Mary Douthat as a Girl
Mary Douthat, about 1903
Mary Douthat (15) was born in Wythe Co., Virginia but raised in Bluefield, West Virginia. Her family relocated there shortly after her birth in 1889, and her paternal grandparents also lived in Bluefield. Runs of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph from shortly after 1900 available online provide a wealth of social notes for Bluefield that reveal a lot about her youth and background when taken in conjunction with census records.
Charles Edgar Douthat (30) (Ed) married Nannie Elizabeth Weiser (31) (Bettie or 'Mud') in 1887. They were both from the Valley of Virginia, not far from Bluefield. He was a paper hanger in business with his brother at the turn of the century, but this business was dissolved in 1902 (when CE was 37 years old) "by mutual consent, C.E. Douthat retiring. The business will be continued by W.F. Douthat." He continues to be listed as a paperhanger in census records, but his alcoholism obviously interferred with his ability to support his family.
Ed's father Charles Fletcher Douthat (60) died in 1898 and Mary (Fletcher Foote) (61), his mother, tried to sell their "large 8 room" house with out buildings on Mercer Street in 1901, advertising that it was a "Good location for boarding house and hotel." Ed and Bettie and their family lived with her, but she remained the head of household. She advertised a lost cow the next year, so apparently was still controlling the property then. In 1910 we find both generations still living together on Mercer Street along with 8 boarders. Ed is now listed as head of household, renting the property (presumably from his mother). Bettie was running a boarding house with the help of one live-in servant and Mary.
Numerous social notes show that Bettie Douthat with her children Mary and Frank were members of the Bland Street Methodist Church. Mary was a "Rose Bud" and was on the Christmas program committee for the Bland Street Sunday School in 1903. Bettie was involved in the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, and served on the finance committee when the church undertook to build a $20,000 church building in 1902.
Mary is often listed as a guest at the many parties parents arranged for their teenagers. "Surprise" parties were all the rage, "The Week in Society" column reported. "Fortune telling, music and pinning tails on a donkey made the hours fly merrily." "On Friday evening a trolley ride to Graham was arranged by Mr. W. A. Bodell. After a delightful ride they indulged in a regular moonlight picnic with the usual games and unusually generous lunch baskets." Starting in 1905, Hurst Becker, whom Mary would marry in 1911, appears often on the same guest lists.
Performances and music were regularly reported, and Mary participated. She was a Feather Dancer to Powhatan in 1903, and in 1905 a member of the chorus in H.M.S. Pinafore, the inaugural performance of the new Choral Society.
Mary Douthat studied voice at Sullins College, which she attended (for 2 years?), graduating in 1908. In 1910 she is listed as a bookkeeper, and she married in 1911. By 1920 she was separated from her husband. She and her 2 year old son lived with her parents, although she is still listed as "married." She was a working mother employed as a bookkeeper. Her brother, Frank, also still lived at home. He was an alcoholic like his father.
Mary Becker would remarry shortly before her 40th birthday to R.L. Burgess (14), for whom she worked as a bookkeeper. He was an electrician, doing contracting work and running a retail store. He was from a large family full of women. His sisters were educated and his mother was a very strong woman. (His sisters were educated as teachers and nurses. Two of them homesteaded together in Montana in about 1905.) Certainly a tall, assertive, independent divorcee would not have expected to remarry at this point in her life.
Mary Douthat Burgess insisted she had no middle name, but one note in July 1905 reports that Mary Elmira Douthat gave a vocal recital. Mary was a serious voice student, and 'Elmira' was the name of Mary's maternal grandmother, and so she must have decided to drop this name at some point.
These families were small businessmen and craftsmen, unlike almost all of the rest of our ancestors who were freehold farmers, tenant farmers and occasionally the owners of modest plantations. Mary's Douthat grandfather was a saddle and harness maker. Her Weiser grandfather was a wheelwright and carpenter. The picture we build from the passing references we have may not be definitive, but it is tantelizing.
Mud was a strong, very hard working woman without a doubt. Somehow she managed to raise her children and educate them in the middle class manner, and provided them with "advantages". Just as her mother-in-law lived in her household and helped raise her children, she would live with her daughter and son-in-law and help raise her grandchildren, Barbara Lee and Mary Foote Burgess.
The men in this story appear less clearly. That Ed Douthat was an alcoholic we know from word of mouth, and Martin Weiser (62), Mud's father, was a semi-disabled Civil War veteran, whose wife Elmira (Jane Creger) also worked in a time when most wives are simply listed in census records as "at home" or "keeping house." This was probably necessitated by his limited earning ability.
In 1880 Elmira had 5 children, 6 to 14 years old, and is listed as a 'mantua maker' (a maker of women's outer garments). Her aunt Ruhanna Crigger, listed as a seamstress, is present in the household, following the pattern we see above of an older female relative sharing the household burdens. She died early, at age 38. Her two daughters would both marry within 2 years. They probably ran the household until then, but when they married their youngest brother was still only 13.
6. Martin Weiser (62), son of James Weiser (124) and Thersa [--?--] (125) was born on 3 Nov 1837 in Baden, Germany. He immigrated in about 1857 and lived in Wythe, Virginia until at least 1908. He married Elmira Jane Creger on July 4, 1865 in Wythe, VA. He died on 26 Feb 1917 probably in Bluefield, Mercer Co., WV.
He served in the Confederate Army in 1861, being discharged after being injured in the Battle of Manassas in July.
Martin was employed as wagon maker, although it is unclear how much he worked after his injury.
7. Martin married Elmira Jane Creger (63) about 1865. She was born about 1842, probably in Wythe County, VA, perhaps the daughter of Joel Creiger (126). She died on 6 Sep 1885 in Wytheville, Wythe Co., VA.
CENSUS: see images-
1860, Wythe Co., Va. Elmira as a servant
1860 Martin in Wytheville, Wythe Co., Va as an apprentice wagon maker (listed as Wise)
1870, Fort Chisewell Twsp., Wythe, VA (Wiser)
1880, Wytheville, Wythe, VA (Main St., Wiser)
1890, lost records
1900, Wytheville, Wythe Co., VA - Martin only, boarder
1910, Bluefield, Mercer Co., WV - living with son Frank H.
alt. spelling: Elmira CREIGER
They had the following children:
i. Mary Theresa Weiser, b. 22 Apr. 1866, d. ? ; called Tracey m. April 19, 1887 Morris Floyd, b. abt. 1865, d. 18 Jan 1924© 2005 Footie Lund
ii. Nannie Elizabeth Weiser (31), b. 16 Jan. 1868, d. 1951
iii. Charles Byron Weiser, b. 6 Mar 1870, d. August 1942; m. Carrie Webb Collins 1874-1955
iv. John M.K. Weiser, b. 29 Nov. 1871, d. November 08, 1911
v. Frank H. Pasiott Weiser, b. 23 Jan. 1874, d. November 16, 1922; m. Malissa Peoples, b. c. 1878