Saturday, September 30

For Amelia

Ah, but not for Amelia my pet chicken. This is for Amelia Raitte, aka Anna Bell, designer of Pippa. She asked for ancestor stories, either as a comment on her blog or as an entry on our own.

In 1875, sixteen year old Mary (Mamie) Murray was staying with family friends in New York when she ran off and married much older widower Patrick Brennan --- a livery driver from Washington, DC. Her parents freaked, took her back to Louisville, Kentucky, and had the marriage annulled. There they kept her pretty much under lock and key. Three years later they relaxed enough to allow her to visit some trusted friends. The friends, however, were on Mary's side and helped her remarry Mr. Brennan. This time she was nineteen, her parents got over their shock and accepted the situation. Mamie and Patrick had 17 years together before Patrick died in 1897. They had nine (?) children, mostly girls. My grandmother Eustelle was the youngest. I've heard many stories of the Brennan girls --- they were a strong bunch. None married before they were 30, and all held jobs or ran businesses (real estate, hardware, a saloon).

The most famous of the Brennan girls were the triplets; Katharine, Anne and Frances Cleveland. The third was named after the president's young wife. Grover and Frances had married despite a 27 year difference in age. Perhaps that similarity was one reason for the namesake? Or perhaps since the Brennan's lived in DC, they admired the well-loved First Lady. Or perhaps with so many girls they had run out of names. Mrs. Cleveland heard about the triplets born to the livery driver; in 1890, triplets surviving birth were rare. She gave the girls a gift of clothes. While my great-grandmother's friends told her she should save the presidential present, she opted instead for practicality. She had three young girls to clothe, here were some clothes. That was that.


Mamie and Patrick were not wealthy enough to have professional pictures made, but having the triplets changed that. A local photography studio took regular photos of the family in exchange for letting him display photos of the triplets in his window. The studio portrait was part of this collection.


The outdoor photo is from the Library of Congress website and was taken at a Christian Endeavorers Convention in 1896. The Brennan triplets were so well known that the summary of the photos from this collection is "Includes views of the Junior Rally for young people; separate seating sections for black Endeavorers; news reporters at the convention; members of the Negro Delegation on the Department of Agriculture grounds; the Brennan triplets attending the convention. Also includes general scenes in Washington, D.C., including downtown views, and views of the Capitol." Patrick and Eustelle are the other two in the picture.

6 comments:

Lavendersheep said...

Wow that is a really interesting story. My mother does a lot of geneology. I went one day to look through the old photos to see if I could get some knitting inspiration. Unfortunately I found that the relatives that actually had enough money for photos tended to have sewn garments or at least they left their knitted things at home. It was very disappointing.

Dorothy said...

Pretty cool story. So nice that your Grandmother used the gift of clothing instead of framing and saving them.

Birdsong said...

So glad you saw Anna's post too, and put up this great tale from your past!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, sis. You tell it well! T

Patti said...

Wow. I wonder how often triplets lived then? Did you ever read Feather Crowns? That was quints, I think.

This country is interesting - we all come from such determined stock.

AWIV said...

Hi sister! I was searching for the Library of Congress photo of Patrick with the girls at the convention and your photo/blog popped up! (LoC site closed for weekend maintenance). Anyway, May I use a modified version of your story on the Ancestry.com site? This is great :)

P.S. This is Teresa :)