Sunday, November 4, 2018

Mary Milliken (Hodsdon) Kirk: 52 Ancestors #65

Mary Milliken (Hodsdon) Kirk, date unknown
My paternal grandmother was introduced here four years ago, in Part 4 and Part 5 of my series on my grandfather, Chester F. Kirk. Being his fifth (and last) wife, and outliving him by 26 years, it's understandable that only a small part of her story was told then. Herewith, the rest of her story as I know it.

Mary Milliken Hodsdon was born 16 Mar 1882 in Andover, Maine,1 the third of six children and second daughter of Silas Marchant Hillman Hodsdon and Kate Maria Rand. Mary's unusual middle name came from her great-aunt, Mary (Brister) Milliken, sister of Kate's mother Dolly (Brister) Rand.

There appear to be few records of Mary's early years. She grew up on a farm near Andover and completed one year of high school. We get only one glimpse of Mary with her family in the 1900 census before her marriage. At 18, she is the oldest child still at home, and employed as a chambermaid.2 Had she met Chester by the time of the census, in mid-June? Probably yes; he was living in Andover, a boarder in a household several pages away in the enumeration.3

1900 U.S. census, Andover, Oxford County, Maine, Marchant "Hodgman" household

Lewiston Daily Sun, 3 Oct 1900
When I wrote about Chester, I noted that I had not found a marriage record for him and Mary, and that's still the case – but I have finally discovered when that marriage supposedly occurred. The "Lewiston and Auburn" column in the 3 October 1900 edition of The Lewiston Daily Sun carried a terse announcement that "The marriage of Dr. Chester Kirk of Lewiston and Miss Mary Hodsdon of Bangor [sic] occurred September 24."4 Family lore says that Chester and Mary took a trip to New York City and on their return, Chester announced that they were married; Mary's mother had her doubts, but evidently decided to take Chester's word for it.

Mary (Hodsdon) Kirk and Cecil
Their attempts to begin a family got off to a rocky start: Mary apparently had two stillborn children5 before giving birth to Cecil Mortimer on 25 Jun 1903.6 Cecil's death from meningitis in late 19057 devastated her, and 12 years would pass before she had another child. It's unlikely that the addition to the household in 1906 of Chester's elderly father Silas, and Hazel and Kenneth, Chester's nearly-grown children from his second marriage, would have helped the situation.

Perhaps around this time she began to contemplate her potential future in a marriage, very possibly childless, to a man 25 years her senior, with a less-than-stellar record of financial responsibility and a penchant for horse-racing. Whatever her motivations, Mary began to build what would become a thriving career as a dressmaker.8

Lewiston, Maine, city directory, 1910
The earliest facsimile Lewiston city directory I can find is for 1910, where "Mrs. Mary Kirk" is listed as a dressmaker working from the family's home at 27 Elm Street.9 But I believe she began her business earlier; a database extract from the 1908 directory has the cryptic notation "(Lunt & Kirk)" under occupation, probably indicating some kind of apprenticeship or partnership with a Mrs. Lilla M. Lunt, who was also listed with that notation at a different address.10 (Although there are plenty of women listed in that directory with the specific occupation of dressmaker, so the odd notation of what appears to be a business name is puzzling.) She is consistently listed in later directories (through 1947) as a dressmaker,11 but oddly not in the census until 1930 – in 1910 and 1920 she ostensibly has no occupation.12 She taught a dressmaking class for the Women's Christian Association13 in 1910 and was an active member of the business community as a member of the Business and Professional Women organization14 in 1922. In a family memoir, one of her nieces relates:
Aunt Mary had a dressmaking shop at her home.... She used three rooms of her large house for the business and employed two or three other women to work with her, making elegant clothes for women who went to Florida in the winter.... Her customers... were the wives of doctors, bank presidents, Lewiston lawyers and judges.... She worked with velvets and satins, making lovely evening gowns and fancy clothes...15
Mary's father March Hodsdon died in 1911, and soon her mother Kate joined the Kirk household (Silas had died in 1909, and Hazel and Kenneth married in 1907 and 1910 respectively, so presumably the Kirks had a little room to spare), where she remained until her death in 1940. This was perhaps fortuitous, because Mary's long period of childlessness would end in 1917, and "Grammie Hodge" was there to help out when Mary, two days after her 35th birthday, gave birth to a daughter, Geneva Alice.16

Lewiston Daily Sun, 30 Jul 1919
About a year and a half later, she would find she was once again pregnant. This was no doubt the impetus for Mary and Chester to finally purchase their own home in lieu of the series of rentals they had occupied to this point. Though perhaps it would be more accurate to say, for Mary to purchase her own home: the deed to 30 Ware Street was in Mary's name alone,17 perhaps another sign that she was preparing for a future that, no longer childless, would almost certainly include a long widowhood (Chester was now past 60).

