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.


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