GUESTWORDS: What Became of Parker?

By Steve Rideout

   Metaphors don’t come easily to me. Having a limited imagination doesn’t help. But even I couldn’t miss this one.
    My wife, Carol’s, grandfather died almost seven years before she was born, but she heard stories about him, none very flattering. Jeremiah Miller Huntting became a sixth-generation East Hampton Huntting on June 10, 1882. Carol’s grandmother Edith Banister, former Village Mayor Jud Banister’s older sister, took her first teaching job in East Hampton’s Union School in the fall of 1901. Within 18 months, she met Jere, as he was known locally, and they married in October 1903. Beryle Huntting, Jere and Ede’s only child, was born the following year.
    We never knew when the divorce occurred, but it was sometime between 1909 and 1910, when Beryle was 5 or 6. A census search for Jud found the entire family, minus Jere, living in a corner apartment on Newtown Lane and Main Street in 1910. But no Jeremiah Miller Huntting under any reasonable spellings in the federal census. Where was he?
    The Huntting genealogy in Jeanette Edwards Rattray’s “East Hampton History” from 1953 opened the first door to the family history. She reported Jere’s first marriage to Ede and noted the divorce and the subsequent second marriages of both, Jere to Edna Remsen McKay and Ede to Christopher Cordes. Jere’s trail grew cold after 1910, though in time pieces started to come together.
    During the winter of 1905 to 1906, times were fun. The Ladies Village Improvement Society, just 10 years old, was planning a fund-raising home talent drama in Clinton Hall in December 1905. Mrs. Fred Dayton, Mrs. J.M. Huntting (Ede), Mrs. Everett Edwards, and Mrs. Dempsey formed the production committee. The Star, interested in supporting the play, identified the key cast members, Miss Elsie Tillinghast, Mrs. W.B. Robonson (sic), Miss Florence Sherrill, Fred Dayton, Ned Dayton, Charles Stuart, J.M. Huntting, and Harry Hedges, for the comedy-drama “What Became of Parker?”
    “The advance sale of seats for the presentation by home talent of the comedy ‘What Became of Parker?’ began this morning and there was a rush for tickets. The play is being rehearsed now almost nightly and the performance promises to be of high order,” The Star claimed on Feb. 16, 1906. Fred Parker, a dry-goods merchant, was played by Fred V.S. Dayton, and his business partner, William Torrence, by Jeremiah Miller Huntting.
    Finally the big night, Friday, Feb. 23, came, with The Star pronouncing, “The seating chart at Edwards drug store gives evidence that the greater part of the population of the village will be at Clinton Hall this evening to witness the presentation of ‘What Became of Parker?’ ” The following week a lengthy column enthusiastically praised the program, reporting the L.V.I.S. netted $110 from the play. The society lauded the production committee publicly for its efforts. How could Jere and Ede not be happy? So what did become of Parker, er, Jere?
    Baseball played a role that became evident only after more research. Although he initially managed and played right field on the town team, by 1906 he was actively umpiring. Soon he was recognized as one of the best umpires, and not just in East Hampton or on the East End — teams in New York City sought him and routinely asked him to attend annual league meetings to schedule umpires for the semipro games. New York City seemed a favorite place.
    The 1920 federal census and his World War I draft registration card started filling blanks. Jere, going by Jerry at this point, was head of household with his “wife,” Helen, and “their” two daughters, Eleanor and Mary. Except that Helen and Jere were not married. Her married surname was Weber and her husband was still engaged in the plumbing trade in another part of the city! A few years earlier on his draft registration card Jere had listed Helen, a friend, as the person the government should notify in an emergency. The address on the draft card and 1920 census was West 178th Street, Bronx Borough. Ten years before, Helen and Eleanor and Mary were the wife and children of husband and father Charles Weber, who owned a plumbing business.
    Meanwhile, Edna Remsen McKay, daughter of longtime North Hempstead Supervisor Cornelius Remsen, was living alone on West 94th Street as a New York City artist in 1920. And sometime between 1920 and 1926, when Jere and Edna married, he had left Helen. Star news items between 1910 and 1928 mentioned his brief visits back to East Hampton to see his mother after his father died in 1912 and Sam, his brother, died in 1914. Other East Hampton trips included visits with old friends, but New York City was home.
    Edna, previously married to Mahlon McKay, perhaps had a fix on Jere’s personality, because in the spring of 1928 they returned to East Hampton, renting a cottage on McGuirk Street. In 1929 they moved to a new home on Mill Hill Lane. He umpired baseball games in the East End League; he and Edna entertained friends, spent time at Edna’s Adirondack camp, wintered in Florida, and otherwise lived quiet lives. But at the age of 55 in 1937 Jeremiah Miller Huntting died after a long illness and was buried in the David H. Huntting family plot at Cedar Lawn Cemetery.
    Ede survived all her Banister siblings, and when she passed away in 1973 she joined Jud, Stella, and Howard Banister in the family plot at Cedar Lawn. As fate would have it her headstone faces Jeremiah Miller Huntting’s, about a good baseball throw from right field.

    Steve Rideout comes to East Hampton a couple of times every off-season to research family history. He lives in Shutesbury, Mass.