That deed was signed on 31 October 1918, and the family moved in exactly one week later, occasioning the first day ever spent by little Geneva away from her mother while she oversaw the move.18 Six months later, they welcomed their son, Roger Marchant,19 in the new home, with Grammie Hodge assisting at the birth.20

The Kirk house at 30 Ware Street, Lewiston, Maine, ca 1950 (Mary's grandson on front lawn)
The two children were raised in the house at 30 Ware Street,21 with close ties to their mother's Hodsdon and Rand kin. Not only did their grandmother live with them until just before her death in 1940, but holidays, family reunions, and other occasions provided opportunities for visits with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Geneva's baby book reveals her "first visit at Rumford in August 1917,"22 while Roger's records his "first trip on [a] train" in June 1920, to Rumford and Roxbury.23 These excursions were undoubtedly to visit Mary's sister Sadie (Hodsdon) Hall in Rumford. (I haven't yet figured out who was living in Roxbury.)

Excerpt from Roger Kirk baby book, p. 17

Lewiston Daily Sun, 28 Nov 1929 and 23 Nov 1932
In 1929, the Kirks spent Thanksgiving day in Rumford with Sadie and her family,24 while in 1932, they hosted Mary's half-brother Walter Rand and his wife for the same holiday.25 Sadie's daughter Ellie lived with the Kirks and helped out with the children from 1921-23 while attending Bates College (only a few blocks away), and many photos attest to the Hodsdon-Rand reunions of the late 1920s held at Roxbury Pond and the Farmer's Hill homestead in Andover.26

Rand family reunion, Farmer's Hill, Andover, Maine, ca 1927 (Roger and Geneva Kirk, front row, right)
Mary's children grew to adulthood, graduating from the city high school in the mid-1930s. Geneva continued to live at home until she graduated from Bates College in 1937 and took a teaching position at Norridgewock High School,27 while Roger went to work as an auto mechanic.28 Both children were undoubtedly at home with their parents when Chester, "in failing health for a long time," died in July 1939, two months shy of 82.29

Lewiston Daily Sun, 25 Nov 1942
Mary wasn't completely alone. Aside from her mother, who died in 1940, Roger remained at home until enlisting in the Army in 1942, and marrying Kathleen Murphy the following year. He wrote letters home and returned home to visit his mother as often as he could get leave, and the couple even lived briefly with Mary after Roger's discharge in 1946 before moving first to an apartment, and then to their own home in Mechanic Falls where they raised four children – Mary's only grandchildren, as Geneva never married.30

Geneva, Mary, and Roger Kirk, 1941
For her part, Geneva returned home in 1940, working for several years as an instructor at the local hospital's school of nursing. Though she taught high school in Augusta from 1943 to 1949, it's likely that she spent her summers at home and came home on weekends as often as she could, especially after the wartime gas rationing ended. In 1949 she came home for good, teaching history at Lewiston High School for the next thirty years, and becoming both companion and caregiver to her mother.31

Mary (Hodsdon) Kirk, ca 1940s?
Mary, always what was known as "a fine figure of a woman," gradually became morbidly obese, eventually able to move about her house only with the aid of a walker and unable to navigate stairs. By the time of my childhood in the 1950s, she seldom left the house. Occasionally Geneva would take her on an excursion in her car, which she could get to by way of the side porch to the attached barn where the car was garaged. In summer, they would drive to Mechanic Falls for an afternoon visit with Roger and his family, though Mary would remain in the car in the driveway – two steps to the back porch prevented her from coming inside – while we children would come out and sit in the car to "visit" with her.

