Wednesday, 28 December 2011

From Bushmills to St Louis with Love

Missouri History Museum is currently publishing a collection of love letters from James Edwin Love to his fiancĂ©e, Eliza Mary (Molly) Wilson back home in St Louis, Missouri, on the 150th anniversary of the date on each letter. These letters were written during the course of the American Civil War and give a flavour of the events he experienced as well as his feelings for Molly, a native of Islandmagee, near Larne, Co Antrim..

As a child, James lived with his Grandmother Steel at Bushmills, visited his Grandmother Love at the Love homestead outside Derry, and explored the caves and cliffs of the Irish countryside in the region of Ulster, from Larne to Colraine. Many years later, and in another country, James would meet and fall in love with a girl from Larne, Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson.

According to the Museum archive, James' father William and mother Esther were cousins and they married in 1829; Esther's Bushmills parents were Samuel Steel and Eliza Moore. James was born in Bushmills in1830 and experienced family loss at a very early age; his siblings were born in Ballymena. His father died in 1839 and his mother just three years later in 1842; his sister Mary E. also passed away in 1842, aged 9, and his other sister Jane in 1848, aged 13. James departed for the USA in 1849, aged 20, along with his younger brother Samuel Alexander, aged 12, just as the Irish famine was nearing its end. From the introduction, some uncles and aunts had previously emigrated to the USA.

In May 1849, James and his brother, Samuel, traveled to America, arriving in New York in July. Several of James’s relatives had already come to America, including his aunts and uncles, James and Mary Jane Adams*, and John and Eliza Forsyth, who settled in St. Louis in 1836. Another uncle, Robert A. Love, had settled in Cincinnati in the early 1840s. James and Samuel traveled by boat from New York to Cincinnati, where James lived with his uncle Robert.

We know from the US censuses in 18801900 and 1910 that James and Molly married about 1865, had four children and that James, who had been an office cashier, died sometime between 1900 and 1910.

Love and Wilson - May 2, [1865,] at the First Presbyterian
  Church, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., by the Rev. Henry
  A. Nelson, Captain E. Love, U.S.A., son of the late
  William Love, Esq., Ballymena, [Co. Antrim?], to
  Eliza M., second daughter of the late Alexander
  Wilson, Esq., Islandmagee, [Co. Antrim?].
(Transcribed by James Tuff.)

MHM Love Letters on Twitter : "Don't miss the next James Love Letter coming January 3! The letters will be more frequent next year when James joins a new regiment". The letters have been archived in reverse order so go to the last page to read the first letter: Civil War Love Letters: June 16, 1861

On May 2, 1865, he married Miss Eliza (Molly) Wilson in St. Louis, where he spent the remainder of his life. He died December 27, 1905. ... Love Papers (1859-1865)

Might the following be Molly's mother?:

WILSON -- July 18, at her residence, St. Louis, Missouri. Mrs. Eliza Wilson, widow of the late Captain Alexander Wilson, and daughter of the late Rev. John Murphy, Islandmagee, aged 76 years. ... The Witness - Friday, 14 August, 1874

Wilson Erected by Eliza Wilson in memory of her husband Alexander Wilson who died 31 Jan 1846 aged 49 years. And their son Joseph who died in infancy. Also in memory of her father, the Rev. John Murphy, 53 years minister of the Presbyterian Church, Islandmagee, who died 12 Jun 1842 aged 87 years. Jane Brown his wife died 29 Apr 1833 aged 78 years. Robert B. Murphy died 10 Apr 1813 aged 19 years. Margaret Murphy died 15 Aug 1841 aged 52 years. Arch. Dounan died 30 Aug 1850 aged 59 years. ... Ballypriormore Graveyard, Islandmagee

The answer appears to be yes:

Molly Wilson was born in 1833 on Island Magee, about 50 miles southeast of Bushmills, and moved with her mother to St. Louis about 1850. One of her brothers** married one of Love's cousins. Love and Wilson, both Presbyterians, were engaged shortly before he joined the 5th U.S. Reserve Corps in St. Louis, which was formed to fight rebels in Missouri. ... Tim O'Neil, STL Today

**Perhaps it's this William Wilson in the 1880 US census who is married to Eliza, daughter of James and Jane Adams [see * further up]

Molly Kodner, associate archivist at the Missouri History Museum, explains the background to the collection.

Love story 2

"Dear Molly" - Bushmills, Ballymena and Islandmagee origins