, ,

Today’s image has special meaning to me, and I post it now for a special reason. This past Saturday, my paternal grandfather passed away. I want to commemorate him here by sharing with you this post. It is not the story of his life, which I do not feel able to comprehensively tell through a historian’s lense, but the story of the oldest image I own of a direct descendant of mine, who happens to be my grandfather’s great-grandmother.

This is Mary Turner MacLeod, or, at the time this image was taken, just Mary Turner. Mary was born on June 6, 1848, in Newmilns, Loudoun, Scotland. Alternative dates are given as June 12th or December 6th of the same year. Her parents were Alex Turner and Margaret Morton, who had been married the previous December 11th. It seems likely that one of the June dates is correct, and the December date was a cover-up attempt at the 6th month gestation period. 😉  She was baptized by Rev. Allan, seemingly in June of that year. Her father was employed as a weaver, and her parents had 5 children after her, spanning 16 years.

Mary moved to Glasgow sometime as a teenager, and was employed there in the mills. Her image here shows her in the 1863-1866 range, in her late teens or early 20s. Her image was struck by H McFarlane, 107 Buchanan Street, Glasgow. 


In 1869, she married Alexander MacLeod on July 16th. They were married at 39 Whitevale Street. They followed the traditional practice of Banns. At the time of the wedding, both Mary and Alexander listed their address as 258 Main Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow. Mary’s profession was listed as working as a Cotton Weaver, Steam Loom, and her husbands as a housepainter. James Allen proceeded over the wedding, and the witnesses were Alexander’s brother and an unknown to us woman- Catherine Wilson.

Within two years the couple were living at 50 Dalmarnock Road in Glasgow. At that time, during a census, there were 74 people at that address, giving some idea of the conditions inside the tenement. Some years ago, I was able to locate an 1890s image of the building that stood there, but have misplaced that image at the time I am writing this. The the couple had two girls in their first two years of marriage, Margaret and Annie, the first being born a year after the wedding.

10 more years of life passed for Mary, and the couple had two more girls, Kate or Catherine, and Mary. I wish I knew what prompted them- life long dream, opportunity, friends or something else, but in 1881, they immigrated to America. They traveled in a 2nd class cabin aboard the SS. Circassia, where they lied about the girls aged to get cheaper fair. Children under 8-9 were half fair, and children under one were even less. Though their daughters would have been 11, 10, 6, and 3- They now had an 9 year old, a 6 year old, a 3 year old, and an 11 month old! The family told the story of carrying the youngest around on board, even though she was 3, to help give the impression she was still under a year.

They arrived in New York on March 22, where they moved to Paterson, New Jersey. They lived in at least five different addresses in the 1880s before settling on one house for about 10 years, but in the 1890s, started their frequent moves again. The had four more children once in America- Two more girls, and two boys. In addition to the 8 children who lived long enough to be named, they had four at some point who did not survive.

The couple continued to work hard in America- with Alexander working as a house painter, as well as coachman and chauffeur he even worked as a chauffeur for Vice President Hobart- McKinley’s V.P. This played an important role in getting their youngest son into Yale.

In 1896, Mary and Alexander became charter members of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Paterson. I have one more image of Mary during her life, taken around this time. She stands on the deck of a boat called the “Liberty Bell” with her eldest two daughters, and several grandchildren. Around this time she also became a member of the Daughters of Scotia.

On August 26, 1902, Mary became a widow, with Alexander dying of cirrhosis of the liver at age 56. Mary lived another 15 years along, dying on May 22nd, 1917 in Clifton New Jersey. Her cause of death was an amnesic coma.