My grandmother Helen Worthington Tyson had a lot to say about her father Benjamin, none of it good. He was “moony”; his temper depended on the time of the moon. He could be kind but could be “possessed of the devil”. He took up with another woman after his wife died and was not interested in Helen or her brother William. They had to make their own way in the world. As Helen put it, he “did not give a hoot about my brother and me.” She was estranged from him, although she still did his laundry.1
Benjamin Franklin Worthington was from an old Philadelphia County family, originally Quaker. He was born in November 1869.2 His father’s generation, two brothers and three sisters growing up in the mid-1800s, still used the “thee” and “thy” speech of the Quakers, although the family no longer were members of a meeting.3 Watson Worthington, Benjamin’s father, was a toll gate keeper for many years, on the Somerton-Bustleton Pike in Philadelphia County. His wife, Elizabeth Cornell, was of Dutch background, not “Pennsylvania Dutch” (which is actually German), but descended from Dutch families that moved down from Long Island and Staten Island in the early 1700s to Bucks County. They had their own Dutch Reformed church, spoke Dutch and intermarried for several generations. But by the 1800s that heritage was fading, just like the Quaker heritage of the Worthingtons.
In 1895 Benjamin got a license to marry Elizabeth Scott.4 Helen did not know much about her mother Elizabeth. “I regret that I know very little about my mother’s family but I was only thirteen when she died and not at all interested in who was who.” She did remember that Elizabeth’s father James F. Scott ran a delivery business with his brothers. She told the story that Elizabeth’s mother had died in childbirth and her father remarried, to the sister of his first wife. The new wife did not want the baby, so Elizabeth was sent off to an orphanage to be raised. As it turns out, part of the story is true. James did run a delivery service. Scott Brothers appeared in Philadelphia city directories between 1872 and 1902. The business, variously described as express, teams, carmen, and livery, was what we would now call a delivery service. It was in business for over 20 years south of Washington Square, near the Delaware River.5 James was married three times, to women who were all born in New York state, so the any of them could have been sisters. However the mother Jennie did not die in childbirth; her daughter Elizabeth was eight years old at the time. Finally, Elizabeth did go to live in an orphanage, at least a residence and school for girls run by the Sisters of the Holy Shepherd. She stayed there for several years, learning housekeeping, sewing and English (probably reading and writing).6 During that time she probably became a Catholic, although she did not pass that faith on to her children.
In 1900 Benjamin and Elizabeth were living in Montgomery County, in Lower Moreland. They had been married for five years and had one daughter, Helen.7 There had been another child who died young, probably the Joseph Watson buried in January 1897 as a child of Benjamin’s parents. Benjamin was a farm laborer, and they were renting a house. By 1910 they were still in Moreland, with two children – Helen and William Emmor, as well as two “servants”.8 Benjamin was still farming, renting a farm on Chestnut Street, Bethayres.9
Elizabeth died in 1911 and is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery outside Glenside, a Catholic cemetery.10 She was just short of her 44th birthday, although her burial record and death certificate show a different age.11 Presumably she understated her age, and her husband did not have the correct information after her death.12 Letters of administration on her estate were granted to a local attorney, since Benjamin renounced.13
After her death the family fell apart, as Helen told the story. She and her brother both married in their late teens, while Benjamin disappears from the records until in 1925 he bought three tracts of land in Horsham, Montgomery County. This implies that he was doing well financially, but why did he need three pieces of land, and why did he only pay $1.00 for them?14
In the 1930 census, he was living with his son William in Horsham. Benjamin was working as a watchman in the aviation industry, probably for an airplane company or an airport.15 Benjamin died in Norristown in 1949, aged 79. At the time of his death he was living in a convalescent home.16 He was buried at Hatboro Cemetery, but has no tombstone.17
Children of Benjamin and Elizabeth:
?Joseph Watson, b. June 1896, d. January 1897; supposedly the child of Benjamin’s parents Watson and Lydia but this is almost impossible at Lydia’s age; more likely a child of Benjamin and Elizabeth born too soon after their wedding and buried as a child of Watson and Lydia.18
Helen Irene, b. March 30, 1898, died 1987, married in 1918 Raymond Tyson, son of William and Catherine (Rinker). Raymond died in 1959, and Helen married again twice in later life. Children (with Raymond): Raymond, Dorothy, Robert, Janet, and William. Robert and Jane died in infancy.
