Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Grandmother Eva, "Mimi"

Eva "Mimi" Josephine Ellis Harris, 1888-1943
Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Late 1930s?
I never met my father's mother, who died the year before I was born. I don't remember my father talking much about his family, but I really wish that I had asked more questions. I've heard a couple of stories from relatives, and the rest I've pieced together from historical records. 

My father's cousin, John Hayes, told me that Eva was warm and welcoming, and would meet guests with the song: If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd've Baked a Cake!"

My half-sister, Joan, has these memories of our grandmother, Eva, or "Mimi:" Joan remembers Mimi's house being lit by kerosene lamps. Mimi was a marvelous seamstress, she made quilts, braided rugs, and tatted edging for handkerchiefs. She always had some project in her hands, and carried small sewing projects in her pocketbook, so she wouldn't be without some work at hand. That habit has continued into my own generation.

Joan remembers our father, Dan Harris, at his mother's funeral, saying "this is the first time I've ever seen her hands still."


Mimi's handwork: Edging on a handkerchief
A treasured gift from Joan Harris Foynes


Piecing together Mimi's story

Oscar Ellis of Smithfield, Maine, and Ellen Healey Lynch, who had been born in England, were married in 1887 in Blackstone, Massachusetts. It was the second marriage for both of them. 

Oscar and Ellen had two sons who died young. The first was Oscar James, who was born in March of 1886 and died of cholera infantum in July that same year. The next year, another little boy (unnamed) was born to them on Dec. 13. He only lived two weeks, dying on Dec. 26, 1887 of heart disease. 

After all that heartbreak, their third child was my grandmother, Eva Josephine Ellis, who was born Sept. 14, 1888 in Worcester. Oscar, Eva's father, was 36, and her mother, Ellen, was 19.

Eva was listed in the 1900 Census in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was living with her parents and siblings and was 11 years old. According to the census taker Eva had attended nine months of school during the previous year; and could read, write, and speak English. Her father worked in a livery stable, and her mother kept house. By this time, Eva had two little brothers, Oscar Joshua and Eddie, ages 9 and 7 at the time of the census, and one little sister (who grew up to be my Great Aunt Nellie, and who scared me a little when I was a child), age 2 at the time of the census.

We don't know when or where Eva met her husband, Albert Harris, who was born in New York City in 1884. They married around 1906-07, but I haven't found a record of the marriage yet. In the 1910 U.S. Census they told the census taker that they had been married for three years, which gives us the estimated date for the marriage. 


Albert Harris (1884-1939)
 in later years

Albert and Eva's only child, Daniel Lawrence Harris (my father), was born Aug. 2, 1907. 

At the time of the 1910 census, Eva, her husband Albert and son Daniel Lawrence Harris were shown as residing in Boston, Massachusetts. Dan was 2 years old. Albert was a waiter. 

The family lived at 56 South Huntington Ave., Roxbury, Massachusetts when Albert signed his World War I draft registration card on Sept. 12, 1918. He gave the name of his wife, Eva of the same address, as his closest relative. He was 34 years old, and working as a head waiter at the Brunswick Hotel, Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts. The physical description on the card describes him as short, stout, with gray eyes, and auburn hair.

Eva, Albert, and Dan were shown as residing in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1920 U.S. Census. Dan was 12 years old. Eva was listed as being 31 and Albert was 35.  Albert gave his occupation as waiter. 

Around 1930, Albert and Eva, together with Eva's sister Nellie and brother-in-law Jack Hayes bought a piece of property labeled parcel 8-A, formerly the Nims Homestead, in the town of Antrim, New Hampshire. They fixed up the building and The Harris Tavern appeared for the first time on the tax rolls for Antrim in 1931. They planned to run it as a hotel, with an attached golf course. Albert ran the hotel, Eva did the cooking, and Jack and Nellie worked there as well. 

In 1931, the property was valued at $5000 and the annual property tax was $199.50. The Harris Tavern was in existence for only a couple of years, then it disappeared from the town report property tax rolls. Our family stories recount that Albert had sunk all his money into the venture, went bankrupt, and that he never recovered from the failure of the tavern. 

Albert died in 1939, in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts. He is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.

In the 1940 Census, Eva, a widow, was living alone in a rented house at 68 Wold Hill Street in Boston, Massachusetts. According to census information the rent on the house was $35 a month. She had lived at the same address in 1935. Her highest grade completed in school was 8th grade. She did not work, nor was she seeking employment. She was 51 years old.

