Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sorting the facts about Eva Etta Lindsey Plummer

Eva Etta Lindsey Plummer was my great-grandmother.   Family lore has a scandalous story about her:  supposedly, she ran away from her husband and children with a shoe salesman.   I wanted to find her story and prove or disprove the accepted tale. 

Family records are pretty rare.  There is a typed manuscript at the New England Historic Genealogical Society written by Bernice O Newborg in 1947, The Descendants of Andrew Lindsey of Pembroke, Massachusetts.  Ms Newborg is a descendant  of Andrew Lindsey and this makes her a cousin of Eva Etta Lindsey.  She provides nicknames for some of the children of Ethelbert and Eliza (Stewart) Lindsey (Eva Etta’s parents) which lead me to believe that she may have had some first-hand information about them.  The other slim volume you may come across is Ephraim Lindsey and His Descendants compiled by Mrs L. J. Holbrook (nee Lydia Jane Lindsey), 1904.  She is also a cousin.  The most remarkable feature in this book is the portrait of one Ichabod Lindsey (b. 26 Nov. 1801, d. Sept., 1857) who looks like my brother.  I knew she was writing about my family when I saw the portrait.  Ms Holbrook’s book is decades earlier and doesn’t have a jot about Eva Etta but does sort out some problems with the 19th Century Lindseys.  There is good preliminary information. 

There are few facts concerning Eva Etta.  I believe she was born on North Haven Island, Maine, in 1882 or 1883.  The State of Maine official birth record will tell you that her birth year was 1883 - the reporting place was Rockland, Maine and her parents were incorrectly listed.   The official report is taken from the town records, of course.   If you are lucky enough to travel to Rockland and get to see the actual entry page in town records, you will see that all of her surviving siblings were reported at the same time.  Her father and her eldest brother both carried the old-fashioned name Ethelbert (sometimes found as Ethel B or just Bert) and these two men were confounded in the written record.  How do I know this?  Official records list Annetta M as her mother, but Annette M Burgin was her brother’s recently married wife.  He and his wife are listed first in the town records so the assumption was made they were the parents of the reported children.  I will get this corrected someday. 

Eva Etta Lindsey was married to Sherman William Plummer on 3 Sep 1898 in Saco, Maine when she was about 16 years old;  Sherman William was 33.  Family history, Vital Records, the 1906 Saco Register, and the 1910 Census support that they had 5 children:
1.        Harry Leroy, 15 July 1900
2.       Sherman Eldridge, 10 May 1902
3.       Catherine Gertrude, 3 March 1905
4.       Clyde Elmer, 4 Jun 1907
5.       Mildred Irene, 23 Sep 1908

The 1920 Census changes this line-up.  Sherman William is living with his mother Mahala (Wadleigh) (Plummer) Hidden, and with his son Sherman E. in Saco, Maine.  Eva Etta, housekeeper to a farmer’s family, is living with her two girls in North Troy, Vermont.   Her girls are listed as boarders in the household.  Her youngest son, Clyde, is living next door to the farming household.  I haven’t found Harry’s whereabouts, yet. 

In 1930, Eva is no longer the housekeeper, she is listed as a boarder in the same household.  Her girls are not with her and Clyde isn’t living next door.  Her sister Nellie is still alive; her mother Eliza can’t be found. 

Eva Etta died in North Troy, Vermont in 1933.   Sherman William is listed as her husband as indeed she was still married to him.  I haven’t found evidence of divorce proceedings from either party although both of them listed divorced or separated as their status on different occasions. 

 So those are the facts of the matter but there is more to the story….

I need to introduce you to one of Eva Etta’s sisters.  Another child of Ethelbert Lindsey and Eliza Stewart was Elvia Ellen Lindsey born in 1871.  Newborg said her nickname was Nell.   In the 1906 Saco Register she is mentioned at her mother’s entry as E Ellen “m. Allen, Troy, Vt”.  This is partially true.  In 1900 there is a marriage record for a widow Nelly E Linsly Allen, marrying a Richard H Bluett, (b. Ely, Vermont), in Boston, Massachusetts.  I almost discarded this piece of information until I saw her parents were listed as Eliza A Stewart and Athel Linsly.  I’ve seen worse spellings for that name.   In 1910 Nell is enumerated as the wife of Eli N Berry, North Troy, Vermont.  The enumerator noted that she had had 6 children but only 3 were alive in 1910, however, there were no children of hers in the household.  Living with them was her mother, Eliza Stewart Lindsey, and a boarder, Daniel Mandigo,  who would one day be the next door neighbor.  In 1920, Nellie Berry is 50 years old, her husband’s name has morphed to Norman E Berry, her mother is gone but 12 year old Clyde Plummer lives there. 

Newborg listed 4 children for Nellie Lindsey but said they were “all adopted by others”.   This is an interesting piece of information and I’ve used it to speculate on what could have happened.  I think that it’s quite plausible that Nell needed support from her family so her mother joined her between 1906 and 1910.  Then her sister, Eva Etta also made the journey from Saco, Maine, to North Troy, Vermont,  sometime between 1910 and 1920.  She brought her three youngest children with her (which hardly fits with leaving with a shoe salesman in my humble opinion) and needed to make a living…she became the housekeeper to the next door neighbor where she could stay close to her sister and mother. 

I also know that her family wasn’t entirely estranged from her.  After her daughter Mildred married she visited her mother on occasion.  Millie’s oldest daughter, a cousin once-removed from me, was born in Vermont while on a visit, and another daughter remembered visiting a big old farm house with a feather bed that the kids would play on at Grammie Plummer’s house in Vermont. 

This is one of the family stories that I wish I had more….more facts, more text, more speculation,  even more rumors.  Speculation and rumors at least will give you hints as to where to go next to gather more facts.   



  1. Great story. Lots of work to get to this stage of the narrative - thanks, Peg. Maybe the 'shoe salesman' is a personification of the kids' (Harry & Sherm) anger at her for leaving, since there is also the story (per Sherm's wife Florence) that the boys had to wear women's shoes that she had left behind, once they had grown out of theirs... Believable rehabilitation of Eva Etta's image, thank you, Peg.

    Did the Linseys leave North Haven Island and move to Saco, or only Eva Etta (maybe for work there)? I wish we knew how and why her mother went to Troy VT, which is practically in Canada.

  2. Thank you. The Lindseys left North Haven for Rockland, then some or all went to Saco. They were probably going where work could be found. In 1902 Eliza Lindsey is listed in the Saco Directory as a widow. In 1906 in the Saco Register she is listed with five of her children: Eva Etta and Catherine (Kitty) living in Saco, Nell living in Vermont, Robert F in Portsmouth, and Elmer was in the Army. Nell (Elvia Ellen) was in Vermont first.