April 7, 2016 – F is for Frances

Frances was my Mom’s mother. She had had a very tough start in life. Her mom died in 1891 after taking in a young man whose mother had died of TB. Turns out he also had TB and gave it to several of the family members. I was told by my mom that her mother had been sent away to stay with relatives to save her from getting the disease. I have no documentation of this but suspect she went to Gananoque to the O’Neill family there.

Later she attended the Notre Dame Convent School and after graduating went to Teachers College and became a teacher. In 1899 she went north to teach in Calabogie. While there her father and sister died. I have read her diary from that year and it really was so hard for her to continue to teach while grieving. My heart broke for her since each time one of them was dying she would get a telegram and by the time she got home they were dead and gone. She never got to say her goodbyes.

At the end of the school year in 1899 the Catholic School in Kingston took her on and she taught there until she married my grandfather. I believe that they gave her a job since her parents had been strong members of the church and they knew she was now head of the household. In the meantime her other sister in 1903 died so she and her brother who was married and an aunt were the only members of her family left.

Frances never talked about her family so we don’t have many stories about them. My mom said her mom just could not bear to answer questions so her children did not know anything about her background.

Grandma had some medical problems and at times would take to her bed. I know in the 1940’s she had back problems that would have her end up in bed but when they were young one has to wonder if it wasn’t just depression over taking her. She even assigned each of her three older daughters to be in charge of one of the three younger ones. My Mom was assigned to taking care of Pat. Before school her job was to get Pat up and dressed and fed breakfast. Then after school she would play with Pat and see that she was cleaned up for dinner and ready for bed. Then her Mother would tuck the girls into bed.

Later in life Frances lost her vision as well as having dementia. My only memory of her really is once when she gave me a dollar to buy myself a treat. We went down to Princess Street and I decided to buy her something with my dollar. I bought a green turtle pin with glass green stones on the turtles back. When I tried to give it to her she had me put it on and told me how wonderful it looked on me and that I should keep it. I still have it today.

Frances’ early life was hard, not financially, but emotionally with all the loss she endured. But she pulled herself together and managed to raise a wonderful family. And took in various relatives when they had no place else to go as they grew older. She also gave her time to the community. She was a very good role model for her time and for her children and for us.


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