Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Great-Grandma Ida Viola

Ida Viola Connelly, my paternal great-grandmother, was born on the 5th of November, 1849, in Wheeling, Virginia. Her parents were William Eaton Connelly and Sarah Ann Holliday. Her name occurs on each extant decennial U.S. Federal Census, and in the 1890 Wheeling City Directory. She lived in Wheeling most of her life except for a short stay in Belmont, Ohio, where her first child was born.

Wheeling played a significant role in the opening of the "west" along with the growth of industry in the 1800's. According to the City of Wheeling web site (www.wheelingwv.gov), the National Road, the nation's first roadway, reached Wheeling from Cumberland, Maryland, in 1818 and proved to be a boon to commerce. During the Civil War, the city was loyal to the Federal Government and a movement to establish the new state of West Virginia began here. Finally, in June 1863, she was admitted to the Union as a separate state.

Industry flourished in and around Wheeling thanks to the ease of transport along the Ohio River. Iron, steel, and glass works played a big part in the development of the region and many men in Ida's extended family found work in the factories.

Ida and Thomas Cox were married on November 28, 1868, at the home of her parents. The war was over and it was time to begin a family. Mary was born in 1869. She married Richard Turner, a Fireman in Wheeling, and died at 49 of the Spanish Flu. The first son, William, was born in 1872. He was a bricklayer by occupation and married twice; first, to Lena Berger, and second, to Catherine Kain. He died at 31 of pneumonia. Her second son, Thomas Nelson, was born in 1875. He worked as a bricklayer like his brother and married Lillian Lewis. He died at 73 of  myocardial insufficiency and hypertensive heart disease. Eddie was born in 1876 and lived only 4 years, dying of measles. Finally, her twins, Frank (my grandfather) and Fred were born in 1881. Fred was a machinist and died after a tragic accident at the Wheeling Hinge Company in 1899. He was 18 years old.

When her twins were still young, Ida become active in the Women's Relief Corps (WRC), a branch of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), She was the wife of a veteran, and the Holliday GAR post was named after John W Holliday, her maternal grandmother's brother. The GAR was a fraternal organization made up of Civil War Veterans who fought on the side of the Union. The women of the WRC assisted the GAR, organized and participated in the observance of Decoration Day (now Memorial Day), and petitioned the government for nurses pensions. Beginning with the December, 1889 issue of the Wheeling Register newspaper, several articles were written about local WRC activities, and Ida was mentioned in many of them. She was elected at a "Conductor" of the Holliday Corps in an 1889 meeting. In 1891, she was installed as the Secretary and member of the GAR board of directors. In a following article, she was noted to be the President, and later the same year, was appointed Assistant National Inspector authorized to inspect all WRC in West Virginia. 1893 found her in charge of a festive celebration held at Whiteman's Grove in Wheeling--Grand Army Day. Complete with dancing, a camp fire for the vets, plenty of food, and child care provided, it lasted well past dark. Great-Grandma was a busy lady and generous with her time.

Beginning in 1895, Ida suffered a series of heart-breaking losses. Her husband Thomas died in 1895 at the National Soldier's Home in Virginia, and Ida was forced to apply for a widow's pension. Four years later, her daughter-in-law Lena, wife of son William, died after only one year of marriage. William followed her in death in 1904. Her son Fred died suddenly after a work-related accident in 1899. Between 1894 and 1916, sister Francis Sophia and brother Benjamin died. So much loss over a period of 20 years is difficult to imagine. Her family was dwindling, and with it the support and comfort she required to keep going. Thankfully, there remained extended family in Wheeling, and these children and grandchildren were surely a solace to Ida. She must have had a number of friends nearby as well.

Ida Viola & Ida Isabelle Cox, her granddaughter
Ida Viola died of uterine carcinoma on the 16th of August 1917, and was buried at Mt Wood Cemetery in Wheeling among many of her family. She played a significant role in her community, cared for an ailing husband, and buried several children. I believe she enjoyed working alongside other socially involved women to assist the aging, and often debilitated, veterans of the terrible war. I wish I had known you, sweet Grandma Ida.

Mt Wood Cemetery

Declaration for Original Pension

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