Saturday, 14 November 2009

Lest we forget - Lewis Frank Fitzhenry 1899-1918

In the "Lest we Forget" series of posts last November to commemorate Remembrance Sunday, we remembered the sacrifice of
Lewis F. Fitz-Henry 1st Sergeant US Army 101st Infantry Regiment.
Entered the Service from Massachusetts
Died November 6, 1918
Buried in Plot A Row 19 Grave 12 at Suresnes American Cemetery, Suresnes, France
Lewis was aged just 19 when he was killed in action only 5 days before the end of hostilities in Europe. I couldn't find out that much more about him other than what was given in the above transcript from the American Battle Monuments Commission, but it did lead me to a fascinating story of an inventor, his machine and a trans-Atlantic marriage.

According to the 1860 US census, the well travelled Edward Fitzhenry (a farmer and currier, born about 1829 in Maine) and his wife Sylvia (born about 1931 in Vermont) were living in Tualatin, Clackamas County, Oregon with their 3 children,
Walter (born Massachusetts 1852)
Marian (born California 1856) and
Lewis F Fitzhenry (born Portland Oregon 1858)

They went on to have at least two more children:
Edward (born Oregon 1861)
Charles (born Oregon 1865)
but by the 1870 census, Sylvia was living back in Vermont with the four younger children and no Edward. But it seems that he was out and about getting the patent for his machine for improving the processing of leather
- for a currier (as Edward gave his occupation in 1860) is a leather processor - the middle stage between tanning and actually fashioning the leather into finished articles.
The patent applications first appeared in The London Gazette in 1866

NOTICE is hereby given, that the petition of Edward Fitzhenry, of the State of Oregon, of the United States of America, praying for letters patent for the invention of " a new and useful machine which may be employed for scouring, sleeking, or setting hides or leather," was deposited and recorded in the Office of the Commissioners on the 10th day of September, 1866, and a complete specification accompanying such petition was at the same time filed in the said office.
In 1873, Edward was filing his patent applications from Boston, and in 1875 and 1876 from Somerville. Massachusetts.

The next time we encountered Lewis, it was 1877 and he was in Yorkshire, England getting married to Mary Hodgson
Marriage solomnised at the Parish church in the parish of Baslingthorpe in the county of York
April 16th 1877
Lewis Frank Fitzhenry aged 22 Bachelor Machinist
10 Stanhope Square
Father Edward Fitzhenry (Machinist)

Mary Jane Hodgson aged 21 spinster
5 Amberley Terrace Chapletown Road
Father: Anthony Hodgson (Currier)
Now I have a theory here. Lewis was helping his father promote his new machine. Mr Anthony Hodgson either bought one of the machines or, (more likely looking at the residences in which he lived in the 1871 and 1881 English census) he was the employee of a business which bought this machine. Lewis accompanied the machine to England to help set it up. He met Mr Hodgson's daughter and married her. Perhaps he stayed in England for a while to supervise importing more machines.

By the 1880 US census Lewis and Mary were living in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts. (The 1910 census has Mary's immigration year as 1879)
Unfortunately because of the loss of the 1890 US census, there's little record of the next 20 years, and I can't find the family in the United States in the 1900 census, but the family was back in England for the 1901 census and they were living in Leicester this time. This is where the records start to get a bit strange, with Mary variously describing herself as married and widowed.

Lewis F Fitzhenry senior was not with them
Mary Fitzhenry was enumerated as a widow aged 42, born in Leeds, working from home as a confectioner.
With her were Irene L Fitzhenry aged 5 and Lewis F Fitzhenry aged 2 (born in 1899 in Wisconsin according to the 1910 US census)

In February 1904, the three returned to the US on the SS Saxonia (Liverpool to Boston).
Mary (aged 45) described herself as married and a "wife" in the occupation column.
With her were Irene aged 8 and Lewis aged 4. They were all US nationals and were last living in Leeds.
The family were going to stay with Mary's brother in law, E L Fitzhenry (of 36 Charlestown Street, Boston, Mass.) although their home address was given as 5th Street, Wellington, Mass.

Irene died in 1907 in Malden Massachusetts of the complications of appendicitis and her death was apparently registered by her father, Lewis F Fitzhenry senior. It seems that reports of his death had been premature.

In the 1910 US census, Mary once again described herself as a widow and was keeping a lodging house in Malden. Lewis aged 10 was living with her.

And this is all we have about the family until Lewis' untimely death in the War.
His mother was informed as his next of kin and the US Government offered to pay for her to make a trip to his grave in France, an offer which she declined. (reference "List of Mothers and Widows of American Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Entitled to Make a Pilgrimage to War Cemeteries in Europe. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1930.")

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