• Kristin Wenger

Occupation: None (#52Ancestors week 19: Mother’s Day)

Fourteen children. Each.


No multiple births. Fourteen labors and deliveries each (with no pain medication or hospital, mind you).


Almost a quarter century either pregnant or nursing a baby.


How many meals cooked and served?

How many dishes washed?

How many outfits sewn?

How many loaves of bread baked?

How many loads of laundry?

How many floors swept?

How many sleepless nights?

How many feverish foreheads kissed?

How many prayers prayed?


And yet, both of these women were repeatedly recorded as “occupation: none.”[1]

I beg to differ.


Mary E. (Gross) Millhouse (18 May 1881- 28 August 1966) [2]



Annie B. (Graybill) Landis (8 Jan 1873 – 16 June 1956) [3]


Chart showing my relationship to these two great-great grandmothers (highlighted) [4]


I have to admit, I am seeing progress in my yearlong quest to record and share my family history through the #52Ancestors challenge. It’s only May, and I have already written about more than half of my great-great grandparents. (Check out all of my previous stories here).


In honor of Mother’s Day, I chose to write about both of these women because their lives took very similar paths defined by family, farm, and faith.


FAMILY:

This table comparing my two great-great grandmothers illustrates a common pattern for women of this era and faith. They often married in their late teens or very early twenties, immediately started a family, and had many babies before their fertility declined in their forties. [5] [6] [7]


Coincidentally, both of their oldest children were girls named Ella![8] However, I noticed one key difference in their families of origin.


Annie’s mother, Lydia, died just two and a half months after Annie's first baby was born.[9] As a brand-new mother, Annie must have sorely missed her mother’s advice and helping hands with her babies.


Mary, in contrast, experienced overlapping generations as her mother, Mattie, gave birth to her final child (Mary’s youngest sister) less than one month after Mary gave birth to her first.[10] This meant an aunt and a niece grew up almost like twin sisters!


Annie and Mary, with 28 children between them, lost only one to a childhood illness. This fact is quite remarkable since, in 1900, 30 percent of all deaths in the United States occurred in children less than five years of age compared to just 1.4 percent in 1999.[11]


Annie’s eighth child, Barbara, died at age five of enterocolitis.[12] Her closest sibling was my great grandma Lizzie, 18 months younger and not quite four years old when she lost her big sister.[13]


Lizzie (Landis) and Albert Hornberger

She died less than two years before I was born and I regret that I did not get to meet her.

Lizzie was #9 out of 14 children of Alvin and Annie (Graybill) Landis. [14]



My great grandpa Lloyd Millhouse holding me, 1977

I have many fond memories of him from later in my childhood, but this photo is my favorite.

He was #6 out of 14 children of Christ and Mary (Gross) Millhouse [15]


FARM:

Both Annie and Mary were married to lifelong farmers. The Landis family’s farm was in Ephrata Township, while the Millhouses farmed in Manor Township.[16] I can only imagine the never-ending tasks of a farm and fourteen children! It’s also worth noting that both women, but especially Mary who was about 10 years behind Annie in raising her children, supported large families during the Great Depression.


Mary smiles broadly while working in the tobacco field


Don't you love this photograph? Despite the labor-intensive farm work and the ceaseless demands of fourteen children, Mary exudes joy. I’d like to believe that I inherited a little bit of her work ethic. My husband will be the first to tell you that I love to work and find relaxing a difficult proposition. Leisure time was probably something of a foreign concept to Annie and Mary. Maybe I was just born a century too late!


FAITH:

Both of these great-great grandmothers were members of the Mennonite Church. Annie was part of the extremely conservative Pike Mennonite Church. Her Graybill and Brubaker ancestors were leaders of a group who became pioneers in Juniata and Snyder Counties after a schism with Groffdale Mennonite in Lancaster County.[17] Groffdale is where the majority of my husband’s ancestors worshipped and were buried.[18]


Annie's simple gravestone in Pike Mennonite Cemetery


Mary was a member of Mountville Mennonite Church and was buried at the large Millersville Mennonite Cemetery.[19]

Mary’s obituary, found in a family file at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society [20]


I have so many questions I would love to ask my great-great grandmothers Annie and Mary. What was motherhood like a century ago?

What was the prevailing wisdom about:

  • Pregnancy

  • Childbirth

  • Nursing

  • Baby care

  • Health

  • Nutrition

  • Education

  • Faith

  • Chores and work

  • Screen time (just kidding, but oh, how technology is a mixed blessing and curse in parenting these days! Isn't it amazing how something that did not even exist 100 years ago is possibly the most angst-inducing factor in our families today?)

There are so many things that have changed, but I believe the heart of a loving mother - the essence of parenting - is still the same. Annie and Mary may not have left many records, but they left a legacy through their children, grandchildren, and now several generations beyond. Their task was great and they received no money or fame, but I believe they received a far greater reward.


“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:23
“Her children arise and call her blessed.” Proverbs 31:28



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Sources:

[1] For one example, see "United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHQ4-27S : accessed 8 May 2018), Mary in Christ Millhouse household, Mountville, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 100, sheet 6A, line 23, family 133, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2058; FHL microfilm 2,341,792.


