Annie Maude (Stewart/Stuart) Adams, 1874-1940

Annie Maude Stewart was the 8th and last child born to Charles Augustus Stewart and his wife, Elida Ann Hicks, in the tiny village of Meddybemps, Washington County, Maine.

Annie was one of my maternal great grandparents, the mother of my grandfather, Vernon Tarbox Adams. Grandmother said that Annie was never terribly forthcoming about her age. Her death certificate gives her date of birth as 24 June 1875.

However, Annie is listed as six years old in the 1880 census, taken in Meddybemps, Washington County, Maine on 19 June. Assuming that the person who reported her age to the enumerator gave her age as of 19 June, then Annie was actually born on 24 June 1873.

Being the youngest child, Annie never knew three of her siblings and a fourth, her oldest brother Wallace, was out of the house and married when Annie was just a little girl.

Her parents, Charles and Elida, had eight known children. It is possible that they lost one or more other children through miscarriages as there are gaps in their children’s years of birth. All were born and died in Meddybemps, unless otherwise stated:

  1. Wallace Newmarch, born May 1852; died 20 April 1882, aged 29 years and 11 months; married Annie M. Seymour. Wallace had one son, John W., born 28 December 1878. John married Luetta O’Brien on 20 October 1901 in Charlotte, New Brunswick, Canada, but they had no children.
  2. Permelia M., born December 1852; died 22 June 1854
  3. Felicia, born September 1854; died 22 August 1861
  4. Henry (Harry) Weston, born 15 June 1858; died 20 July 1911; married Nancy Gilman Aldrich, 6 August 1879, Washington County, Maine. Harry and Nancy had 7 children.
  5. Melissa E., born 4 August 1859; died 11 May 1921, St. Stephen, Charlotte, New Brunswick, Canada; married Frederick Austin Findley, 22 November 1882, Melrose, Middlesex, Massachusetts. They divorced and had no known children.
  6. Carey M., born November 1866; died 18 February 1869
  7. William C., born March 1868; died after 1940 census, possibly Calais, Washington, Maine; married Josephine M. Sadler, 23 September 1896, Washington County, Maine. William and Josie had 7 children.
  8. Annie Maude, born 24 June 1873(?); died 10 September 1940, Ridgewood, Bergen, New Jersey; married Charles Edwin Adams, 21 September 1898, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts

By the time the 1880 census was taken, most of the Stewart children were either out of the house or had passed away. Charles and Elida had three children at home – daughter Melissa, son Will and Annie. Their son Harry, newly wed to 20 year old Nancy Aldrich, also lived at home while Harry taught school.

If you noticed the title of this blog post, I identified Annie as “Stewart/Stuart.” That is because at some point the spelling of the name changed to Stuart. The reason for this change has actually passed down through the family lore – Charles’s wife, Elida, thought Stuart was more French! However, no one seems to know if the spelling changed before Charles died in November 1894 or whether Elida adopted this spelling as a widow.

The 1890 census might have helped in this case, but from 1900 onwards, the family was definitely Stuart.

The 1880 census includes tick marks indicating that Annie and her brother, Will, both attended school that year. Given the tiny size of Meddybemps and the surrounding villages, it appears that older brother Harry would have been their teacher.

A bit off topic, but being a retired teacher, I can’t help but wonder if Will, in particular, being 12 years old, ever tried to give his brother a hard time in the classroom?

Back to Annie – Annie’s childhood was quite bucolic, growing up on a farm, but heading off to school each day. In fact, her growing up years resembled those of 20th century children who lived in rural areas.

That’s not to say Annie didn’t have farm chores to complete each day because she did. Although she never had the opportunity to attend high school (per the 1940 census, she declared that she finished the 8th grade), Annie was a bright lady with good people skills, as later in life she owned a ladies’ accessory shop.

I don’t know for sure, but Annie likely lived at home with her parents and helped on the farm until 24 November 1894, during the afternoon when her father returned uncharacteristically early to the house, said he didn’t feel well, collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack.