Eva died in 1943 in Winchendon, Massachusetts. She is buried with Albert in the Pine Grove Cemetery, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, U.S.



embeddable family tree updated live from WikiTree


Sources

Telephone interviews by Clair Harris Zarges with John Michael Hayes, Jr. and Joan Harris Foynes. 1989.

"Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FCT5-GXX : accessed 04 Dec 2013), Eva Josephine Ellis, 14 Sep 1888. (Note: "Corrected;" presumably speaking of the father's name, which was given as "Austin J." instead of Oscar J. Ellis).

Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Birth Index, 1901-1960 and 1967-1970 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Department of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. Massachusetts Vital Records Index to Births [1916–1970]. Volumes 92–160, 162, 168, 175, 212– 213. Facsimile edition. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

"United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M9B6-TTQ : accessed 04 Dec 2013), Eva J Ellis in household of Oscar J Ellis, Precinct 4 Worcester city Ward 8, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States; citing sheet , family 175, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1240697.

"Massachusetts, Births, 1841-1915," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FXJ9-P8W : accessed 04 Dec 2013), Eva Ellis in entry for Daniel Harris, 1907.

Birth Certificate for Daniel Lawrence Harris: True copy of record of birth, C82253, issued Apr. 30, 1999, from the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Reg. no. 1622, Vol. 568, Page 497.

"United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M22S-ZHH : accessed 30 Nov 2013), Daniel L Harris in household of Albert Harris, Boston Ward 19, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States; citing sheet , family 48, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1374634013), Daniel L Harris in household of Albert Harris, Boston Ward 14, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States; citing sheet , family 162, NARA microfilm publication T625, FHL microfilm 1820736.

Albert's World War I Draft Registration Card: "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KZNR-933 : accessed 03 Dec 2013), Albert Harris, 1917-1918; citing Roxbury City no 14, Massachusetts, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d); FHL microfilm 1685006.

"United States Census, 1920," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MFMT-GRR : accessed 30 Nov 2013.

Year: 1920; Census Place: Boston Ward 14, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: T625_736; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 381; Image: 472. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

 Annual Reports of the Town Officers of Antrim, New Hampshire, 1930.https://archive.org/details/schoolfinancialr1930antr. Accessed 7 Mar 2014.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: T627_1669; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 15-420A. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Eva's death date is from her headstone at the Pine Grove Cemetery, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, U.S. Clair Zarges: Personal visits to the Pine Grove Cemetery, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire in the 1990s.

Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Department of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. Massachusetts Vital Records Index to Deaths [1916–1970]. Volumes 66–145. Facsimile edition. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. From my sister, Jean:

    "He gave the name of his wife, Eva of the same address, as his closest relative."

    Do you think the census allowed for listing more than one close relative? Otherwise if not, I guess naturally she would be his closest. Or do people always list their spouse as their closest? I wonder if Albert's parents were his only living relatives before they died. Were they already deceased when he made that statement? Maybe he never knew of any others and so Daddy never knew of any others which might be why Daddy never talked about his family? Such a mystery... Of course, if I didn't think it would addle my brain, I'd dig through your trees and try to answer some of these questions for myself!

    Who did the story of Albert losing all his money in the Harris Tavern come from? And where did the alternate story of Albert losing all his money in The Crash come from? Was that us (or Daddy) just guessing? Or am I getting my stories/relatives confused?

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  3. Albert gave Eva's name as his closest relative on his WWI Draft Card registration. She was there to sign the form.

    In a census (at least the older ones), the census taker visits the household and lists the names and information for the people in a given household on that particular day.

    Joan told me about Albert losing his money in the Harris Tavern. It was during the Great Depression when they opened it and when it was closed -- a bad time for businesses.

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  4. From my half-sister, Joan Harris Foynes: I am so impressed !!! Thank you for putting so much work and time into this project --it does bring back so many memories.
    Did I ever mention that people called 'Albert' Harris 'Red" referring to his hair ? On another subject he used 'snuff' --not knowing what it was I never really wanted to go too near him --Daddy would say" give Baba ( that's what I called him) a hug and kiss " --I did-- grudgingly-- I was only a toddler at the time. The photo of Mimi was in Old Orchard ME --the apron was a staple probably home made as she was always cooking something
    I will treasure all this information you have acquired --thanks.

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  5. Also from Joan: Maybe it was chewing tobacco, not snuff.

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