Because of her physical limitations, most of my memories of my grandmother are of visits to her house: Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners at Grammie's house were a standard ritual (Grammie still did the cooking), and my father would frequently drive us to Lewiston for a brief visit of an evening or weekend throughout the year. On occasion, one of us children would get to stay over for a longer visit. Though my grandmother no longer worked as a dressmaker, she still used her skills to make clothes for me and my dolls. I was fascinated by the way she could whip up a doll's dress from scraps, without using a pattern. (For that matter, I suspect my clothes were patternless as well.)

She also loved to assemble jigsaw puzzles (there was an enormous pile of them in the attic and I would get to venture up there to select one to work on), taught me to play dominos and several kinds of solitaire (shuffling the deck with an intriguing mechanical shuffler – similar to the one pictured at left, if I recall correctly), and knitted constantly, turning out mittens and scarfs and hats for us, friends, other relatives, and no doubt for charity as well.32

Mary died 6 May 1965 in Lewiston's Central Maine General Hospital,33 and was buried two days later with her husband and their infant son Cecil in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.34 Her maiden name was unfortunately misspelled "Hodson" on the monument.

Children of Chester F. Kirk and Mary Milliken Hodsdon:
  1. Stillborn (?) child, ca 1901
  2. Stillborn male child, 1902
  3. Cecil Mortimer (1903-1905)
  4. Geneva Alice (1917-2007), unmarried
  5. Roger Marchant (1919-1979), married Kathleen Murphy (my parents)

Kirk family monument, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Auburn, Maine

