The Kindness of Strangers

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Brownlee Zuver died when hit by a train in September of 1884. His daughter, Birdenia was 9 at the time of his death and the second oldest of 5 children. The story below was copied from a newspaper article, from 1884, sent to me by a found second cousin that had stopped and chatted with a cemetery caretaker one Sunday after noon. The caretaker had mailed the clipping to my second cousin. I have written previously about Brownlee and his temper and fateful death, despite it all he must have been well thought of by those who knew him.

Papa’s Promise 

Made Good by His Comrades

Many of our readers will remember the death of Brownlee Zouver, who was killed by the cars at Warren, PA. Sept. 30, while he was on his way as a delegate to locate the position of the 83rd Reg. Pa. Vol. during the battle of Gettysburg. Some time previous to his death he had promised Birdie, his little daughter, a doll as a Christmas present. After his death Birdie wrote a letter to the editor of the National Tribune, of Washington, D. C., for publication in the “children’s column,” in which she has said she had expected a doll at Christmastime, but had no papa to buy it now. The kind-hearted editor published the letter, using a heading, “No Doll since Papa’s gone.” The letter attracted a good deal of attention, and as a result Miss Birdie has received many dolls and other presents from nearly every State in the Union, the Boys in Blue and Gray Fraternally uniting in fulfilling the promise of a departed comrade to his little daughter.

Christmas night at the United Brethren church at Pleasantville Miss Birdie was the recipient, among many other gifts, of two dolls, on presented to her by Chase Post No 50, g. A. R., of Titusville, Pa., of which Mr Zouver was a member. The other from Comrade S. E. Bryan and the night employees of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Co.’s roundhouse at Carbondale, Lackawanna county, Pa. Both dolls were handsome, but the one from Carbondale’s was a perfect beauty. The church was tastefully decorated with evergreens, and at the right and left of the improvised stage stood two large Christmas trees standing upright upon a pedestal draped with the Post flag, bearing across its folds the word “Comrade,” in evergreens, back of it the words “Papa’s promise made good by his comrades,” and covered with a gauze veiling, held together at the top by the G. A. R. badge, stood the Carbondale dolly, “BirdieSweet,” holding in her right hand a dainty purse containing the balance of the collection after the purchase of herself and in her left hand a beautiful Christmas card, while sitting at her feet was the smaller one from Titusville.

After the usual Christmas services Comrade H. J. Hopkins, of the Aaron Benedict Post of Pleasantville, in full uniform, stepped in front of the dollies and in a brief speech stated the history of Birdie’s letter and its results, paying an eloquent tribute to the memory of Comrade Zouver, following with memories of the war, its hardships and privations, and stated that Brownlee Zouver after having passed its many dangers, had met with a violent death twenty years after. Then calling Birdie to him he read her the following letter.

Miss Birdie Zouver – In behalf of the night employees of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Co.’s roundhouse and Comrade S. E. Bryant of Carbondale, PA., of the comrades of Post, No. 50, of Titusville, PA, together with many friends, both larges and small and the Boys in Blue and Gray, who have contributed to your happiness and comfort, I am a comrade of your father and a representative of the Grand Army of the Republic, introduce to you “BirdieSweet,’ and present to you these presents as a token of friendship from strangers to, an I entrust them to your care and protection trusting you will remember the many unknown friends and you the Giver of all perfect Gifts.

On receiving the doll the delighted little girl exclaimed, “Oh! Mama Mamma! What a beautiful doll and retired to her seat, covering its pretty face with sweet kisses. The generous donors may know that they have filled the measure of one girl’s happiness to repletion.


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