|My Grandmother, Margaret Doyle (standing left) with her mother Mary Belle Carr and siblings, Bill, Johnny and Edythe. 1930|
When my grandma Margaret, talked about her mother. She never failed to mention what a hard life that her mother had. When I asked her why, she said that her mother worked so hard, and had suffered through the heartache of losing many children at a young age. From all that I know about my great-grandmother, I think that she must of been very strong. I wondered what life was like for a woman 100 years ago. The infant mortality rate was pretty high. Unlike today, most women gave birth to their children at home. Many women lost children due to stillbirths, illness, inadequate medical care, and accidents of the time.
Great Grandma Mary was just a teenager when she married her husband Peter Doyle. On their marriage record it states that she was 19. Born in May of 1886, she was actually 16. She came from Virginia to Iowa and married Peter in 1903. She started her family life there in the Coal Mining town of Buxton, becoming a mother to his three young daughters from his previous marriage, Hattie, Mattie and Letha.
My Grandmother, who was born in 1916 always said that she was the ninth child born to her mother. She had two older siblings, Rose and Bill. Rose, who was the oldest of all the children. Was born in 1910. William was born in 1913. Between 1903 and 1907, Grandma Mary lost babies, one right after another. All stillborn. In 1908, she gave birth to a baby boy named Louie. He was the first child born alive. He lived for just two months before his passing in January of 1909. My Grandma used to say that she remembered hearing her parents talk about the baby boy who lived the longest. She never could remember his name exactly, she said she thought his name was Lonnie???,.. or something like that,..she wasn't quite sure..I have since come across Louie's death record and realized that he was the baby that grandma tried so hard to remember. There was another baby, named Eliza. She was born and died in March 1907. She was most likely named after Peter's sister Eliza.
Mary went on to have seven children that survived past infancy. I'm told that she thirteen in total. Years later she lost two more children. Her youngest child, Little Esther, died in 1931 at age 3 after eating poison berries while playing in the yard. Her son John was just 20 years old when he died in 1945 during WWII in France.
I've always been told that Grandma Mary was a spiritual woman of faith. She put her trust in the Lord and prayed continuously. Eventually becoming an Evangelist. I'm sure that her faith is what helped her through the most difficult times in her life. ♥
© 2014 Denise Muhammad
Sources: Interview with Margaret D. James
Monroe county Marriage record
Buxton Iowa Cemetery Records
Polk County Iowa Death Records