The Blooming Red Onion

Washburn Presbyterian Church, Scranton about 1898.

Just recently I ran across some more information about my “Red Onion Saloon” branch of the family.  Minnie Mae, a saloon proprietor, was the daughter of my great great grandmother Arabella Edgar Wallace (Aston).  Arabella went by the name of “Belle” as this variation appears in some of the census records.  I have also seen the unusual designation of Orabelle. My great grandmother, her daughter, was named Jennie Belle.

Arabella was the first wife of my great great Grandfather Samuel John Aston (Wallace). Samuel was a paper ruler and bookbinder for the Scranton Republican in the late 1800s.  He was born in Wales.  He actually went by two different last names.  Wallace was the surname of his stepfather and Aston was his birth name.  From what I can determine, Arabella went by the surname Wallace all of her married life.

I do not know a lot about Arabella.  I do know that she was born in Pennsylvania.  Her father, Daniel Edgar (my great, great, great grandfather!), might have been a train conductor or an engineer with the railroad.

I found a death announcement that stated she had died at the age of 42 after a three-month illness.  She had left a husband and seven children – one was great Aunt Minnie Mae and another was my great grandmother Jennie Belle.

At this point, I do not know the exact cause of death, but on the surface it looks like a terrible family tragedy.  Back in those days it was not uncommon for people to die young.  I do know that after her death, many of the children were scattered.  At least one might have even ended up in the poor house in Binghamton.  My great grandmother Jennie became a hired domestic servant for a while.  My great great grandfather Samuel remarried.   All of the children from Samuel’s second marriage died in infancy.

Just this week I stumbled upon a notation in the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church records of 1897 (also known as Washburn Presbyterian).  It stated that Arabella Wallace, “had made a profession of faith and was baptized on her sick bed.”

I read this note with great enthusiasm and joy.  In it I found a blossom of faith and even perhaps a family saint.  It makes me think deeply about the life journey of this poor young woman of long ago.  Without a doubt, her sick bed must have been surrounded by family members, church goers, and friends.  Their tears and prayers must have been for the preservation of her life.  On the surface, it might have seemed that their prayers went unanswered as she slipped away from this life as a young woman.  But I think the contrary.

Incidentally, in today’s Gospel (Feb. 6)  we hear of Jesus healing the sick:  Whatever villages or towns or countryside He entered, they laid the sick in the marketplace and begged Him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed (Mark 6:56).

It could be that Arabella was healed in the most profound and thorough way.  She had been made ready for her passage into the fullness of life in heaven with God.  Perhaps even those left praying for her were in greater need of a physician!  Family members left behind had lifetimes ahead of them full of extreme trials they had yet to endure.  The newly built Victorian structure of Washburn Presbyterian Church was yet to be dedicated in 1898 only to be completely destroyed by fire in 1914.  The building will be rebuilt twice to become the building that now stands in Scranton today.

It makes me also think, that even though we are across generations those of us here today can pray for those old timers. Also you may never know who may be out there looking down from heaven and praying for us “modern people”! 

You get a feel for what the Communion of the Saints is like!  There is a certain transcendence across time!  Cool!


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