Coincidentally to yesterday’s post on Isaac S. Catlin, a grandson of Garret Brodhead (b. 1733), I discovered an obituary for Isaac’s father Nathaniel Catlin. Nathaniel was married to Jane Dingman Brodhead (1805-1876), daughter of Samuel Brodhead (b. 1779) and Hannah Shoemaker. Interestingly, Jane’s brother Daniel (b. 1798) was married to Nathaniel’s sister Phoebe.
Nathaniel outlived Jane by some 17 years, dying at the ripe old age of 97. What particularly struck me about the obit was the last line about his daughter Mrs. Benjamin F. Tracey having died several years before, perishing in a fire in Washington DC. That definitely piqued my curiosity. I managed to find a newspaper article describing the horrific tragedy which took her life and that of her daughter in February 1890. More below.
AN AWFUL CALAMITY, the headline about the deadly fire, appears on the front page of the Gloversville, NY, Daily Leader, of 4 February 1890. Nathaniel’s daughter (Isaac’s sister) Delinda E. Catlin (b. 1826) was married to Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy who served in the administration of President Benjamin Harrison. The article describes how the Tracy home in Washington DC was consumed by fire, killing Mrs. Tracy, her unmarried daughter Mary, and a French nurse named Josephine. The home was located at 1684 I Street NW which would have placed it on Farragut Square. The cause of the fire was deemed to be a defective flue. Mrs. Tracy (Delinda), who jumped from a second floor window, could have survived the fire had she waited just moments more for the ladder that was being raised to her. The Secretary, who had evidently passed out in the room his wife had just leaped from, was rescued and carried through the window and down the ladder.
Tracy was taken to someone’s home to recover. He was called on there by President Harrison, and Harrison had Tracy removed to the Executive Mansion (the “White House”). It was Harrison who broke the news to Tracy about his wife and daughter. The entire article is included below.
The article goes on to describe how, due to the tragedy, the President and his cabinet called off a planned visit to NYC. The Senate voted to adjourn out of respect. All in all, a terribly tragic story, and I was sorry to come across it. Without a doubt other family tragedies — some known and many still unknown to us — “adorn” our family trees; this is one of the most striking examples I have come across so far. May all those impacted be resting in peace.
Links to Find a Grave memorials:
Delinda E. Catlin Tracy
Mary Farrington Tracy
Benjamin Franklin Tracy
Emma Louise Tracy Wilmerding
White House in the Civil War era 1860s (photographer unknown; photo in public domain*)
President Benjamin Harrison, 23rd president (Pach Brothers, 1896; photo in public domain*)
*This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. See [http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/public_domain/ this page] for further explanation. This image might not be in the public domain outside of the United States; this especially applies in the countries and areas that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works, such as Canada, mainland China (not Hong Kong nor Macao), Germany, Mexico, and Switzerland.