This is Grandma I. She was Mamie’s paternal grandmother (my great-great grandmother). She was born in Scotland in the 1860s and entered the USA through Canada around 1890. (We suspect that it may not have been a legal immigration.) She had six children with her first husband (my great-great grandfather) and one with her second husband. Her first husband died of an ear infection a few months before their sixth child was born. That’s what it says on his death certificate, but I find it hard to believe that was the real cause of death. They were poor and medicine wasn’t very advanced. Those two things combined against good care and a good diagnosis.
A few years after her first husband died, she married a man named Mr. I. He had been a recovering alcoholic, but two years into their marriage and after the birth of their son, he was found dead in a barn with a jug of hard cider next to his body. According to the obituary, he had been overheard arguing with his wife the night before over liquor. He had been a farmhand, working on a fairly large farm. Family lore had been that my great grandfather had actually found him after he’d committed suicide, but we can’t find any proof or real evidence of where that story originated.
One of Grandma I.’s sons was killed in the Battle of Chateau Thierry in France during World War I. She was part of the Gold Star Mothers who traveled over to Europe to see their sons’ graves. My husband’s great grandmother was part of that group, too. It would have been ironic if they had known each other.
Mamie, as the oldest in her family, got to go and spend a month with Grandma I for many summers. She and Grandma I. would take a bus to Buffalo and then take a trolley to a bridge, which they would cross on foot to Canada. Grandma I’s youngest son lived in Fort Erie. It was a big adventure that Mamie looked forward to each year.
When they returned back to Grandma I’s home, they would visit the cemetery everyday. Mamie told me that she would always pass an old van (think horse drawn wooden type) driven by a man selling food. This is how she learned to love fried bologna sandwiches with onions. She was allowed to get one each time they saw that vendor. Often at night, Grandma I. would ask Mamie to brush her hair. Mamie remembered those days with so much fondness, except for the spiders. Grandma I’s house always seemed to be full of them; in the bushes outside, on the ceilings, even in Mamie’s bed!
Grandma I. used to be asked by her townsmen to dance the Highland Fling at all of the big celebrations. She had the old traditional garb from her homeland and would don it and perform for the town. They loved it so much, she continued to be asked for years.
Mamie said that Grandma I was strict, but kind. One Christmas, she bought material for each of her granddaughters. Gram, Mamie’s mom, could make a dress without a pattern. Mamie remembered her dresses. One was blue with peach and the other was a wine color with a white pattern. Grandma I. also sent canned goods that Christmas. It was a happy holiday that Mamie always remembered.
This is Grandma I holding my mom’s older sister, Marilyn. My mom never knew her, as Grandma I. died a year before she was born. Mamie always used to tell my mom, however, that she was the most like Grandma I in the entire family. (Meaning, mom called a spade a spade and doesn’t sugar coat anything).