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A Child's Epitaph; Mary Abby Wing

Mary Abby Wing (1855-1855)


Mary Abby Wing was born on January 10, 1855. Her parents were Josiah Dexter Wing and Clara D. Stuart Wing. Both were from Maine.


Josiah Wing was a currier in leather. Currying leather was hard manual labor that required great skill. A currier would often work on a variety of hides including ox, cow, calf, goat, sheep, pig, and deer. After the tanning process, the currier would dress, finish, and color the tanned hide to make it strong, supple, and waterproof. After currying, the leather would be passed on to tradesmen who made saddles, bridles, shoes, and gloves.

Josiah likely worked in conjunction to either the Winslow or Smith tanneries in South Dedham.

Typical leather currying process in the 19th century.


Mary Abby was the couple’s first child. She died on March 21, 1855 at only ten weeks of age. Her death was attributed to “heart disease.” The inscription on her small stone reads:

“Gone in the first morning \ watch of life. \ From the dim light to the\ perfect day.”

The phrase “morning watch” commonly referred to the custom of spending the first half-hour of every day alone in Bible study or prayer. In this instance, of course, it refers to the brief span of Mary Abby’s life.


Mary Abby Wing’s tiny grave was located in lot 51 in Old Parish Cemetery, a lot that belonged at the time to Moses E. Webb, perhaps a friend of the Wing family. Her gravestone stands alone today, the Webb family having been removed to Highland Cemetery by the end of the 19th century.


Josiah and Clara had four more children: Frederick, Helen, Lizz Maria, and Charles. Frederick and Helen, born in 1856 and 1859, were born in South Dedham. By 1870, the family had moved to Cambridge where Josiah continued in his trade. Josiah Wing died in 1890 and Clara Stuart Wing passed away in 1891.

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