Mary Katherine Wiseheart died at the age of one year and nine months. She drowned in the neighbors’ fish pond. What little I knew of Mary Katherine came from my grandpa. Recently, as the family were going through things at Grandpa’s house, my uncle opened a book and found a piece of paper folded up. The note on the outside indicated that it was a lock of Mary Katherine’s hair. He opened it and it was indeed a lock of hair. I find it very hard to describe colors between blonde and brown, but I suppose it would be called ash.
This discovery prompted me to want to know all I could about her, but since she died so young, I felt sure that I wouldn’t be able to find much. As always, I began my search at the library. I looked for a death record. It didn’t yield any new information. It did, however, have a note that read “coroner inquest.” I looked for the coroner’s inquest, but she died in July of 1936 and the inquests on microfilm stop at February of 1936. I’ll have to check with the original repository to see if they have later inquests. I also checked the newspaper index to look for an obituary. Nothing had been indexed for Mary Katherine Wiseheart or variant spellings.
For a moment, I was at a loss. I thought about it and realized that I did have her date of death, 9 Jul 1936. I decided to look for the obituary manually. I pulled the roll for the New Albany Tribune that included July 1936. I started with the 9th and moved forward. To my surprise, there was a large, front page article on her death in the paper for the 10th. I believe that the only reason she was so prominently featured was because there had been another drowning the day before.
I cried as I read it, feeling only a small measure of what her family must have felt. And I wondered at Sanford’s reaction. For a father who just lost a baby girl, he seemed to me to be calm about it. But the paper did say he was shocked. More than that though, as I researched Sanford for a future post, I learned a lot about his character and the things he had been through before this point and I now understand his reaction.
Mary Katherine, though not quite two years old, touched lives in such a way that those of us who never had the opportunity to know her have still grown up hearing of her.