Annie’s little niece, Bertha Ella Stuart, daughter of her brother Harry, was living with them at the time and it was Bertha who told me how she had seen her grandfather die suddenly.

I believe that Annie continued to live with her mother on the family farm until it was sold to her sister-in-law, Nancy Aldrich Stuart, for $1.00 and “other valuable consideration.”

I am not going to transcribe this deed, which was the sale of the family land which lay on the Meddybemps-Charlotte town line. I am sharing it because I have inherited this deed, which has the original signatures of Annie, her husband Charles and her mother Elida, all of whom signed in 1903.

This copy of the deed was filed in Suffolk County, Massachusetts in 1905, when Annie’s sister, Melissa, signed off on it.

Annie Stuart Adams as a young woman

Given Annie’s collar adornment, what appears to be full shoulder sleeves on her dress and her short, curly hair plus her appearance, I think this picture might have been taken in the mid 1890s. She turned 21 in 1894. Might this have been a coming-of-age photograph?

There is no one left now to ask how Annie met her husband, Charles Edwin Adams, who lived in the “big city” of Calais, which was about 14 miles away. That was quite a distance in the pre-automobile era.

However, Annie and Charles did meet, fell in love and then scampered off to Worcester, Massachusetts to marry on 21 September 1898.

Annie was three years older than Charles, who had just turned 21 at the beginning of the year. I never could figure out why they went all the way to Massachusetts to get married. I thought maybe Charles’s parents either didn’t like Annie or thought that Charles was too young to marry at 21. Grandmother told me the real reason though – Annie was “in the family way” and they didn’t want their friends to know exactly when they got married.

I never thought to ask Grandmother how long Charles and Annie were in Worcester. Did they just run off to get married there or did they live there and maybe work in the mills for a while? The marriage certificate says they were residents of Worcester.

On 3 May 1899, Charles and Annie welcomed their son, my grandfather, Vernon Tarbox Adams, who was their only child.

Charles and Annie lived comfortably in Calais, Maine. In 1900, they were part of the extended Adams family, living with Charles’s parents, Calvin and Nellie Adams, Charles’s sister, Pearl, and a 12 year old Canadian boarder, Florence Sprague.

Calvin Adams was a boat builder, but son Charles was a cutter in the local shoe factory. Pearl and Florence were both at school during the day so Nellie, Annie and Vernon were at home together.

Nellie was a beloved family member and I’ve always found it interesting that no one has any photos of Annie’s parents, Charles and Elida Stuart (even though Elida lived until 1914) but Annie displayed photos of her deceased husband, Charles, and her deceased mother-in-law, Nellie Tarbox Adams, in her apartment after she was widowed:

Annie in her apartment at 292 Main Street in Calais

In the 1980s, the building looked like this, from the outside:

Annie’s apartment building in 1981

Note: Look at the table with the large mirror behind Annie. There is a photo of Charles on the table to the left of the mirror and a second photo to the right of it. Both pictures are in my inherited collection:

Charles Adams

I can’t account for the whereabouts of Annie’s mother, Elida, in 1900. She had extended family living in New Brunswick, Canada and I suspect that is where she was when the census taker came around. When the Canadian census was taken in 1901, Elida hasn’t been found there either. Perhaps she had returned to Maine by then.

By 1910, Annie and Charles still had a blended household, but this time, they and son Vernon shared their home with Annie’s mother, Elida. Charles was still at work cutting leather in the shoe factory; Annie was still at home with her young son and her mother.

Between the 1910 and 1920 census, Annie’s mother, Elida, died and Vernon graduated from high school, got married and moved to Massachusetts.

Perhaps it was Grandfather’s graduation that precipitated a life change for Annie and Charles or maybe he had enough of cutting shoes, but around this time, Charles began keeping the books for Annie’s ladies’ store on Main Street in Calais:

The building was empty when I visited in 1981, but outside on the street, it looked like this:

Storefront where Annie had her shop

Charles died suddenly of a strep infection on 21 January 1922. I don’t know how long after Annie maintained her business, but she lived in Calais until 1935. Her children, Charles and Pearl, who married Perce Chadwick, came to visit in the summertime. They brought along the grandchildren:

Annie with Charles Chadwick, Doris Adams and Barbara Adams

Doris, my mother, was born in June 1923, so I’d say this was probably the summer of 1925. Charles and Barbara would both have been four years old and my mother two years old.

