Elida Ann Hicks, my great great grandmother, was a strong lady. She had to be to endure the hardships of living in northern Maine in the 1850’s, raising a family, but burying several young children, and then tending the farm after her husband, Charles Augustus Stewart, collapsed and died in the kitchen.
I have no photographs of Elida, which seems strange because I have a trove of old photos from that side of the family and she didn’t pass away until 1914. However, I have a biography of her life and an original land deed with her signature, which I don’t have for many other ancestors so maybe it all evens out.
Elida Ann Hicks was born about 1833 in Buctouche, Kent County, New Brunswick, Canada. She was the daughter of Israel Hicks, whose family left Rhode Island and settled there in the 1760’s, pre-dating the Loyalists, and Abigail Carlisle, daughter of Loyalist Robert Carlisle.
In 1850, intentions were filed in Calais, Maine for a marriage between Elida and her first cousin, Charles Augustus Stewart. I have no copy of their marriage record, but it seems they married soon after the intentions were announced.
Charles Stewart was the son of John Stewart and grandson of Loyalist Walter Stewart from Dutchess County, New York. Charles’ 1822 birth, and that of his siblings, are recorded in the nearby town of Charlotte, Maine. His mother was Catherine Carlisle, sister of Abigail. Apparently, the families had no issue with the cousins marrying.
The town of Meddybemps was enumerated on 14 September 1850 and newlyweds Charles and Elida are found there. They were still there in 1860, but with children Wallace, 8, Felicia, 6, Harry, 3 and Melissa, 1. Felicia was no longer in the household, but toddler William, 2, was. There is a missing piece of the story here, told by gravestones in Meddybemps Cemetery:
Three young children were lost and two of them never appeared in a census. Charles and Elida buried their first daughter, Permelia M. , who was born in December 1852 and died on 22 June 1854. Daughter Felicia was born in September 1854, but died on 22 August 1861. Son Carey M. was born in November 1866 and died 18 Feb 1869. The gravestone was probably placed in 1869 since what appears to be three stones is actually only one.
By 1880, the family had moved one town over to Alexander and the youngest child, my great grandmother Annie Maude, had been born in 1874.
In 1882, their first born child, Wallace, died and was buried at Meddybemps Cemetery near his siblings.
Back in the 1980’s, when I had just started the genealogical hunt, my husband and I traveled to Chatham, Massachusetts to meet Bertha Ella Stuart Eldridge, one of Charles’ and Elida’s grandchildren. Charles died when Bertha was very young, but she knew and spent time with Elida. (If I had thought of it back then, I would have asked her if she knew of any photos of her grandparents.) Bertha wrote a biography about Elida and her daily life, which she shared with me:
I doubt that Elida’s life was much different than any other farmer’s wife of that time period, but it wasn’t an easy life as a young mother.
In 1903, Elida and her children executed a land deed. No one else in the family wanted it – the original document – but I wasn’t about to pass it up. It contains the original signatures of my great grandparents, Charles and Annie Maude Stuart Adams, Annie’s sister, Melissa Stuart Findley, in addition to that of Elida.
During the 1890’s, the spelling of the family name changed from Stewart to Stuart. As the family was literate, I thought that a bit strange and asked Bertha Eldridge about it. She said that Elida was responsible for the spelling change. She felt that “Stuart” appeared much more French looking and so the spelling changed permanently. I’m not sure if husband Charles would have liked this turn of events, but he wasn’t around to voice an opinion!
Elida buried one more child in her lifetime. Son Harry, the father of Bertha Eldridge, died on 20 July 1911 in Meddybemps.
After Charles died, Elida traveled back home to New Brunswick to visit family. She has not been found in the 1900 census and may have vacationed in Canada that summer. One border crossing record has been located for her from 1912.
She might have gone to New Brunswick again in 1913, per information given in her obituary, but no border crossing record has been found for that year. In either the summer of 1912 or 1913, she fell ill and her health declined until 20 February 1914, when she died in Calais.
She left a will dated 16 February 1914, four days before she died. Although she was literate as evidenced by the land deed she signed on 29 May 1903, she was too weak when her will was written and it is signed with her “X.” She died in the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Annie and Charles Adams.
Her obituary appeared in the Calais Advertiser newspaper:
Her funeral was held on 21 Feb 1914 and she was laid to rest next to her husband, her three young children and adult son Wallace at the Meddybemps Cemetery.
In spite of all I know about Elida Ann, I still wish I had just one picture of her. Here are photos of her son, Harry, and daughter Annie as young adults. I like to think that they resembled their parents so I have an idea of what they looked like.