It is week 23 in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge. This week’s writing prompt is Wedding. For this week, instead of focusing on a wedding that was, I will discuss one that was not.
In 1874, George Augustus Layton (my 3rd great-uncle) was born in Long Branch, Monmouth County, New Jersey to parents Augustus Layton and Rebecca Ann Moore.
The town of Long Branch was settled in 1668 on land purchased from the Delaware Indians. Located on the “long branch” of the South Shrewsbury River. this town became a summer coastal resort in the 1780s. By the 1830s, gambling and horse racing brought increased tourists to Long Branch.
During the time of George’s birth, known as the Gilded Age (1870s and 1880s), Long Branch was frequented by many famous faces, including “Diamond Jim” Brady, Lillie Langtry, and Lillian Russell.
Long Branch was visited by presidents Chester A. Arthur, James Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, and Woodrow Wilson, with Garfield, Grant, and Wilson spending summers here. Seven Presidents Park, a park near the beach, is named in honor of their visits. The Church of the Presidents, where all seven worshiped, is the only structure left in Long Branch associated with them.
On 2 July 1881, President Garfield was shot in Washington, DC, a spur line was laid from the Elberon Railway Station to the porch of Francklyn Cottage, where the president was taken to recover. Unfortunately, infection set in, and on 19 September 1991, two and a half months after the assassination attempt, President James A. Garfield passed away at his summer home. (George Augustus Layton was seven-years-old at the time.)
In 1895, fourteen years after Garfield’s untimely death, George Augustus Layton became engaged to Clara VanBrunt. The young couple planned to wed in early 1896. However, before the nuptials could take place, tragedy struck:
On 2 January 1896, Miss Clara VanBrunt, daughter of Benjamin VanBrunt, died in Long Branch. She had been sick only a week. She was to have been married in a short time to George Layton of Long Branch, and her wedding clothes were all made. She was buried on Sunday in her wedding dress.
Grief-stricken over the loss of his fiancée, George sank into depression and his health suffered. On 30 June 1898, George Augustus Layton passed away in Long Branch, Monmouth County, New Jersey:
George Layton, son of Augustus Layton of Long Branch, died of consumption last Thursday night. He was 24 years old.