December 2018

The Happiest Thanksgiving of the Four Fullerton Sisters

By Kenneth Hesselbacher


In the tiny hamlet of Bronxville New York there is a tiny cemetery.  While strolling through this cemetery with my grand daughter Grace, we discovered a most interesting story.  Although it’s been said, “dead men tell no tales,” tombstones often do tell interesting stories to those who have the time to listen and ponder.  And so, let me tell you the tale of the four Fullerton Sisters.


Many years ago there was a man named Matthew W. Henry who was born on September 10, 1811 and died on November 23, 1903.  All that we know about Mr. Henry is that he had a very long life, and, along the way, he married Mary A. Fullerton.  Mary A. Fullerton was born on November 28, 1811 and died on April 26, 1899.  All that we know about Mrs. Fullerton is that she had a life almost as long as her husband, and….she had three sisters whose remains were removed from their original burial sites and now reside adjacent to the remains of Matthew and Mary in the Bronxville Cemetery.


According to the tombstone, Nancy Fullerton was born on March 5, 1808 and died on January 1, 1837.  Elizabeth Fullerton was born on February 19, 1815 and died on June 28, 1837. Margaret Fullerton was born on September 29, 1816 and died on December 25, 1837.  It is engraved on their tombstone that the “remains of named from another cemetery”.


I can just imagine the four Fullerton sisters all together on Thanksgiving Day in November 1836 so happy and excited as they celebrated the beginning of the Holiday season.  Little did they know what sadness and tragedy would visit them during 1837!

  I would think it was most devastating for Mary who lost her oldest sister Nancy,  29 years old on New Years Day, her sister Elizabeth, 22 years old, on June 28th, and her sister Margaret, 21 years old sister on Christmas Day!   It has been said that siblings know you for the longest period of your life and most likely know you better than anyone. The fact that Mary wanted to have the remains of her three sisters removed from another cemetery and placed next to her and her husband seems to confirm this. I am sure that we would like to know the circumstances of their deaths, who made the burial arrangements and where the three Fullerton sisters were originally buried.  Did Mr. Henry make a promise to Mary, as she was dying, that he would unite the four Fullerton sisters forever?  Since my wife, Sandra is one of five sisters, I would like to think so.


As we celebrated Thanksgiving Day 2018, I can not help but think back to Thanksgiving Day 1836 and the joy and happiness of the four Fullerton sisters as they celebrated their last Thanksgiving day together.


Admittedly, although this is not the most happy and joyous Christmas tale,  I believe that it is uplifting and poignant, showing the importance of family. And somehow, after all these years, the Fullerton Sisters, and, of course, Mr. Henry, would be happy that so many people are reading their story!



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