Saturday, February 26, 2011

Surname Saturday - Kent

The family of my mother's grandmother, the Kent's have had me stumped for years. I have ignored them for years hoping records would be made available to assist me. There are no records available for the area the Kent's lived outside of Pennsylvania, however there are several books regarding the history of the area. My mother's grandmother was Etta Kent Dewey. A number of years after the death of her husband, Charles Marion Dewey, Etta came to live with her son, Dix Dewey and his young family. Mom often talked about her 2 "Victorian" grandmother's that she grew up with living in her home. Etta Kent Dewey, according to my mom, was proud and very proper. Her ancestry went back to the early days of this country and she was well aware of this and very proud of it. She established herself in the household as the dominate female. It was always clear Etta's final years must have been difficult and she was destitute after the death of her husband and had to live with her son and his family in her final 30 years of life. The things I have uncovered this week are heartbreaking and explain much about Etta Kent Dewey and the woman she was. I only wish my mother were here to hear her grandmother's heartbreaking early years. To uncover the full story of this family and their ancestry, I will have to travel to Pennsylvania to obtain records. But for now, this is what I know.
I will begin the story of Etta Kent with her father, Abel Kent.
Abel Kent (pictured here) was born on October 16, 1816 to Carlton Kent and Sally (Griggs) Kent in Bradford Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania (formerly part of Luzerne County). How long the Kent family spent in Bradford is unclear. What is clear is, it could not have been too long. Carlton Kent was born in Massachusetts according to the censuses he appears in for 1850 and 1860. Unfortunately, it does not say where in Massachusetts.
Abel Kent married Maryetta Snedeker in the late 1840's. Maryetta was the daughter of James Snedeker and Elizabeth White. Maryetta Snedeker's Dutch and German roots go back to the early days of the new colony called "New Amsterdam", presently called New York City. Together Abel Kent and Maryetta had 7 children. Able was a farmer in Herrick, located in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. On September 16, 1868 Abel Kent died leaving his children fatherless and his wife a 41 year old widow. One year later, on October 8, 1869 Abel's wife Maryetta Snedeker Kent died leaving their 7 children orphans. The youngest child Adella was only 3 years old. My great grandmother Etta was only 4 years older. What happened to their home is unknown. The next record of the family is the 1870 census which has all the children living together with an "Abram Kent" in Great Bend, Pennsylvania. Who Abram Kent was, I do not know, however, he did take all the 7 Kent children into his home. I cannot find other records for an Abram Kent and at the time, he was not married.
By 1880 all the Kent children were scattered throughout Pennsylvania and nearby Broome County, New York. The 1880 census shows the 19 year old Etta Kent with the Leet family in Binghamton, New York working as their maid. Her older sister Helen was also in Binghamton at the time, listed as a servant of the Harris family. Both sisters married men from Binghamton. Later in 1880 Helen Kent married Andrew Crandall. On New Year's Day, 1884 Etta married Charles Marion Dewey in Binghamton, New York. Charles' father, Milton Dewey was a resident of Binghamton. In October 1884, Etta gave birth to her first child, a son they named Dee Darius Dewey. However, on Christmas Eve the following year her young son died. This must have broken her heart. Several months later in April 1886 Etta gave birth to her second child, also a son she named Don Durand Dewey. On June 1 1887 her last child, Dix Darius Dewey was born. Don and Dix were born in Jersey City, New Jersey. Over the next few years the couple moved to Ames, Iowa and St Louis, Missouri. I can only assume the many moves the family made were the result of Charles' searches for employment. This could have been a result of the depression Charles suffered from. On May 25, 1904 Etta sent her 2 teen sons out to look for their missing father. Each day for a week the boys went looking for him. On May 31st, my grandfather found his father dead in a pasture. He had died by his own hand having taken a fatal dose of carbolic acid. At the age of 43 my great grandmother was a widow in a strange city far from family or friends with no income and 2 teenage sons to feed. What happened to Etta and her 2 sons after this, I am not sure. I do know Don Dewey was in Seattle, Washington by 1910 where he lived out the remainder of his life. In 1910 Etta Dewey shows up in the census living with her late husband's sister Francis and her husband James Guernsey in Binghamton, New York. By 1918 she was living with her son, my grandfather, Dix Dewey and his wife Myrtle. From that point forward my grandfather supported his mother. There is a happy ending to this story though. Etta Kent Dewey lived the last 30 years of her life with her son and grandchildren as an integral member of the family. She died in Elgin, Illinois at the age of 86. Although the first half of her life was filled with uncertainty, insecurity and tragedy, the last 30 years were filled with home, family and security.
Dix D. Dewey, Dix Dewey Jr., Dorothy Dewey, Myrtle (Schmitt) Dewey
and Etta (Kent) Dewey in 1919.

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