Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday's Child - Agnes Ruth Byrne

Agnes Ruth Byrne 1917-1931
Byrneville Cemetery

On November 16, 1917 the Byrne family of near Byrneville, Harrison County, Indiana consisted of parents Robert and Ruby and their six children. But that all changed when at 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, November 17, 1917 Ruby gave birth to Agnes Ruth Byrne. Agnes was the eighth child born to Robert and Ruby; one child having been stillborn in 1902. 

The Robert Blaine and Ruby Violet (Harrison) Byrne household now consisted of Robert-age 40, Ruby-age 37 and their children; Alliene-13, Vernette-10, Nellie-7, Jessie-6, Robert-4, Harriet-2 and newborn Agnes.

According to the 1920 Federal Census Agnes's family was living on a farm on Whiskey Run Road in Jackson Township near Byrneville. Robert was a Sawyer and Ruby was busy at home. In July of 1921, when Agnes was three-and-a-half she became an older sister when her mother gave birth to another child, a boy, Ward.

The family make up would continue to change over the course of the next several years. In 1924, when Agnes was seven her oldest sister Alliene married. Then in 1926 her sister Vernette married, followed soon after in 1927 when another sister, Nellie, married.

By April of 1930 when the Federal Census was taken the family was listed as renting a home at 713 Shelby Street in New Albany, Indiana which is about fifteen miles east of Byrneville. The household consisted of Robert, Ruby and their five youngest children.

This is a photo of Agnes (left) and her sister Harriet. I'm not sure when this photo was taken, but just by looking I'm guessing probably sometime around 1930. Harriet would have been around 14 years old and Agnes around age 12.

Agnes and Harriet Byrne, c. 1930

Then on a cloudy Sunday in March of 1931 a terrible accident happened; one that would change this family forever. Here is the write up from the New Albany Tribune, dated March 23, 1931.

By the graphic nature of the description of the accident I can only imagine the horror felt by the others in the car with Agnes. What they must have felt when they realized that she had died, their youngest sister, their 'Babe'. 

However, some of the facts in the article are incorrect. According to the death certificate it was Agnes's right leg that was severed. Also, the ages given for Agnes's siblings are incorrect. Jessie was actually older than Harriet. At the time of the accident Jessie was 19, Harriet was 15, Robert was 17. Their cousin Leo was 25. 

One more tidbit of information; one month earlier on February 21st, Leo and Jessie had been married in Jeffersonville, a city only a few short miles east of New Albany. I'm not sure why their names are listed as they are in the article. Even more pertinent to me; Leo and Jessie are my maternal grandparents. (Yes, I realize that the article says they were cousins; first cousins actually...but that's a story for another post.)

I can imagine the heartbreak as Agnes's family went thru her belongings, each keeping something to remember her by. I am fortunate to have a few of those items; passed down by my grandmother Jessie.

This is an over sized book entitle 'Little Housekeepers'. Agnes wrote her name on the front cover as 'Ruth Byrn'.  Each page inside has a story that goes with what I call the 'Housework Chore' poem. You know the one:

Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Sweep on Thursday
Dust on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday

She had colored inside on some of the pages.  

There's also a Sunday School Attendance Chart. Each of the Lily blooms are stickers. Agnes received a sticker for each Sunday she was in Sunday School. The back of the card says, Agnes Byrne, Class No. 3, Teacher-Edmond Fouts, Jan-Feb-March. There is no year listed, but I'm assuming she was of elementary school age when she used this, so sometime in the mid-1920's. Her teacher Mr. Fouts was actually her brother-in-law, the husband of her older sister Vernette. 

Then there's this; the math homework of a thirteen year old girl. Just a page of homework. But somehow, so much more. Notice the date-March 16, 1931. Just 5 days before she died. 

Just a few pieces of paper ephemera; yet so much more. For me they are small snapshots into the life of a young girl; Agnes Ruth Byrne.

(Agnes Ruth Byrne - Lisa's maternal grand-aunt)

Wednesday's Child
 Post photos of gravestones of children. A sad topic indeed but posts can give life to the stories of these young souls. A daily blogging prompt from Thomas MacEntee at GeneaBloggers.

This and all other posts on this blog are © copyright 2016 by Lisa Dillman Wright.

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