Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Little Boy's Story



The other night, I stumbled upon a little boy's story. Now that I think about it, it really is a story about how a family dealt with a terrible tragedy. I think it also is a story of how this little boy did not wish to be forgotten.

He snuck up on me late at night. I wasn't looking for him but he found me. Well, I had found his name on the census before and a death certificate, but he was really wasn't a person yet to me. He was just a name with some vague bits of information attached to it. He was a Hester. Specifically, his name was Cecil Ruth Hester. He was the son of Mott Hester Sr. and my 2nd great grand aunt, Sidney Bryant Hester of Morehead City, NC. Sidney Bryant Hester was one of my 2nd great grandmother Jonas Bryant's sisters.

Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. 
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.

 **Note on the 1910 census my Jonas Bryant was noted as Joanna and Jonas and Sidney's mother were living next door to the Hesters. Listed last, was little Cecil Hester who was just 3 years old at the time.

Source Information:  Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.


When I initially found his death certificate a couple of years ago, I was shocked to see his cause of death was a "gun shot wound in the head" and labeled an "accidental homicide." I wondered what happened but quickly was pulled into another direction with my research. So little Cecil waited quietly for me take notice of him again.

Now back to what I was doing the other night. I've been working on learning as much as I can about the communities of Morehead City and Riverdale, North Carolina, specifically what these places were like from after the Civil War up through the 1940's. I've been looking through old newspapers and finding out some interesting bits and pieces on the website Newspapers.com.  This particular night I was doing a generalized search, using the terms "Hester," "Morehead City,"and "Colored."  I started to scroll down the list of results and pretty quickly something caught my attention.

The New Bern Sun (New Bern, North Carolina)
May 20, 1911,  Page 1

I said to myself, "Mart Hester, this has got to be Mott Hester." Then I zoomed in on the name James Henry Bryant.  Could he have been a relation of Mott's wife Sidney?  Sure enough, he was.  James Henry Bryant was her nephew, the son of Sidney's brother, Henry B Bryant (b. 1876--d.1937).  Now it became apparent how incredibly sad this whole situation was. A mother losing a child at the hands of her brother's son.  What about James Henry? This for sure had to be an accident. Boys will be boys and are often curious to explore things that are marked as forbidden. Was James trying to show off to his cousin how he could handle a gun? These are the questions that swirl through my mind. 



I would hope this was an accident. I'm inclined to think of the best in people even though the worst may be lurking nearby in the shadows waiting for a chance to sneak out. Only God, James Henry Bryant and Cecil Hester could really know what truly happened that day.

My mind goes drifting back towards that little boy's mother and father, Mott and Sidney. Gosh, how does one bear such a loss. Was this the first time they had lost a child? I referred to the 1900 census for a clue.


Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. 
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.

**It was noted on this census that Sidney was the mother of 5 children with 4 still living. 

So this wasn't the first time that Mott and Sidney Hester had endured a loss such as this. Having had this prior experience and a family still to raise, they just did what they knew they had to do and just went on.


Mott Hester Sr.
(b.1867--d.1947)
This picture is from a book called "Tales of the Atlantic Hotel 1880--1933"
by Virginia Pou Doughton


Sidney Bryant Hester
(b.1865--d.1966)

The thoughts in my head shifted towards James Henry Bryant. After all he was only eleven years old...a child himself when he accidentally shot his cousin.  How did his life play out after such a terrible event. I looked again to the census for some answers.


Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. 

Nine years after Cecil's death, the Hesters and Bryants were still living on Avery St, just across the street from one another.


Image courtesy of Google Maps

**The Bryant's home was located at 1200 Avery St which is noted in red on the left and the Hester home-place was at 1112 Avery across the street.

It appears that James Henry followed in the footsteps of his father, Henry B. Bryant, and found work in the fishing industry. He was still doing this work in 1930 and according to the census of that year, was working on a Menhaden fishing boat and still residing at 1200 Avery St. After that, his trail went cold for me. I know that four of James's sisters and his father Henry all died from pulmonary tuberculosis in the period from 1926--1937. Perhaps he shared that same fate? I will have to keep looking to find out the answer.

If Cecil Ruth Hester had lived, what would he have grown up to be?
A fisherman like his own father and brothers? A dreamer? Or perhaps a story teller?

Cecil's brothers:

Lloyd Motty Moore Hester Jr
(b.1894--d.1932)


Thomas Henry Hester
(b.1900--d.1959)





4 comments:

  1. Wonder what they thought of all of this as they grew up? Sad. STill goes on today. By accident.....

    ReplyDelete
  2. He was a storyteller. He told you his story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow what a way to start my morning!What a story that little family member of yours really wanted his story told and I know those two little boys are together and they're not even aware of that incident. I truly believe that.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Paula

    ReplyDelete