sewing machine thread

Teamster Saves Seamstress’s Heart When Rascal Forsakes Her

Other than their obituaries, you will not find mention of my great grandparents in the local newspapers. With no effort, you can find several of his brothers. But not him. He did not pursue the spotlight. What you will discover is an ordinary man who worked a demanding job to support his young family. When things went wrong, his seamstress wife, picked up her thread and needle to save the family.

A Marriage Built on Shaky Ground

Patrick James Hollearn (1857-1909) was a first-generation American, who was born to Irish immigrants. He lived his whole life in the Montgomery County area, where he was born.

Raised in the Catholic faith, the most scandalous act Pat committed was marrying Cordelia “Delia” Hadley (1860-1930), who was a divorced mother with three young children. In 1875, she married Francis Marion Scott (1852-1929) in the neighboring Nicholas County, where he was born. Seems strange that a fifteen-year-old married a man twelve years her senior miles from home. Creepy is the proper word.

US Census Map from 1900. Arrows show Carlisle (Nicholas County), Mt. Sterling (Montgomery County), and Winchester (Clark County) Source: Library of Congress

In 1880, the couple lived next door to her parents, Andrew Jackson “Jack” Hadley (1836-1898) and Louisa Hines (1838-1918), in Howard’s Mill (Montgomery County). Something ended the union around 1883.

In the 1800s, the process for getting a divorce was not a straightforward task. The wronged spouse must prove abandonment, adultery, or extreme cruelty. It would be decades before the Commonwealth adopted a no-fault divorce stance.

Frank Scott disappeared from the records until 1900. Then he reappears in Nicholas County with a new wife and family. Their oldest daughter was born in Omaha, Nebraska around 1884.

Hollearns Form a New Family

In 1888, Patrick married Delia in Mt Sterling, KY. Without a marriage annulment, the Catholic Church would have viewed Delia as married to her first husband. Thus, she could not marry Patrick. He married her anyway. He wasn’t concerned about his faith.

Between 1889 and 1903, the couple added four children to their family: Margaret E Hollearn (1889-1962), Mary Louise Hollearn (1892-1953), Estella Hollearn (1896-1972), and Leo Hollearn (1903-1939).

After his father, John Hollearn, died in 1893, the family moved to neighboring Clark County. By 1900, they lived in a two-story house in downtown Winchester. Delia’s son, Charles Scott (1879-1930), lived with the family.

Her daughters had married and lived nearby. Virginia Scott (1877-1954) married William F. Farney (1872-1944) in 1894. Nannie Scott (1880-1967) had married Robert H. Perry (1885-1948) in 1898.

To support the family, Patrick worked as a teamster and Charles did farm labor.

Hollearn Was a Teamster

Teamster for the bakery

In 1900, there were 9,600 men employed as teamsters in Kentucky. Farming was a more popular occupation in Clark County. If you did not own land, then delivery work might be more lucrative. While the job supplied reliable income, it was challenging.

Pat worked as a teamster driving a delivery wagon. His oldest brother, James Hollearn (1854-1920) delivered ice for the local utility company. While Pat was a small business owner, owning his equipment and horses. He decided which jobs to take and the work hours. Their parents had run the toll house in Mt. Sterling for fifteen years, so both were familiar with this occupation. Perhaps a family friend helped them get a start?

Around 1903, the Teamster Union formed because of poor working conditions. The Teamsters International website said some drivers worked 12-18 hours a day, every day, for as little as $2. Pat might not have had the same working hours and being in a rural area his paycheck stretched further.

Teamsters Had a Dangerous Job

The local newspapers reported multiple accidents and deaths. Either the wagon or the horses injured or killed the driver.

Life of a teamster was dangerous
Clippings from various newspapers between 1870-1910.

Drivers had countless obstacles. They had to contend with roads that were little more than packed dirt while driving an unsteady wooden wagon. Private roads were available for a toll. These were in better condition, but the fee cut into profits.

Teamsters Had a Dirty Job

A nice delivery wagon featured a front cabin where the driver could sit on a leather seat and enjoy protection from the weather. A heavy blanket placed on the seat allowed extra comfort while traveling the bumpy roads. The 1890 Rural California magazine showed a light delivery wagon for $50, which cost about $2,000 today.

