Monday, July 17, 2006


I told you that I come from a long line of strong women. Here are four of them, although we only have pictures of three. This, by the way, is the branch of my family descended from Sarah Osborne, accused of witchcraft in Salem, who died in jail before they could hang her and was one of the few Salem accused who would never identify anyone else as a witch.

The first is Sarah (Sally) Proctor Parkhurst Woods. She was born in 1779, two years before the end of the Revolution, and died in 1877, 12 years after the end of the Civil War. During her lifetime, she moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, which in those days meant that she seldom, if ever, saw her family again. She married Ephraim Parkhurst, in 1807, gave birth to five children,and was widowed for the first time in 1819. Since Ephraim was also born in Massachusetts and all of their children were born in New Hampshire, we can assume they moved not long after they married. Her second husband, Mr. Woods, not being one of my ancestors, seems to have been mislaid in the telling of our history. Sally's oldest son, Rufus Parkhurst, married Louisa Prince.

Rufus and Louisa had four children, the oldest of which was Sarah Angelina (Angie). She married John Mace in 1862. He was a Union soldier, and he died in Washington D.C. in January of 1863. I'm not certain if Angie waited to write until she was absolutely sure or if it was harder to deliver mail to battlefields and the letter followed him around for a while but I was told that John died not knowing that Angie was pregnant.

In May of 1863, Angie gave birth to her only child, my great-grandmother, Etta Louise Mace. After John's death, Angie worked in a factory, so we know that they were not a wealthy family. Etta was cared for while her mother worked by Sally and Louisa. Rufus, Louisa's husband, died in 1866. Angie died in 1870, leaving Etta to be raised totally by Sally and Louisa, with the help of her aunts and uncles.

We know that Sally went blind before she died and that Etta learned to read, upside down, at about four. She started standing in front of Sally as Sally read aloud to her, and as Sally lost her sight, Etta took over. We've been told that Etta read the Bible to her great-grandmother and that when she came to a word she couldn't read, Sally could supply it because she had, as she said, "read the Bible many times from civer to civer".

When my grandmother would tell me about how her mother (Etta) had been raised by Etta's grandmother and great-grandmother, I had always thought that Sally and Louisa were mother and daughter. But, when I actually read the genealogy Julie researched, I discovered that they were mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. I already believed that they were amazing women; knowing their actual relationship just impresses me all the more. Knowing that Sally was 84 when Etta was born, and simply undertook to help raise her, I am awe struck.


Mary Lou said...

Oh How interesting!! I have all the family photos, and I made Heirloom scrapbooks for my sister and brother for Christmas last year, and they were amazed at the history I found!

Now I need to do that for each of my kids!!

Ally Bean said...

such different times. i wonder how old Sally is in your photo. her hair is quite dark, but her face and hands look so old.

it's pretty neat that you know all this about the woman in your family. in my family history it's much more about the men.

Maya's Granny said...

It's hard to know how old Sally was there. She lived to be 98. I have a picture of my grandmother at 42 and she looks older than I do now, and I'm 64. Hard work is aging on the skin, if nothing else.

Although we know who our male ancestors were, it has always been the women in the family who told the stories, and it is the women that they mostly told them about. This story is about a line of women that goes to my grandmother's mother and was told by my grandmother to my mother, and then to me. But, stories from my grandfather's side of the family were told to me by my great-aunt, so they were also somewhat femicentric.

lorettambeaver said...

reminds me a little of the arctic in these days. I know a number of children going to grandparents in their 70s & 80s to be raised, and the grandparents take this with smile and appreciation. Perhaps it is a life condition. Love from me in Kotzebue. :-)

Maya's Granny said...

Lori, When I was doing parenting coaching, many of my clients were raising grandchildren. One of my clients was raising her six year old great-grandson. She and his great-grandfather had adopted him, so he was his grandmother's brother and his mother's uncle and great-uncle to his older brothers and sisters.

In that job I once taught an ex-prostitute who was raising her granddaughter to cook. Ah, life on the frontier is exciting, isn't it? Or, at least interesting.

J said...

I know a man who was raised by his grandparents, because his parents weren't really mature enough for the responsibility. Then he got married, and had a son, and guess who is raising him? The man's parents. Maybe his turn will come when his son grows up, and has a child of his own, and he hands him over to his own father to raise. Interesting cycle.