Since March is Women’s History Month and I lucked into writing about a female ancestor last week I’m going to continue through the month honoring my female ancestors. This week I want to tell you about another of my great great grandmothers Rebecca Holmes.
Rebecca Holmes is a direct branch on my maternal side. She’s my mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother and in my mind she is a symbol of strength. Let me tell you why.
Rebecca was born 14 August 1833 to Margaret Junkins and William Holmes in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. She grew up in eastern Ohio and married Isaac Williams in 1853 when she was 20 years old.
Fast forward a couple years to 1860, Rebecca is the mother of two girls, her third child, a son lives only ten months. Add to that Rebecca’s fourth child another son lives just nine months before passing away. Rebecca has a fifth child yet another baby boy and is pregnant again when the family decides to move from Tuscarawas County to Allen County, Ohio. It’s not just this small family that makes the move. There is a passel of people that make this journey.
Along with Rebecca and Isaac on this migration are her parents, eight siblings many with families and her grandparents. Also included in the move are several of Isaac’s brothers and their families. It had to have been an event to remember with the number of people involved.
Finally in Allen and neighboring Harding County the families settle down. Most continue farming. It’s at this point I realize that Rebecca would have moved across the state knowing she’d never visit the final resting place of her two sons again. Buried in a small church cemetery in Tuscarawas County I can only imagine her final farewell and heavy heart.
Yet life in Allen County brought many new and exciting changes to Rebecca’s life. In addition to her two daughters and son another baby boy was added to the Williams family. What joy I’m sure both she and Isaac felt when this little guy was born. Not that these two boys could ever take the place of her older sons but I’m sure Rebecca felt these two were a true blessing. Unfortunately her joy in Allen County was just as short lived as it was in Tuscarawas County.
Rebecca’s youngest son born soon after their move lived only two months and her remaining son died less than a year later, a month before his second birthday. My great great grandmother buried all four of her sons. They lived just a few months to 23 months. I can’t imagine her devastation.
By this time Rebecca’s two older daughters are ten and six years old and certainly a comfort to their grieving mama. Then in those unexplainable twists of fate Rebecca gives birth to her last child, her seventh baby, seven years later. Mary Ellen, my great grandmother is born. She’s certainly a tag-a-long with the older girls now 17 and 13 years old.
Life seems to take on an even keel for Rebecca. She and Isaac still live on the farm and it’s doing well. The older girls marry, live near by and produce several grandchildren. Mary Ellen marries a young man from the neighboring farm, George Marshall. Isaac purchases land and gives it to Mary Ellen as a gift for the newly wedded couple.
Then after 47 years of marriage Isaac passed away. Rebecca keeps the family farm. One of her grandsons moves in with her and works the land as she manages it. I can’t help but think she’s a bit proud when telling the enumerator for the 1900 census that her occupation is more than keeping house. At 75 years old she’s a manager and farming is her industry.
Rebecca lives to a wonderfully old age but life does deal her a couple more harsh blows. She again buries children. Two of her daughters pass away as adults, one of them being my great grandmother Mary Ellen. Seven children and Rebecca outlives six of them. I’m sure she questioned why many times through the years.
Yet it’s her perseverance through her trials that reaches out through the decades to me today. She never gave up. She not only endured through hard times but over came them. She suffered the death of four sons during their infancy and childhood. She packed up her family for a major move across the state, she ran the family farm after her husbands death and buried two adult daughters. In an era where women were considered weak in temperament, Rebecca shows nothing but stability, courage and an unbeatable spirit.
I can only hope to have a fraction of the fortitude shown by my great great grandmother Rebecca Holmes Williams during her life.