Rayner Raynor Is Dead
I guess it was inevitable I would find out. I just didn’t expect his story to end so soon. He died at a pretty young age-47. He is buried at Mt. Moriah Cemetery. I’m tempted to look for his gravesite.
I learned so many things about a stranger named Rayner Raynor, a Master Plumber who worked out of the garage property we purchased and are renovating in the East Passyunk Crossing (EPX) neighborhood of South Philadelphia. I am beyond amazed at the amount of information I’ve been able to pull together about Rayner’s life and his family between 1848 and 1920.
He was a Mason and some sort of a soldier or sailor. He had one wife. Rayner’s obituary says “Elizabeth and Advena Raynor”. Seeing this ignited stories in my head about two wives. After much more digging I’ve concluded the obituary likely has a typo. I’m pretty certain at this point her maiden name was Advena. Elizabeth lived another forty or so years. She died at the age of 85 in Pittsburgh. She was run over by a car. I haven’t been able to find a reference of children. There is one link to a potential living relative — I need help with finding: Nancy J Raynor
So this was it. This was the guy, Rayner Raynor. From the moment I found the 1909 reference of Raynor at our address, my husband has heard me either laugh, scream, or cry with each discovery. I became happily obsessed with Rayner and the history of our future home.
During the brutally cold fall and winter of 2014, a tangible history associated with the garage was starting to come together. I became pretty excited as the 1880 US Census, the 1900 US Census and the 1900 Boyd’s Business Directory placed Rayner and his family at an address of 1730 and 1732 S 10th. This is literally a block away from the garage. They lived on the grounds which back then bordered St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. Today, we know it as Goretti High School.
1895 Map S. Philadelphia: the red pin shows where Raynor grew up—sweet views
1880 US Census: Shows the Raynors at 1730 South 10th street
I remember often laughing at myself because of the many tangents (rabbit holes) I meticulously followed. This one seemed scandalous. Rayner Raynor vs. Mary Hall.
I followed a trail regarding Rayner’s grandfather, also named Rayner. The grandfather was a furniture dealer. He and his wife brought the family to Philadelphia in 1848. I found an article in the January 30th, 1866 edition of The Evening Telegraph relating to a juried hearing of sorts related to home goods!
An action of replevin indeed!
This next find was really just nuts. One night I found a super specific notice in a 1907 issue of Domestic Engineering. This was the actual printed proof (other than a deed or mortgage) down to the day when Rayner was moving his business to our place! So, I was definitely screaming with this find. I found a few deeds in 1906, 1907, 1908. City Hall has a digital as well as physical historical archives department. These were good years for Raynor and the plumbing business. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I was on the floor dead after this one.
Actual Proof to the Day Raynor Moves into Mountain St
1910 Atlas of Philadelphia Map
In this 1910 G.W. Bromley and Co. Atlas of Philadelphia map the property appears as one parcel vs. multiple parcels for the first time. Life was changing. Rayner was garnering more contracts and more accolades as a plumber in the trade journals. He was busy. Philadelphia was busy. The World was busy.
The next ten years brought many changes to Rayner’s world in East Passyunk Crossing. Industrialization was roaring along and the Machine age was in full effect. Industry and Machination brought Labor to the forefront. The Wright Brothers flew and the Ford Motor company formed in 1903. 1915 was the year of the Spanish Flu. Then World War 1 happened.
There was a lot of yelling one night. I was screaming for D to come into my office so I could show him this! I found Rayner’s registration card for the military. He joined the day the US got involved in World War 1, September 12, 1918. His age is listed as 45—seems older than the typical registrant to be enlisting don’t you think? The card says his eyes are grey and his hair is grey. You can see he is working at American Erie (sp?) Corp and living around the 1300 block of McKean. I’m uncertain of how I can determine which branch of the services he registered with or eventually joined.
1918 Rayner Raynor US WWI Draft Registration Card
There was also the first time I cried. After several months of searching for historical references of Rayner and the property, I developed a certain approach. I searched year by year for references often using the address and his name as keywords. I found the obituary and a few other key bits of information that way. I wasn’t emotional because I found out Raynor was dead, or because I thought the story was over…
The address of the garage has two numbers separated by a hyphen (926-928). On January 9th, I used 926 instead of the full address as a keyword. I looked in Google Books and found a link leading to the 15th volume of The Elevator Constructor journal published in 1918.
On page 9 of the magazine I found this advertisement looking for agents and I started getting weepy:
There is so much more to the history of this space.
Come back for Part Three.