The Late Mrs. John Lawrence

Gone the way of all flesh

When it comes to family history, obituaries can provide a fascinating look into the lives of our ancestors.  They can provide a perspective that is rarely matched by other types of documents and records. This is certainly true in the case of my 3x Great Grandmother, Martha Lawrence (nee Farrar).

I think part of what makes Martha’s obituary so fascinating is that it describes the times in which she lived.  Times in which so many of our Irish ancestors lived.  For this reason, I think it will appeal to a much broader audience than just my immediate family.

While several obituaries were written following Martha’s death in early 1902, this one is by far the most detailed and interesting.  I have bolded some of the words to assist with key word searches, otherwise the obituary appears exactly as it was transcribed.  They certainly don’t write them like this anymore!

The Late Mrs. John Lawrence

The Durham Review – 30 January 1902

The removal by death of a centenarian is an event so rare that it may well be taken notice of.  Three score and ten years is a standard old age limit for some thousands of years, and though advancing years too often bring labor and sorrow, the subject of our sketch was wonderfully fortunate in having her physical and mental faculties so well preserved that she was able to walk abroad and look out upon life, among loying friends, long after many of her generation, her husband included, had gone the way of all flesh.

Mrs. Lawrence was born in County Wicklow, Ireland, away back in March 1801, at least, though some members of her family think it was 1800, and if so, she touched the 18th, saw the whole of the 19th and over a year of the 20th century.  In 1826 she was married, and reared most of her family on the old sod.  In 1849 they emigrated to this country and after living 2 years in Fergus, they moved to the wilds of County Grey, to South Glenelg, where, or near where, her lot has since been cast.  Her husband died in 1866, so that she spent nearly as long in widowhood as she did a wife.  To this pair were born 7 sons and 2 daughters and their name and virility is reproduced in the abundant offspring of their 3rd and 4th generations, who met on Friday to lay their venerated ancestor in the grave.

The sons are Thos. (now deceased) Samuel, John, William, Henry, James, George, all well known and living near here except James who is in Dakota.  The daughters: Mrs. Hopkins, who died about 18 years ago, and Mrs. Wm. McFadden of Egremont.

Figures give a poor idea of the lapse of time.  She was a wife and mother before Queen Victoria began to reign, yes, before Wm. IV.  Such things as Reform Bill, Corn Laws, Penny postage came years after her early wifehood.  When the Queen was born she was a sprightly Irish maiden of 19.  When Waterloo was fought and won she was old enough to rejoice, and before the name Napoleon had spread terror over Europe, her voice was heard in childish prattle, but

“Time rolls his ceaseless course.  The race of yore,

Who danced our infancy upon their knee,

And told our marvelling boyhood legend’s store.

How are they blotted from the things that be.”

The funeral on Friday was largely attended, and the Methodist church was crowded at the mortuary service.  This was conducted by her pastor, Rev. Wray Smith who gave some interesting personal experiences and preached very appropriately.  The remains were interred in Trinity church cemetery beside that of her husband.

Tombstone for John Lawrence & Martha Farrar
Trinity Anglican Cemetery – Durham, ON

One thought on “The Late Mrs. John Lawrence

  1. I particularly liked the reference to “virility” contributing to the large number of offspring! Great obituary. I bet she had lots of stories to tell of living through the 19th century and into the 20th!

    Liked by 1 person

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