Annie learned to drive a car and apparently owned one long enough to have at least one accident. Grandmother said that my Aunt Barbara (pictured) was injured in a car accident with Annie driving. Barbara was quite young and it’s possible that the accident happened during the summer of 1924.

Sometime before the 1940 census was taken on 24-25 April 1940, Annie left Maine for the last time and went to live with Grandfather, Grandmother, my aunts and my mom in Ridgewood, Bergen County, New Jersey.

Annie died not long after, on 10 September 1940. Her official cause of death was heart disease, but my grandmother made a curious comment to me. My grandfather died of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in 1968. It was the forerunner of what came to be called mad cow disease and it was quite rare in the middle of the 20th century. Originally, they thought my grandfather had had a stroke, but both mentally and physically, he kept declining over a three month period in the hospital before he died.

Grandmother stated that Annie had had the same physical and mental decline before her death, although she died at home with the family. Given what is known about this horrible disease today – that prions triggering it can lie dormant for years – I wonder if it is possible that she also died from CJD? That’s a question for which I am not likely to ever have an answer, but it’s interesting that Grandmother saw similarities between the two deaths.

Annie’s body was shipped back to Calais and she was buried in the family plot at Calais Cemetery.

NOTE: Here is a good reminder to go back and look over what you already have. My grandfather’s cousin, Charles, was an avid letter writer. Back in the 1980s, when I got hooked on family history, Charles was the one who could answer many of my questions about the Adams branch of the family. His mother was an Adams and he spent many hours taking her to visit various friends and cousins, who would sit and gossip. Charles, thankfully, remembered many of the stories.

In an 11 page letter that Charles wrote to me on 14 December 1979, he had this to say about Annie and Charles Adams:

Charles worked as foreman of the cutting room in the shoe factory in Calais until Annie’s business became so prosperous she needed all the help she could get, and he retired to join her full time in the ladies’ store. He was working here when he died. . . . .

Shortly after he died Annie was involved in an automobile accident with an avaricious couple who sued her for just about everything she owned. (Auto insurance was in its infancy then, and few people bothered with it.) and she lost the big store. She was able to get back in business in a small way after that, but she was getting older and it was never the same.

She had started out fitting ladies’ corsets, for which she was trained by the Gossard Co., in New York. She had the exclusive franchise for the Gossard line in that area of Maine. In later years, the full length foundation garment which had to be carefully fitted  and altered for each customer gave way to the girdles, etc. which needed no fitting, and Annie’s business declined. She also sold embroidery patterns, knitting and crocheting supplies, which also went out of fashion before World War II. . . . . .

When your grandfather graduated (NOTE: from Bliss Electrical School), he went back to Calais with no particular goal in mind. Annie, his mother, always the activist, set him up in the automobile business. She got my father (NOTE: Charles’s father, Perce Chadwick) to go in with him – the idea being that my father would handle sales and Vernon would handle the service end of the business. Unfortunately, by then, the well known makers had already awarded their local dealerships, and all they were able to get was the Columbia car – a make, which (mercifully) is now forgotten. It was a real dog, if the description I have heard of it is to be believed. In any even, the company went bankrupt shortly after my father and Vernon did!

Charles later mentioned that Annie’s health was seriously declining in 1939 and that she was bedridden in 1940.

I am so glad I asked Charles so many questions. Although he was my grandfather’s first cousin, Charles was my mother’s age and didn’t pass away until 2008. All of the stories that Charles passed on to me would be gone today. 

Annie Stuart Adams was a remarkable woman for her time. Not only did she start up and run a successful business for a number of years, she owned a car and drove it – even though it sounds like she wasn’t the best driver!







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