A 150th-birthday wish to Ga, a special great-great-grandma

Posted Jan. 11, 2009, at 8:24 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:43 a.m.

Tomorrow would be my great-great-grandmother’s 150th birthday.

Mary Alice Cummings was born on Jan. 13, 1859, to Silas Harris Cummings and Sarah Abigail (Hildreth) Cummings in Greenville.

I have a special connection to her because she lived to be almost 96, and as her first great-great-grandchild, I do have a small memory of her. My mother and I took her a can of frozen orange juice on a visit when she was living at Smart’s Nursing Home in Sangerville, where she resided for five weeks, according to her death certificate. I was 3 years and 3 months old when she died in November 1954.

I have her grandparents’ names from a Bible record — William and Deborah (Harris) Cummings, and Henry T. and Eleanor (Currier) Hildreth. But there also are clues to her family in her parents’ names.

Silas Cummings’ middle name, Harris, was the maiden name of his mother, Deborah Harris, who married William Cummings. In addition, Deborah’s father was Silas Harris.

Sarah’s middle name, Abigail, was the name of her grandmother Abigail (Burbank) Currier. Sarah actually was called Abbie or Abigail.

Given Mary’s birth and death dates of 1859 and 1954, look at how long she lived — through a century of U.S. censuses, 1860 to 1950. Wow.

Of course, the 1940 and 1950 censuses haven’t been

released to the public yet, because they have to be 72 years old. The 1930 census was released in 2002, and the 1940 census, we hope, will become public in 2012.

Let’s think about what we learn — and don’t learn — from the censuses that counted Mary Cummings.

In the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses, we find Mary A. Cummings enumerated in Greenville with her parents, Silas H. and Sarah A. Cummings. Family tradition states that Mary taught school at one point, but the 1880 census lists her as a milliner.

My Bible record shows that Mary A. Cummings married Prosper Alvarus Bennett of Guilford in 1881. Their children were my great-grandmother Rena A., born 1882; and Silas A., born 1883.

Most of the 1890 census was lost to fire, so we next find Mary in the 1900 census as Mary A. Lord. Alvarus Bennett had died in 1893, and she married Willard Lord in 1895, a man seven years her junior.

Mary’s children, Rena and Silas Bennett, were living with them in 1900, as were Mary’s parents, Silas and Sarah Cummings, in a house on Hudson Avenue in Guilford. I love it when a census record offers three generations in one household.

Mary was listed as “May” in the 1900 census, which was a name she went by. The Lord family lived between the Roscoe Lamson family and the Freeman Washburn family.

In 1910, Willard Lord, still working at the woolen mill in Guilford, is listed as a boarder in the James Hudson home on Hudson Avenue. Mary A. Lord was in Auburn at the time of the census count with her son, Silas Bennett, and his family, wife Estelle and sons Earl F. and Paul E.

Come 1920, Willard and Mary Lord lived in an apartment house on Winter Street in Auburn. And in 1930, they lived in a house on West Auburn Road in Auburn.

Will Lord died a few years later, and Mary did live in the Greenville-Guilford area for some years. Interestingly, the nursing home where she died was listed on her death certificate as Hudson Road in Sangerville, the same Hudson Road where she had lived in Guilford 54 years before. In my growing-up years, the Sangerville end was known as Pleasant Avenue.

Here’s something I noticed only recently. None of the existing censuses lists Ga as Mary Bennett. She didn’t marry Alvarus Bennett until after the 1880 census was taken, and by 1900 he had died and she had married Will Lord. Of course, she did have Bennett children in her household in the 1900 census.

For all the censuses that counted Mary (Cummings) Bennett Lord, none of them listed her with an occupation as painter. Maybe it wasn’t an occupation, but she did study at Osgood Art School in New York City, her paintings in the Hudson River style are numerous, and she also taught painting.

For 30 years, I owned one of Ga’s paintings, which she originally gave to my grandmother who was her in-law relative. In 2004, my son who was moving to Minnesota asked for it — and yes, I gave it to him.

I now have two other M.A. Lord paintings, although one is on loan. But the very special Tantallon Castle painting is in my home. I look at it every day, awed that anyone related to me could have painted it.

Happy birthday, Ga.

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The Penobscot County Genealogical Society will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21, in the Lecture Hall, Bangor Public Library. Read Family Ties next week to find out why it will be an especially fun meeting.

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