Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chapter II - Biography of Annie Lawrence Edmands

Annie Lawrence Edmands or Annie L Edmands Biography

This is part of a biography of my Great Grandmother, Annie Lawrence Edmands (“Gram”). It is titled only “Chapter II” so I assume there is a Chapter I which I don’t have and perhaps others. It was written, by Marcia W Dane, Annie’s daughter. I received it in an envelope that is addressed to Sarah Lucy Dane postmarked Apr 10, 1973. I’m not sure if that is when it was written.

Chapter II

Gram’s childhood was quite different from Gramp’s. She was the only child of a twice widowed mother living first in Newton, Mass and then, during Gram’s school days in Portland, Maine.

Gram’s father, Farwell James Edmonds (sic) was the ninth of ten children who grew up in Newton. The family were well to do and socially prominent. They owned a large estate called Woodfords. In 1877 Farewell fell in love with an married Marcia Winter Anderson, the middle of three energetic and determined sisters. All accounts indicate and Gram claims that Marcia was the better of the family – lovely to look at, gay and charming and outgoing and kind. Gram says her mother was always at the center of any gathering. Gram does not say, but I feel certain, that her mother possessed the determination to have things her way which was a chief characteristic of her sisters Annie and Frances. Both my great aunts were active in my childhood and from time to time I witnessed the demanding ways in which they controlled their grown children.

On September 11, 1878 Gram was born. Within a year or two Farwell became ill. Before Gram was six, her father died. Gram remembers nothing about him. It must have been some lingering disease like TB or cancer. Gram remembers living in the big house at Woodfords with five uncles. When she was three or four each day at noon she had to put on a clean dress and go to the dining room for dinner with them. Her mother was very strict about her manners. In those days children were to be seen and not heard. One day while the family waited for dinner to be served, Gram became angry and impatient, she doesn’t remember why, and began to cry. Her mother commanded her to stop and Gram threw a tantrum with all the uncles watching. Her mother grabbed a pitcher of ice water and poured it all over Gram. When Gram told the story, she said “That’s how Mother cured me of tantrums. I never had another.” I suspect that incident shows how Gram was disciplined and why she grew up thinking she isn’t as smart and as attractive as most people. Gram stood much in awe of her uncles with the exception of Uncle Lawrence, who is the only one I remember at all. Perhaps her mother did too. It certainly wasn’t a normal life for a gay young matron and a kindergarten child. So it must have been a great relief when Mr. Spring, one of Marcia’s old beaus came and carried them both off to live in Portland.

Gram soon made friends in school and was very happy. Although she had trouble with spelling and arithmetic, she did all right in school – a private day school.

Mr. Spring and his sister, Miss Louisa, were fond of Gram and she of them. Unfortunately he was not a good businessman and lost a considerable amount of the family fortune and two or three years after marrying, he died, leaving Gram and her mother without much money. They lived in two rooms in a boarding house. Marcia made the best of the situation and kept her charm and gaiety. Gram remembers that her own boy friends had as good if not better time talking with her mother as with herself (which increased Gram’s shyness with strangers). All the same, Gram’s high school days were full of fun. She belonged to a large “crowd” of boys and girls who did everything together. Gram tells of bicycling, swimming, tennis, dancing and dramatics, picnics on the beach in summer, sugaring off, and singing in their homes in winter.

It wasn’t customary to go steady by couples in those days, but they had special beaus and when Gram looks at old photos, she picks out the boys she liked best.

Those happy days ended with graduation and Gram faced one of the major disappointments of her life. Her dearest friends went to Smith College. If she had gone, her mother would have been alone and she was not very well. Besides that, it would have been difficult to manage financially. So instead of going to college, Gram and her mother moved from Portland to a boarding house on Beacon Hill in Boston. Gram attended a “finishing school” which she says was a complete waste of time and money. Her only gains were friendship with two girls, one of whom lived in Lexington. It was that friendship with Elsie Tyler which later led to Gram and Gramp settling there.

Another result of the two years in Boston was the strengthening of Gram’s allegiance to the Episcopal Church. All their lives the Andersons were church goers and when Gram was born, her mother wrote the great Episcopal Preacher Phillips Brooks for a blessing for her baby girl. I have the letter which he wrote in reply.

