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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Orphaned in Towanda and Separated for 32 Years

Benjamin and Elizabeth Jameson didn't seem to make much of an impact in Towanda -- Benjamin's death was noted with a small notice that he died leaving five children and he was buried in Hudson in February in 1912. Elizabeth Kelly Jameson died two years later and no notice of her death was made in the Pantagraph at all. They were transplants from Kentucky, not local people when they died. The five children were placed with families in Towanda or with relatives further east -- only the location of the three daughters can be verified: Lucy Lee was placed with John and Susan Barnard, a couple in their late fifties in Money Creek. She was noted in the census as an "orphan taken to raise." Marie was taken in by Spencer and Anabel Cary, a farming couple in Normal. She was simply noted as a "ward" in the 1920 census. Mamie, born in 1911, was taken in by Albert and Gertrude Michael, who never had any other children. She was noted as their ward in the census in 1920 and as their foster daughter in 1930.

The location of the two sons could not be confirmed, but it seems that they were sent to relatives in Kentucky. The photo of the family was accompanied only with the note that the siblings had not seen each other for 32 years! Obviously, the sisters had seen each other often, because they lived in somewhat close proximity to each other.

Lucy Lee married Wayne Messer of Kappa, Marie married Noble Ferguson of Towanda and Mamie married Lyle Feathers. Marie and Lucy continued to live in McLean County until retirement and Mamie lived in Decatur. Although wedding announcements appeared in the Pantagraph for Mamie and Marie, in neither announcement were the sisters mentioned as being present or part of the wedding party.

Later in life Mrs. Marie Ferguson travelled to Africa on a church mission and was injured in a jeep accident in the bush, two hundred miles from her place of residence there. She had a painful recovery and had to be returned to Illinois to be placed in a cast. She had to stay in the hospital for three months with a fractured back. Regardless, she returned to Africa for another mission trip in 1969 to work at a children's school in Kenya. She returned yet again two years later.

Unfortunately, the small article regarding the reunion of the brothers and sisters that appeared on September 14, 1944 did not indicate why the siblings had been separated so long, but later notices in the paper did indicate that the brothers visited Marie Ferguson again. The original "story" was picked up by the UP and reprinted, although without the photo, in other papers. The names are as follows: Charles Jameson, William Jameson, Marie Jameson Ferguson, Mamie Jameson Feather, and Lucy Jameson Messer.

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