Maternal Branches in the Family Tree: Nellie F. Tarbox (1856-1927)

With today’s post, we move to the 2X great grandmothers in the maternal branch of my family tree.

Nellie F. Tarbox was born on 28 June 1856 in Robbinston, Washington, Maine, just down the road from Calais, the fourth child and third daughter born to George Rogers Tarbox and Mary Elizabeth Scripture.

Nellie’s life was decidedly different than those of the Rusyn side of my family as her father was the first businessman, as opposed to farmer, in my family and they lived a very middle class lifestyle.

All wasn’t rosy for the family, though. Nellie’s father, George, had married (1) Deborah Elizabeth Grover, who died of an “inflammation of the stomach,” aged 25 years, just a year after they married.

George married (2) Mary Elizabeth Scripture a year and a half after Deborah’s death. George and Mary buried their first daughter when she was ten months old, their first son when he was ten years old and Mary herself passed away away when she was only 39 years old.

Nellie, then, lost her mother when she was only nine years old and her father never remarried.

Although Nellie died 25 years before my birth, I feel like I knew her, for several reasons. First, my cousin Charles not only knew her (Nellie was his grandmother), but his own mother told him many stories about Nellie, which he shared with me. Second, I have a couple of photographs of Nellie, so I know what she looked like.

I also know many more facts about her life. One fact I have never learned though is about her name. She is always recorded as “Nellie” and sometimes as “Nellie F.”  I have never been able to determine if Nellie was a nickname for, Say, Eleanor or Helen, nor have I ever discovered what her middle initial stood for. I suspect Frances, as Nellie Frances seems to have been a somewhat common girl’s name at the time, but I don’t know for sure.

As I mentioned, Nellie’s father was a businessman. He, with a couple of partners, bought up the Red Beach Granite Quarry, which produced granite used in the construction of public buildings.

George even dabbled in the maritime trades, as he commissioned a schooner, during the Civil War, named the Nellie Tarbox, which sailed up and down the East Coast, all the way south to Cuba and back.

Nellie began life in Robbinston, but in the 1860s, the family moved into the city of Calais. Nellie and her siblings attended school, although the highest grade she completed is unknown. I have a letter she wrote to her son-in-law Perce which demonstrates legible cursive with some spelling errors (e.g. seams for seems). From that, I’d guess she completed some elementary school, perhaps 4th or 5th grade.

Nellie’s Signature in a Wedding Guest Book, 1915

Nellie married Calvin Segee Adams, as his second wife, on 1 February 1875 in Calais, Washington, Maine. Nellie was only 18 years old and Calvin was 13 years older than her. One of the stories that has been passed down is Nellie’s answer when asked why she married Calvin – “Well, there weren’t many men around [after the Civil War.] I have to wonder, too, if Nellie was ready to leave housekeeping in her father’s home. She had three younger brothers and her only sister, Elizabeth, had married in 1871.

In any case, Nellie became a mother upon marriage as Calvin had a four year old daughter, Martha Lurene, called Lulu, by his first wife and Nellie gave birth to her first child, my great grandfather, on 11 January 1877. Her second child, my great grand aunt Vera Pearl, wasn’t born until ten years later on 18 September 1887.

Child of Calvin Segee Adams and Martha Maria Tillinghast:

1. Martha Lurene, aka Lulu, born 8 July 1870, Calais, Washington, Maine; died 14 April 1918, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; married Alton Lynwood Payne, 24 April 1900, Calais, Washington, Maine. They had no children.

Children of Calvin Segee Adams and Nellie F. Tarbox:

1. Charles Edwin, born 11 January 1877, Calais, Washington, Maine; died 24 January 1922, Calais, Washington, Maine; married Annie Maude Stuart, 21 September 1898, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts
2. Vera Pearl, born 18 September 1887, Calais, Washington, Maine; died 29 September 1973, Fall River, Bristol, Massachusetts; married Perce E. Chadwick, 21 June 1916, Calais, Washington, Maine

Nellie had joined the Calais First Congregational Church in 1873 and continued to attend services and events there after her marriage. She settled into life as a mother and housewife, raising Lulu, Charles and Pearl,  while Calvin worked down at the docks building boats.

The Calais Advertiser has not, much to my dismay, yet been digitized, but Nellie made a couple of appearances in the social column of The Bangor News, mostly noting when her son and daughter-in-law or grandchildren came to visit. It is quite remarkable and a testament to her character that Nellie’s siblings, children and, especially her daughter-in-law, Annie Stuart Adams, remained close to her throughout her life.

In fact, Annie inherited one of Nellie’s prized possessions – her rocking chair – which has been passed down through the family to me:

Nammie’s rocking chair, c1958

By all accounts, Nellie, called “Nammie” by her grandchildren and great grandchildren, was a much loved family member. She and Calvin, a trained and well respected boat builder, lived comfortably in Calais and eventually owned a home on tree lined “The Avenue,” e.g. Calais Avenue, which was apparently “the” street on which to live.

Nellie faced more sadness before she passed away. Lulu, who was like her own daughter, married Alton Paine in 1900 and moved to Massachusetts, where Lulu died on 14 April 1918 of endocarditis. She and Alton had no children.

Two of her younger brothers, Horace and Oliver, predeceased her in 1914 and 1924.

On 15 January 1921, husband Calvin died and then, completely unexpectedly, her son Charles came down with a strep infection and died less than 48 hours later on 24 January 1922. [Penicillin wasn’t invented until a few years after Charles died.]

In later life, Nammie enjoyed spending time in the summer with her grandson, Charles, and her great granddaughters, Barbara and Doris.

Charles, Nammie, Doris & Barbara, c1925

By 1927, Nammie was spending part of the cold New England winters down in Boston with her daughter Pearl, son–in-law Perce and grandson Charles. During the warmer months, Nellie lived in Calais, sharing a home with daughter-in-law Annie, and her funeral was held in their home. She died in Boston two days before Christmas on 23 December 1927.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning Selections Read at
Nammie’s Funeral

I suspect that this paper was saved by Nammie’s daughter, my Aunt Pearl, who likely is the person who wrote out these verses to be read.

I know more about Nellie (Tarbox) Adams, by far, than any of my other 2X great grandmothers and I am lucky to be the keeper of several items from her lifetime.









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