William Emmor, b. 17 Jan 1901, d. Jan 1978, m. Mary June Haughton. William was a carpenter.19 In 1940 they were in Horsham.20 By 1959 they moved to Pompano Beach, Florida. Mary June died there in 1972; William died in 1978.21 Children: William E, Ruth, Helen.
- Personal communication from Helen Worthington Tyson. ↩
- Death certificate of Benjamin F. Worthington, died August 1949, on Ancestry. ↩
- Personal communication from Helen W. Tyson. ↩
- Philadelphia Marriage Index, #78622, on Ancestry. ↩
- City directories of Philadelphia, 1881, 1892, 1902. These addresses are near present-day Jefferson Square in Philadelphia. ↩
- 1880 census, Philadelphia, ED 584, Images 25-27. The school, at the corner of 39th and Pine, was the Immaculate Conception School. (“Early Catholic Secondary Education in Pennsylvania”, Records of American Catholic Historical Society, vol. LIX, 1948, p. 264, on JSTOR.) ↩
- 1900 census, Montgomery County, E.D. 228, part of Moreland Township, Image 43. Elizabeth’s birth year is shown as 1871, and her age as 28. (The census was taken in June, and she was born in August.) ↩
- 1910 census, Montgomery County, Moreland, E.D. 107, image 6. Benjamin is in the census index as Benj. Elizabeth’s age is given as 40. The census taker usually listed servants separately from lodgers, but it is hard to imagine Benjamin and Elizabeth needing two male servants, one of whom was a mechanic. ↩
- Bethayres was originally called Huntingdon Valley. ↩
- Death notice in Hatboro Public Spirit, Aug 5 1911; her PA state death certificate (on Ancestry) and the record of the funeral home (on Ancestry, PA & NJ Church and Town Records 1669-2013, Bucks, Southampton, William Grant Funeral Home, image 2626). The undertaker gave her father’s name as James Scott and the mother’s name as Maxwell. On the death certificate her date of birth was given incorrectly as August 7, 1873. She died on August 1, 1911, a few days shy of her 44th birthday. The age at death was given as 37 years, 11 months, 25 days. The undertaker must have been given an incorrect year of birth and computed her age at death from that. ↩
- Cemetery records on Ancestry, PA & NJ Church and Town Records 1669-2013, Montgomery, Cheltenham, Roman Catholic, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, image 1201. ↩
- If she is the Elizabeth, age 3, living with James F. Scott and his wife Jennie, then she was born in 1867. (1870 census, Philadelphia, 4th ward, 11th district, p. 48.) This would make her 32 when the 1900 census was taken, but it showed her as 28. It would make her 42 in the 1910 census, but it showed her as 40. It would make her 43 when she died, but the death certificate and burial information show her as 37 and 38 respectively. Some of these dates could be brought into closer agreement if the Elizabeth born in 1867 died young and another child was born in 1875 and given the same name, but there is no evidence for a second Elizabeth. ↩
- Montgomery County probate records, RW28160. ↩
- Montgomery County deeds, Book 957, p. 217, Montgomery County courthouse. The deeds were from William Ferguson of the city of Phila and Leonore his wife. Could William have been a relative? James F. Scott’s mother was Dorothy Ferguson. This seems a stretch, since both James and his mother Dorothy were dead well before 1925. ↩
- 1930 census, Montgomery County, Horsham, E.D. 46, image 49. ↩
- PA State death certificate, on Ancestry. It gave the name of his wife and parents, so it was the correct Benjamin Worthington. ↩
- The death certificate says Hatboro Cemetery; Helen said there was no tombstone. Findagrave does not list him in the burials at Hatboro. ↩
- Buried at William Penn cemetery, Somerton. ↩
- 1930 census, Montgomery County, Horsham, E.D. 46, image 49. He was apparently named for his great-uncle William Emmor. William and Mary J. were married young. He was 18; she was 17. William’s widowed father Benjamin was living with them. ↩
- 1940 census, Montgomery County, Horsham, 46-62, image 11. The son William also worked as a carpenter, while Mary was a waitress in a café. ↩
- Florida Death Index 1877-1998, on Ancestry. ↩
- Ancestry, Pennsylvania Church and Town Records 1708 to 1985, Philadelphia County, William Penn Cemetery. ↩