My grandfather was born in 1918 with a twin brother, Campbell. It was a terrible year to be born. Schools and churches shuttered their operations and told everyone to stay home as a flu epidemic ravaged cities and towns throughout the world. Only one of the twins was alive by the end of the year.
Everyone I have met in my extended family or with any connection to Abbeville, South Carolina has been asked where my grandfather’s twin brother could be buried.
In this search I’ve met some great people. The historians at Trinity Episcopal and Little Mountain Presbyterian. The receptionist at Harris Funeral Home. The volunteers in the Greenwood Library. A good Samaritan who searched high and low and high again after I asked for ideas in the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness group on Facebook.
Genealogists are nuts, by the way.
My conclusions have to be based as much on what I don’t have as what I do because I do not have much at all. The absence of information can be telling though.
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
The infant’s parents were buried at Little Mountain Presbyterian, but the church has no record of Campbell. There is no record at Trinity Episcopal, another church the family was affiliated with. There is no record of him (or any Beckwith infant) in the extensive and exhaustive cemetery surveys of Abbeville County and the surrounding area. His death certificate lists his place of burial as a very indistinct “Abbeville County.”
What I have is one record from Harris Funeral Home.
Account of W. F. Beckwith
Nov 18, 1918 Coffin & Box 17.50
For Infant died 11-17-1918
By Cash, Nov 18, 1918 17.50
In the back of my mind I always wondered if he was buried with his parents and the record had not survived. It was not uncommon during that time for parents who had cemetery plots ready for themselves to bury a child who predeceased them in that plot and be buried next to the child later. It didn’t happen all the time, but it happened and I wondered. William Felder Beckwith’s plot had plenty of extra room to accommodate an infant. How did I know that the church’s records were absolutely complete and not just a list of the stones currently in the yard?
I called up the cousin who owns part of the land where the family cemetery is located to ask if before mentioned Samaritan could go by and have a look. I had combed the place over but this was another set of eyes. I wrung my hands to him and said that, as best I could tell, the infant was buried with his father. Hm yeah no. The person I was talking to had been, had physically been, with his own mother (the daughter of William Felder) at the cemetery where William Felder was buried and picked out where he would be buried when he died in 1967.
Campbell’s mother’s plot was not chosen until she died in 1947. The father’s plot was chosen after his death in 1967. It was impossible for the infant to be buried in one of his parents’ plots in 1918 because they hadn’t been picked out yet.
And there it is. Around the world and back to start. If he had been buried in a cemetery, there would be a record. If his father had purchased a headstone along with the casket, there would be a record. There was no record.
On November 17, 1918, Campbell Martin Beckwith, age four months, died. His father paid $17.50 for a casket the next day and took him to the family cemetery at Martin’s Mill. He was laid him to rest there. They had five other children to care for (including another sick infant) in the midst of one of the worst epidemics seen in modern history.
A receipt for one “coffin & box for infant” was all that he left, but at least I found it.