Saturday, January 31, 2015

#7 Margaret Weir Bewick (1874-1947)

Great Grandmother (Bewick) Ryan

My husband’s great-grandmother is our most direct connection to his Scottish roots.  Her name is Margaret Weir Bewick, daughter of George Bewick and Jane Young Bewick.  Margaret was named after her paternal Grandmother, Margaret Weir.   

George and Jane were both born in Dunfermline, Scotland and moved to the United States with relatives before getting married in Gold Hill, Nevada on January 5, 1870 (an interesting connection to my husband and myself as we also were married on January 5th).  The Bewick family has a long mining history in Dunfermline as well as in Houghton-le-Street, Durham, England.
Jane Young Bewick
George Bewick

Margaret and her older siblings, Emma Simpson Bewick and William Young Bewick, were all born in Gold Hill, Nevada, the silver mining town in the height of the Comstock Lode.  Gold Hill and Virginia City were the principal towns of the Comstock Lode.  In the late 1850’s prospectors discovered the rich lode of silver ore in the area and a great volume of individuals and families moved into the area.  George arrived in the U.S. in May 1863 with older brothers William and John, a few years after silver ore was discovered; as far as I can tell, they went straight to Nevada (tax records have them in Gold Hill in 1865).  

"Gold Hill" 1870’s  by Carleton Watkins.

Margaret grew up in Gold Hill, Nevada during an exciting part of Nevada’s mining history.  Gold Hill was incorporated in 1862, the height of its prosperity between 1868 and 1888 during Margaret’s childhood.

Today, Gold Hill is considered largely “inactive” and somewhat considered a ghost town, one of several that cover California and Nevada as a result of the silver and gold rush.

William, Emma, and Margaret Bewick, early to mid 1880s
Margaret was born in July 1874 (her siblings having been born in 1871 and 1872).  Her mother, Jane, died when Margaret was 5 in October 1879.  

One of my favorite finds was a photo album with an inscription to Margaret on her 9th birthday from her father, George.  It spoke to a father sharing a positive and happy message with his young daughter,  a message we can all be reminded of...."Always look above whatever betide, and choose with heart of love, life's sunny side"

With 3 small children at home, her father remarried, and she became an older (half) sister to three siblings born between 1886 and 1892.  Her father was a prominent member of the Gold Hill community, active in the Gold Hill Miner’s Union and, at one point, he was the local Constable. George died in March 1894 and is buried with her mother, Jane, in the Gold Hill cemetery.   

By the mid 1890’s, Margaret’s older siblings had moved to Northern California (San Mateo).  By November 1895, Margaret had met and married a carpenter named John W. Ryan, a native of Ohio.

Margaret and John had six children (although, there is some date confusion on the birth of the first two children who seemed to be born 3 months apart  - giving rise to speculation on the maternal heritage of the oldest child, Evelin).   The documented and traceable details are less clear, but it appears that John left the family between 1910 and 1920 (US Federal Census records).   Family stories have him leaving with another woman; by 1920, Margaret lists herself as a widow in the US Federal Census.  Death records for John Ryan have not yet been verified. 

The Ryan Children (Left to Right):  Elmer John, Jenny, Walter (front), Thomas (back), Helen, circa 1913

Margaret was a strong, independent woman. Her grandson has memories of a loving, but firm, grandma…and that he recalls that she would stand her ground and was not one to be taken advantaged of, recalling her arguing with the local butcher about how much fat he left on cuts of meat.  She lost her oldest son, Elmer John, to the Spanish Flu in 1918 and her eldest daughter (assumed to be a step daughter), Evelin, who died in childbirth in 1925.  She remained in the San Mateo area of Northern California, attending the St. Matthew’s Church regularly, along with her remaining 4 children and multiple grandchildren.

She remained close to her siblings, Emma and William. It is unclear how much interaction she had with her stepmother May Julia Bewick and her half-siblings, George, Jessie and David who, by 1900, lived somewhat nearby in Palo Alto, CA.   

Siblings:  Margaret Weir (Bewick) Ryan, William Young Bewick, Emma Simpson (Bewick) Hague
Margaret died on March 9, 1947 at the age of 72; she died of cancer and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma, CA.

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