Ralph Nathan Pendleton, Hero (?)

My great uncle, my grandfather’s older brother, Ralph, once saved his mother’s life. I wrote about Ralph’s mother, Maria Mitchell Gerrish Pendleton in a previous post. Distracted by BSOs (bright shiny objects) as I was looking for an obituary/date of death for Ralph, I came across a number of newspaper articles about him. The first when he was only 14 years old! The title in the Boston Journal on 21 July 1904 found on GenealogyBank.com was “Lynn Boy Rescues Mother from Flames” with a byline of “Ralph Pendleton, 14 Years old, Dashes Through Fire and Smoke in Burning Building and Also Saves Girl From Death.” Could this be my great uncle? He was the right age and I knew that the family lived in Lynn at the time. The article gave the address of his mother (listed as Mrs. E.C. Pendleton in the article – it should actually have been Mrs. C.E. Pendleton) and I was able to confirm using city directories that this was MY Ralph Pendleton.

Here’s the story: Ralph’s Mother, Maria Pendleton had been outside talking to Mrs. Bee, a neighbor, when they heard another neighbor, Mrs. Hanlon, cry, “Oh, save my children.” Maria ran into the burning house and up the stairs with Mrs. Bee, son Ralph following close behind. Maria fell in the doorway of the children’s room with 6 year old Madeline Hanlon in her arms, overcome by the smoke. Ralph picked up the little girl and dragged his mother from the burning room, but could not take both of them down the stairs. He ran down the stairs, taking Madeline outside and returned for his mother. Firemen arrived shortly after Ralph’s second entrance into the burning building and assisted Ralph is bringing his mother down from the stair landing.

A little more about Ralph: Born in 1889 he married his first wife, Ruby Green on 21 January 1909 in Lynn. He was 19, she was 18 – a first marriage for both of them. In August of that year, Ruby gave birth prematurely to a boy, named Edward. He lived for 5 days – he is buried in an unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn. By December of 1912 Ruby was filing for divorce from Ralph on the grounds of cruel and abusive punishment saying, “regardless of his marriage vows and obligations, on divers occasions has cruelly and abusively treated her and that being of sufficient ability, he grossly and wantonly and cruelly refuses and neglects to provide a suitable maintenance for her.” He most certainly was not a hero to Ruby. The case was dismissed in 1914 without a final divorce decree.

Ralph had a son in born in 1917 (who I remember meeting as a child – he was my mother’s cousin). Ralph married the boy’s mother, Bessie Gerrish, three years later in 1920. A little backwards based on the accepted practice at the time. Their marriage record says that it is the first marriage for both of them (!). Ralph’s first wife, Ruby was finally granted a divorce from him in Maine in 1921 on grounds of desertion – a year after he married his second wife!

I remember hearing whisperings from my father that a couple in the family was not actually married and had lived together pretending to be husband and wife. Everyone was surprised when they actually did get married – it had been assumed that their marriage had taken place before the birth of their son. For many years I didn’t know who these family members might be – but now I think I’ve found them. <GRIN>

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About Deborah Lee Stewart

I try to get photos returned to family members at no charge. Please contact me if you are related to any of the people in the rescued photos that I post. I can be reached at: deborahleestewart@gmail.com

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