Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fearless Females: Mary Anna Webb

"March 2 — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?" - The Accidental Genealogist

I wanted to pick a picture of an ancestor who, I feel, really exemplifies the "fearless" quality in the title of this series of prompts.  There is quite a large pool to choose from but I am sticking with my maternal grandmother's family because I'd like to make some sort of a book at the end of all this.  My last post focused on Nancy Moore and this one centers around Nancy's granddaughter, Mary Anna Webb. 


Mary Anna was born in 1862, the youngest of Andrew Webb and Priscilla Mason's ten children.  The Civil War was raging and before Mary Anna's third birthday she had lost her two eldest brothers to the conflict.  Mary Anna's mother also died when she was still baby leaving Mary Anna to be raised by her sisters.  Mary Anna was especially close to her sister "Matt" (Martha Maranda Webb Nicholson), who was a little shy of two years older. 

While still a toddler, Mary Anna and her family left Lawrence Co., Indiana and went to Coles Co., Illinois where her father Andrew re-married in 1865 a Rhoda A. Dandridge, around the same time Mary Anna's youngest brother died.  Andrew's children by his first weren't apparently too fond of Rhoda and would would tease her.  Rhoda herself was quite young, the same age as one of Andrew's sons who died in the war and I'm sure she was overwhelmed coming into an established household with six children under the age of fifteen. Rhoda and Andrew soon had a son, Henry Dow Webb before uprooting once again and going to Kansas.  Around the time they got to Kansas, another baby was born and Henry Dow died.  Mary Anna was about eight when all this was going on.  No sooner had the family settled in Colorado than they up and moved again, this time to Colorado.  When Mary Anna was about thirteen her stepmother died having a daughter and Mary Anna and her sisters had to take care of the baby and another stepbrother (there was another stepbrother but he also died as an infant).

When Mary Anna was only eleven she started work and went to live in the home of a doctor where she did housework.  When Mary Anna was sixteen she married George Washington Wellons, a Kentuckian who had run-away from home and an abusive stepmother.  They soon had four children, some of who they would name after landmarks in Colorado.  Mere months after having her fourth child the family left Colorado and came west in a wagon.  Several of Mary Anna's siblings and her father (who had married again and been widowed or divorced) made the trip also.  They settled in southeastern Oregon and had three more children, one of whom died there.  The winters were harsh though so they decided to travel south to the California border.  With Mount Shasta in the background, the family settled for a final time and had one more child, making a total of eight, seven who lived to adulthood. 

But things were still hard for the family.  In 1902, Mary Anna's 82-year-old father was killed in a logging accident, a few months after her eldest sister died in Arizona.  In 1912 Mary Anna's eldest child, Ebb, died after an illness and a few years later, her eldest daughter also died leaving behind two small grandchildren.  In her later years, the family moved to Yreka and ran a boarding house.  Mary Anna also made ends meet by doing washing and as a seamstress and baker. George was a bit of an invalid by now so Mary Anna had to work hard on a daily basis.  She died suddenly in 1926, at the age of 64, from a heart attack while making up one of the rooms in their boarding house.

One of the stories I like most about Mary Anna is that, shortly after the birth of her first child her husband, George, was conned.  George "sold his property for around $200 and planned to invest in a saloon but I guess you'd (tell or call) a con man persuaded him and a neighbor to invest in some new product with headquarters in New York so Dad settled mother with Ebb in two rooms and money for groceries and the two men went to New York, found the place where they had invested their money "gone out of business" and the guys skipped out- a counterfeiting gang- so Dad came home broke. He said afterward he was sore glad he hadn't invested in the saloon.  Mother [Mary Anna] was alone those 2 months he was gone and she said she was so afraid to go out the door- but never a complaint I guess, she was a spunky little thing." (this was from the memoir of Mary Anna's daughter, Georgia)."


One of the things I like most about Mary Anna is that right after women got the vote, she and her daughters immediately began appearing on voter rolls and what's more, she voted very differently than her husband.  She was short, with red hair, blue-grey eyes and a fair complexion.  She never complained, was resourceful, patient, kind, merciful, loving, forgiving, and selfless.  She hummed as she worked and taught her daughters "happy songs."  She rendered her own lard, made her own soap, knitted lace and was proud of her peddle sewing machine and was "jolly and happy."  Mary Anna Webb Wellons: An ancestor I'm proud to have in my tree.

1 comment:

  1. Mary Anna is quite beautiful in appearance, and she sounds beautiful from the inside out. What an adventureous life she lived!
    Nancy from My Ancestors and Me

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