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No Ghoulies, No Ghosties, But a Witch? Yep. Part 4

"View from Long Hill looking up the river" by George H. Ireland, stereoscope card, via Wikimedia, public domain. (Click to enlarge.)
“View from Long Hill looking up the river,” Springfield, Massachusetts, by George H. Ireland, stereoscope card, via Wikimedia, public domain. (Click to enlarge.)

McMurray Family, Burnell Family (Click for Family Tree)

Mary (Bliss) Parsons and her husband Joseph Parsons remained in Boston for some time after her witchcraft trial in 1675, as Joseph owned warehouses there and had business in town. It would surely have been a good break from those who had accused Mary but lived so close by in Northampton. Although the jury that acquitted Mary was made up of ‘regular’ men from the Boston area, many felt that having so many well-to-do members of society and friends of the Parsons family involved in the trial had ‘bought’ Mary her favorable results.

The son of Joseph and Mary, Ebenezer Parsons, had been the first white child born in Northampton on 1 May 1655. This was just before the son of  Sarah (Lyman) Bridgman, one of Mary’s primary accusers, was born- yet another reason for Sarah to be envious of Mary. Ebenezer was only 20 years old when he marched off to Northfield after Indians had attacked a number of English settlements during King Philip’s War. (See note below.)

Indians Attacking a Garrison House from an old wood Engraving. This is likely a depiction of the attack on the Haynes Garrison, Sudbury, April 21,1676. via Wikimedia, public domain.
Indians Attacking a Garrison House from an old wood Engraving. This is likely a depiction of the attack on the Haynes Garrison, Sudbury, April 21,1676.(Unrelated to this family, but similar.) via Wikimedia, public domain.

Ebenezer was killed on 8 September 1675 during the fight with the Indians per some recent sources; older historical sources state the date of his death as Thursday, Sept. 2, 1675. This being just after his mother Mary’s acquittal in her witchcraft trial, those who had worked to bring her to trial said,

“Behold, though human judges may be bought off, God’s vengeance neither turns aside nor slumbers.”

The neighbors assumed that the loss of her beloved son was punishment for Mary’s pact with the devil.

Despite the continued rumors, Mary and Joseph Parsons did return to their home and family in Northampton, likely before 1678/9.

Their story continues…

On 7 March 1679, another of our Burnell ancestors (not related to the Bliss or Parsons families), John Stebbins of Northampton, died suddenly and mysteriously. An examination of the body showed, “warmth and heate in his body that dead persons are not usual to have” and that his neck had the same flexibility of that of a living person, so rigor mortis had not completely set in. His body had “several hundred of spots” that seemed as if “they had been shott with small shott.” When these spots were scraped, there were holes under them. A second examination was reported to a court of inquest: he had bruises that had not been there during the previous examination, and “the body somewhat more cold yn before, his joints were more limber.”

John Stebbins owned a sawmill, and although some (now) think his death was caused by runaway logs, some of the townspeople then thought his death was due to witchcraft.

How does this pertain to Mary (Bliss) Parsons?  Well, we know that she had been accused of witchcraft more than once. Second, she was back in Northampton, thus near where John Stebbins died. But even more damning was the fact that the wife of the late John Stebbins was Abigail (Bartlett) Stebbins. Does that Bartlett maiden name sound familiar? Yep- Abigail was the sister of Samuel Bartlett, the husband/widower of Mary (Bridgman) Bartlett, that Mary was accused of killing through witchcraft in the 1675 Boston trial. It was the death of Mary (Bridgman) Bartlett’s young sibling that caused the first case of slander, against her mother, Mary (Lyman) Bridgman, to be brought by Joseph Parsons in defense of his wife Mary. (Yes, we almost need a detailed roadmap- so many Marys, and same last names to untangle. Maybe we just need infographics rather than narrative posts??)

Samuel Bartlett seemed to be the community’s ‘witch finder’ and he brought in testimony to the inquest concerning the death of John Stebbins. There is no record existing today that Mary (Bliss) Parsons was accused of the death through witchcraft, but some historians believe she was the target of such rumors, especially with the bad feelings between her family and the Bartletts/Bridgmans continuing through the years.

The court of inquest rendered a verdict that did not directly charge anyone with witchcraft, but at least half of the twelve male jurors believed that witchcraft had been involved. Evidence was then sent to the Boston Court of Assistants, but unfortunately that information has not survived either. There was no further action taken, however.

They had had enough- Mary and Joseph moved their household back downriver to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1679 or 1680. Springfield had been attacked and burned during King Philip’s War, so maybe it was a sort of fresh start for them.) Their son Samuel Parsons remained in the family home in Northampton.

Joseph Parsons, Sr., died in 1683 and Mary, like her mother, Margaret (Hullins) Bliss, began a long widowhood.

But it was not completely over.

Twenty-two years after moving back to Springfield, in 1702 Peletiah Glover, a prominent Springfield merchant who possessed much wealth, went to court to indict the slave woman Betty Negro for “bad language striking his son Peletiah.” The 14-year old Peletiah testified to the court that the slave had claimed that his grandmother “had killed two persons over the river, and had killed Mrs. Pynchon and half-killed the Colonel, and that his mother was half a witch.”

Can you guess how this relates to our study of witchcraft in Springfield and Northampton, Massachusetts? Yep, it ‘relates’ because these people were relatives- Peletiah Jr.’s mother was Hannah (Parsons) Glover, the daughter of Mary (Bliss) Parsons. So young Peletiah’s grandmother was Mary, a full-blooded witch per the assumptions of townspeople, and thus his mother was “half a witch.”

Mary was not taken to court for this- her friends and relatives likely helped her out in this respect. One Joseph Parsons was a man of great prominence in Northampton and one of the Justices of the Peace who presided over the case; he was also the son of Mary and Joseph, thus also the elder Peletiah’s brother-in-law and uncle of the younger Peletiah. The other Justice was John Pynchon, a frequent business partner to Cornet Joseph Parsons (Sr.). John Pynchon had also testified for Mary years before in the slander trial and was involved in her witchcraft trial.

The slave Betty “owned it she had so said.” (Interestingly, one ‘Tom Negro’ testified against Betty Negro.)

The court record for 9 January 1702 states:

“We find her very culpable for her base tongue and words as aforesaid…We sentence said Betty to be well whipped on the naked body by the constable with ten lashes well laid on: which was performed accordingly by constable Thomas Bliss…”

The last name of Thomas Bliss who carried out the sentence is of course, familiar too: the constable was the son of the brother of Mary’ (Bliss) Parsons, thus her nephew.

Mary died at about age 85 in 1712. She was unwell and confused enough that her sons Joseph and John Parsons took over her estate the year before she died.

Mary was lucky- six women were executed for witchcraft in Massachusetts even before the Salem witch trials of 1692, when 20 persons were executed (19 hanged, 1 pressed to death) and four died in prison while awaiting trial.

Witches could be a good community scapegoat for ills which could not yet be explained by science or disease, and claiming someone was a witch was sometimes the next step in an argument or long-standing feud. There are theories about ergot (a fungus) in the rye that was a dietary staple and could cause hallucinations and the ‘fits’ so often seen in victims of witchcraft. (The ergot would affect a smaller body, like that of a young girl, faster than that of an adult, possibly explaining why young women/girls were those primarily with ‘fits.’)

Sociologists have also postulated that witchcraft accusations take up the time of the people when they are in a lull with fighting enemies or the weather for survival, and act as a safety valve for human dissension.

Whatever our 21st century take is on witchcraft, it was a real fear for our ancestors- no matter if they were accused or accuser. The story of Mary (Bliss) Parsons illustrates that well.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Also known as Metacom’s War, ‘King Philip’ was the English name of the warrior Metacom/Metacomet. King Philip’s War was between the English colonists who had some Native American allies, vs. the other natives of New England, mostly Wampanoags and Narragansetts. Within less than a year, the population of the colonies were decimated, including a loss of at least 10% of the men of fighting age. More than half of the towns were attacked  with twelve burned to the ground, and the economy of the colonies was almost ruined with the loss of livestock, crops, and goods. Many English residents had been carried off by the natives and carried into Canada, sometimes sold as slaves. The war lasted from 1675-1678. England provided very little support for the colonists during the war, thus they banded together, resulting in a colonial identity separate from English subjects. This was just the first alienation of colonists that would result in a much bigger separation 100 years later. For more of this history see the very excellent book, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 by Fred Anderson, Vintage, 2001, or his shorter version (293 pages vs. 912), The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War, Penguin, 2006. (A companion to the PBS documentary The War That Made America: The Story of the French and Indian War, 2006, available on DVD.)
  2. See resources in Part 3.

 

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No Ghoulies, No Ghosties, But a Witch? Yep. Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series No Ghoulies, No Ghosties, But a Witch? Yep.
"Don't text and fly." Unknown source but all over the internet. Very clever.
“Don’t text and fly.” Unknown source but all over the internet. Very clever. Photos give us a lot of clues- for instance, the family that lives here probably has teenagers. ;D And there are just no images of Mary Bliss Parsons.

McMurray Family, Burnell Family (Click for Family Tree)

If you haven’t completely overdosed on sugar and chocolate from Halloween, you may remember that we have our own accused witch in the family tree.

Hopefully not in the above kind of tree.

Let’s return to our own Mary (Bliss) Parsons…

Rumors about Mary continued to ‘fly’ in Northampton and Springfield despite her winning the slander case against Sarah (Lyman) Bridgman. Life, however, seemed to go on with townspeople trading with each other despite the fear of evil in the neighborhood. This is one of the most curious things about a ‘witch’ in the community- despite the animosity of the accusations, the accused witch and her family were generally still able to do business in town, work for others, sell their crops or other goods, etc. The interdependence of a small frontier community always had to come first.

Eighteen years passed without significant incident, but bad feelings and nasty rumors continued concerning Mary and witchcraft. Joseph and Mary had more healthy children, prospered, as had most of their adult children as well. Mary’s mother, Margaret (Hullins) Bliss, along with Mary’s brothers, had also become successful after their move to Northampton after the death of Thomas Bliss, Mary’s father.

The bad luck of Sarah and James Bridgman continued, however. James had not moved up in the community economically, socially, or politically. Their married daughter, Mary (Bridgman) Bartlett died at about age 22 in August of 1674. The young mother had been healthy and then died suddenly, with no apparent illness. James Bridgman and his son-in-law Samuel Bartlett later testified that, “she came to her end by some unlawful and unnatural means.” They thought her death had been, “by means of some evil instrument.” The men appeared in the county court and requested inquiry into the matter. Mary (Bliss) Parsons knew the gossip, so decided to appear in court of her own accord, “desiring to clear herself of such an execrable crime.” The local magistrates did listen to Mary and evidence given, but deferred any decision until their next meeting, which was to be in November. Very little of the court records survive, but the second hearing was deferred until 5 January 1675.

In January more depositions were taken, and the court called Mary “to speak for herself.” Mary asserted her own innocence and continued, saying she was clear of the crime. The court records stated that she added,  “the righteous God knew her innocency- with whom she had left her cause.” For a woman of that time, standing up in court to magistrates and the community was impressive, but Mary had the courage to do so. The young widower, Samuel Bartlett, was also in court this time, and provided the magistrates with testimonies, “many and various, some of them being demonstrations of witchcraft, and others sorely reflecting upon Mary Parsons as being guilty that way.”

Winter in New York- similar to that in Massachusetts. William Rickarby Miller [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Winter in New York- similar to that in Massachusetts.
William Rickarby Miller [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The county court decided to invest in more inquiry, although they had determined that the case should go on to a higher court, in Boston. Because it was winter in New England, and there was quite a distance for all those involved to travel to Boston, the court ordered her person to be examined by “Soberdized, Chast women” who would “make Diligent Search upon ye body of Mary Parsons, whether any marks of witch craft might appear.” These marks could include a mole or birth mark, an anatomical deformity, or even a bruise or insect bite- it was believed that any of these types of ‘witch marks’ would prove that Mary had a ‘familar’ (a devil or spirit that could take various shapes, often as a cat) and therefore truly a witch. This report (which has not survived) along with the case documents was sent to Boston. Mary Bliss Parsons now was in the fearful position of being officially the defendant, accused of murder via her witchcraft.

Interestingly, most likely at the same proceeding, there had been testimony that Mary’s 24 year old unmarried son John Parsons had a part in his mother’s witchcraft, or that he was a witch himself- the specifics are just not available. Few men were prosecuted as witches, and the court decided there was not, “any such weight whereby he should be prosecuted on suspicion of witchcraft.”

Mary was taken to Boston on 2 March 1675,  stood before a Grand Jury, and was indicted on charges of witchcraft. Additionally, she was to be imprisoned in Boston for ten weeks while awaiting trial. Mary’s incarceration, being well-to-do, would not have been quite as miserable as for the lower classes in jail, but it surely was a horrible two and a half months after her comparative life of luxury. In those days, a family had to bring in or pay for meals, clothing, bedding,- even water for the prisoner. Mary’s family could easily afford her meals and warm clothes for a still-cold March and April in Boston, and probably paid for a larger cell that she could have to herself. Joseph owned warehouses in Boston so he had a place to stay and could conduct business, and visit his wife regularly. Still, being jailed and with a trial for witchcraft looming, it must have been a terrible and frightening experience.

"Marched from jail for the last time," fictional character Dulcibel Burton, illustration, Dulcibel : A tale of old Salem, by Henry Peterson, Philadelphia : John C. Winston, 1907, painting by Howard Pyle (1853-1911) via Wikimedia Commons; public domain.
“Marched from jail for the last time,” fictional character Dulcibel Burton, illustration, Dulcibel : A tale of old Salem, by Henry Peterson, Philadelphia : John C. Winston, 1907, painting by Howard Pyle (1853-1911) via Wikimedia Commons; public domain. Hopefully it was not this dramatic for Mary as she was taken to the courtroom, but she likely was thinking it could end up this way if she was found guilty of witchcraft.

The official charge was read at Mary’s trial on 13 May 1675: “Mary Parsons, the wife of Joseph Parsons, …being instigated by the Devil, hath entered into familiarity with the Devil, and committed several acts of witchcraft on the person or persons of one or more.” Mary was standing at the bar as she listened to the charge, raised her hand, and stated that she was not guilty. Although the court was filled with the elite of the colony including the governor, indicating Mary’s social rank and her husband’s connections, it was a jury of twelve men from the local area who decided her fate. Mary spoke on her own behalf, and part of the minimal records remaining state simply, on 13 May 1675: “The jury brought in their verdict. They found her not guilty. And so she was discharged.”

As had been the case before, although Mary (Bliss) Parsons had been legally cleared of witchcraft, the stigma of evil did not leave her. We will explore more about her life in upcoming posts, including more instances in which “hard thoughts and jealousies” affected her life.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Witch Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England. A Documentary History 1638–1693, edited by David D. Hall, 2nd Edition, Duke University Press Books, 2005.
  2. “The Early Parsons Families of the Connecticut River Valley” by Gerald James Parsons. Part 1: Vol. 148, pp. 215- 238; Part 2: p335-360; Vol. 149:Part 3- pp53-72. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2013.)
  3. A Place Called Paradise. Culture and Community in Northampton, Massachusetts 1654-2004. Edited by Kerry W. Buckley, Historic Northampton Museum & Education Center/ University of Massachusetts Press. Chapter 3 is “Hard Thoughts and Jealousies” by John Putnam Demos, from his excellent, very comprehensive book Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, New York, 1982.
  4. The History of Northampton, Massachusetts from its settlement in 1654,

    by Trumbull, James Russell, (1825-1899); Pomeroy, Seth, (1706-1777), 1898. (Seth Pomeroy is a very distant cousin too.)  Available on Internet Archive- https://archive.org/stream/historyofnortham00trum#page/n11/mode/2up

  5. Cornet Joseph Parsons one of the founders of Springfield and Northampton, Massachusetts, by Henry M. Burt, Garden City, 1898.     –https://archive.org/stream/cornetjosephpar00parsgoog#page/n10/mode/2up
  6. Parsons Family. Descendants of Cornet Joseph Parsons Springfield 1636- Northampton 1655, by Henry Parsons, New Haven, 1912.
  7. Genealogy of the Bliss family in America, from about the year 1550-1880by Bliss, John Homer, b. 1832, 1881. https://archive.org/stream/genealogyofbliss00blis#page/n3/mode/2up

 

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Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
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Labor Day: Celebrating the Labors of Our Ancestors

First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia.
First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Labor Day officially became a federal holiday in the United States in 1894. “The Gilded Age” included the rise of big business, like the railroads and oil companies, but laborers fought- sometimes literally- for their rights in the workplace. Grover Cleveland signed the law to honor the work and contributions, both economic and for society, of the American laborer. Celebrated on the first Monday in September, ironically the holiday was a concession to appease the American worker after the government tried to break up a railroad strike but failed.

The Labor Day weekend is a good time to think about our ancestors and the work they did to help move our country and their own family forward.

Jefferson Springsteen was a mail carrier through the wilds of early Indiana, traveling for miles on horseback through spring freshets (full or flooding streams from snow melt), forest, and Indian villages. Samuel T. Beerbower, who would be a some-number-great uncle depending on your generation, was the Postmaster in Marion, Ohio, for many years. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Edward B. Payne, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.
Edward B. Payne, Pastor, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.

Bad weather, gloom of night, ocean crossings in the mid 1800s, and the threat of disease or injury did not stay our minister, deacon, and missionary ancestors from their appointed rounds either- especially since the felt they were appointed by a higher power. We have quite a number of very spiritual men in the family. Henry Horn became a Methodist circuit rider after coming to America as a Hessian soldier, being captured by George Washington’s troops in Trenton, NJ, then taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and serving in the Revolutionary Army. The family migrated from Virginia to the wilds of western Pennsylvania sometime between 1782 and 1786. A story is told of how he was riding home from a church meeting in the snow. The drifts piled up to the body of the horse, and they could barely proceed on, but Henry did, and was able to preach another day. He founded a church Pleasantville, Bedford Co., Pennsylvania that still stands, and has a congregation, even today. Edward B. Payne and his father, Joseph H. Payne, Kingsley A. Burnell and his brother Thomas Scott Burnell were all ministers, some with formal schooling, some without. Edward B. Payne gave up a lucrative pastorate because he thought the church members were wealthy and educated enough that they did not need him. He moved to a poor church in an industrial town, where he was needed much more, however, he may have acquired his tuberculosis there. He also risked his life, and that of his family, by sheltering a woman from the domestic violence of her husband, and he testified on her behalf.

Abraham Green was one of the best tailors in St. Louis, Missouri in the early 1900s, and many in the Broida family, such as John Broida and his son Phillip Broida, plus Phillip’s daughter Gertrude Broida Cooper, worked in the fine clothing industry.

Edgar Springsteen worked for the railroad, and was often gone from the family. Eleazer John “E.J.” Beerbower worked for the railroads making upholstered cars- he had been a buggy finisher previously, both highly skilled jobs.

Sheet music cover for "Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart," from "The Slim Princess."
Sheet music cover for “Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart,” from “The Slim Princess.” (Click to enlarge.)

The theater called a number of our collateral kin (not direct lines, but siblings to one of our ancestors): Max Broida was in vaudeville, and known in films as “Buster Brodie.” Elsie Janis, born Elsie Beerbower, was a comedienne, singer, child star in vaudeville, “Sweetheart of the A.E.F” as she entertained the troops overseas in World War I, and then she went on to write for films. Max Broida also did a stint in the circus, as did Jefferson Springsteen, who ran away from home as “a very small boy” to join the circus (per his obituary).

Collateral Lee family from Irthlingborough, England, included shoemakers, as that was the specialty of the town. They brought those skills to Illinois, and some of those tools have been handed down in the family- strange, unknown tools in an inherited tool chest turned out to be over 100 years old!

Will McMurray and his wife Lynette Payne McMurray owned a grocery store in Newton, Iowa. Ella V. Daniels Roberts sold eggs from her chickens, the butter she made from the cows she milked, and her delicious pies at the McMurray store. Franz Xavier Helbling and some of his brothers and sons were butchers in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and had their own stores.

Some of our ancestors kept hotels or taverns. Joseph Parsons (a Burnell ancestor) was issued a license to operate an ‘ordinary’ or “house of entertainment” in 1661 in Massachusetts, and Samuel Lenton Lee was listed as “Keeps hotel” and later as a saloon keeper in US Federal censuses. Jefferson Springsteen had a restaurant at the famous Fulton Market in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1840s.

From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) "May" Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914.
From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) “May” Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914. Note ‘Undertaker’ sign- yes, it was all done in his home. (Click to enlarge.)

Many of our family had multiple jobs. William Gerard Helbling (AKA Gerard William Helbling or “G.W.”) listed himself as working for a theater company, was an artist, then an undertaker, and finally a sign painter. George H. Alexander was artistic as well- he created paintings but also worked as a lighting designer to pay the bills.

Sometimes health problems forced a job change. Edward B. Payne was a Union soldier, librarian, and then a pastor until he was about 44 when his respiratory problems from tuberculosis forced him to resign the pulpit. For the rest of his life he did a little preaching, lecturing, and writing. He also became an editor for a number of publications including, “The Overland Monthly,” where he handed money over from his own pocket (per family story) to pay the young writer Jack London for his first published story. Edward B. Payne even founded a Utopian colony called Altruria in California! He and his second wife, Ninetta Wiley Eames Payne, later owned and conducted adult ‘summer camps’ that were intellectual as well as healthy physically while camping in the wild and wonderful northern California outdoors.

Other times, health problems- those of other people- are what gave our ancestors jobs:  Edward A. McMurray and his brother Herbert C. McMurray were both physicians, as was John H. O’Brien (a Helbling ancestor), who graduated from medical school in Dublin, Ireland, and came to America in 1832. He settled in western Pennsylvania, still wild and in the midst of a cholera epidemic that was also sweeping the nation; he had his work cut out for him. (It appears he did not get the same respect as other doctors because he was Irish, and this was pre-potato famine.) Lloyd Eugene “Gene” Lee and his father Samuel J. Lee owned a drugstore in St. Louis, as did Gene’s brother-in-law, Claude Aiken. Edith Roberts McMurray Luck worked as a nurse since she received a degree in biology in 1923.

We have had many soldiers who have helped protect our freedom, and we will honor some of those persons on Veterans Day.

We cannot forget the farmers, but they are too numerous to name them all! Even an urban family often had a large garden to supplement purchased groceries, but those who farmed on a larger scale included George Anthony Roberts, Robert Woodson Daniel, David Huston Hemphill, Amos Thomas, etc., etc. We even have a pecan farmer in the Lee family- William Hanford Aiken, in Waltham County, Mississippi, in the 1930s-40s.

Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress.
Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress. (Click to enlarge.)

We must also, “Remember the ladies” as Abigail Adams entreated her husband John Adams as he helped form our new nation. He/they did not, so 51% of the population-women- were not considered citizens except through their fathers or husbands. Many of these women, such as Lynette Payne McMurray, labored to get women the right to vote, equal pay, etc. (Lynette ‘walked the talk’ too- she was the first woman to ride a bicycle in Newton, Iowa! Not so easy when one thinks about the clothing involved.) Some men, like her father, Edward B. Payne, put their energy into the women’s suffrage movement as well. Many of our ancestors worked for the abolition movement too, including the Payne and Burnell families.

A woman worked beside her husband in many families, although she would get little credit for it. Who cooked the meals and cleaned the rooms for the Lee and Parsons innkeepers? Likely their wives, who also had to keep their own home clean, laundry washed, manage a garden and often livestock- many families kept chickens even if they didn’t have a farm. They raised and educated their many children too, sometimes 13 or more. Oh yes, let’s not forget that women truly ‘labored’ to bring all those children into the world that they had made from scratch. (Building a human from just two cells makes building a barn seem somewhat less impressive, doesn’t it?) Some of them even died from that labor.

June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul in their drugstore.
June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul Aiken in their drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri.

Working alongside one’s husband could be frightening due to the dangers of the job. A noise in the Aiken family drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri in 1936 awoke Claude and Mildred Aiken since they lived in the back of the store. Claude look a gun and went into the store while Mildred called the police. Claude fired the gun high to frighten the intruder- Mildred must have been very scared if she was in the back, wondering who had fired the shot and if her husband was still alive. Thankfully he was, and the police were able to arrest the thief, who wanted to steal money to pay a lawyer to defend him in his three previous arrests for armed burglary and assault.

 

We applaud all of our ancestors who worked hard to support their family. Their work helped to make the US the largest economic power in the world, and a place immigrants would come to achieve their ‘American dream.’ We hope our generation, and the next, can labor to keep our country prosperous and strong.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. There are too many folks listed here to add references, but using the search box on the blog page can get you to any of the stories that have been posted about many of these persons. Of course, there is always more to come, so stay tuned!

 

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