Nick, this is your mother speaking
I wrote last week about Irenaeus Bartley, the young man from Mt. Olive who passed away while still in his 20s. Still, he had become educated at Lafayette College and was successfully pursuing his career as a civil engineer at the time of his demise. In this post, I had every intention of discussing a 19th century woman who also left this realm at an early age. That task proved not so easy.
The death of young women, like older women, children, and men, were documented in a death certificate in the 19th century. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to find them on a census record or in any other documentation. I could find no obituaries in any newspapers that were published at that time. So, whereas Ireneaus Bartley's education was documented in the Lafayette College yearbook of the day and his death earned a sentence in a history book, the young women I researched yielded not even a peep.
I am very sad to know that there were human beings in our very community whose life extinguished without even a flicker of the mark they made on this world. We will never know about their trials, the children they grew and those they lost. We will never know these rural women banded together to get through harsh winters or how they made their food last till the next harvest. Was there a network of women who supported each other in child rearing? Eva Ackerson, Annie Buist, Sarah Clawson, Anna Coleman, Julia Ike, Amanda Jennings, Charlotte Maines, Lizzie Pace, and Mary Pierce are some of these married women who lived here many years ago and of whom we are not aware.
I wonder if the single women were sent to other regions as housekeepers by their families until they could find suitable husbands. Who were Annie Brown, Emma and Julia Dennis, Clara and Mary Drake, Lettie Dugan, Alice Hoffman, Theresa McCabe, Lizzie Ort, Mary Reater, and Carrie Read, and Grace Smith?
Whoever they were and however they cared for the land that was to become our home, we honor them.
Fate cheated those that left for Heaven too early. They were allotted limited Earthly time with no real opportunity to be known for a great achievement, discovery, talent, or benevolence. The Become Awesome website offers those who recently left our realm with a voice. The website describes the Mt. Olive lives lost too early so that each may be known for the mark they left here.
What about those who left early but before we, the current Mt. Olive dwellers, were born? The founding families certainly made their mark on Mt. Olive and are remembered by the names of towns and roads. Who were their children who left too early? Who were their parents who suffered the losses? This issue will be the focus of the next several blog entries. To start, I am pleased to introduce Irenaeus Bartley 1861-1888.
Irenaeus grew up in what came to be known as "Bartleyville," located to the south of Budd Lake and east of Flanders; it is on the border of Washington Township and, by 1868, was part of Mt. Olive Township. Irenaeus' father was William Bartley and his mother was Almira Wolfe Bartley. The couple married in 1850. William opened a large and very successful foundry which melted metals likely harvested from the nearby iron mines. Irenaeus and his older brothers, Sam and Augustus, worked in the machine shop. A third son born before Irenaeus in 1860, William Jr., lived for only one year. Almira gave birth to Irenaeus in 1861 shortly after burying William earlier that year.
In 1880, Irenaeous entered Lafayette College in Easton where he pursued a major course of study in Civil Engineering. Lafayette's academic courses were based on a tri-semester yearly schedule in those days. The College's President, Reverend William Cattell, was also a professor of Mental and Moral Character. As an interesting side note, the famous psychologist, James Cattell, was William's son and graduated from Lafayette in 1880 before entering U of Penn. At any rate, Irenaeous' required courses included Algebra, French, German, and English as well as Analytical Chemistry, Mineralogy, Botany, Anatomy, and very strange Calculus classes. He had the opportunity to take a class entitled "Practice with a Blow-Pipe" which must have been a riot in and outside the classroom. As a senior he got to cut stone, draw bridges, and do other less fun but very heady engineering hard stuff.
At the time of his death in 1888, Irenaeus was working in Missouri as the Civil Engineer involved in a bridge construction. There is no obituary or account of his death that I could find anywhere. However, he is included in The Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County, Vol.2 (NY: Lewis Publishing, 1899) as follows:
"He was a young man of fine character and marked ability, and his untimely death was a blow to those near and dear to him." electronic position 1509.
So, to Mr. Irenaeus Bartley, we are happy to meet you.
I hate June 19. It is the day that Nick passed into heaven. Although I am happy he is now able to kick back on a heavenly beach and find a peaceful eternity, I selfishly miss him and grieve the loss of my child.
