Mother’s Day – Three Grandmas

This picture has always fascinated me. I wonder if it was Mother’s Day in Iowa and someone collected these ladies for a formal picture.

Three generations: Clockwise from lower middle Amanda Caroline Mullins Lovell, Myrtle May Lovell Lane and Iva May Lane Quist

Amanda Caroline Mullins Lovell, my 2nd Great Grandma,  was born in Terre Haute, IN in 1839. By 1859 she had moved to Hamilton where she married George Washington Lovell at age 16. George was a farmer and it appears their travels took them to Illinois, then Iowa with George working as a farm laborer. By 1860 they had 6 children.  In 1880 there are 6 teenage and adult children living at home on the farm. It’s not clear if they owned the farm. Myrtle May was her 11th child. 

No wonder Amanda looks crochety in this picture. Her husband had died in 1885.  The 1900 census shows her the head of household at age 63. She is a widow with one son, James, age 17 living at home. He was born when she was 45. She had 14 children but in 1900 only 8 were living. There is some reference to 7 other births so she may have given birth 21 times, lost 7 of them and by the time she was 63 only 8 were living! What a hard life! Imagine being a farm wife, giving birth every year or so for 20 plus years, cooking and cleaning for the family with none of the conveniences that we now have. 

Amanda was 74 in the 1910 census, living in the home of her son Elmer, his wife and 3 grandchildren in Otter Creek, Iowa. Amanda died 2 years later in Lacona, Iowa at age 76.

Myrtle May Lovell, my Great Grandma, was born on May 2, 1880 to Amanda and George in Lacoma. She lived at home on the farm in White Breast, Iowa until she was 17 and then married William Elmer Lane who was a farmer and owned the farm in Lucas By 1900 they had 2 children, Jerral and Iva May. After 13 years of marriage they had moved to Delaware, Iowa and had 6 children. There is no record of owning their residence or of William Elmer’s occupation.

In 1920 Myrtle had 9 children at home to care for from baby Cleora to 19 year old Alma. Iva had left home by this time and Myrtle and Elmer had lost a baby girl in 1910. At 39 Myrtle was still having babies and doing farm chores. 

By 1930 it looks like the birth rate had thankfully died down because babies were not being born every year. Little Zelpha was three and half and the youngest and appears to be the last child. Elmer was farming and they rented their home. 

1940 found William Elmer, 65, and Myrtle, 60, living in rural Clay county Iowa on a rented farm with 2 daughters at home. Myrtle had only reached the 5th grade before she married and always is listed on the census as a homemaker/housekeeper. Her husband was working on a WPA project at an army base. 

Daughter Alma died in 1941 apparently as a result of a pelvic infection from an abortion. She was 36 and married. In 1942 Myrtle’s youngest son, Elmer Junior, enlisted in the Navy Reserve. He was stationed near Key West FL and died in service in 1944. Cause of death was drowning listed as not his fault. It could be he died in a training exercise. Myrtle lost her husband in 1957 when he was 82. She lived until age 90. They are buried in Berwick, Iowa.
My Grandma, Iva Mae/May Lane Quist, was born in Lacona, Iowa in August of 1899. She was the second child of William and Myrtle Lane. At age 15 she lived at home doing chores on the farm and helping care for her siblings. She had only a grammar school education. 

In September of 1917 she married Carl Quist, a coal miner, in Ankeny Iowa. Story has it that Iva’s boyfriend John went off to WWI and asked brother Carl to look after Iva. Carl looked after her really well!  

By 1925 Carl and Iva had 4 daughters (one of them was my Mom, Anne). After the fifth daughter they moved to Gages Lake, Illinois. The mining jobs were winding down in Iowa and Carl had family in Illinois. He is listed as a general laborer on the census of 1930 where there are 8 children shown in the family. Iva had her hands full with 4 children under 5 years but she probably got a lot of help from Emma who was 12 and Anne, age 10. 

By 1940 Iva had launched the 3 oldest daughters out into the world leaving 9 children at home. Carl had landed a job with the WPA as a carpenter which became his lifelong occupation. With all those children it was very hard to make ends meet. Iva always had a garden and was known for keeping the cellar filled with canned fruits and veggies. When Iva wasn’t keeping the family fed and cared for she loved to play cards… Poker, canasta and my personal favorite, 52 PIckup! When you played cards with Iva you always wanted to know what the house rules were…because you played by her rules!

Around 1950 the family moved to White Lake, Wisconsin where they bought a small farm. I remember spending a couple of summers on the farm taking care of animals, riding the hay baling wagon and weeding the garden…and playing cards with Grandma.

Iva died in February of 1970. I was married and had a young family so we were unable to attend the funeral. I was very distressed because I could not remember ever telling Grandma Iva that I loved her. We were not a very lovey, huggy family at the time but I vowed to myself that I would  change that behavior…and started giving out lots of hugs and “I love yous.”

I honor these three mothers. Although none of them had much formal education they encouraged learning and reading. All of their offspring could read and write. Over the generations the education levels increased. I think all of Iva’s children graduated from high school and daughter, Myrtle Jean, graduated from college. All 5 sons and 1 daughter, Emma, served in the military and to the best of my knowledge none of the offspring of these three moms had a serious run in with the law. 

I’m proud to be descended from these strong women…Amanda, Myrtle and Iva…and of course my Mom, Anne!

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