At long last, the final post on Jim & Polly Witter, at least, until more information magically stumbles into my hands. Jim passed away on 21st November 1937, eight short months after his wife. The romantic in me imagines he died of a broken heart. For the specifics, I could apply for a death certificate from Suffolk County Council, but, some things are better left to the imagination.
14 Chenery St
It seems a long time since we heard from each other but there has been a great deal of sorrow. My poor dear Polly past away on 29th. At last she was 84 in Nov. For seven weeks she sat in a chair night and day & I laid on the couch. She could not lay down. Then on a Tuesday evening she said Jim could you get me up stairs I think I could lay down in bed now. I got her up & put her in bed. The following Tuesday at 5am she said, Jim I want to see the boys. I wired for them & they both came. The nurses came in the evening & made her comfortable about 5pm directly they left she became unconscious & knew no one. She lasted until 11:30pm. She died with a lovely smile. We buried her on the Saturday. Many wreaths & letters came. On the following Saturday morning I had to get my neighbors to fetch the doctor. I could not pass my water. He came & took me at once in his car to hospital. I was there a fortnight, and I have a tube in my body and it will always be there while I last. A nurse comes in to clear the tubes every 3 days. I thank God this happened after my dear old girl was laid to rest. What should I have done had I been in hospital & her in bed. Her last five days she had nothing but water. She could not swallow anything else. I have such good kind neighbors they look after me and do everything I want. The boys come & see me and friends call on me. I cannot get out for more than quarter of an hour on account of the water. I shall be 84 if I last till May 15th. Well dear friends I cannot write more. Every place is altering here. Millers Arms & Cottages down & Crown St widened you would not know Ipswich now. I hope you and your dear ones are well & happy. God bless you all.
Your old Friend
A Life Well Lived
I wish these letters had been longer. More detailed. More filled with the hope and dreams and passions of the Witter family and all their kin. I feel like I learned so little about James, but much about his acquaintances and the changes to Ipswich. This lack of detail on James George Witter motivated me to dig just a little deeper for this last post on him. All the information below was easily found using Ancestry.com and FindMyPast and just using Google.
- 1853 May 15 - Born in Warrington, Lancashire, England to James Witter of Knutsford, Cheshire, England & Anne Tasker of Tabley Cheshire, England (1811-1880). Per the 1851 Census, His parents already had six children when he was born, ages 1 to 12 named Ellen, Sarah, Mary, Elizabeth, George, Ann Jane.
- 1853 Jul 10 Baptized in the Parish of Warrington in the County of Lancaster in the year 1853. His father was a gardener.
- 1861 lived at 174 Marsh Lane Beaumont Villa in the Hamlet of Seaforth, Township of Litherland, County of Lancashire, England with his father James age 54, Gardener, Mother Ann age 49 and sister Mary age 18. The Proprietor of the Beaumont Villa was James Welsby.
- 1871 Clerk in Glass Bottle Trade. His father had passed as his mother was listed as a widow age 59.
- 1871 Worked aboard the ship City of Brooklyn as a Steward. Wages per week 3 (not sure if pounds or shillings) Crew List First Voyage. Discharged from ship 12th October.
- 1877 Joined the British Service 17th day of July - 7th Dragoon Guards. Service No. 1863. Age 24 years and 7 months. His trade listed as Steward, which leads me to believe he worked as a Steward between 1871 & 1877.
The military medical history of Corporal Joseph George Witter, indicates upon entrance to the service: Height 67 1/4 inches, Chest 34 1/2 inches, Weight 128 lbs. Hair Brown, Pulse 80 beats, Respiration 16 inspirations, muscular development Good. General remarks: conduct food, habits regular & temperate. Rank Corporal Promoted: 10 June 1880. Marks: (I think this was Tattoos?) Anchor T.R.M heart. Corp Flags J.G.W left fore arm. (What a wonderful find on Fold3!) I flipped to the next page and discovered he was admitted to the hospital in Manchester on September 14, 1882, discharged thirty-five days later. Disease: Valve Decrease of Heart. He was also spent 19 days in a hospital for ulcer of the leg in Alderhurst 9/27/79 -10/15/79, and again 12/14/79-12/22/79 with, gonorrhea. (I was shocked at first but further reading indicated education on VD was not common during this time, so not terribly uncommon.) The same record shows he was in Toryford 7/26/77 and Dublin 5/28/78
- 1880 Appointed Lt. Corporal. Promoted Corporal
- 1880 His mother, Anne Tasker, of Tabley Cheshire England, passed away in Salford Lancashire at the age of 69.
- 1882 Discharged from military service due to vascular disease of heart. His military medical records indicate at this time, he was 5 ft 7 5/8 inches tall. Complexion fresh. Eyes Gray. Hair Brown Trade Steward Marks: Intended place of residence 23 Doodle Street King Street Manchester
- 1883 Q1 Married Mary Ann Salmon (nee Howard)
- 1891 Corset Cutter. Lived at 69 Tower Ramparts, Ipswich, Suffolk, England
- 1900 Clerk at Corn Exchange & Provision Market
- 1901 Town Sergeant Lived at 36 Chenery Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, England
- 1908 Sergeant at Mace, Worked at Town Hall
- 1911 Sergeant at Mace, Town Hall Keeper. Resided at 17 Alpe Street.
- 1912 Sergeant at Mace, Town Hall Keeper. (Side note: He was one of two sergeants at mace this year, the other was J.C. Dennish (S.A.M. During 1905-1934) which led me briefly down another genealogy rabbit hole as there were wonderful details about James Charles Dennish and his family on the Ipswich War Memorial website.)
- 1931 Retired
- 1937 Passed away
Home Away From Home
Jim spent thirty one years working at the Town Hall so it seemed only fitting this home away from home be included in my final entry on the Witters.
“In 1900, the Town Hall, at the foot of the Cornhill, is an imposing rectangular structure in the Italian style, erected in 1867-8, at a cost of L16,000, from designs by Messrs. Bellamy and Hardy, architects. Lincoln; the principal facade has a rusticated basement and ground and principal stories, surmounted by an open balustrade, finished with a series of ornamental art in terra cotta; emblematical statues of Justice, Learning, Agriculture and Commerce also adorn the front, and in the centre of the upper story are the borough arms in alto-relieve; above all rises a kind of dome, supporting the clock tower, which has four illuminated dials: the total height from the ground is 130 feet: the interior comprises a find entrance hall and staircase, a lofty and elegant chamber for the meetings of the Town Council…” Excerpt from Kelly’s Directory of Suffolk.
My advice to you, don’t be shy! Dig into the lives of your ancestors beyond the dates of their birth, christening, marriage or death. Uncover the treasures of their life. Who were they? What did they look like? What did they do? Where did they work? Where might they have shopped? What was their school like? Who were their classmates? The free resources at your fingertips are vast and can transport you.
Now, on to my next stack of letters.
Happy genealogy hunting!
p.s. I've done my best to be accurate but typos and errors do occur. I am human after all. Feel free to drop me a line if I got something wrong and I'll be happy to correct.
Looking for someone? Here's a few resources I recommend:
Lonely Planet - Suffolk travel guides & Maps
ForeBears - More resources for Ipswich. This site has links to a wide variety of genealogical resources available on and off line.
FindMyPast - Subscription based access to over a billion historical records.
Ancestry - Subscription based access to over a billion historical records.
Kelly's Directory Suffolk 1900 - Link to University of Leicester online collection.
Family Search - 1911 Census and more
UK National Archive - How to Look for Census Records