  They set up a hospital bed in their living room for her. Her granddaughter Renee was about 6 years old at the time. She does not remember her grandmother talking very much. She does recall that she would spend a lot of time in the bathroom and would sit on the toilet eating apples. It is funny what memories a young child will recall.

Personal note of Alice (Weatherwax) Harris
Momma died January 26th 1968 at 6:10 p.m. in Glens Falls Hospital from heart failure.  (She had the flu which turned to pneumonia.)  She was 75 yrs of age.  Her length of time in the hospital was about 3 hrs, admitted sometime between 2:15 and 3 o'clock.”

Alice had admitted her mother to the hospital. She then left to tend her children at home. She called the hospital later to check on her mother and was told that she had died.  She was shocked by the news and devastated she could not be with her mother, and she had died alone.  She was also upset that the hospital had not contact her right away.

Alice returned to the hospital with her 12-year-old son James Harris. He later recalls that when they brought out grandma’s clothes to her, she was so over-come with grief and was just sobbing he knew she was in no condition to drive them home. He asked his mother if she wanted him to drive.  He knew how to drive Stan Harris' tractor so he figured he could drive the car. She was able to compose herself and drive them home safely.

29 Jan 1968 – The Saratogian, Saratoga Springs, New York - Mrs. Weatherwax Was 75
Greenwich – Mrs. Julia B. Weatherwax, 75 died Friday at the Glens Falls Hospital shortly after admission. She was born in Greenwich and had lived the most of her life here. She was a member of the Free Methodist Church in Glens Falls.
She is survived by seven daughters, Mrs. Felix Brown, Mrs. Wilfred Brown and Mrs. Harold Hubbard, all of Greenwich, Mrs. Milo P. Hyde of Troy, Mrs. Mildred Pattaralli of Saratoga Springs, Mrs. Philip J. Harris of Glens Falls, Mrs. Raymond Wilson of Troy; a sister, Mrs. Joseph Gagne of Schuylerville.  Thirty grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews also survive.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. from the Garrett Funeral Home with Rev. H. Herschel Hutt, pastor of the Free Methodist Church, officiating. Burial will be in the Greenwich Cemetery in the spring. Friends may call at the Funeral Home on Monday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9.

Years later, Renee (Harris) Zamora interviewed her mother Alice (Weatherwax) Harris about her grandmother Julia (Bentley) Weatherwax. Alice said that she once asked her mother what she would have wanted to be if she had been given the chance. Julia said right away a Physiologist, Alice asked her what that was and she said "to study the human body".

Julia may have been illiterate and poor but it shows you that she had a mind capable of deep thought. Who knows if circumstances would have been different what she would have been able to accomplish in life. She had a love of science and wanted to understand better how the human body worked. Could this interest also have been born out of the desire to understand what had caused the death of so many people she loved? We will never know all about Julia Bentley Weatherwax, but we do know she was more than her circumstances allowed.

After Julia’s death, her daughter Alice received the diamond ring that she had made for her. Alice’s daughter Renee now wears it as her own engagement ring. The ring is a constant reminder of their love and devotion to family, and will be handed down to succeeding generations.

1 comment:

ruth said...

I have stumbled upon your blog and had to tell you what a wonderful story and tribute to your grandmother! I hope you keep in touch with your Aunt and continue your progress toward your family story-telling goal. Everyone's story is important.
Thank you for sharing.