52 Ancestors, Week #19, Was Jennie a Tyrant??


No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”

Jennie/Jenny (Ferguson) Haines was my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother.

Jenny tree

jennie ferguson haines

Jennie Ferguson Haines

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Marion Haines White (Jennie’s granddaughter, left), Jennie Ferguson Haines (middle), unknown homemaker/friend (right)

Jennie was likely born in Richibucto, Kent, New Brunswick, Canada (according to daughter Jennie’s death certificate, all other records specify a generic birthplace of New Brunswick) about 1858 (although records place her birth between 1856 and 1864**) to John and Elizabeth.  She relocated to Boston in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s where likely she worked as a servant.

Jennie's death

In 1880, a Jennie Ferguson, age 22 of New Brunswick was listed as a servant residing at 96 West Newton Street, Boston (today known as South Boston).  None of the other residents were of New Brunswick. She does not appear in Boston city directories in the 1878-1882 time frame, and may not have held this job long.

1880

She married in Boston, on 7 March 1882, William John “John” Haines, then a carpenter (he had many occupations), born 7 Mar 1856 in Richibucto to John Hains and Alice Edith Childs. They likely knew each other before arrival in Boston, from Richibucto, as Jennie was very good friends with John’s sister Mary.

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Mary Haines, a nanny for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s grandsons, recorded in her journal a number of entries mentioning Jennie, including a description of the wedding:

1 October 1880 – “My sister is in Boston and also friend Jenny”.

25 December 1880 – “Christmas Day. I went out this afternoon with Jenny. Mrs. and Mr. Dana went to Cambridge with Dicky to lunch with his Grandpapa, Mr. Longfellow, and I had the afternoon to myself. I went in the evening to see the Christmas tree in Mr. Hamilton’s church; then went to the skating rink with Minnie Gordon and Jenny Ferguson two of my dearest friends in Boston. The band played and they all waltzed around on their skates”. 

6 January 1881 – “Jenny Ferguson and I went to see her [Mary’s sister]. She is much better and able to be up”.

2 February 1881 – “My sister and Jenny are going to a party tonight while I am left behind. I have seen the day when I would not be left behind. How sad I felt as I clasped on Jenny’s neck the chain and locket my dear brother has often clasped on my own neck”.

10 August 1881 – “I went to Boston today. It was an awfully hot day. I went out to Jamaica Plain. Saw Jenny”.

8 December 1881 – “Still no letter from Jennie Ferguson. How I wish she would come. Oh dear, how lonely I am”. 

26 January 1882: “John came over from Chelsea this evening. We had a lovely time together. Jenny Ferguson my dear friend came down from Richibucto. She was here tonight.  Just came on the boat today. I am so glad to see her. She is my dearest friend”.

13 February 1882: “I had my two brothers, John and Alexander, and my dear friend Jenny call”.

15 February 1882: “I went to a party in Lynn in company with my brothers, cousin and Jenny”

17 February 1882: “I had dear Jenny and John to see me tonight and also dear Minnie. We will meet tomorrow night to go to church.”

23 February 1882: “I left Boston and am now in Chelsea of a little vacation of two weeks. Jenny, Albert and I went house hunting. We found a house we all liked, we decided to take it and will move in on Monday.” [89 Matthew Street].

2 March 1882 – “I cut today Jenny’s wedding dress and coat”.

3 March 1882 – “We finished Jenny’s wedding dress and coat”.

6 March 1882 – “I went to Boston today with John. He bought his suit of clothing and marriage certificate. And I completed the wedding wardrobe for Jenny and helped to put the house in order”. 

7 March 1882 – “What a busy day we had yesterday. John and my dear Jenny Ferguson were married. She wore cardinal satin trimmed with a darker shade of goods, velvet I mean, neck filled in with lace and tea roses. John was in full dress. They looked so happy. The room was full of people.  They were married by our Pastor Reverand Mr. Good [Hood?].  John and Jenny walked into the room arm in arm. Our cousin Albert and Miss Annie Stickeny stood up with them. John looked so happy. It did my heart good to see him. We had a very happy evening. Some of the party stayed all night”. 

24 March 1882 – “My dear brother John was baptized. How nice it was to see him. He seemed to be in real earnest”.

28 March 1882 – “I went to Chelsea to spend the evening with John and Jenny”.

2 April 1882 – “I went home to my brother’s, and took tea; and spent the evening with him and his wife”

3 April 1882 – “Brother John and Jenny, my new sister, came over to spend the evening with me. This is my last evening in Boston for a long time for tomorrow we are to leave for New York, and from there to Europe” [Mary was traveling with the Dana family soon after Longfellow’s death]

Jenny marriage

John and Jennie had eight known children, the first born about nine months after they married: Edith, John Galatis, Alexander, Ella May, Margaret Elizabeth, Joseph (who died as a child), Minnie and Jennie.