Living in Boston Gram and her mother had a rare opportunity to worship with leading clergy at St. Paul’s Trinity and Emmanuel Churches.

While Gram was in school, her mother spent many days in Newton where her mother lived with older sister Annie. Long before Annie had married a nice ineffectual man, Charles Lord, whom she bossed in fine style. Since he wasn’t good at it, she provided a generous share of their income by running a boarding house and later by dealing in antiques.

So after finishing school, Gram and her mother went to live with the Lords in Newton. Gram’s mother’s illness turned out to be cancer and in 1901 she died in Newton at the age of 52. Gram does not talk of how hard it was for her to help care for her mother. What she does say is that she felt all alone in the world. Aunt Annie and her daughter Bess were good to her and introduced her to their friends, but they weren’t Gram’s friends and she longed for the old Portland crowd.

One of the Anderson men who ran a hotel in Florida in winter and the Mt. Pleasant House in NH in summer, invited Gram to spend Christmas with him. Gram said it wasn’t like Christmas at all. Except Uncle John she didn’t know a soul and when they had their tree, everyone received presents and she didn’t get even one. She was never so miserable in her whole life. She never went back to Florida. But she does remember several happy summer visits with Uncle John in New Hampshire before her mother became ill. Her mother encouraged the young people to have fun. One Elsie Burke became a good friend and has told me how Gram’s mother entertained Elsie’s too strict father so she could join in the fun.

As you will learn in the next chapter, Gram had already met Gramp at Bowdoin and Gramp had begun to call on her at Newton before her mother died. You can imagine how glad Gram was to get back to Newton in January 1902.

Before we go on I’ll give a quick run down of Gram’s cousins as far as I know them. Besides Bess, Aunt Annie had two sons, Robert and J. Anderson. Rob, who died many years ago and left no children was a big, roly poly man – jolly and full of fun. He was a perfect Santa for the family Christmas parties when I was a little girl. I never really knew Andy, but had a teen crush on his second son, Bill, a well-built handsome Harvard student, when Gramp took me to see him play baseball. Today I only know that he lives in Lakeland Florida and has two daughters and a son, all grown.

Bill and her brothers, Jack and Philip Lord, owned and operated a successful tannery near Boston. When wages became too high to be profitable they were smart enough to sell the Massachusetts plant and move the operation to Maine. When modern synthetics reduced profits, they closed out with enough money to retire, when they were comparatively young. Jack and Florence and their daughter Ann live in York Harbor, Maine. Ann is very high strung and has been in sanitoriums more than half of her adult life. At the moment she is at home, planning to give music lessons.

Philip and his wife Priscilla Sawyer live on Marblehead Neck. They have two grown daughters. Priscilla has written several books about herbs, antiques and customs of Christmas, Easter, etc.

The boy’s sister Eleanor is married and has children. I don’t even know her married name or where near Washington DC they live.

Writing of her reminds me that I have not spoken of Windham where Gram often visited and joined in Anderson family gatherings. Windham is a rural community about 20 miles from Portland where the family owned a large tract of farm and wood land. There is a huge old house which in the old days had no conveniences. Gram tells of being scared to death when she had to go to the out-house at night. Of course, the boys especially Bob played all kinds of tricks on her. They had great times in the barn and orchards. In a grove behind the house is the family cemetery where her mother and Aunt Annie are buried. Across the street is another farm house where the family who ran the farm for them lived. Today Windham is just a summer place and Eleanor’s is the only family which spends much time there.

When I was growing up, Gram tried to take us for a day at Windham each summer. When I read Miss Alcott’s book, Little Men, I pictured the house at Windham as the Baer’s plumfield.

