Tuesday, May 6, 2014

52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Week 18 Mary Eliza Bailey Watkins

Mary Eliza Bailey is my great grandmother on my paternal mother’s side of the family.  Mary was born about May 1876 in Macon, Hale County, Alabama to Prince Bailey (1851-1930) and Adeline King (1852-1931).  Both of Mary’s parents appear from the records to have been born in Alabama.  Prince Bailey’s parents are recorded as being born in South Carolina.  Mary’s siblings listed in 1870 are all sisters, Caroline (1871), Lena (1879), Margaret (1883) and Anna (1885).  Mary was one of the middle sisters.  The family lived in Beat 8, Macon, Hale County, Alabama in 1880 and her father, Prince worked as a laborer.

So far on this journey, this is the first picture found from this generation and was taken in Indiana, Pennsylvania during the late 1930’s.

Mary met and married Wesley Watkins on 8 December 1892.  She appears to have been fourteen years old and in my mind very young to get married in our times.  By the 1900 census great grandmother Mary was married to Wesley, living in Gallion, Hale County, Alabama and had the following children: Lula, Smith, Floyd, Oather/Otis, Wesley and Lillie Mae.  She would have one more child in 1916, my grandmother Lois.  I find it exciting that I met all of my uncles and aunts with the exception of Lula (must find out what happened with her).

Mary’s husband Wesley worked as a coalminer and followed the coalmining industry to Ernest, Pennsylvania by the 1930’s.  One of her younger sons, Otis remembered growing up in Demopolis that is 9.72 miles from Gallion (Hale County) in Walker County.  Walker County was once ranked as the leading producer of coal in the country.  Our family verbal history is that Mary’s father, Prince Bailey was from Mississippi and sure enough I did find a record from Clarke County, Mississippi that supports him living there and working as a labor in the household of a Margaret Bailey. 

The life of a coalmining wife was surrounded with concern and worry of men going into the mines and possibly not surviving the workday.  The mining companies provided separate house for different groups of people yet underground in the mines the men took the same risk and endured the same hazards.  I’ve heard that Mary participated in bootlegging yet I’ve found no proof of the story.  Mary lost her husband in 1929 in Ernest Pennsylvania to a heart attack.  By the 1930 Census, she was living with her youngest daughter, Lois who was expecting her first child, my father.  Mary died in Pennsylvania about 1953 after a brief illness.

It is fit to write about Mary Eliza Bailey Watkins on this eve of Mother’s Day.  The journey will continue with hope and plans to learn more about my great grandmother.

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