Monday, July 9, 2012

He had salt water in his veins

I can still remember the first time I learned what "situational irony" meant. I was in my literature class in junior high, and the following example of it was given. If a world traveling big game hunter were to retire and then be run over by a car and killed, that would be situational irony because you would think he would have been killed while hunting big game. [Of course, they never said if he was being chased by a bear, but I can be difficult about these things.]

So when the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, died from a heart attack caused by a sting ray stinging him in the chest, I thought to myself, "situational irony" because you'd think he would've died by one of those big ferocious crocodiles that he usually hunted and not by a sting ray. Okay, it was a similar activity, but still not the same dangerous activity he was known for. And it had reminded me of that first example about situational irony.

Copy of Henry Lewis Vaughan's Death Certificate.

Moreover, while researching, I discovered from his death certificate and his World War I Draft Registration Card that my Great-Uncle, Henry Lewis Vaughan, had been a master mariner, had supposedly participated in the Spanish-American War, had been an instructor for the U.S. War Department in 1918, but had died at the age of 78 from a head-on automobile collision.

And I thought to myself at the time, "situational irony." Again.

He has a colorful history. There's something about someone working on the high seas that gets my literary self excited from imagining the tall tales this man could have and might have told.

Copy of Henry Lewis Vaughan's WWI Draft Registration Card.

So what does this have to do with my applications to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the United Empire Loyalists (UEL)? Admittedly, not much. However, I did receive a copy of his baptismal entry along with my great-grandmother's as well as some of their siblings. According to the entry he was born after his older brother Baby James, on 7 April 1878, and was baptized 2 Jun 1878 at St. Mary's Cathedral in Galveston, Galveston County, Texas.

All other pieces of documentation indicate he was, like my great-grandmother, born on Bolivar Peninsula, which was and still is today a ferry ride away from Galveston Island.

Copy of Henry Lewis Vaughan's Baptismal Register Entry.

There are 4 items of note about his baptismal entry that do shed some light on the Vaughan family. One is that the surname was first spelled "Vaughn" on Henry's register entry then corrected to "Vaughan". Indeed, throughout Henry's life, just like his father's (Daniel Rook Vaughan's) life, it was consistently spelled both ways. So I find it interesting that on Baby James' baptismal entry, it was spelled "Vaughn" and on Henry's it's corrected to "Vaughan". I do know that on Daniel's father's baptismal record it's spelled "Vaughan" as well. As I mentioned, just something to note.

The 2nd item of note is that his middle name is spelled "Louis" on the entry, but on other documentation I've found on him, it's spelled "Lewis". However, I think this is pretty minor.

Likewise, the 3rd item of note is that Annie's maiden name was added to the document and it looks to have been added at the same time the document was made, but after they had originally written it out, as if  they re-read it and said, "Oopsie Daisy. You're Annie O'Brien Vaughan, not Annie Vaughan." I could be wrong [and it wouldn't be the first time, nor will it be the last], but that's what it looks like.

Sadly, the 4th item of note is that I had had no clue as to where Daniel and Annie had come up with the name Henry Lewis before I had received his baptismal entry. Neither one can be found [or least I haven't found them] on Daniel's side of the family. So, where did they come from? I'd hoped that perhaps they'd be a clue to Annie's side of the family, but, alas, Henry's baptismal sponsors were Louis Moore and Lucy Moore. But? Where did the name "Henry" come from? My luck? Annie named him after the captain of the ferry boat, but I'm going to try and stay positive about this. [Really, I am.] I'm just not real excited about the name Henry. It's common. So when I begin to look for Annie J. O'Brien maybe born in Dublin, Ireland [and hopefully baptized there], with a father maybe named James, I need to keep an eye out for the name Henry. Great. All I'm missing is a Mary to round out these common names. But? I've some hints that Annie may have been Mary Anne J. O'Brien. So you can see why I'm not really happy with this name Henry. [But I'm not bitter about this. I promise.]

Anywho. So nothing here that helps me out for my applications, but I've found, as with Baby James' baptismal entry, having it in hand makes me think of his day of baptism.

No matter the year, June 2nd on the island and peninsula is hot and humid. And very breezy. I know this because I've ridden on the ferry between the peninsula and the island. I've stood  there gazing at the bay with the strong breeze whipping my hair around my head, I've felt the sea spray on my face, I've heard the shrill sounds of the sea gulls flying nearby, and I've felt the sweat dripping down my back. [In other words, I was sweaty, sunburned, wind burned, my hair was tangled, and there was bird poop on the ferry.] And it makes me wonder if Baby James had still been alive when Henry was baptized, or had he already passed? Were Daniel and Annie standing on that ferry [or sitting] with both James and Henry?

And considering Henry Lewis grew up to become a master mariner, I think it very fitting he started out his little life taking a ferry ride to the island to be baptized. The old saying,  "He had salt water in his veins" seems apt for this wee one. The way in which Henry Lewis died can be labeled as "situational irony," but the start of his life seems almost, I dunno, prophetic. [Definitely coincidental, but the romantic in me likes the idea of it being prophetic. So I'm going with it.]

On the ferry from Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston Island. © Copyright 2009 Caroline Pointer

"Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2012), Henry Lewis Vaughan, 1956.

" World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918." Database and images. ( : accessed 2012).

St. Mary's Cathedral (Galveston, Galveston County, Texas). Baptismal Registers. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Houston, Texas.


  1. A master mariner. Baptized on Galveston Island, after a wind-blown ferry ride. I like this post, especially because you weave in so many elements of what we literary folks think of as "plot." Yes, a life as an exciting story, always. Doesn't Dickens' David Copperfield begin with his asking something like "whether I will be the hero of my own life . . ."? Lovely.

  2. Thank you, Mariann. I can't believe I forgot that line in David Copperfield. Now, I have this insane urge to rewrite this post weaving THAT line into it. It is SO perfect.

    But I have uncovered more about his life and death. And it seems, now, I have more direction to write about him completely.

    It would be interesting to know if Henry Lewis had felt whether he had become the hero in his life. Hm.

    Something for all of us to ponder. Is it not?

    Thank you, Mariann, for your insight. As always it is magical. =)


  3. Caroline, thanks for your post. All this time we thought Capt. Vaughan was buried in our back yard.

  4. My house in Florida has a headstone with "Capt. H.L. Vaughan, 1878-19__ " with a Spanish American War veterans symbol. Capt. Vaughan did own the house from 1944 to the estate sale in 1959, so we figured it was 50-50 whether his remains were actually there.
    The deed from 1944 lists his wife as Jeanette and his middle name as Lewis. Is this your great uncle?
    The headstone is about 300 feet from salt water.


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