Margaret Anderson Lisle (1839-1917)
[Some updates added on January 31, 2014]
Nurturing seems to come naturally to some people. When there are motherless children who need tending, who do you call? In the Lisle family, it was good old Margaret. Although there were plenty of very large families among my ancestors, my great-grand aunt Margaret Anderson Lisle enlarged her own family of four by taking in seven motherless children.
Until I started looking at the Anderson family–tracing the people who are in this photograph–I did not realize how frequently people informally adopted the children of siblings or their own grandchildren.
Great grand uncle Frank Anderson, who had no children of his own, raised both my grandfather and my aunt. Frank, with a large mustache, is standing with his hand on the wicker chair in the center. My grandfather is above and to the right of Frank. Rhema is the grouchy looking little girl sitting on a low chair. Margaret is the third adult seated from the left.
Margaret Anderson who was Frank’s older sister, was named for her maternal grandmother, Margaret Fife McCabe. Margaret Anderson had four older half-siblings, Abigale, Mary, Erasmus , and Sara Jane Anderson. The family lived in Pennsylvania when her father’s first wife died and he married Isabella McCabe. The new couples’ first son, John O. Anderson, was born in 1836. Margaret was next, born in 1839 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Two more children, William McCabe Anderson and Amy Anderson, were born in Pennsylvania before John J. Anderson moved his family to Ohio about 1848.
In Ohio, on a farm near Killbuck, Ohio, three more children joined the growing family–Catherine (Caroline), Joe J. and Frank. So Margaret grew up in a very full household indeed, although it is true that by the time the youngest were born, some of the oldest had moved out.
At 19, Margaret married Mariman Clement Lisle, a farmer near Killbuck, and started her own family. Their first son came the following year, 1859, and two years later their daughter Carrie was born.
The Civil War hung over all families with sons the right age to fight, and that included the Anderson clan. Margaret’s younger brother William McCabe fought for the Union (Ohio 16th Regiment OVI) and returned after harrowing experiences. John O. Anderson registered in 1863, but probably did not serve. Half-brother Erasmus Anderson, 32 years old, signed up to fight for the Union (16th Regiment OVI), and as he moved with the troops from Ohio to Mississippi, he wrote to “Marg” and she returned his correspondence. But Erasmus did not survive the war. [Next week I will introduce Erasmus in more detail.] No doubt, Margaret, although busy with young children, was also worrying about her brothers and their own young children.
in 1865, Margaret bore her third child, John Clement Lisle, and in 1872 her last child, Ada Amy Lisle was born. That was an eventful year as Margaret’s sister Amy married Thomas J. Roof and their older brother John O. Anderson died from a fall from a tree when he was only 34. He left a wife and two young daughters, one named for his sister Margaret.
While it was difficult to lose her siblings, it must have been devastating to lose a daughter and a daughter-in-law, both at a relatively young age, and both leaving young children behind.
Margaret and Mariman’s daughter Carrie had married Alden Butler. When Carrie died in 1899 at just 38 years old, she left behind seven daughters. Margaret, now 60, and perhaps ready to take a break from child-rearing, stepped up and made a home for Estella (13) and another namesake– Margaret (3). (These two show up in the 1900 Census living with Margaret and Mariman, but according to her great-grand-daughter, Margaret also cared for Virgie and Mazon/Mayone, whose ages I have not determined).
I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been at 60 years old to take on a toddler AND a couple of teenagers, but life kept getting rougher. Two years into the new century, Margaret suffered the great grief of seeing her first-born son die and after two more years, her husband died and her daughter Amy also died . So we find Margaret in 1907, a widow at the age of 68, having lost two of her 4 children, looking after at least three pre-teen and teen-age girls when tragedy strikes once again.
Margaret’s son John C. Lisle’s wife died, leaving three children still at home between six and 13 years old. (John and his wife Ella also had lost one older daughter who had died at 18 years old in childbirth and a son had died as a young child in that family). It seems natural by now that Margaret would be the one to assume responsibility for these young motherless children.
She sat holding her great-grandchild in this 1916 picture of the Lisle family. It is the last picture we have of Margaret Lisle, the caregiver, as she died in 1917 at the age of 78. She had outlived three of her children and her husband, but lived to see a great-grandchild.
Three of the Butler sisters for whom Margaret was a surrogate parent are standing in the back row–two far left and 2nd from right. The grandchildren Margaret raised are in the picture, also. John peering out from between the two women in the white blouses. Glen Lisle has the cap on his head and his father John Clement Lisle stands to his right. The third grandchild–Annabelle Lisle is on the far right.
In this Lisle family picture, Margaret sits beside her sister Amy who never had children, and with her husband had traveled widely. Was Margaret content with her role of caretaker, or did she wish she could have had an education or a chance to travel? I have no idea. But there is no question that she contributed to the lives of many people.
I am indebted to three people for helping with this story. The latest partner, Bonnie, says
My grandmother introduced me to the past when she was in her seventies and I was a young girl and she would tell me the stories Margaret (Anderson Lisle) had told her when she was a young bride in 1915.
Besides thanking Donna Lisle Hummrichouser, for filling me in on the Lisle family, I need to acknowledge the kind gentleman who answered my e-mail at Ancestry.com and sent me the Civil War letters of Erasmus Anderson. Thank you Tim Biltz. Next week I will talk about Erasmus and then I will share his letters, one a week. After I originally published the story, Donna’s niece Bonnie added some details to this story, which I have added in brown. ]
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I enjoyed reading your story about the caretaker in your family who took in children when their parents needed some help. I have found these folks in my family history too, you’ve inspired a 52 Ancestors story for me.
Good family hunting, Nancy
Nancy–glad it sparked an idea. I keep on the lookout for your story. I find the practice of taking in children was much more common than I realized. But thinking about it, with large families, and with so many women dying in childbirth, there was both a need and the resource of brothers and sisters and other relatives to pitch in.