In this posting we consider the stories we have learned about the death of Ernest Muro, son of Nick and Letizia Muro. Ernest was 1 year old when he died. The official record of his death is in direct opposition to the cause we learned about during research and family discussions. To help you understand the relationships discussed in this posting we have outlined them in this section.
Ernest Muro was the son of Nicola and Letizia (nee Scotti) Muro. Ernest’s siblings were:
Ernest is related to EmilyAnn and Sammy. Ernest was:
- Sammy’s Uncle (through Josie, Sammy’s Mom).
- EmilyAnn’s Great Uncle (through Josie’s daughter Emily Leatrice).
Ernest’s sister Josie was:
- Sammy’s Mom.
- EmilyAnn’s Maternal Grandmother.
In our previous posting we reviewed the safety issues that surrounded the use of horses in an urban environment in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. We also considered the manner in which pedestrians utilized the pavements and streets. The automobile eventually eclipsed the use of horses by the 1920s. Pedestrians were made aware, through public safety campaigns, that the street was for vehicles and the sidewalk was for people.
George Westinghouse ensured that Wilmerding had a mass transit system within the town when it was first built. Yet even as the 1920s began, there were small companies within Wilmerding that still used a horse drawn cart as a means of transport. As we researched the children of Letizia and Nick Muro we learned about their next to youngest child, Ernest. The family never spoke about him and we were ready to accept the story which official documentation gave about his death. That was until we interacted with other relatives at Ancestry and compared family stories we heard. This is how we learned that Ernest’s death may have been hastened due to an accident caused by a horse drawn cart.
The Life of Ernest Muro
Ernest was born on February 27, 1919 in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. He appears on the 1920 Federal Census with his parents and siblings. The Census Enumerator visited the neighborhood where the Muro family lived on January 23-24th, 1920.
Uncle Sammy and I were not aware of Ernest’s existence since the family never spoke of him. During the time the census was taken, Nick and Letizia Muro were expecting their 6th child. Letizia was 7 months pregnant.
There was a reticence amongst the Italian immigrant and first generation families about discussing certain types of events that occurred in the family. We know that there were some events that were never casually discussed, especially with outsiders. At first we were not sure why our family never mentioned the loss of baby Ernest. It was only when a relative researching her branch of the family contacted me that I learned about Ernest. She knew his name but hadn’t been able to find any burial or birth records for him. Once I had the name Uncle Sammy and I started our search. Finding the death certificate did not take long.
The Story according to the Death Certificate
The story within the 1920 Federal Census and Ernest’s death certificate takes us into the last days of his life. By a careful study of the details, along with what we know about Letizia and Nick, we were able to reconstruct what happened.
The Census Enumerator visited the homes on State Street between January 23rd and 24th, 1920. At this time the Muro family resided in a 2 family house at 304 State Street where they rented an apartment.
A doctor was called and attended to Ernest from February 15 through February 29th, 1920. The death certificate states that the main cause of death was broncho pneumonia which ran a course for 10 days from February 15th-25th. Then on February 25th influenza set in as the secondary cause of death. The flu virus continued for 4 days until both illnesses caused his death at 3 a.m. on March 1st, 1920.
On March 2, 1920 Ernest was buried at Grandview Cemetery. According to the Death Certificate this cemetery was located in Wilmerding.
The portion of the death certificate concerning a hospital stay is blank. This leads us to think that Ernest was cared for and died at home. The family would have followed the Italian custom of holding a wake in the house. The interment of the body on the next day may have been for health reasons since Letizia was already 7 months into her pregnancy. A longer wake in the house, with 4 other children present, would have intensified the grief of the family and presented challenges to caring for the children and assuring Letizia of the quiet she needed.
In August of 2014, I contacted Grandview Cemetery to get a plot location when creating Ernest’s FindAGrave memorial. The cemetery is listed as being in North Versailles, Pennsylvania which is about 2 miles away from Wilmerding. The office staff could not locate any records for Ernest’s burial. There was a fire at one time that destroyed many of the old paper files. The staff told me that most likely Ernest was buried in a common plot used for the poor.
Another relative provided details about an accident that took place in the months before Ernest passed away. Letizia had been out for a walk with Ernest. He was in his carriage. A horse drawn cart for a local company was making a delivery to a store on the street where Letizia was walking. The horse got out of control and the driver was unable to stop him from going up onto the sidewalk.
Letizia was struck and fell. The carriage rolled out into the street. Although the injuries were not deadly they did contribute towards weakening Ernest and Letizia.
Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, August 30, 2015 11:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Uncle Sammy and I considered the very short life of Ernest Muro. We cannot come up with any explanation based on facts as to why he was never mentioned, not even by Josie. All we can do is try to better understand how she may have felt.
Our family always rememebered our beloved departed on All Soul’s Day. When All Hallows Eve (October 31st), All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd) occurred over a weekend, we frequently spent time recalling our beloved departed. Grandma Josie, Mom and I would stop by Regina Pacis church to light a candle on October 31st when time permitted.
During the 1970s and 1980s Uncle Sammy and his first wife would join us in the remembrance and recollection of our departed relatives if we had dinner over the weekend on which these holy days occurred. Neither Ernest nor Letizia were mentioned.
Since we do not have further documentation such as newspaper accounts of the accident involving the horse drawn cart it is difficult to say the extent to which the shock following the accident affected Ernest and Letizia’s health and ability to fight off other illnesses. Josie was 10 years old when the accident happened. Even though she was always very strong willed and resilient the emotional impact had to have affected her very badly. Almost 18 months after Ernest died, Letizia passed away. We believe that this event impressed upon Josie the awareness of human mortality. Whatever pain and sadness she felt she kept it to herself. It was a way to stay strong and not let others get the chance to take advantage of her.
This determination, even in the face of loss, is a trait Uncle Sammy and I saw many times when Josie was alive. It helped her get through the challenging times ahead as she assumed more responsibilities in the household. Although she was now a like a little mother to her younger siblings and a helper in the house she asserted that she would continue to go to school. This persistence took her through the complete course of mandatory education at the time. Although we do not consider graduation from 8th grade today to be a milestone during the early 20th century it was a mark of accomplishment for a girl to achieve graduation from middle school.
This discussion will be continued in the next two postings about Letizia Muro.
Certificate of Death, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dept. of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. File no. 43586. Registered No. 2076.
1920 Federal Census
Please visit Ernest’s memorial to leave a prayer or cyber flower.