Mom’s History Book

Weathers,Margie dec 1941

Mom at around age 16

On this date–April 13–in 1923, my mother was born, number 9 in a family of 10 children and 1.5 adults. The .5 would have been Poppy, her father, whom wasn’t around all that much. When I think about my mother’s 83 year lifespan, it seems like something I read in a history book. Both of my parents lived through one of the most rapidly changing eras of modern times. She lived on a quasi-farm, without indoor plumbing. I don’t even know if they had electricity. Her grandfather, Joseph Newdigger (Neidecker) was an Austrian stowaway at age 13, who arrived in the U.S. around 1850. He settled, at first, in Arkansas, where he met Mary Elizabeth Hooper. They married in 1868 and settled in Newton County, Missouri. They had 3 children, but by 1878 Joseph had moved on and married Louisa Rebecca McDonnel, a Native American, with whom he had 13 more children over a 17 year period. One was my grandmother, Mary Catherine.

Newdigger-in process

My great-grandparents, Joseph & Rebecca Newdigger

My mother never knew her grandparents, and I don’t think she knew her father very well, either. Her mother succumbed to cancer when Mom was only 13, and Poppy was long gone by then, off to father two more kids with someone else. My mom and her younger sister were passed around amongst the older siblings until they could be married off. Both of these young sisters faced unwanted relationships early in their lives, stories they lived, but weren’t inclined, to tell.

Think about population in America’s rapidly growing years. Joseph Newdigger fathered 18 children, and one, just ONE of these children had 13 more children. Consider that most, if not all, of those original 16 kids had an average of 10 more. That’s 160 lives. My grandmother, Mary Catherine, had some 28 grandkids and and least 32 great-grandchildren. The figures are mind-boggling when you consider it all.

Newdigger Weathers, Mary Catherine-new

Mary Catherine Newdigger-Weathers, one of 16 little Newdiggers

So I meant to write about Mom today, and got all tangled up in stats. These large families certainly had an effect on her life–but what kind of effect? Competition for attention, even life’s necessities? Once any of those aunts, uncles and even older sibs moved out of the line of sight, they were virtually lost to her. No telephones, no “change of address” cards. Hear-say, maybe… the neighbor that lives over near the church “heard” that the oldest sister, Mamie, moved to Texas with that guy that comes around selling egg-gathering baskets… it was easy to lose touch. Today, I can spend a few minutes on Facebook or Ancestry and locate many of my long-lost or unknown descendents. Strange, huh?

Mom has been gone for 10 years now. I wonder what she’d think of Facebook and all the myriad ways the Internet ties people together? With her background of riding an old nag to school, using an outhouse, killing her own chickens for dinner and leaving school at 13, how could she have even a basis for understanding today’s world? I barely understand it myself.

Nonetheless, she made a good life for Dad, my two brothers, my sister and me. She didn’t need to look up on YouTube about how to make a pie crust or reupholster the couch. She loved us all with a devotion and passion she was denied as a child. She was socially shy, however, and I have to smile thinking about how tramatized she’d be by Facebook’s friending/ unfriending and “like” systems. Best that she was spared that nonsense!

Happy Birthday, Mama. Love and miss you.



1 Comment

  1. Gary Ramage
    Apr 17, 2015

    My Gosh Pam, what a great article! I didn’t know most of that history myself.
    Yes, I miss Mom alot too!