Even sitting in the cabin, the driver’s seat was open to the elements. There were no windows or other safeguards. You were sitting behind two big animals. If the horses tromped through mud, it landed on you. If they were picking up speed, the dust was in your face. Either way, you arrived at a customer site with a dirty face and clothes.

Mud causes heartache for a teamster and his wagon
Horses and delivery wagon stuck in mud. Source: Wikimedia.

The weather dictated how the workday progressed. A hot day with still air? You cooked in your seat. A mid-winter day? Frigid air chilled your bones. A sudden rain or sleet storm turned a dirt road into a grimy nightmare. If the path failed to drain, it turned into a two-feet deep trench similar to quicksand. What can a team of horses do?

What Does a Seamstress Do When Her Teamster Leaves?

One day, Delia did not hear the creaky wagon and the horse huffs arriving at her doorstep. She would never hear it again.

In 1909, while visiting his mother’s Mt. Sterling home, the 49-year-old Patrick dropped dead. According to his obituary, they buried him in Mt. Sterling. If he was in the family cemetery, they did not make an individual stone for him.

They had a two-story home near the heart of the city showing that Patrick produced a steady income. It must have been a shock for Delia. They had been married for over twenty-one years. Even if he was ordinary, he was steady and trustworthy.

Three of her four children lived with the couple. Leo, their six-year-old son, was at an age when boys cling more to their fathers. The situation must have been difficult for him. In 1907, Mary Louise had married Henry N Martin (1879-1968) and lived nearby.

A Seamstress Saves the Day

There was no time for grief. Delia was the family breadwinner. By 1910, Delia moved into a modest duplex near her old address. She is a seamstress, while the oldest daughter, Margaret, works at a laundry. Estella and Leo attend school.

woman admires dresses from a seamstress
Delia could have made clothes like this woman is considering from the 1910s. Source: Canva

Using her sewing knowledge was a smart idea. A seamstress might tailor men’s suits, make evening gowns, or special occasion outfits for children. Even mundane items, such as custom drapes, require someone to stitch them together. It’s easy to imagine Delia’s ill-fated sister-in-law, Marie Richards, had enjoyed custom outfits in her earlier years.

With shrewdness, Delia worked from home while supporting her family. She also passes a practical skill to her daughters. They passed the skill to their daughters until it arrived in my generation.

Life Continues for a Heartbroken Seamstress

Delia never remarries. By 1920, she lives in Lexington with her two youngest children. Margaret is a bookkeeper in a laundry, while Leo drives a cab. Within five years, they will marry and move away as well.

Before 1930, she returns to Winchester to live with Mary Louise’s family. My grandmother, Jean Lucille Martin (1921-1999) recalled Delia as stern, solemn, and religious. She always wore a long woolen skirt. She was strict; the children must behave. Another of her grandchildren described her as “a force to be reckoned with.”

It makes me sad that Delia’s grandchildren recall her with fear. My grandmother and her sisters are still among my favorite relatives. They hugged you tight, made special treats, and shared lovely compliments. Through them, I learned good manners, religious values, and even storytelling. They made me feel loved.

It makes me sad Delia couldn’t do the same. My memories of my grandmother are warmth and love. Yet, when she recalled her grandmother, it was someone who made her feel afraid. Maybe Delia showed love in the way her parents taught her. This might explain why she was married at fifteen, her first husband made her feel loved.

Cordelia died in 1930 when she was seventy. They buried her in the Winchester Cemetery.

Epilogue

Generations of each family might share a passion. My Granny Delia inspired my grandmother’s and now one of my passions. After her parents passed, my grandmother inherited Delia’s milk chocolate pitcher. It’s cobalt blue glass with a white porcelain handle. It is one of my prized possessions.

I love cobalt glass; you’ll find it all over my house. Even near the curtains I crafted for my bedroom on my Singer sewing machine. Don’t you hope that would put a smile on Delia’s somber face?

Milk Chocolate Pitcher. The blue milk glass plate belonged to her daughter, Mary Louise Hollearn. The blue rooster makes me think of my favorite aunt, Flora Mann Fugate, who loved these glass sitting hens. I now have her collection as well. Source: Author’s Collection

Family Group Sheet

About the author

Tricia Aanderud has been researching her Kentucky family since 2008. While the genealogy is interesting, the stories are what makes their lives compelling.

Surnames include Watkins, Hudson, Mann, Payne, Abney, Hollearn, Martin, Salyer, Spencer, and Hadley.

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