Haunted by TragedyPosted on December 28th, 2012 1 comment
If ever a family were haunted by tragedy, it is the family of “Elder” David Gray and Susan Ann Diffendarfer.
They married on 9 Feb, 1843 in Allen, Indiana and set out to raise a family and make a living farming in Noble County, Indiana. He was 23, she 19.
Indiana census, birth, death, and cemetery records tell a sad story. First, the census:
- 1850 – Gray David 28, Susan 24, George 3, Mary 1, Elsey 65.
- 1860 – Gray David 38, Susan 35, George 13, Mary 10, James 7, Louisa 5, Cecelia 6/12.
- 1870 – Gray Susan 41, Owen 17. Silla 10 (Noble Twp).
By 1850, within the first seven years of their marriage, David and Susan have lost four children (Henry, Harriet, Philander, and Wm. Benjamin), and were to lose John D that fall. Living with the family is David’s mom Alcy (Alse, Elsey), his father William Penn having died four years before the census.
By 1860, the grave has taken Bertus, Sarah Jane, Luella, Celestia, and Warren. James, Louisa, and Cecelia are new names in the census (At this point, in the absence of confirmed death records, it’s conceivable some names overlap)
In the 1870 census, we note the absence of David (d. 1865) and Cecelia. Owen James and Priscilla (Silla) remain with Susan. George at 23 might have moved away; we find him married in 1875. Mary at 20 would probably be married.
Now some data from birth, death, cemetery, and marriage records as well as obituaries from the time. Children known or suspected to have died before age 16 are in bold.
- Henry, son of David & S. Gray, b. Sept. 1843, d. 1843, age 6 dys
- Harriet, dau of D. & S. Gray, b. Jun 19 1845, d. Jul 6 1845
- William Benjamin, b. Mar 10, 1846, no record of death but does not appear on 1850 census at which time he would be four.
- Philander, son of David & S. Gray, b. Mar 10 1847, d. Mar 12 1847.
- Phillip – some sources list a son with the same date of birth as Philander, so given the similarity in names I’m assuming this is the same child, though twins are possible. The similarity of dates for Wm B and Philander is also a bit suspicious. I can find no confirmation of the existence of this child.
- George Washington, b. Mar 1847 (?! Twin to Philander?) – Marriage record shows him son of David Gray & Sarah Diffendarfer, married Sarah Slusser on 23 Dec 1875
- Mary A. Gray, 1849 – 1928
- John D. Gray, son of David & S. Gray, d. 1850 age 6 dys
- Bertus GRAY, b. 1 Mar 1851, d. 1 Mar 1857
- James Owen, b. 8 Oct 1852, m. 1876 to Catherine Birch.
- Sarah Anne, dau of David & S. Gray, d. 1854 age 7 mos 14 dys
- Eliza Jane Louise, b. Dec 1854 (probably the Louisa on the 1860 census), apparently lived to marry a Charles Giggy, date unknown
- Celestia, dau of David & S. Gray, b. 14 Jul 1855, d. 7 Apr 1859
- Cecelia – I have this child only from the 1860 census; assuming that she is not the “Silla” of 1870, she lived less than 10 years.
- Warren, son of David & S. Gray, d. 1860 age 3 mos 17 dys
- Priscilla Ann, dau of S A & B J Gray [Obituary says daughter of Elder David Gray] d. Jun 8, 1875, age 14 yrs 8 mos 11 dys
Of fifteen confirmed children, only four are known to have survived past adolescence.
Today, infant/child mortality is relatively rare but David and Susan buried at least eleven small caskets.
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As facts are revealed, the information in this story may change. For the latest updates, please check Grays Going Back.
Actually, the poem is not about reincarnation. It alludes (poetically) to the doctrine of Eternal Recurrence. An idea first suggested in Ancient India, later taken up by the Roman stoics, and finally made much of by Nietzsche in ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. There are some ideas that are not to be taken seriously but are put forward as theoretical possibilities only in a poetic ‘what-if’ way. Eternal Recurrence is one such idea. Two other such ideas, even more bizarre than the idea of Eternal Recurrence — i.e., the idea that the same life is relived an infinite number of times identically — are Mulitple Alternative Universes and Time-Running-Backward Universes. These are not to be dismissed as science fiction nonsense. They form part of modern physics. For example, the time running backward thesis, hypothesized with equations, won Feynman the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1967.
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