Saturday, April 27, 2013

Surname Saturday - Mary Ann (Harper) Davey


By the time Mary Ann (Harper) Davey died on 08 Feb 1897 she had buried her husband and all but one of her children. Yes, her life had spanned nearly eighty years and all the children had lived to adulthood but each loss surely left a hollowness within her.

Her first great loss occurred on 17 May 1882 when her namesake daughter, Mary Ann, died leaving four children between the ages of eighteen and twelve. How difficult it is to lose a child. Even adult children as expected to outlive their parents. Possibly concern for her grandchildren helped Mary Ann through the trying time.

Less than a year later, on 14 Mar 1883, her husband of 49 years left this world before her. Together they had created a family in Lanlivery, Cornwall, England. Together they had journeyed to Canada in 1848 settling there for a mere 10 months. Together they brought their family to Dodgeville, Wisconsin where they remained. Initially, John took up farming but eventually he worked as a miner like so many of the Cornish men in the area. Like many of the miners, John most likely spent a good deal of time away from the family travelling to find the best work or the richest mines. However, with age creeping up, John had probably been home more in these later years increasing the bond between husband and wife. Losing John, with all her children married and on their own meant Mary Ann knew life alone for the first time.

The next few years saw the deaths of Mary Ann’s oldest child, John, in 1884 and her youngest child, Joseph, in 1889. Fortunately, many of her grandchildren still lived in and around Dodgeville because with her only surviving child, Elizabeth, residing in Kearsage, Michigan, some 400 miles away, Mary Ann found herself essentially childless. The grandchildren and the community saw to her needs as required.

Mary Ann had joined the Primitive Methodist Church in 1861 where she volunteered for numerous activities throughout her life. In later years, the community, holding her in high regard, addressed her as “Grandma.” Her optimistic and gentle attitude towards others created a family far wider than the biological relations
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Elizabeth having come to visit just a week before Christmas of 1896 must have seen the decline in her mother’s health. Rather than returning home to Kearsage she stayed on to help in any way she could. It would have been a long few months; it’s never easy to care to the ill and elderly. In addition to the difficulty however, there were most likely times of remembrance and times of laughter. Mary Ann probably had much she wanted to pass on to this her last living child and the last one to hold the memories of a shared family past.

Elizabeth carried the family’s past with her until her death on 29 Jul 1929. Did she write any of the stories down? Did she pass along oral tales about this particular family’s life? If so, who is left to share them? If not, are they lost forever?

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