  1.  "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007," database, Ancestry ( : accessed 23 Jul 2015), entry for Mary Milliken Kirk (Mary Milliken Hodsdon), SSN 007-46-7608. I have been unable to find Mary's birth in the Maine Vital Records databases, though several of her siblings are recorded.
  2. 1900 U.S. census, Oxford County, Maine, Andover, ED 177, sheet 7B,  dwelling 162, family 164, Marchant "Hodgman" household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 Mar 2012).
  3. 1900 U.S. Census, Oxford County, Maine, Andover, ED 177, sheet 4-A, dwelling 83, family 85, Fred Russell household; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 Dec 2010).
  4. "Lewiston and Auburn," marriage notice for Dr. Chester Kirk and Miss Mary Hodsdon, Lewiston Daily Sun, 3 Oct 1900, p. 2, col. 1.
  5. “Maine Vital Records, 1892-1922,” database and digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014), Stillborn (male) Kirk birth, 8 Mar 1902, 2nd child. No record has been found of an earlier birth, implying a previous, unrecorded, stillbirth.
  6. Ibid., [Cecil] Kirk birth, 25 Jun 1903.
  7. Ibid., Cecil M. Kirk death, 9 Nov 1905.
  8. Family lore says Chester was "unable to work" after sustaining some injury in a sulky mishap, and Mary took up dressmaking to support the family. However, the stories give no time frame for the accident and injury. Moreover, an accident involving injuries to such a prominent local man would surely have occasioned one or more newspaper articles, and so far none has surfaced. Chester maintained his Canal Street office and stable until at least 1920, continuing his veterinary practice to some extent from his home after that, and was still ice-racing until at least 1927. So I doubt that this purportedly disabling accident could have occurred early enough (if at all) to account for Mary's dressmaking ventures.
  9. 1910-1911 Resident and Business Directory of Androscoggin County, Maine (Auburn, Maine: Merrill & Webber Co., 1910-1920), entry for Mrs. Mary Kirk, dressmaker, 27 Elm, p. 440; database and digital images, "Maine City Directories," Ancestry ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014), under "Lewiston".
  10. "Lewiston, Androscoggin County, Maine, Directory, 1908," database, Ancestry ( : accessed 1 Sep 2014), entries for "Kirk, Mrs. Mary" and "Lunt, Mrs. Lilla M."
  11. Resident and Business Directory of Androscoggin County, Maine (Auburn, Maine: Merrill & Webber Co., 1912-1920), entries for Mrs. Mary Kirk, dressmaker; database and digital images, "Maine City Directories," Ancestry ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014), under "Lewiston". Also, Manning's Lewiston, Auburn ... (Maine) Directory (Boston: H.A. Manning Co., 1930-1947), entries for Mrs. Mary Kirk, dressmaker, or Mary M. Kirk, dressmkr; database and digital images, "U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995," Ancestry ( : accessed 11 May 2014). 
  12. 1910 U.S. Census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 18, sheet 16-B (handwritten, overwriting 17A), p. 3547 (penned), dwelling 173, family 236, C F Kirk household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014). 1920 U.S. census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 17, sheet 19B,  dwelling 299, family 357, Chester F Kirk household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014). 1930 U.S. census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 1-20, sheet 2B,  dwelling 42, family 47, Chester F Kirk household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 20 Feb 2012). 
  13. "W. C. A. Annual," Lewiston Daily Sun, 24 May 1910, p. 3, col. 3.
  14. "BPW Whist," Lewiston Evening Journal, 18 Oct 1922, p. 6, col. 5.
  15. Kate Hall Franklin Chadwick and Nancy Franklin Earsy, A Home-Made Life: Memoirs of Kate Hall Franklin Chadwick (Lexington, Mass.: YSRAE Publishing Co., 1995), p. 16.
  16. “Maine, Birth Records, 1621-1922,” database and digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Aug 2014), [Geneva] Kirk birth, 18 Mar 1917.  
  17. Androscoggin County, Maine, deeds, 289:199, Frank H. Wiggin to Mary M. Kirk, 31 Oct 1918; digital images, Androscoggin County Registry of Deeds ( : accessed 27 Oct 2018). Also, "Realty Transfers," Lewiston Daily Sun, 30 Jul 1919, p. 10, col. 3.
  18. A Record of Our Baby's Life (New York: Dodge Publishing Co., 1912), baby book for Geneva Alice Kirk, p. 13; Kirk-Murphy Family Collection; privately held by the author, Virginia Beach, Virginia. The entries in this unpaginated baby book, in Mary (Hodsdon) Kirk's handwriting, are in varying inks, and appear to be mostly contemporary with the events recorded. An entry on p. 13, under the printed heading "Notes," reads "First day spent away from mother, Nov 7, 1918, at Mrs Warrens, while moving to Ware St." 
  19. “Maine, Birth Records, 1621-1922,”  Roger Marchant Kirk birth, 1919.
  20. Our Baby's Record (New York: Dodge Publishing Co., 1909), baby book for Roger Marchant Kirk, p. 11; Kirk-Murphy Family Collection; privately held by the author, Virginia Beach, Virginia. The entries in this baby book are in Mary (Hodsdon) Kirk's handwriting. Many relatively non-specific dates (e.g., month and year only), and sequences of entries in the same ink, indicate that many if not all of the entries were not contemporary with the events recorded. 
  21. Photo of Kirk house at 30 Ware Street, Lewiston, Maine, ca 1950, Kirk-Murphy Family Collection; privately held by the author, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  22. Geneva Kirk baby book, p.13.
  23. Roger Kirk baby book, p. 17.
  24. "Thanksgiving in Lewiston-Auburn," Lewiston Daily Sun, 28 Nov 1929, p. 6, col. 5.
  25. "Thanksgiving," Lewiston Daily Sun, 23 Nov 1932, p. 7, col. 5.
  26. Group photo from Rand reunion, ca 1927, Farmer's Hill, Andover, Maine, in Geneva Kirk photograph album, Kirk-Murphy Family Collection; privately held by the author, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  27. "Geneva A. Kirk," obituary, Lewiston Sun-Journal, 5 Nov 2007, p. A5.
  28. 1940 U.S. census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 1-28, sheet 2A, household 34, Mary M Kirk household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 2 Apr 2012). 
  29. "Dr. Chester F. Kirk," obituary and death notice, Lewiston Daily Sun, 14 Jul 1939, p. 20.
  30. "Thanksgiving Diners in Twin Cities," Lewiston Daily Sun, 25 Nov 1942, p. 6, col. 1. Also, personal knowledge of the author.
  31. "Geneva A. Kirk," obituary.
  32. Preceding three paragraphs, personal knowledge of the author.
  33. "Mary M. Kirk," obituary and death notice, Lewiston Daily Sun, 7 May 1965, p. 2.
  34. Mount Auburn Cemetery (Auburn, Androscoggin County, Maine), Kirk family monument, read and photographed by the author, 13 Aug 2012. 
  35. All otherwise unattributed photos,  Kirk-Murphy Family Collection; privately held by the author, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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