In my last blog post I wrote about my Great Great Grandfather Jacob Manuel Woodring. While he was quite a character, little has been said about his wife Mary. Mary was born on February 22, 1870 in Missouri. She was the daughter of Thomas Gates and Martha Jane Walters. The family headed west to help settle the Washington Territory and they settled in the Fir Island area of what is now Skagit County. They moved to the area sometime before 1875 when their daugher Nellie was born. They are enumerated in the 1880 living in Skagit Precinct of Whatcom County, Washington Territory.
Mary married Jacob on April 25, 1895 in Mount Vernon, Washington at the First Methodist Episcopal Church by Pastor B.F. Brooks. Emma A. Brooks and O.A. Curry were the witnesses. Mary was twenty-five years old and Jacob was forty-nine years old.
Newspaper articles from that era covered Jacob's death (as told in my previous blog) and it reads like a soap opera. The one thing that stood out was that Mary was always referred to with great kindness. Mary had lost her leg below the knee sometime before she and Jacob married. The newspaper account of the loss of her leg states that she fell and broke her leg while doing housework at her father's home and consequently had to have the leg amputated. In the wild west of the 1890's I am sure the practice of medicine was very primitive. Mary got about with the help of crutches for the rest of her life.
Mary and Jacob had their first daughter, Winnifred one year after they were married. Their next daughter Minnie was born in in January of 1898. Mary's mother Martha died in June of 1898 and in 1899 Jacob was caught and tried for Moonshining. This led to the family leaving the Fir Island area, resettling up river in the town of Hamilton, a good twenty miles away.
Their third child, Charles Thomas Woodring was born in 1900 followed by my Great Grandfather Richard in 1902. The family seemed to be doing well at this time. Jacob was working as the town marshal of Hamilton and they owned their farm outright according to the 1900 US Federal Census. This all came to an abrupt end in 1904 when Jacob was killed. Mary was four months pregnant at the time with their fifth child, Jessie, who would be born in April 1905.
Mary struggled to keep the house, which now had a mortgage with the Lyman State Bank. The house and property were located a mile North of the town of Hamilton. It appears that Mary had plenty of property but no means of support. It also appears that she began selling off acreage in order to financially survive. In December 1904 The Bellingham Herald followed the plight of Mary in it's newspaper and reported that the town was going to rally around Mrs. Woodring "a cripple who is greatly loved and respected and a kind and generous lady". The paper later reported on June 16, 1906 that Mary had to undergo an operation. According to the paper, Mary had so badly bruised her breasts with the use of her crutches that a cancer developed. She was taken to Seattle where she had surgery to remove her cancers, but according to this account she was left paralyzed by the surgery. No other information about her illness has been found except for the outstanding hospital bills at the time of her death.
Mary went to extreme measures to ensure the livelihood of her family. She sued the owner of the saloon a Mr. Peter Jacobino on behalf of her children, claiming he was at fault for serving Jacob too much liquor thus resulting in his death. This case went all they way to the Supreme Court of Washington State and was finally settled in 1909 with Mary winning a $400 judgement from Mr. Jacobino. This case was covered extensively though out the United States and set a precedent in judgments towards bartenders and saloon owners.
Mary lost her battle with cancer in 1915. Her two oldest daughters had married but her three youngest children were left orphans. Mary did not leave a will so her estate went into probate. Mary's eldest daughter Minnie had married Eddie Hanstad in late 1914 and at first he was to be the administer of the estate, but upon his death in December 1915 from Typhoid Fever, Winnifred's husband Arlo E. McCracken took over as administrator. At the time of her death Mary had the house and five acres of land valued at $1200 with a mortgage to Lyman State Bank for $210. She also had personal property that consisted of one cow worth $40, one horse worth $60, four hogs/pigs worth $50 and household goods valued at $50. It is good to remember that the rent for a home during this time was only $50 a year in that area of Skagit County.
Her debts, however were substantial. In addition to her mortgage, Mary had medical bills to the Burlington Hospital for $70, She owed Dr. Kellner $200, funeral expenses were $200, local merchant T. B. Cooper $205, and Mrs. Tingley $100. The family went through the proper probate court to clear these debts with the sale of the house so the proceeds could go to the remaining children, whatever little may have been left. A fight ensued as documented through the probate records to keep the house. Ultimately by the time the probate was settled in September 1918 the house had been auctioned for around $700 and all the debts paid from that. There was nothing left for the children.
Winnifred's husband Arlo died shortly thereafter in December 1918 leaving Winnie a widow at age 22 with two small children. Winnie remarried in 1920 to Fred Bacus and went on to have a long life before dying at the age of 82. Minnie was left a widow at age 17 when her husband Eddie died of Typhoid Fever. She married Harry Wilkerson a year and a half later and went on the live until the ripe old age of 95. Charles Thomas and Richard also went on to marry and have productive lives, however Jessie married Arnold B. Williams at the age of 17 and died shortly there after in child birth. Her baby lived for two years before dying. Mother and child are both buried at the Hamilton Cemetery. I will write more about Charles and Richard at a later date.
I am glad I have gotten to know Mary. I can now see where my family fighting spirit comes from. Genealogy is so much more than just a family tree. It is getting to know who your ancestors were as people. Thanks to the many newspaper articles in the Bellingham Herald, I have gotten to know what a kind generous woman Mary was even in the light of all her struggles with losing her leg, her husband and having to battle breast cancer and paralysis. I am blessed to call her my great great grandmother.