“The widow of the late Wm. Howk, was taken severely ill last week Tuesday, and has since that time been prostrate with a low fever. She is having excellent care from her relatives, and her recovery is hoped for. The shock of bereavement and the loneliness and care that was inevitable no doubt brought about the physical depression that invited disease” (The Wellington Enterprise, 5-15-1879, pg. 3).
I so wish that I had an image of Charlotte Herrick Howk to include with this post. As I have mentioned, my research has turned up far more images of men than of women. And until this weekend, I had only located an obituary for William Howk, which I quoted at some length in my earlier post on the couple. But yesterday I stumbled upon a wealth of items related to Charlotte, so today she gets a post all her own.
The notice at the top of the page was published just four days before Charlotte passed away. Her obituary appeared on May 29, 1879. Just like her husband William’s, Charlotte’s death notice was written by neighbor and friend Mary Hayes Houghton. This sentence sums up the sad theme of the piece: “Those who remember her younger womanhood, say that the acquaintances of her later years would scarcely be able to understand that one so grave and impenetrable in her reserve, had been in youth remarkable for her vivacity and exuberance of spirit” (pg. 3).
Charlotte was born in the western, Berkshire region of Massachusetts in 1806. She spent her youth in the town of Lee, where she met and married William Howk in 1830. They emigrated to Ohio in 1836 with their only child, a daughter called Emma who died in 1853 at just 20 years of age. According to Mary Hayes Houghton, it was Emma’s death that left her mother “bereft…thenceforth broken in spirit and a sad woman.” Charlotte turned inward, isolating herself and becoming intensely religious. The obituary is full of tenderness and compassion for her silent suffering. “To be admitted to her confidence and friendship was to find hers an intelligent mind, a sympathetic heart, a deeply devotional nature, with the instincts and principles that belong to a good woman; who have no occasion for pretense, or subterfuge, or anything beyond a direct simplicity of conduct and character.”
The obituary goes on to explain that it was the loss of both her husband and her sister, just two days apart, that broke Charlotte Howk’s will to live. I was able to locate an obituary for her sister, “Miss” Armenia Herrick (1800-1879), in the May 1 edition of the Enterprise. Armenia had been a teacher and had run a school for young ladies in Brooklyn, New York prior to emigrating to Wellington with her–and Charlotte’s–parents in 1837. Apparently the parents waited for their younger daughter and her husband to establish themselves in the new western town prior to relocating the rest of the family away from Massachusetts. “Her [Armenia’s] father had previously purchased a fourth or more of the township, and his sons, Francis and Ephraim, had transferred their interests from Gennesee County, N. Y., to Wellington, the other members of the family following until all settled there” (pg. 3).
As further evidence of how close the Howks were to their neighbors, John Wesley Houghton was appointed administrator of both William and Charlotte’s estates. The following notice appeared on August 14: “FOR SALE.–The residence and grounds known as the homestead of the late Wm. Howk. Also a fine single carriage and harness. Apply to J. W. Houghton” (pg. 3). Mary’s written lamentations about the dissolution of the Howk home, which I mentioned in the previous post, take on a special poignancy when one realizes that she may actually have been taking part in the manual labor of packing up a lifetime’s worth of possessions when she composed them.