Mary Etta Conner Lemmon — a pillar of strength

This post is part of The Stitches we Leave Behind series.

My mother came from a tradition of creative women on both sides of her family, specifically, her grandmother on her father’s side and her own mother and maternal grandmother.

Mary Etta Conner Lemmon 1880 - 1970

My mom’s paternal grandmother, Mary Etta Conner, was born September 7, 1880 in Champaign County, Ohio.  Mary Etta’s mother died when she was very young.  She was from a rural area of Ohio, and according to her daughter-in-law, my grandmother Anna Adams Lemmon, her family lived in a one-room log cabin where the snow sometimes sifted in through the cracks between the logs upstairs in the loft where she slept.

Mary Etta Conner

Mary Etta only went to school until the 3rd grade.  According to my uncle, Cory Jr. Lemmon, she was proud to have received an education.  She married Cory Oscar Lemmon when she was sixteen years old.  He was twelve years her senior.  According to my grandfather, Cory Oscar “was a drunk.”  The marriage was rocky and after eight children were born Cory Oscar reportedly left the family and started a new one.  When the marriage broke up, she was left with six children to raise, alone and without support.

Mary Etta worked at the Imperial factory making ladies stockings to support her family.

My great-grandmother was a mid-wife and helped deliver my mom into the world.  Uncle Cory said, “She ‘doctored’ herself, with her own remedies until she was unable to care for herself any longer.”

Mary Etta, icing a cake for her granddaughter's (my mother's) birthday celebration.

My mother said my great-grandmother was always a hard worker, and “she’d be up on a chair at 80-years-old washing the walls or something.”

Santa Claus made by my great-grandmother. It's sitting in a sled I made in shop class during high school. The Santa's beard and white fur on outfit has been refurbished.

My great-grandma Lemmon made us a little stuffed Santa Claus one year; my mom still sets it under her tree at Christmas.

I remember very little about my great grandmother, only that my mom used to do her laundry for her. I remember one time my sister and I  had braided our hair when it was wet and then let it loose after it dried. The result was that it was kinked all the way down. My great grandma really liked it. I remember the one-room apartment she had in a duplex. And that she had a pot-belly stove that she baked the best big soft sugar cookies in I’ve ever had and never have been able to reproduce.

I was a little intimidated by her, and perhaps even scared as young children sometimes are around the elderly. As an adult, knowing what I know now about her and her life, I wish I had had the opportunity to know her better.

 

See The Stitches We Leave Behind under the Series tab above for more links in this 10-part series.

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16 Comments on “Mary Etta Conner Lemmon — a pillar of strength”

  1. Beth Ann says:

    What a great glimpse into the life of your great grandmother! I love the Santa Claus doll!!! That is an incredible “archive” to have to keep those memories alive. Thanks for sharing!

    • CMSmith says:

      It looks like a real piece of folk art, doesn’t it. I kind of wish Mom wouldn’t have spruced it up when she did, but the original while cotton was pretty dirty and demolished as I remember it from years of being used and handled.

  2. suzicate says:

    I enjoyed reading about Mary Etta. It seems the women of our past were amazingly strong spirited. I guess they had to be to endure some of their hardships.

    • CMSmith says:

      Life was physically hard then. But I don’t want to sell short the women of today, because I think life in many ways has never been harder. Technology places new demands on us in terms of having to continually learn and live at a faster pace. In some ways technology makes life easier, in others, not so much.

  3. I wish I could have known her, as well. What an amazing woman. What wonderful women you have come from, Christine. I love reading about them.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

  4. Thanks for telling us about her, Christine. You give her life again in the way you write about her.

  5. Cathy says:

    Please, contact me, Mary Etta was my Great Grandmother, and you have information I would love to have for my Genealogy.

    • CMSmith says:

      Hello cousin. Who was your grandmother or grandfather? I have some photos and other information. I’ll email you.

      • Cathy says:

        My grandmother was Nellie Lemmon, Grandfather was Clemeth Lemmon, son of Cory Lemmon. Love the storys and photos. Doing Genealogy and came across your site. This is just wonderful!!

    • Lonnie Nickerson says:

      Cathy, feel to contact me also…. looks like we are cousins too, as my Grandma Susie was Mary Etta Lemmon’s only daughter that survived early childhood. I remember Grandma Lemmon very well, and would love to have more info about our shared history.

  6. Lonnie Nickerson says:

    Please, PLEASE contact me…. My Grandmother Susie Odetta Lemmon (married name Ringelspaugh) is also Mary Etta Lemmon’s daughter…. that means we are also cousins! I, too, remember Grandma Lemmon’s sugar cookies, and her little coal stove. Don’t have any photos of them, but we always had a collection of homemade cloth dolls that sat in rocking chairs under the Christmas tree each year. I don’t think I ever heard a story of where they came from, but they were very similar in style to your Santa photos. And, Grandma Lemmon had blown glass paperweights that I adored.

    • CMSmith says:

      Hi Lonnie,
      Did Susie live in Florida? I remember visiting someone in Florida. I’m so glad you found me. I am happy to share whatever pictures and information I have. You can contact me at Christine.m.grote@gmail.com

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      • Lonnie Nickerson says:

        Yes, we moved to Florida in 1962, I will email you….. Very glad I found your site! I will email you, for sure.


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