Louisa Mary LEMAY was my great grandmother. I never met her. The only one of my siblings who did, and would remember her, would be Carl and I don’t know how much he’d remember. She died when he was six. He might remember her, but I think the memories would be vague. Mom used to say she was a strong woman who took no nonsense. I like to think she was a lot like Mom.
She had to be strong. She was born 28 February 1861 in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada. She was the daughter of Thomas LEMAY and Celeste DENEAU. She was the middle child of five. I don’t know much about her early life. She married William MCTAGGART November 1881. She had six children, only four of which, lived to adulthood. Child mortality was high at the turn of the last century. First born, was Jennie, who died at the age of sixteen, in Detroit. Her death certificate said cerebral spino-meningitis. Louisa saw a lot of tragedy. Three of her children didn’t even make it to their teens. William Garfield was Louisa’s first born and he died within a few months of his birth. Her daughter Frankie died as a child. Alice Belle died at the age of eight years, cause of death was not known. My grandfather, Neil, his brother William and sisters, Gertrude and Helen all survived to adulthood. While my grandfather died when I was a baby, I did know the other four.
Most of what I know about her is second-hand from my mother, because her grandmother raised her. Her own mother left the picture when my mother was three. My mother, her dad, and my uncle Sheldon moved in with her grandmother, her father’s mother. It was apparently a full house as my grandmother also housed another of her children and his family, as well as her daughter’s family all living together. Louisa was a strong-minded woman, according to my mother and she didn’t take any nonsense from anyone. You toed the line in her house.
Life had made her that way. My mother said that Louisa had lost two children young. As I started doing research into her family, I learned that there were more children than my mother knew about. My mother only heard about Jennie and William Garfield. My mother remembered her grandmother talking of how Garfield was born without a tongue. He died in infancy, but I was not able to confirm that. Two other daughters were a surprise to my mother, she hadn’t heard of either Alice Bell or Frankie. They are hard to track down; all I know of them are their birth and death records. They do not appear in any census with the family, so they were under ten years old when Louisa lost them. That had to be hard.
Louisa was born in the horse and buggy era and lived to see the dawn of the atomic age. She saw World War I, the electrification of the world, the coming of affordable cars, the Great Depression, and World War II. She buried four children before adulthood and then buried her husband in 1930. My mother remembered that she’d gone to nurse him in his final days. They were either divorced or estranged, but when he was dying, she went to nurse him. That was the kind of woman she was. She died 29 December 1951 in Detroit, Michigan and was buried in Holy Sepulcher cemetery.