A funeral receipt from 100 years ago

HOPKINTON – It’s torn and tattered but luckily survived the odds of ending up in a dumpster for the past century. It is signed in pen by undertaker Samuel Richmond Avery, and contains notations upon it in pencil by Mabel Gorton. It is a receipt, one hundred years old, that bears a message which still invokes the emotion it was probably written with.

S.R. Avery Furniture Dealers, Undertakers and Embalmers presented the receipt to Mabel (Palmer) Gorton on June 12, 1915 after typing the list of expenses upon it: one pillow personalized with the word “Mama” for six dollars, one bouquet of roses for four dollars, and one bouquet of sweet peas for a dollar and fifty cents brought the grand total to eleven dollars and fifty cents. Mabel noted at the top of the receipt, “for my mother’s funeral”.

Mabel was married to John Rathbun Gorton, a horse trainer and team driver who resided on Spring Street in Hope Valley. She was the only child of William Edmund Palmer and Lucy Adeline (Kenyon). Mabel and John often took boarders into their home, housing 65-year-old ice cream and fruit salesman William E. Barber in 1910 and, at the time of her mother’s death, 32-year-old barbershop owner Wanton Edwards, 55-year-old woolen mill employee Clarke Barber, and 20-year-old clothing salesman Henry S. Kenyon.

Mabel’s father William was a whitewasher and residential paperhanger who lived on Canonchet Road. In 1900, when Mabel was twenty, the family took John Gorton into their home as a boarder. He was employed as a lumberman at the time and Mabel was a mill operative. The two married six years later.

Lucy began having hysterical convulsions in her adult years due to “nervous prostration”, which causes symptoms of derangement. She eventually developed chronic cystitis and anemia and became so ill that Mabel and John took her into their home to care for her in the spring of 1915. She suffered greatly from her illness for several weeks before she passed away at Mabel’s home on the evening of May 31, 1915. The funeral was held on June 4 at 2:00 at Mabel’s residence.

It is the penciled notation on the back of the funeral receipt that adds to the sadness of a daughter’s loss. It is not known who the note was written to or what ever happened to the enclosure, but it reads, “The five dollar bill was my mother’s. Please take care of it. It was all she had left when she died. Yours truly, Mabel Gorton.”            




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