It’s difficult to explain how finding a relative’s story can impact you. Even moreso when the person you’re worked up about isn’t really related to you. You know, the son of the cousin’s neighbor’s brother kind of thing.
So it was with one little news boy
It started with a newspaper clipping
I was working on the Hilleary line from Washington, D.C. in old newspapers for a relative. Up pops a picture of a little boy in a wagon holding a newspaper.
As I read, I became more interested. His name was Charles Hilleary. He was 12 years old and the blurb stated that there had been funeral services.
Who was this Charles Hilleary and why was his death posted so prominently in the newspaper?
Nicknamed The Colonel
Charles Hilleary was born in 1901 in Washington, D.C. to Charles St. Clair Hilleary and Emma West.
According to the funeral notice in the Washington Herald, 17 Jun 1913, Charles was a cripple. He spent his days in his wagon selling newspapers.
His corner was Thirty Second and M Street Northwest.
The people who lived in the West End knew him well and gave him his nickname. No one walked by without having a word or two with the little boy. He was a neighborhood fixture.
When the day was over, he pushed himself home. I don’t know if his family needed him to sell newspapers. But, every morning he was back on his corner.
Hope Then Hardship
Charles had a tenacious spirit. In 1913, he was working on walking with crutches. He had gotten so good at it, they he didn’t his wagon by spring.
Then, he got sick. Bronchitis. His condition grew worse and he became very weak.
In what should have been a new beginning walking with crutches, it was instead his final days. After being sick for 10 days, his brief life ended on the 15th of June 1913.
A Community Mourns
Charles Hilleary may have been just another forgotten child with health problems who died in the harshness of turn of the century America. Except, everyone loved the little newsboy.
He touched so many lives that an announcement of his funeral was in the newspaper. On the 17th of Jun 1913 at 2 o’clock mourners were asked to meet at the home of his parents. The Reverend Dr. Bush of St. John’s Episcopal Church officiated.
He was then buried at Glenwood Cemetery. He is buried in the same lot as his father who died two years later.
Charles Hilleary may not have been on this earth very long, but he made an impact on his own little corner of it. That same corner where he passed the time talking to neighbors as he sold his newspapers.