Besides those already mentioned, Windham parties included Bess, her husband Charles Beasom and their only child, Betty, who is about 15 years younger than Gram. They lived in Newton where I enjoyed visiting them as a girl. Betty was as independent and stubborn as her aunts and she loved a good time. She taught social dancing until she made a major mistake in marrying a naval officer. He was a fast character and there was a divorce before the year was out. A couple of years later she married another Annapolis man, Ralph Stephan. They had no children. After a few years her father died and Betty lived with her mother while Stephan completed his 20 years. Both women liked old houses and furniture. They bought a cottage at Kennebunk Beach where they spent a month each summer. Betty bought other cottages and amused herself very profitably by furnishing them tastefully and differently in old New England style. Then she rented or sold them. When Bess died and Steph retired, Betty and Steph bought an old house and settled in Kennebunkport. Now Steph is dead, the beach cottages and the old house have been sold. Betty and her dog Heather live in a smaller modern house with the beautiful family heirlooms. She smokes and coughs, enjoys her cocktails and sometimes uses unprintable words Navy style and she is kind and considerate of the ill and old. Since Gram went to Fairlawn three years ago, Betty has sent her a post card or a note every single week!

Aunt Fan (Frances Anderson) married an up and coming lawyer Charles Davis who became a judge. They had five children. One school vacation when I was 10 or 11 years old, I visited the family. What I had anticipated as an exciting week turned out to be the one time in my life that I was desperately homesick. The two older boys Thornton and John, who was in high school, were strangers to me as was the oldest girl, Mary. Marcia and Gardner were a bit older than I and I had played with and liked them. A couple of hours after my arrival, John and Gardner got into a big argument. John chased Gardner all over the first floor, finally fell over something and broke his arm. Aunt Fan, without getting at the cause of the quarrel, ordered Gardner to bed without supper and of course made considerable moan over having the arm set. Mary who became a trained nurse, took John’s part. Marcia and I thought John got what he deserved and that Gardner was unjustly punished. I thought Aunt Fan was very unfair. The whole thing ruined my visit. The interesting thing is that it turned out to be a prophecy of the family relationships.

Thornton who took no part in the whole thing went to Texas where he spent his life in big ranch deals, married late in life and had no children. John was indeed Aunt Fan’s and Mary’s favorite, very stuck on himself and selfish. He married and had four or five children of whom I have not kept track.

Gardner, who was Gram’s Godson, visited us from time to time and was a delightful guest. He graduated from Annapolis and became a commander. His Texas born wife and two children were with him in the Phillipines when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Gardner was not hurt. But he was at sea and the experience and anxiety were too much for Maude. She had to be committed to a mental hospital. Thornton took young Gardner as if he were his own son. Their daughter Maudie came to live in Massachusetts with Marcia who was married and had one son, the same age.

Upon completion of his 20 years in the Navy, Gardner brought Maude out of the sanitorium and set up housekeeping with her in Vicksburg. As long as he was with her Maude was manageable, but one never knew quite what she might say or what would upset her. She enjoyed riding and every year, they came north to spend a month or more always staying in familiar motels. Gardner had infinite patience with her and was thoughtful of us all. When he discovered he had cancer, he committed Maude for life to a fine mental institution in the south. She died there sometime after he had died. So the Davis men of Gram’s generation are gone.

Young Gardner is happily married and has several children and lives in Georgia.

Maudie is also happily married and lives in Belmont near us. They, the James Terrys, have a natural son, Jim and two adopted children, Mark and Beth, in grade school.

Mary took care of Aunt Fan through several difficult years of growing old after the judge died. She now lives alone in an apartment in Marblehead. In her late 70s or perhaps 80, she is a lonely soul who misses John the most.

Tother Marcia, as we call her, lives in a huge old house in Hopkinton, NH, where her husband, Francis Cunningham, committed suicide when growing old became too much for him. She also has an apartment attached to Maudie’s home in Belmont. Gram is very fond of her and is always pleased when she comes down. Her son, Dick, lives in New York City with his wife and two little girls. Having inherited his mother’s talent, Dick paints saleable pictures and teaches painting.

Of the Edmonds cousins, I keep in touch with only one – Frances Clark Thurber, who lives in Natick, Mass. Her mother Fanny Edmonds, and her sisters Helen and Rebecca, neither of whom are living were the only members of the family with whom Gram kept in touch.

So, out of all the many cousins of her own generation, Gram has only two left, Mary and Tother Marcia, both quite a bit younger.

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