Wednesday’s Child: Harvey BURNELL- “Make no dependence on smiling infants”

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Headstone of Harvey Burnell, Center Cemetery, Chesterfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts. Posted with kind permission of FAG photographer.
Headstone of Harvey Burnell, Center Cemetery, Chesterfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts. Posted with kind permission of FAG photographer.

McMurray Family, Burnell Family (Click for Family Tree)

Little Harvey Burnell was the second child of Joseph Burnell, Jr.(1756-1841) and Martha Gilbert (1761-1837). Harvey Burnell is a first cousin, at least 6 times removed depending on the generation of you, dear reader, but this inscription on the headstone is so poignant that it needs to be shared.

The first child born to Joseph and Martha Burnell was a girl, Elizabeth Burnell, born 24 February 1783 in Massachusetts, likely Chesterfield. They had been married for just over a year, and the anticipation of a large family was probably on their minds quite a lot. Of course, in those days a son was always the most desired, especially for a first child. They likely loved little Elizabeth dearly, but were anxious for a son to carry on the family name and inherit.

Little Harvey Burnell’s birth would have been eagerly awaited, and he appeared in this world on 18 June 1785 in Chesterfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts. Martha was 23, and Joseph 28, when they added to their family. Oh, the excitement there must have been, and how proud the parents! Joseph was a first-born son himself, so would have known what to expect for this new little one. Harvey was likely quite doted upon, and would be groomed for the future of the family to be placed in his hands as he got older. Like all parents, Joseph and Martha probably were filled with big hopes and dreams for this first-born son.

Those tiny little hands, though, were sadly not to become big hands that could guide the family and fulfill its dreams. Little Harvey only lived to be 13 months old. We don’t know if he was a sickly child or if an accident or sudden illness took him from his loving family. Whichever of these events, little Harvey left this world the next summer, on 21 July 1786 in Chesterfield. He was buried in Center Cemetery in Chesterfield, where over 20 of his ancestors and relatives are buried. The hopes, the dreams, and his future with the family were buried along with the little boy.

Headstone of Harvey Burnell, Center Cemetery, Chesterfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts. Posted with kind permission of FAG photographer.
Headstone of Harvey Burnell, Center Cemetery, Chesterfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts. Posted with kind permission of FAG photographer.

The inscription on the headstone reads:

Harvey

Son of Joseph

& Martha

Burnell

DIED

July 21 1786

Æ 13 Mon.

Make no depen-

dence on smiling

infants.

 

For anyone, but especially a parent who has lost a child, the last line of the inscription is likely to bring tears, and renewed heartache.

Martha and Joseph were probably more subdued with the next pregnancy, making no dependence on their dreams for this next child. This new Burnell was born on 23 March 1787, also in Chesterfield, and the babe was male; they named him Harvey Burnell. He thankfully was able to weather the perils of childhood in that century, and lived to be 47. Martha and Joseph were then blessed with their (probably) hoped-for household of children: Chester Burnell, born 1788; Asenath Burnell, b. 1791; Eli Burnell b. 1792, Newton Burnell b. 1794, Baxter Burnell b. 1797; Nancy B. Burnell b. 1798; Francis Burnell b. 1801; and Levi Burnell, b. 1803. They had a total of 9 sons, 8 surviving into adulthood, plus 2 daughters.

Martha and Joseph were, after all,  able to depend on the faces of those smiling infants, long into their later years.

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records 1620-1988. These Ancestry.com records are typed (so transcribed from the original) and call the family “Burnal.” Harvey’s death is listed as found in Book 2, Page 2.

 

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