Jenny's children

children

The 1884 through 1890 city directories place the family in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  On 2 November 1892 the family purchased a home, and 5,000 square feet of land, on Wordsworth Street, in East Boston (on the corner of Homer near Bennington – the southwesterly portion of lot #256) – they were enumerated there in 1900 and 1910.

lot

1900 census

1910 census

Although they never divorced, Jennie and John separated. According to notes from Mary Haines descendants, Ralph and Peggy Stevens, John relocated for a time to live with his sister Mary in Vallejo, Solano, California, where he ran their chicken farm, while Jennie perhaps moved to Billerica, Massachusetts.

letter

Jennie sold the house 2 July 1913 to her son-in-law Albert Walsh (Ella’s husband).  John gave his daughter Jennie power of attorney.

power of atty

 

house sale

Neither Jennie nor John is found in the 1920 or 1930 censuses.

A letter dated 20 March 1976 from Jennie’s granddaughter Ruth (Walsh) Frawley, to another granddaughter, Marian Haines (daughter of John Galatis) reads:

… My mother was Ella May Haines. Her father was William John Haines (I think). He was always called John, the William was never used, so I am not positive of the authenticity. However the William John sounds familiar.  He was married to Jennie Ferguson. It is a Scotch name [The name Ferguson is an Anglicization of the Gaelic “Macfhearghus”, son of Fergus, a personal name of old Celtic origin, Dumfries Fergusons claim descent from Fergus, Prince of Galloway]. Apparently her mother was Irish and her father was Scotch, as my mother said she was Scotch Irish. William John, her husband was English decent. 

Jenny Ferguson Haines was reddish blond and Catholic [John and Jennie were married by a United Presbyterian minister], had a violent temper and we were led to believe she was a tyrant and a kook. 

In June of 1936, this theory proved to be true. I did not know my grandmother, I thought of her as someone out of a story book. A character. I had an important date to go to a prom and a strange person came walking down the street and I called my mother to tell her that her mother was coming (I thought I was being funny, as she fit the picture I had in my mind about her). Low and behold she came to our door and it was she, the character lady, and she turned out to be exactly as I was led to believe. 

My mother did not seem to have much love for her mother; but her father was her pride and joy. John her father was a part time minister in the Congregation church at Orient Heights and a Chemist.  He invented disinfectant and had a small lab in the backyard [note: city directories do confirm that William John Haines reported his occupation as “chemist”, working from home, from 1906-1908] . Jenny sold the formula to Cabot Chemists and that was the last straw. So they separated. Never legally divorced, as in those days it would have been a disgrace, my mother felt, despite her tyrannical ways, her husband was very much in love with her.

City directory

My mother was nineteen and Minnie Haines Collins was 15 and Jenny Haines Johnson was 13. When Jenny and John separated and gave up the homestead, my mother took Minnie and Jenny, her two young sisters to live with her.  Approximately 13 years later I can remember Minnie meeting my grandfather John at the train. He was returning from California, from a 4 year visit.  Then he lived with us for many years. When I was 16, which must have been 1934, my grandfather had a shock and John Marshall and Bill Collins [sons-in-law] decided that he should go to a rest home. I was furious and too young to do anything about it. As a youngster, I thought those places were a place to get rid of people. 

Grandma Haines [Jennie] was always on the move; but I think she claimed residency in Billerica. She died first and had a cemetery lot paid for. I know that when grandfather was told of Jenny’s death he died shortly afterwards and was buried in the same plot with his wife….

In a letter dated 2 January 1979, Jennie’s granddaughter Natalie (another daughter of John Galatis Haines) writes:

natalie letter

An excerpt from Wikipedia indicates that there may have been some truth to the story of Jennie selling her husband’s invention: “Samuel Cabot IV studied chemistry at MIT and Zurich Polytechnic (now ETH Zurich). After visiting factories in Europe, he was inspired to work on coal-tar based products. He set up a laboratory in Chelsea, Massachusetts and his brother Godfrey joined him in 1882. They produced household disinfectant, sheep dip, wood preservatives, and shingle strain using coal tar that was a by-product of the gas works in Boston”.  

Interestingly, a man of the same name, Samuel Cabot, held the Haines mortgage of $662.42 on Wordsworth Street. John & Jennie were to pay him $2.50 weekly plus 6% interest.

