Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Wild, Wild West, Part V: The Grandmother I Never Knew

Ed and Maudie McLaughlin with
their daughter Zudie Lee,  1908
My paternal grandmother died when she was 20 years old. My father was was a toddler when he lost his mother, so he had no memories of her. There were, however, a few things about her that I heard when I was growing up.

Maudie's real name was Margaret Gertrude McLaughlin. (Her maiden name was Neatherlin.) For some reason, her family called her "Maudie" and this nickname was so universally used for her that my father believed his mother's name was Maude Gertrude.

Maudie was a small woman. My dad remembered some of her clothing that had been saved in a trunk, and she wore a size one shoe. I don't know how that size from the early 1900s translates to today, but he was impressed with the smallness of her shoes and clothes. Unfortunately that trunk of her things was ruined when the basement it was stored in at some relative's home was flooded. I have often wondered what she would think about her five granddaughters, the shortest of whom was 5'6" and the tallest of whom was 5'10.5"!

We grew up thinking all photos of Maude had been lost with her other things, but, when I was in my 30s, my parents visited Texas and someone in my Dad's family had the picture I have included here. We were all thrilled to at last have an image of the Grandmother that had been rather like a myth in our minds. This photo was taken when she was about 17 years old. She is holding very still, with a solemn expression. In those days that was the proper way to be photographed--no big grins! When we finally saw a picture of this grandmother, we realized that one of our sisters greatly resembles her!

We have only one story that shows something of Maudie's personality and character. She was only fourteen years old when she married Ed McLaughlin, who was twenty-eight. I don't know how they met. It was not unheard of for girls to marry so young, though it was perhaps not terribly common. I think her family may have been a bit unhappy at her choice to marry so young, and to marry one of the McLaughlin brothers. Those four brothers had a reputation of being a bit wild, rough, tough, and hot-tempered. Ed was known as the brother with the coolest temper, and yet he was quite a fighter. The reason I believe her family was not overjoyed about her decision to marry comes from the only story I know about it.

The story is that one of Maudie's sisters tried to discourage her from marrying Ed, who was fourteen years her senior. "Just think," the sister reportedly said, "he's twice as old as you. Why, when you are thirty, he'll be an old man of sixty!" This mistaken math was not enough to dissuade Maude. From this story I get a glimpse of a girl who knew her own mind and heart and had the strength of will to stick to her decision.

Sadly, my grandparents had only six years together before she was carried off by typhoid. They had two children, ages three years four months and twenty-one months when she died, and she was expecting her third child.

Her death had a profound effect on the way her children grew up. Her husband had loved her dearly, and never remarried. There is a story about that, but I will save it for another day.

It is strange to think of this young girl as being my grandmother, for she never grew old. I hope we will meet and learn to know each other in heaven!

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that story so I am especially glad you told it.