For week 45 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the theme is Stormy Weather, and I’m choosing to write about the the struggle my two paternal great-grandmothers, Bertha Childers and Margaret Dora Wise, endured when suddenly becoming widows.
When I think about rough time that my great-grandmother, Bertha Childers, must have faced when her husband, Andrew Jackson Blair, passed away on 16 November 1926.
As was written about here, my great-grandfather was killed instantly when a coal mine collapsed. But as horrible as his death was, I can only imagine what life must have been like for my great-grandmother, who was left a single mother of 4. Granted, Genevieve had just gotten married to Earl Vivian the week before Andrew passed, but Vada, Leroy, and Donald were still at home (Vada was 19, Genevieve 16, Leroy 14, and Donald 9).
I know from the 1930 census that Bertha was still a single mom of Donald, and the late 1920’s, early 1930’s was a tough time for a single mom (as it still is 90 years later).
Working for a Coal Company, more than likely Andrew and Bertha lived in a company home, he was paid with company money, where all purchases were from a company store, and when he died she probably lost everything.
I know in the late 1920’s my grandfather, Leroy, began working in the mines as well, but after having an accident in the same mine where his dad died, he found something else to do.
But I can’t imagine what life was like for my great-grandmother. Bertha had to have been devastated to lose the man she loved, her home, basically her life as she knew it. She did eventually re-marry William Chappell who was also a coal miner.
Margaret Dora Wise
Life changed for my other great-grandmother on my dad’s side of the family when on 24 July 1917 Charles Jackson Morgart committed suicide leaving Margaret Dora Wise alone to care for 3-children ages 7, 6, and 3.
To my knowledge no one knows why Charles took his life. My mom had thought she had heard he was ill, but my dad heard that infidelity could have been involved (not on Charles’ part). But regardless of why, it had to be a huge shock to lose your husband, even if your situation wasn’t idyllic.
Unlike Bertha, Maggie Wise ended up getting married to Irie Earl Custer by 1920 (according to the 1920 Federal Census). Earl was a coal miner and she stayed married to him until he passed in 1949. They never had any children together.
Having younger children Maggie probably had to pick up the pieces more quickly in order to raise her kids. I know she ended up raising her children in the town of Saint Michael a stones throw from South Fork where coal mines were located (Saint Michael was built where the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club was located before the huge Johnstown Flood of 1889).
I feel Maggie had the better end of things when she married Earl Custer. My Grandma (Anna Maria Morgart) always spoke quite highly of her Step-Daddy as he basically raised her (she was 3 when her dad died), and chose Earl to be my Dad’s middle name.
Both of my great-grandmother’s survived the hardships they faced, but both of their husband’s died so unexpectedly. It’s never easy to loose someone you care about, but having my own mother die out of the blue, I know how hard it can be when you don’t have the closure of saying goodbye, and even I love you one last time.