[2] Pennsylvania Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 80514, Mary Eshleman Millhouse, 28 August 1966, Lancaster County; viewed at "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966," digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2018); citing Series 11.90: Death Certificates 1906 -1966, Record Group 11: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg.


[3] Pennsylvania Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 54260, Annie B. Landis, 16 June 1956, Lancaster County; viewed at "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966," digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2018); citing Series 11.90: Death Certificates 1906 -1966, Record Group 11: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg.


[4] “Pedigree View” for Josh Alexa Nathan Wenger Family Tree, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/51499160/family?fpid=13210595478: accessed 8 May 2018).


[5] For Annie, see "Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 8 May 2018), Alvin A. Landis and Annie B. Grabill, 21 July 1891. For Mary, see "Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 8 May 2018), Christ Millhouse and Mary Gross, 27 June 1901.


[6] For Annie’s first child, see Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 May 2018), memorial page for Ella G. Landis Martin (28 Feb 1892–11 Mar 1977), Find A Grave Memorial no. 57966727, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269). For Mary’s first child, see "United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JYQ3-7J7 : 20 May 2014), Ella Metzger, born 14 August 1901, died March 1983; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).


[7] For Annie’s last child, see Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 May 2018), memorial page for Luke G. Landis (23 Jun 1915–15 Aug 1994), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58080294, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269) . For Mary’s last child, see Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 May 2018), memorial page for Melvin G. Millhouse (10 Feb 1924–15 Jul 2000), Find A Grave Memorial no. 157103520, citing Laurel Hill Memorial Gardens, Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by James Robert Haug (contributor 47644326) .


[8] For Landis children, see Ella Mae Landis, Arlene Good, and Janet Eberly, Alvin & Annie Landis Family Tree 1873 to 2008 (self-published, 2008), 2; verified by author’s research. For Millhouse children, see unidentified creator, hand-drawn Christ and Mary Millhouse family tree chart, provided to author by her grandmother Doris (Millhouse) Hornberger, granddaughter of Christ and Mary Millhouse; verified by author’s research.


[9] Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 May 2018), memorial page for Lydia Brubaker Graybill (17 Dec 1851–13 May 1892), Find A Grave Memorial no. 51935830, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269) .


[10] Pennsylvania Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 95687, Emma E McClure, daughter of Harry Gross and Mattie Eshleman, 23 November 1952, Lancaster County; viewed at "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966," digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2018); citing Series 11.90: Death Certificates 1906 -1966, Record Group 11: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg.


[11] Marilyn J. Field and Richard E. Behrman, editors, When Children Die: Improving Palliative and End-of-Life Care for Children and Their Families (Washington (DC): National Academies Press), 2003; accessed at National Center for Biotechnology Information (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK220806/ : 8 May 2018); citing CDC, 1999a; NCHS, 2001a.


[12] Pennsylvania Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 4319, Barbara Landis, 25 January 1909, Lancaster County; viewed at "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966," digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2018); citing Series 11.90: Death Certificates 1906 -1966, Record Group 11: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg


[13] "United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VS28-D4Q : 19 May 2014), Lizzie Hornberger, Jun 1975, born 28 March 1905; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).


[14] Ella Mae Landis, Arlene Good, and Janet Eberly, Alvin & Annie Landis Family Tree 1873 to 2008 (self-published, 2008), 2; verified by author’ research.


[15] Unidentified creator, hand-drawn Christ and Mary Millhouse family tree chart, provided to author by her grandmother Doris (Millhouse) Hornberger, granddaughter of Christ and Mary Millhouse; verified by author’s research.


[16] For Landis location and occupation, see "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGZH-DCZ : accessed 8 May 2018), Alvin Landis household, Ephrata, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 47, sheet 10B, family 214, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1353; FHL microfilm 1,375,366. For Millhouse location and occupation, see "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG7M-J3M : accessed 8 May 2018), Christian Millhouse household, Manor, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 113, sheet 9B, family 196, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1355; FHL microfilm 1,375,368.


[17] Ira D. Landis, "Pike Mennonite Church (Hinkletown, Pennsylvania, USA)," Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Pike_Mennonite_Church_(Hinkletown,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=83962 : accessed 2 May 2018). Also, Harold S. Bender, “Grabill (Graybill, Grebiel, Kraybill, Krabill, Krebill, Krehbiel, Krahenbühl, Crayenbühl) family,” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Grabill_(Graybill,_Grebiel,_Kraybill,_Krabill,_Krebill,_Krehbiel,_Krahenb%C3%BChl,_Craenb%C3%BChl)_family&oldid=141142 : accessed 2 May 2018).


[18] Groffdale Mennonite Brick Church Cemetery, 168 North Groffdale Road, Leola, Lancaster County, PA; personally visited with Arthur D. Wenger, eighth generation descendant of Christian Wenger (1727 immigrant) born on the homestead farm, 1 April 2001.


[19] “Mrs. Millhouse, Mountville, Dies,” undated clipping, ca. 1966, from unidentified newspaper; Millhouse family file, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Lancaster Pennsylvania. Also, Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 May 2018), memorial page for Mary E Millhouse (1881–1966), Find A Grave Memorial no. 59048329, citing Millersville Mennonite Cemetery, Millersville, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Donna Butler Sheaffer (contributor 46777676) .

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