Accidental Match Making
[Oct. 2016–death date corrected to 1919]
Thanks to the videotaped memoirs of Rhema Anderson Fair, I learned a little more about my maternal grandfather’s aunt, Amy Anderson Roof (1843- 1919). Don’t you just love the term “great grand aunt?” I want to share just a small story about how an almost-spinster met her husband-to-be. And how she flew away from a Bird and landed on a Roof.
Amy’s mother was Isabella Sarah McCabe Anderson (1818-1912), the 2nd wife of Joseph J. Anderson. Amy was Sarah’s fourth child, and there were two older step-siblings and three younger siblings in the family which included my great-grandfather. I have discovered only two pictures of Aunt Amy–unfortunately none from her youth. (Unless she’s one of those unidentified babies in tintypes.)
It is a shame that we don’t have a color portrait, because both Rhema Anderson Fair and my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser talked about what beautiful long red hair she had. As girls they were in awe of their great aunt’s beauty.
Here is the picture of the Anderson and Stout clans that includes Amy Anderson Roof when she was a 66-year-old widow; and Rhema Anderson Fair who told the story. Isabella McCabe Anderson is the woman seated in the very center in the black dress.
By the time Amy was twenty-eight, her siblings– older and younger– except for the two youngest brothers–had long ago married and moved out of the family home, so she was well on her way to becoming a spinster. When she was not working helping her mother, she was reading. A very religious woman, Amy educated herself by reading the Bible and Shakespeare. Rhema said that Amy had “memorized all of Shakespeare” (at least enough to impress Rhema as a young girl!).
As to meeting possible mates, I can only imagine that her main social activities centered around church and gatherings with family and neighbors. As Rhema said, “In those days, they married close to home.”
As I look at a map of the farms in Monroe Township in Holmes County from the 1800s, I can’t help but notice that the Bird farm and an Anderson farm share a border. Amy’s sister Caroline (Catherine) Anderson had married a Bird. Later Rhema’s mother–my grandfather’s first wife, Lillis Bird–married into the Anderson family.
So it is not surprising that Amy Anderson was engaged to a man named Bird, also. He was studying at the University of Michigan and later would become Superintendent of Schools in Denver, Colorado, according to Rhema. The Anderson family valued education and were probably thrilled that Amy was engaged to marry a young man who was attending a university.
Unmarried daughters often had the assignment of taking care of other people and Amy was taking care of her brother-in law, Rhema says, because “her sister had died.” Looking at a list of Amy’s siblings, that was most like Charles Quaid, husband of Amy’s step-sister Abigale Anderson Quaid, who had been married in 1841–before Amy was born.
One weekend (I don’t know what year), Mr. Bird, the fiance, came home to visit his family and brought along one of his friends. Unfortunately for Mr. Bird, he introduced his fiancee Amy to this friend, Thomas J. Roof. They fell for each other, and eventually married.
He was 36 and Amy was 30 before they were married in 1872.
Thomas Roof was always called “Dr. Roof ” by our family members, but I have not yet found any proof that he actually practiced medicine. Perhaps he was in medical school, but as I learned with my Great Grandfather’s education, that was not as lengthy process as it is nowadays, so I am at a loss to know why, if the couple met while Thomas was in college it took so long before they were married. It is possible that Rhema did not mean they met when the men were in college, but afterwards.
There are many mysteries surrounding Thomas J. Roof besides why he and Amy married so late in life. Was he really a doctor? Where did all the money come from for constant travel and building an elaborate house in Monroe Township? Where did he come from?
There is another Thomas J. Roof, born the same year who farmed in Standing Stone, PA. That confused me for a while, but it is not the same person, since the Pennsylvania one was still living after “ours” died. As usual with these family stories, facts just lead to more questions. I’m on the case.
In 1880 Amy and Thomas Roof were living in Vermillion, Illinois and he was listed in the census as a pharmacist (not a doctor), but by 1900 they had bought a farm outside of Killbuck and built an elaborate house. He was listed in that census as a farmer.
Amy and her husband Thomas Roof were renowned for traveling widely, and it was thought they owned houses in places other than Killbuck, but again, nothing specific in the way of evidence.
The 1910 census shows that Amy’s mother lived with her, but when her mother died two years later, Amy moved into the Killbuck home of her younger brother Franklin Anderson. There she helped look after Rhema Anderson in her pre-teen and early teen years.
Lisle Family 1916. Rhema Anderson (white blouse, 3rd from left) has become a beautiful teen. She is leaning on a visibly aged Aunt Amy’s shoulder (now 73). The woman holding the baby is Amy’s sister Margaret Anderson Lisle.
[Correction: her tombstone in the Welcome Cemetery says she died in 1919].
Although we do not yet have an official record of the year of Amy’s death, she appears in a family photo in 1916, and my mother’s memoirs about the corpse downstairs puts the date of Amy’s death at 1916 or 1917, so her death must have happened soon after that picture was taken. (Margaret Anderson Lisle also died in 1917.)
All the family impressions are that Amy and Dr. Roof had a happy and even exciting life. But is there more to the story? I’ll let you know what I find.