Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"For Fifty Years She was Faithful"

Philadelphia Inquirer
7 Dec 1900
page 5

For Fifty Years She was Faithful

Death of Miss Elizabeth Foster Recalls the Tragedy of her Early Life

With the death on December 3 of Miss Elizabeth Foster, who resided at 1312 Ritner street, a fragment of hope, cherished for over fifty years, also died.  For in her heart alone lived the hope of seeing again her betrothed, who more than a half century ago sailed on an ocean voyage never to return.

Miss Foster was the daughter of Captain Daniel Foster, the master of one of the early clipper ships.  She was an acknowledged belle of the period, and was betrothed to John Cantrell, the first mate of a big sailing ship.  On a voyage to South America, which he had determined would be his last, his ship was struck by a heavy storm and sunk off Cape Hatteras.  None of the crew was ever heard of again.  But year after year the bride-to-be hoped against hope for his return.  During the Civil War she was among the most active in relief work.  She was also prominent in church circles.  Her funeral occurred yesterday afternoon.

Elizabeth was a granddaughter of Mary Gwinnup, through Mary's second husband Antonio Oneto.

My 2nd great grandfather James Monroe Hartley was a grandson of Mary Gwinnup, through Mary's third husband Solomon Joseph Hartley (1775-1815).

This is the obituary I found in the Philadelphia Inquirer for my 1st cousin 4x's removed, Elizabeth "Lizzie" A Foster (1828-1900).

From the records I found on her it seemed she lived most of her life in Philadelphia, and lived with her parents and family, and worked as a seamstress.  According to her death certificate she died of "general debility."  I don't know who wrote this obituary, possibly her younger sister Mary G (Foster) Flint (1832-1905) or brother-in-law, William Flint (1830-1908), a book publisher, or even maybe an unnamed friend.

I am assuming her long-lost beloved John Cantrell died in the 1840's, as there are a few different newspaper reports of lost ships off Cape Hatteras in that time, and that would make the 1900 "more than half a century ago" qualification.

Cape Hatteras, at the bottom of the closeup, is part of the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," and area in the outer banks of North Carolina.  Image taken from the blog post "Ghostship Off The Outer Banks" at Never Stop Learning by Ken Harbit (Pogi).

I found a possible lead for this John Cantrell in an 1823 "Proof of Citizenship Used to Apply for Seamen's Certificates for the Port of Philadelphia" for a John A Cantrell, b 1804 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was witnessed by Frederick Wacker.  This would make him 24 years Elizabeth's senior, so I'm not sure it is the right guy, plus there is a "John A Cantrell" in early 1840s city directories that indicate he was a druggist.  Maybe Elizabeth John Cantrell was this guy's son?

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  1. A great and fun find. I beg you - go look for her probate records in the Pennsylvania Wills and Probate Records on She is one of those spinsters that was the matriarch of the family and had no children and may have named dozens of relatives in a will, like my Elizabeth Auble did.

    1. Oh really?! Thank you for mentioning that, I didn't even get that far with her. Teach me not to exhaust all my sources :-)