Press-Republican

Columns

April 18, 2012

Obits can be sad or informative

Winter is when I spend time researching family genealogy and local history. I am never bored with either pastime.

One of the most helpful resources I have is "Obituaries: Franklin County, New York, 71 Years, 1887-1958," by Clyde M. Rabideau. With nearly 700 pages, Clyde has gleaned obituaries from several Franklin County papers and other publications. I have discovered family obits that I might never have found otherwise.

Along with family information, this book contains interesting death accounts that boggle the mind. Tragedy was not absent for the "romantic" life we think our ancestors led. One account is of 7-month-old John Noel Richer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Richer of Bombay, who fell from a bed into a pail of Clorox water and drowned. The account states the child had been left on the bed only momentarily while his mother went outdoors. What a tragedy. How does a family recover from such pain?

Not all obits are horrible like dear little John. Some tell us of native sons who go out into the world and make a name for themselves, in a good way. Take Thomas Parker, born in 1838 in Quebec, on the St. Lawrence River near Fort Covington. His family crossed the international border and settled in Fort Covington where Thomas attended school. In early adulthood, he bought a flour mill in Helena, near Massena, sold it and went to California, came back to Fort Covington and married Melissa Costello, and moved to Kansas in 1883.

He purchased several hundred acres of Kansas soil and went into the creamery and produce business in 1891.

"With his exceptional energy and great powers of organization he developed the business until it was at one time the largest in the world. Thomas Parker was known as the 'Creamery King' of Kansas," the book documents.

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