Nothing more is known of Jennie’s life.  Her granddaughter Natalie writes: “Jennie who died in her 80’s was living alone in a small house in rural Billerica, supported by two of her sons-in-law and a small Gold Star pension she swindled from her son Alec’s young widow Ina (he died aboard the Ticonderoga in 1918). Jennie was estranged from her daughters”. 

Craig Scott, G.G. (a professional genealogical and historical researcher for more than twenty-eight years, he specializes in the records of the National Archives, especially those that relate to the military),  writes in 2014: “Been thinking about this. What probably happened was a War Risk Insurance payout. There were no pensions, that I know of for WWI for guys who died. Just the insurance policy much like they have today. Those records were destroyed. However, I have seen the beneficiary forms in VA records. So you might try the VA, even though he died”.

Jennie died 19 April 1938.  No obituary was found in the Boston papers or the Lowell Sun. The funeral home no longer has records from that time frame. No probate record was located in Middlesex or Suffolk, Massachusetts Counties. The death notice reads that she was “of Pinehurst Billerica”.  The “Certificate of Death”, gives her residence as 523 Columbus Ave., Boston;  Cause of death: br pneumonia & cardiac decompression. Her daughter Minnie was the informant and did not know the names of Jennie’s parents.  Jennie is buried with John at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Arlington, Massachusetts, ‘Q’ section, plot #566.

death notice

death cert grave

That’s it… I was unable to locate any record of Jennie in New Brunswick – there is no evidence of parents, siblings or cousins, where are they?  Was she unloved as a child? Did it cause her to become a tyrant?  According to one granddaughter, she helped sick friends and neighbors – could she have been all bad?  Her husband John loved her as did his sister Mary.  Did the financial pressures of a large family cause her to break? Or perhaps the effects of losing three children; her young son Joseph [no death record has been located, but the 1900 census states she gave birth to 8 children, 7 are living], her daughter Jennie, at age 22, of influenza followed by lobar pneumonia and her son Alexander, who at age 31, died in WWI, aboard the steamship Ticonderga, which was torpedoed while on her way to France.

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** Jennie’s birth year ?

  • The Boston Globe death notice lists her as age 82 (b. abt 1856);
  • Her death certificate puts her age at 74 (b. 1864);
  • Her gravestone reads 1858-1938;
  • the 1880 census puts her age at 22, b. abt 1858 (assuming it is really her and not someone of the same name – she is working as a domestic);
  • She is listed as age 23 when she married in 1882 (b. abt 1859);
  • the 1900 census lists a birth date of Jun 1866, age 33 and says she was married 18 years. If correct, this would put her age 15 at marriage;
  • the 1910 census gives her age as 51 (b. 1859);
  • 1930 census, there is a woman of the same name as an inmate at a hospital in Boston, age 73, b. 1857 – not sure if this is her as she supposedly owned a house in Billerica;
  • If she is really the Jane Ferguson in the 1861 Canadian census, her age was 4, thus she was b. abt 1857

UPDATE: Another blog post with a theory of Jennie’s birth family here.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. An interesting story. Have you tried tracing her husband and sister in Canada? Perhaps if you can, you’ll find a trace of her family.

    And, fate . . . what possibilities for a different outcome, IF Jennie hadn’t sold / given away John’s disinfectant formula.

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    • Thanks for reading Tracy! Yes, I have traced her children, husband, his parents, grandparents and all of his siblings, aunts and uncles from Richibucto to present day… I have traced all of the enumerated Ferguson families in New Brunswick with the hopes that they were cousins. My aunt Natalie has been seeking Jennie’s family since the 1970’s, even visiting Richibucto…. I suspect that she was either born out of wedlock or her parents divorced or died at a young age and she had no siblings. She had someone in Richibucto though (friends or family) as she returned for a visit just prior to her wedding….

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  2. […] – “Was Jennie a Tyrant?” (Jennie Ferguson) on Passage to the Past’s […]

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  3. What an interesting story and so great you have the remembrances of her grandchildren. Not everyone you “meet” in your family tree are good people. Jenny sounds like a complicated person. But they seem to be the people I get the most curious about in my tree.

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  4. […] John Haines in Chelsea, State of Massachusetts – Laborer [my g-g-grandfather William John Hains who married Jennie Ferguson – her story here/] […]

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  5. Posted by Dave Johnson on July 15, 2015 at 5:12 PM

    My grandfather Ernest Albert Johnson married Jennie Haines and had one son Herbert (my uncle) who was born in 1918 before Jennie died. I was fascinated to read your blog. In talking with my father who is 85 ….. he remembers John Marshall and Bill Collilns as a boy.

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