After Nick passed, his friends and their families came forward to talk about how he influenced their lives. Their stories can be summed up in one of my own. It was Nick’s 12th grade year, football season had ended, and we were preparing for the banquet. The parent group had difficulties getting the traditional video of the season completed. To comfort all of our angst, I said I would make the video. I secretly thought, "how hard could this possibly be?" I quickly found that the answer to that question is: HARD! I worked for hours into days and weeks; I spliced and put together film of various football plays until I could no longer see straight. With the banquet approaching my flip offer to make the video was turning into a nightmare. One Saturday sitting at the computer, I was in a full blown panic. Despite my best efforts and hours of work, I had only completed 3 minutes of video. I was ready to quit and admit that videography is clearly beyond my skill set and pay grade. Telling Nick was the first step and then I had to break the news to the other parents. I dreaded both. I called Nick over to the computer to tell him the news. He said, “Mom, show me what you have.” I did not believe it was even worth playing the few minutes I had spliced together but he insisted. Rolling my eyes, I showed him all three minutes. He said, “Mom, you are already doing it. Stay with it. You are already doing it.” I was speechless. Nick was obviously not going to let me off the hook. So, I kept going. Somehow, and believe me I have no idea how, I finished a full length video and it was appreciated by students and parents alike. I think about that day and how my son taught me a lesson in resilience. A few days before he died I was irritated with some small annoyance. Nick turned to me and said, “It’s just life mom, things happen in life.”
My hope is that all of us will achieve everything we wish. I, for one, will not tempt fate by volunteering to make another video. With that said, my hope is that someone will be near us when we are frustrated and offer comfort with, “show me what you have.” I pray we will be given reassurance and told, “you are already doing it;” and that we will be reminded, “Its just life, things happen in life.” My greatest wish is that we all enjoy gifts of peace and that we, in turn, will offer them to someone else.
I pitched the idea of a Memory Garden to the township administration and the Become Awesome Foundation was generously provided with help from our town. I sat there today watering and weeding and marveling at its beauty. The Garden celebrates all the young people from town who lost their lives too early. It was a group effort of township support as well as work from friends and family. It is done.
Then, I had the brilliant idea of an expansion to the undeveloped land adjacent to the Garden. Once again, the township administration gave me permission to ride forth with watering can and seedling plants at the ready. So, here I am. Starting again. I made 5 cement stepping stones with plans for at least another five. The RH (Hildebrandt) farms donated tons of mulch. We are planning a Garden Party for June 13 when guests can plant in the expansion in memory of their loved one. I plan to have small plaques made for each plant to commemorate the person celebrated.
In my usual way, I could not leave well enough alone. We made a Garden. It was done. Hooray. Move on. No. The adjacent lot is undeveloped and shabby. It made the Garden look lost. So, forward I moved. As I sat there today, I realized all the work I had ahead of me. I lowered by head and asked, 'Why?" Why do I need to take everything to the end? Besides that, does anyone care? Do the young who passed away even know? Will anyone come to the opening? Will they be bored? Will my entertainment work out? Will people bring plants for the expansion?
I do not know the answers to any of those questions. I just know that I am driven to ensure a place of memory for the young who were not allowed to finish out life in this realm. Their life was heard here once; life that made itself known with uproar and clamor. I do not believe those lives are dead. They are somewhere else, they live in a spirit-place that cannot be touched or completely known. In the last century, Henry Scott Holland, an Oxford professor of Divinity, wrote, "Death means nothing at all...Life means all it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is an absolute and unbroken continuity...Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?"
Our friends, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and all those who left this realm too early are waiting for us in that elsewhere place. I feel the strength of the unbroken continuity. The Garden is a stamp upon the world that these young lives, these energies, are here still. And so, if the Garden opening day is a flop, I will be sad but it really does not matter. The Garden will expand and it will grow. The young who we grew up or grew up with are still here. The continuity is unbroken. I believe there is at least one place where we can know them. We can know them at the Garden.
Have you noticed that mankind is fearful? I am not talking about personal worry like fearing a mortgage payment will not arrive at the bank on time or fearing the reason your friend does not return phone calls. I am taking about the kind of fear that is printed in all caps and grips the inside of the belly. It is the fear that hides and is acted out with the shouts, protests, and drama aired on the nightly news but slices through the heart of the human spirit. Fear has also given way to behaviors so tragic that pictures are left to relative obscurity because they will negatively effect sales and ratings. The horror that this fear brings is beyond my reason.