My great-grandmother, Margaret McClelland Thompson, took the extremely unusual step of separating from her husband and attempting to earn her own way in the world.One can only imagine what would drive a woman in the early 1900s to leave her home and four small children behind.I had heard that she 'took in boarders', but I was astonished to find her in the 1920 Terre Haute census running a boarding house which held twenty workers.(The names of these workers are listed below.)
Maggie immigrated from Scotland in 1881 at about age 3 or 4, after the birth of her younger sister, Elizabeth.The girls and their mother (name unknown) joined Maggies' father, Thomas McClellan(d).By the time this family appears in an American census in 1900, Maggie is living next door to her father's family.In 1895, Maggie married Perry Thompson (of Harmony, Clay County, IN).In the 1900 census Maggie & Perry are shown with two of their four children -- my grandmother, Mary Muriel, and her brother Robert Carl. Younger siblings were Fern and Margaret Norma.
According to my grandmother, Maggie first left the family when Muriel was 9 years old -- about 1905-06.Muriel was left to take care of the younger children (aged about 11, 6 and 4.Muriel remembered having to put the bread-kneading trough on the chair to make bread, because she was too small to knead bread on the table.)Although Maggie retuned to Clay County from time to time in the intervening years, beyond a certain point she stayed in Terre Haute.
The 1920 census shows Maggie ‘workingon her own account’ as the Keeper of a rented Boarding House at 2411 Second Ave, Terre Haute, Indiana.The enumeration of Maggie’s boarding house shows 20 ‘wage workers’ -- two women and 18 men -- living under her roof.Since this is so different from the usual family census listing, I will give full detail on Maggie, then list boarders with only selected details.
1920 Census -- Terre Haute 7th Ward, Harrison Township, Vigo County Indiana; enumerated on Jan 7 by John I Vinson [?]; Supervisor’s District 5, Enumeration district 160, Sheet 3B (page 303?). Dwelling 60, Family number 60.Image from Heritage Quest.
2411 Second Ave, Terre Haute IN. Thompson, Margaret, Head, Renter, F, W, age 42, Widow [actually separated from husband Perry Thompson of Clay County IN], [ next two Immigration Status columns have faint notation that might be ‘un’ -- they should show year of immigration and status as naturalized or alien.Why these notations?], can read/write, born Scotland with Scotch as native tongue, both parents born Scotland with Scotch as native tongue, speaks English, Occupation columns: ‘Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done’ = Keeper, ‘Industry, business, or establishment in which at work’ = Boarding House, ‘Employer, salary or wage worker, or working on own account’ = oa (own account).
Maggie’s boarders:All boarders are White, Wage Workers, and most are Single.I will list names, ages marital status, trade and workplace.Names are listed last-name-first.
Perry Frank 33 M Machine OperatorGlass Bottle Works Jones Charles H 35 Wd Machine OperatorGlass Bottle Works Fabry Harry 36 S Machine OperatorGlass Bottle Works West Herman 16 S Laborer Glass Bottle Works Weber Elmer 28 S Machine OperatorGlass Bottle Works West Archibald C 39 WdLaborer Steel Mills Royer Cecil 21 S Blacksmith Glass Botle Works O’Rourke John W 36 S ??? occupation illegible Woodward Clarance 18 S Blacksmith Helper Glass Wks Pool Wilmer W 31 S Machine Operator Glass Bottle Wks Cunningham Robert 43 S Machine Operator Glass Bottle Wks Suell [Snell?]Verne (female) 23 S EnamelerStamp Mill Laswell Irene (female) 18 S EnamelerStamp Mill Parks [?] Ray 17 S Shop keeper Glass Works Snell [Suell?] Roy 19 S Ly** tenderGlass Bottle Wks Rodger Henry [Harry?] 21 SMill WrightSteel Mill Raynes Ulmer [?] 29 [19?] SMinerCoal Templeton Q B [O B?] 28 SMiner Coal Cornwall Bert [unclear middle initial] 40 DLaborer Glass Works Hatton [?] Loren T 16 SLaborerSteel Mill