Obituary of the Misunderstood

The obituary for my great-great-grandfather, James B. Garrison, ends on a sort of backhanded compliment, which makes me more curious about him actually. That and the report on his pension file that said he had a scar on his back from getting hit with an axe when young. Was it an accident? Did someone whack him on purpose? How serious was the cut from that axe blade? I haven’t found that in the paper yet, but here is his obituary:

After an illness covering nearly six years, James B. Garrison died at his home on Fayette street on Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock, aged 72 years. The end came peacefully and relieved the patient from the suffering of his long illness. Mr. Garrison was a veteran of the Civil War 1, having served with honor. He was the oldest employee of the Bridgeton Gas Light Company, having worked in the retort house 2 at their plant for over thirty years. For a number of years he had the record of never losing an hour of his working time. Nearly six years ago he gave up his position on account of an illness that seemed to baffle physicians. By many he was misunderstood, but beneath the exterior there beat a heart that contained warmth and affection, and he will be missed by all who knew him in his daily living. He leaves a wife 3 and several children all of whom are grown.

Bridgeton Evening News, April 13, 1908, page 3.

1. Private, Co. H, 3rd Regiment, NJ Volunteers Cavalry.
2. Retort house is the building where coal was heated to manufacture gas. (
3. His wife, Emma M. Garrison, daughter of Ansel Irelan and Elizabeth Ayars, passed away in 1922.

Emma M. Garrison Death

Department of Health of the State of New Jersey
Bureau of Vital Statistics
Certificate and Record of Death

1. Place of Death
County: Cumberland
City: Bridgeton
2. Full name: Emma M. Garrison
(a) Residence: No. 163 Fayette St 3 Ward
3. Sex: female
4. Color or Race: white
5. widowed
5a. Husband: James B. Garrison
6. Date of Birth: Jan 21 1839
7. Age: 83 Years 7 Months 18 Days
8. Occupation: Housewife / home
9. Birthplace: N. Jersey
10. Name of Father: Anson Ireland
11. Birthplace of Father: N.J.
12. Maiden name of Mother: Elizabeth Ayars
13. Birthplace of Mother: N.J.
14. Informant: George Garrison, Bridgeton, NJ
15. Filed Sept 11, 1922
16. Date of Death: 9/8 1922

19. Place of Burial: Broad St Cemetery, Sept 11 1922
20. Undertaker: Harry J. Garrison, Bridgeton

Ansel Irelan Obituary

One of my more exciting discoveries with the addition of the Bridgeton Evening News to, the obituary for my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Ansel Irelan:

Ansel Irelan, one of Bridgeton’s oldest citizens, died at his home on Atlantic street early this morning, after an illness of several weeks with kidney affection.
Mr. Irelan was born in this city 76 years ago last July and has lived here nearly ever since. He married Elizabeth, daughter of the late Addi Ayars, and six children were born to them, four of whom are living. His wife died several years ago and deceased has since lived in the old home, Atlantic just above Broad street. The children who survive him are Emma, wife of James Garrison; Mary Ann, wife of John Neukirk; Lizzie, wife of Joseph Westcott, and Ansel, Jr., the only son.
Deceased was a ship carpenter by trade and when the gold fever broke out he was one of the original “forty-niners” who left this city to seek their fortune in the Golden State – California. He in company with his brother, William Irelan, Capt. Charles Woodruff, Tudel Clark, the late Edward Collins and others, left Bridgeton for the gold fields.
He came back to Bridgeton and has since resided here, working at his trade of ship-carpentering until within a few years. When the steamer “Golden Gate” which left San Francisco with one million dollars in gold on her was sunk, Mr. Irelan, with his brother William, and others took the contract for raising the gold. This was a thrilling experience in his life and the company came near losing their lives from Mexican bandits.

I was able to confirm that William Irelan did indeed raise some of the gold from the “Golden Gate” steamer, although neither Ansel or anyone else in William’s company was mentioned. Nor were Mexican bandits mentioned in any account I have yet found. I suspect that may have been an embellishment as the story was told again and again back home in Bridgeton.

William stayed in California and his son, William Irelan, Jr., made a name for himself in Mineralogy. He was California State Mineralogist from 1886-1892. He has a biographical essay in A history of the new California: its resources and people (1903), in which his father is also mentioned.