Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Growing up without a Mama

Mother. Mama. It's one of the first words a baby learns to say. On the battlefield, it is often one of the last words uttered by the mortally wounded soldier. A mother is central to a family and especially to a young child. She is their world. She feeds, loves, protects, teaches, binds wounds, inspires, and passes on the values and traditions that she grew up with.

I go to a Tuesday morning bible study at my church, Calvary Chapel of Escondido. We are currently doing a bible study on the book of Esther. Beth Moore, the author of the study, made a point about how young Esther grew up without a mama. She pointed out how devastating that would be for any child and how formative that would be for them. It would shape their character and follow them for the rest of their lives.

Sitting in the study, I couldn't help but thinking about a few of my ancestors that I knew off the top of my head that grew up without a mama. I wonder how the loss of such a key person in their lives shaped who they grew up to be?

Jesse Clark Osgood (1837-1918)
His mama, Abigail Clark, died when he was 19 months old. His father, Thaddeus Osgood, remarried three more times. (I don't know...if I was wife #4, I'd think twice!) Jesse was raised by his mother's family, the Clark's. The 1860 census shows him living with his Uncle Jesse Clark and Aunt Lydia rather than his father. We also have several letters he wrote to his Clark relatives during the Civil War. I don't know if there was any bad blood between Jesse and his father, or step-mothers. There isn't any kind of family lore to say that there was. I can't help but wonder though, why he wouldn't be living with his father.

Jesse and his mama shared the same birthday, March 4th. I wonder if this made his birthdays bittersweet?

Sarah Warriner Hamilton (1843-1937)
Sarah's mother, Mary Stebbins, died when Sarah was 3 years old. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to twin siblings on Christmas Day, 1846. She died a few weeks later. This was 8 days after one of the newborn twins, Alfred, died. In Sarah's case, her father also remarried. His second wife, Katherine Dewey Collins, died in 1850. His third wife, Julia Blake Beach, was a widow and came to the family with four children of her own. She was a schoolteacher in the town where Sarah went to school. The Hamilton children loved Julia before she became their stepmother. The ten children of the blended family grew up in the love and affection of both Mr. Hamilton and Julia and were very close as brothers and sisters all their lives. In fact, after Mr. Hamilton died, Julia came to live in Florence, Kansas, near Sarah and her family. Julia died there in 1899. It's nice to see a blended family that grew up in affection rather than distrust and bad feelings.

I find it interesting that these first two ancestors that came to mind, Jesse Osgood and Sarah Hamilton, married each other. Losing their mother at a young age was something they had in common.

Robert Craig Graham (1780-1856)
Robert was named for his father, Robert Graham, who emigrated from County Down, Ireland. When Robert Jr. was six, his mama, Mary Craig, died. Robert had three brothers and three sisters at the time. When he was nine, his father remarried another woman by the name of Mary....Mary Cowan. This second Mary and Robert had seven children of their own. From all accounts, the children from the first Mary (Cowan) did not get along with their stepmother as adults. I have yet to document this, but apparently there were legal issues with the estate of his father. Robert married Catherine Crockett and the family moved to Johnson County, Missouri, in about 1834.

The descendants of Robert Graham Sr. with his second wife, Mary, stayed in Wythe County, Virginia. During the Civil War, this line of Graham's fought for the Confederacy, while Robert Craig Graham's grandson, Robert Barnett Graham, fought for the Union. If anyone is interested, there is a great website on the Robert Graham/Mary Cowan descendants in Virginia called Major Graham's Mansion and is worth a look at to learn about the impact Graham's had in that part of Virginia.

Nancy Jane King (1846-1929)
Hannah Magee was 27 when she gave birth to her daughter, Nancy, in March 1946. Baby Nancy was 5 months old when her mama, Hannah, died. This is one family line that I know very little about. I don't know if her 31 year old husband, Ambrose King, remarried. This is one family line that I certainly need to explore further.

Josiah Osgood (1739-1788)
Josiah's mama was named Abigail Day. She married Josiah Osgood Sr., at the age of 18. She gave birth four times before she died. Her last baby was Josiah in 1739. When Josiah was three, his mama died. His father married Hannah Kitteredge when Josiah was 10. But between the age of three and ten, Josiah was without any mother figure.

How did this impact their lives? It's impossible to know for sure. It probably made them have to fend for themselves more and grow up a bit faster. One thing is for sure....it makes me realize how fortunate I am to have grown up with a mama, who still is one of the most important people in my life.

If your mama is still alive, go give her a call and let her know how important she is to you.

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