Mrs. Burleigh tells that the fire did not damage their household goods but she lost a valuable watch at a jeweler’s. Continuing she says:
“The weather has turned cold and the suffering and sickness will no doubt be doubled. we have cause to be grateful that our lives were spared and our household goods saved. But no one who was not there can ever get even the faintest idea of the horror of the hours since 5:15 last Wednesday morning. I have to stop and study before I can name a day that anything happened, for every hour seemed a day and every day was nameless.”
Her letter told of fear and death and desolation during those first dreadful hours.
“Thousands camped as thick as grass blades with no shelter except some kind devised from their small store of baggage; women fainting in the road and carried by the loads to the United States hospital.”
Amidst the colorful and witty charm of cattle being driven down Genesee Street and the harrowing and moving recount of Mrs. Burleigh’s earthquake experience in the May 15th Auburn Semi-Weekly Journal, sits the brief and practical death notice of my 87 year old, great great grandfather, Daniel J. Jennings.
“JENNINGS – At the residence of his daughter Mrs. John J. Trowbridge, East Orange, N.J., Thursday, May 10, 1906. Daniel Jennings (formerly of Auburn) in the 87th year of his age.
Remains will arrive in Auburn via N.Y.C & H. R. R. Sunday morning, May 14 at 6:46 o’clock. Funeral services at the residence of his son, W. H. Jennings, No 9 Easterly avenue, in the afternoon at 3:00 o’clock. Burial at North Street Cemetery.”
“The funeral of Daniel J. Jennings who died at East Orange, N. J. was held there (Auburn) this afternoon at the home of his son, W. H. Jennings, No. 9 Easterly ave.” reports the Syracuse Daily Standard.”
I spent a great deal of time creating Daniel’s biography. Beginning with his birth in the whaling city of New Bedford, Massachusetts to Samuel and Ruth Jennings and through his 1839 carriage maker apprenticeship as a young boy with Silas N. Richards. Discovering his 1843 New Bedford marriage record to Harriet Jane James and their migration to central New York with their young family. Exploring Daniel’s politics as a member of the Whig Party in Ithaca with his brother, Nathan supporting Zachary Taylor and Millard Filmore in their bid for the White House in 1848. The Jennings family membership in the Trinity Methodist Church. Daniel’s carriagemaking career first working at the shop of Bench Brothers Cayuga Wagon Works crafting wagons, carriages and sleighs and eventually opening his own business “Jennings & Lewis” on Dill Street.
Decade by decade assembling the life of the man who is my paternal great great grandfather, I came to know him and his children in Auburn, New York in the 19th century. The days when the streets were filled with mud and sidewalks were fashioned of wood planks. When horses pulled wagons and sleighs and trolleys. During the Civil War when his 16 year son, Charles, went off to fight with the 111th NYS Volunteers and later his service as Auburn’s Chief of Police. Exploring the successful business story of Trowbridge and Jennings that son William established with his sister Emily’s husband. The pride of son Daniel carrying on his father’s craftsmanship with carpentry. Giving away his teenaged daughter, Lillian, to a young man named Henry Martin, my great grandparents, at Trinity Methodist Church. Waving the pair good-bye as they left Auburn in 1884 for their newlywed adventure and the promise of the business boom of the New York City area fostered by the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Celebrating the marriage of 49 year old daughter Harriet who after years of being the family’s dutiful spinster daughter, wed widower Roderick White in 1901. Mourning his dear wife, Harriet and their daughter, Lillian and her son, Harold.
Amid the wealth of words in three newspapers, I could only find the briefest and final arrangements of Daniel’s death and his journey home. No elegy to his character and his rich life. That is left to me to construct over one hundred years later.
As part of that biography is the imagery of his daughter Emily’s long train ride accompanying her father’s body to Auburn and their arrival at the depot, steam billowing from the engine and the somber carriage ride to Easterly Avenue on a fine spring day where the siblings, Emily, Charles, Daniel and Harriet and grandchildren gathered to say farewell to their patriarch.
The intimate family rite transpired as the world still went on…lilacs coming into bloom; the Burleighs recovering from the San Francisco earthquake and James Robinson leading his steers through the fields of his farm.
Deborah J. Martin-Plugh
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher