Showing posts with label Maine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maine. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday's Children


Sometimes you find a very sad story in your family tree. The story of the children of Reuben Lowell Smith and his wife Sophronia Richardson Smith is one of those. I did a number of searches with
________Smith and the two parents as the parameters. Every time I searched, more children popped up. And this image appeared on FindaGrave. These are the five daughters of Reuben and Sophronia who were born and died between 1841 and 1850. Sandwiched in between was my great grandfather, George Frederick Smith, who luckily survived. There's no indication of how each of them died, but at least two died of croup and they all seemed to have lived about a year. This is a sad reminder of how fragile live was even then. The story doesn't stop there.....
Reuben and Sophronia moved to Massachusetts and continued to have children.  Both Ellen and Jennie died in their late teens/early 20's. Jennie died of consumption not long after her 18th birthday. I also found a record which may indicate yet another child. So of 11 children we know about, only 4 made it to adulthood. There was a lot of sorrow in that house.

This must have touched someone else in the family as well. The stone in the picture above has a placement date long after the deaths. Someone remembered these little girls...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday

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express permission
In honor of a hot July day, I thought I'd take a trip to the beach. My family liked to go up to the Maine beaches, but the back of the photo doesn't tell us where this was taken. From the back we have:
Lotta Smith, Primrose Rogers Tapply, Clara Smith, and Primrose (Primsy) Rogers. Love those bathing costumes and the bathing shoes. This was about 1930.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lotta May Smith

Lotta May Smith
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Isn't this a sweet picture? This is Lotta May Smith, my great grandmother's younger sister.  Lotta lived her adult life with her sister Clara, a schoolteacher, and neither ever married. My mother once included her and Clara in a short story which gives a pretty accurate picture of the aunts she knew as a child.
"Lotta, as tall and erect as her sister Cora, but already quite gray, looked out at the world through large, dark, anxious eyes. They (Lotta and Clara) seemed to live in a perpetual state of apprehension, nursing imagined slights and disappearing into their room or going off on walks to whisper..."

As a child, all I knew was that Lotta had had a promising musical career cut short and that she had to be institutionalized with some mental illness.  My mom's writing reveals the family story or perhaps my mother's version of it, "She had a magnificent singing voice...She was auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera. When Mama died, Lotta made a vow she'd never sing again - and she never has."

The truth is both sad and perhaps a little different. At the turn of the century she was singing with the Orpheus Quartet and shows up regularly in reviews in the Fitchburg Sentinel. By the 1920 census she was living with her sister and her mother in Worcester, Massachusetts and working as a clerk. By 1930 she was a hairdresser. What turned her from her singing career we'll never know, but by 1920 she was already 30 years old. Had signs of mental illness already begun?  She shows up one more time in the 1940 census living with Clara and doing hair, but by the time I was born in the fifties she was in an nursing home or institution.

Lotta's father George F Smith was from Litchfield, Maine. Her mother, Letitia Ellen Johnson, was from Spencer in Owen County, Indiana. It was researching her mother's line that gave me the first clue to Lotta's real story...or at least part of it. The 1860 census reveals this
1860 Census-Spencer, Owen, Indiana













Elizabeth would be Margaret Elizabeth, Lotta's grandmother. The note on the right gave me pause.
Letitia, Lotta's mother, was only 4 years old. Margaret was only 29. A quick email to a family member revealed that early onset Alzheimers ran in that side of the family.  At only 29 she seems pretty young for Alzheimers, but in those days they wouldn't have know what it was anyway.
The 1880 Census shows that by this time the family couldn't manage.
1880 Census- Indiana State Hospital for the Insane

What a terrible choice her husband would have had to make! I did a little online research on the Indiana State Hospital and found it horrifying. Now I understood what probably happened to Aunt Lotta. Luckily, Lotta's care was more benign and her sister Clara was devoted to her for her entire life.

No one goes into genealogy looking for medical ailments, but this story gives information that might be useful to me or to family members.  It also filled out my picture of Aunt Lotta. It's nice to know a little more about the charming young girl in the photo.