The Sojourn of Catharine Maloney

A “receiving vault” is a structure designed primarily to hold the bodies of the deceased during the winter months when the ground is too frozen to dig graves. They were also used to store a body that is to be transported elsewhere or a family mausoleum is to be constructed, and a notable instance of the latter is the sorrowful story of Catharine Maloney, daughter of Philadelphia capitalist Martin Maloney, whom found temporary rest in Riverview Cemetery’s receiving vault at the turn of the last century.

Born on November 11, 1848, Martin Maloney emigrated with his parents and siblings from Ballingarry, Ireland, when he was a young boy. He worked in the coal mines around Scranton, Pennsylvania, with his father, afterward apprenticing himself as a tinsmith, coppersmith, plumber and gas-fitter. He organized the Hyde Park Gas Company, the nucleus of a system that eventually provided gas to Scranton and surrounding areas, and subsequently organized the Maloney Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company.

Maloney married Margaret A. Hewitson on December 31, 1868, and together they had seven children. All but three daughters—Margaret, Catharine (Kitty) and Helen—passed away in their younger years.

Moving to a fashionable townhouse on Logan Square in Philadelphia, he developed an improved burner that used naptha, a by-product of oil refining, as an illuminant for street lighting, which caught the eye of the city’s prominent businessmen, a group that included Samuel T. Bodine, Thomas Dolan, William L. Elkins, William G. Warden, and Peter A.B. Widener, among others. Maloney, notes Romance of American Petroleum and Gas (Crum 1911), “was able to effect the organization of the Penn[sylvania] Globe Gas Light Company and allied interests for the special purpose of developing this business, with the result that within ten years one hundred and thirty-seven towns and cities were under contract and lighted by this system, known as the Maloney Lighting System.”

Like a number of the wealthy from Philadelphia and here in Trenton, he chose to summer with his family at Spring Lake, New Jersey, and purchased what became the Maloney Cottage in 1892. (Reflecting his ever-increasing wealth, he retained noted Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to design his beloved summer residence Ballingarry, completed in 1901, and quite later, a winter residence Cashel, also designed by Trumbauer, in Port Sewall, Florida, completed in 1917.)

However, in the midst of this success, seventeen-year-old Catharine contracted tuberculosis, then known as “consumption.” Maloney and his wife sailed to Europe with their daughter where they sought treatment at the finest sanatoriums in France and Switzerland.

It appears that Maloney and his wife returned to the United States sometime earlier, as Catharine died aboard the American Line’s SS New York on her own return trip. The Trenton Times of May 29, 1900, reported that she “was returning home from Europe, where she had been traveling, and her friends in this city and elsewhere were looking forward to a joyous reunion. But she was stricken with valvular heart trouble on the voyage and died on Sunday, May 20, despite the best efforts of the ship’s physicians and the friends she had made on board.”

The American Line’s SS New York, c1900

The report continued, “The parents of Miss Maloney, who reside in Philadelphia, but are now spending the summer in Point Pleasant, were notified, and they have made arrangements for the temporary interment of the remains in this city. The body will be shipped from New York on Thursday [May 31], and Undertaker James Murphy will have charge of the arrangements here. The remains will be placed in the receiving vault at Riverview Cemetery until the grief stricken parents can make other provisions.”

The Trenton Times of May 31, 1900, further reported that the body had been transported from New York to Spring Lake where funeral services were conducted by Rev. Father McLaughlin at Maloney Cottage, and then on to Trenton.

Maloney determined to create a fitting memorial to his daughter at Spring Lake and again turned to Trumbauer who designed an Italian Renaissance Revival chapel that included a family crypt. The cornerstone was laid in 1901 and it was dedicated as St. Catharine Church the following year in 1902.

St. Catharine Church at Spring Lake, New Jersey, 1911
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The Trenton Times of June 26, 1902, reported that the body of Catharine Maloney, again under the charge of Undertaker James Murphy, “will be taken from the receiving vault at Riverview Cemetery Friday afternoon [June 27] and removed to Spring Lake where," following a second funeral service conducted by Rev. Father Callahan, “it will be placed in the crypt in St. Catharine Church.”

The final chapters were written when his wife Margaret died at Ballingarry on January 23, 1923, and Maloney himself passed away at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia on May 8, 1929, while traveling from Cashel to Ballingarry. Both were entombed in the family crypt.

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