Sunday, February 3, 2013

Desperate Housewives - Turn of the Century Maine Edition

First I'll confess that I've never actually watched an episode of Desperate Housewives - any edition. But it seems that my 2X great-grandmother would be a good candidate based on the documents of her life. We can start with her name. 
Mary Lizzie - age 4
The first census she appears on is in 1870, age 4, Mary Lizzie Philbrick, daughter of Benjamin P. & Jane A. Philbrick of Mount Vernon, Maine. Ten years later, she is listed as Lizzie A. Philbrick, daugher of Perlie B. & Jane A. Philbrick of Mount Vernon, Maine and on her marriage records and subsequent census records, she is either Lizzie M. or Lizzie May. 

Next let's assess her marriages - all four of them! 
She married Francis Llewellyn Cotton sometime before their son, Ray Everett Cotton, was born in 1888. I cannot find the marriage record for this one. It is Ray's marriage record that led me to the identity of his mother. On Ray's marriage certificate his mother is identified as Lizzie M. Philbrick of Readfield and born in Mount Vernon, Maine. 

Next, she married Hiram B. Stoyell (Stowell is handwritten on the top of the marriage record) in Farmington, Maine on March 21, 1893. It is listed as the groom's first marriage and the bride's second marriage. Francis Llewellyn Cotton goes on to marry twice more so they were divorced before March 1893. 

On June 27, 1903, Lizzie May Stowle, daughter of Perley Philbrick and Jane Matthews Philbrick, married John E. McGavin in Dover, N.H. Her age is listed as 33 which would make her born about 1870 - four years younger than she actually was. Her husband was 32. So now she's lying about her age. I can find no census records or death records that for that allow me to concretely identify this John E. McGavin. However, by 1909, Lizzie was no longer married to Mr. McGavin and had returned to using the name of her previous husband. That and the fact that there were no children from this marriage pose some interesting possibilities. Perhaps her husband died within a few years of marriage or the marriage was annulled. I guess the third time wasn't the charm!

And for the finale, on July 8, 1909, Lizzie M. Stayell, daughter of Perly Philbrick and Jane A. Matthews, married Eugene D. Wakefield in Berlin, N.H. She is still fudging a bit on her age because she is listed as age 40 and her husband is age 36. She had her second child, Charles M. Wakefield in 1909. There is a marriage record for Eugene marrying a Myrtle Green on July 25, 1899 in Bath, Maine. The parents' names are the same as they are for Eugene who married Lizzie so this would be marriage number 2 for him and marriage number 4 for Lizzie. 

In the 1910 census, Eugene D. & Lizzie M. Wakefield, are living in Hallowell, Maine and their ages are listed as 32 and 44, respectively. So he has gotten magically younger and she is magically older (back to what is consistent with her first census records). 

The only two children I can find born to Lizzie are Ray Everett Cotton born in 1888 and Charles M. Wakefield born in 1909. On the World War I draft card for Eugene D. Wakefield, dated September 17, 1918, his nearest relative is listed as Arthur L. Wakefield of Bath so it seems unlikely he was married to Lizzie at that time. I have found no trace of Lizzie after the 1910 census so in the absence of a death record, I am making the preliminary determination that she died between 1910 and 1918. I have found no other records for Charles M. Wakefield either so I am not certain that he lived to adulthood. 

So great-great-gram...changed her name around, married 4 times, divorced 2 or 3 times, and lied about her age to make herself seem younger. Sounds a bit scandalous to me. I'd love to know how her family reacted to her choices. 

Francis Llewllyn Cotton & Lizzie M. Philbrick
Ray Everett Cotton & Annie Florilla Gibbs
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother


  1. Yup! Definitely soap opera material here...

  2. Here is Francis and Lizzie's entry in the Maine Divorce Index:

    This led me to Franklin County SJC records at FamilySearch:

  3. Sounds like a few dis-satisfied housewives in my ancestry! Gotta love 'em! Great post! -- the "other" Pam

  4. . . . and we thought that kind of stuff only happened in the last 30 or 40 years!! Your gggrandmother sounds like quite a character! It would be fun to hear her tell stories about her life. I'll bet her colorful escapades would be more appreciated today than in her own era. Nice research and great story!!