I get that I romanticized William Robert a bit. In my head, he is a great war hero who fought bravely to keep the Union in tact and help abolish the awful practice of slavery. But, then I look at this picture of Mary Elizabeth and am reminded that there is nothing romantic to the story. William Robert was a Civil War Veteran and I hope that he fought bravely for the right reasons though I will never know his true motivations. But, there is nothing romantic about dying of dysentery on a train. And, there is nothing romantic about leaving behind a 26-year-old widow with three children to carry on by herself. I love William Robert for his story and his service, but I LOVE Mary Elizabeth for her strength.
Mary was 17 years old when she and William married. Not that young for the time, but when I think back to when I was seventeen, let’s just say I cannot even begin to imagine being married then. This picture was taken when she was about 24 or 25. The matching photo of William has him in his Union uniform so it had to have been around that time. She looks so serious. More serious than a 24-year-old should look I think. Though, I guess I would be quite solemn looking too if my husband were heading off to war and I was left at home taking care of three small children.
I was going back through what I have on Mary as I was preparing to write this post and I think what really struck me the most was that she lost her husband at 26 years of age and never re-married. She spent the next almost 40 years without someone by her side. I can’t imagine this. Especially with three young children to take care of by herself. I think that it was the census of 1870 that really affected me the most.
In this census, Mary Elizabeth is 29 years old with a 12-year-old, a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old at home with her. This touched me because right now I am the same age Mary was then. I have a 3-year-old and a one year old and I would be lost if I were trying to raise them alone. Yes, she seems like she was a strong woman indeed.
Anyways, I also have every other census for Mary from the first in 1850 when she was still living at home with her parents Stephan and Martha Atterberry to her last in 1900 when she was living in the household of her eldest daughter Frances Almeda (Henderson) Hunter. You can find all of the censuses for Mary Elizabeth Henderson at Ancestry.com or you can contact me and I would be happy to share.
Just to clarify any lineage questions…the children of Mary Elizabeth (Atterberry) and William Robert Henderson were Frances Almeda (1858-1950) who married Joel Ellis Hunter and spent her life in Iowa, Thomas Henderson (1860-1918) who never married and spent his life in Davis County, Iowa, and Mary Elizabeth ( 1861-1922) who married Charles Tallman (my great-great grandparents) and through her life lived in Iowa, Schuyler County, Missouri and Boulder, Colorado.
The final thing I have for Mary Elizabeth is the memorial card from her funeral. It would seem like she was quite loved by her children. Maybe I am romanticizing again, but I know that I come from a line of strong women, and I have a feeling that Mary Elizabeth just extends that line a little further back.