Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nettie: The Other Studley

Every child needs a doting aunt, and ours was Nettie Borden Studley (1889-1990), older sister to our grandmother, Alice Packard Studley (1891-1976).  They came from working class backgrounds whose New England customs meant you had a family name passed down at birth.  

Our Nettie was named for a maternal aunt, Nettie H. Borden (1869-1923),

and Alice received her middle name from a maternal grandmother, Harriet A. Packard (1827-1893).

Nettie's and Alice's father, Sidney Elmer Studley (1863-1941), grew up in the ethnic, working class neighborhoods of Chelsea and Hyde Park, Boston, and likely did not finish high school as he was already working as an express clerk at the age of 17.  

Their mother, Martha Hathaway Borden (1863-1936), also grew up in a working class family in Fall River, Massachusetts.  Martha's father, a Civil War veteran, was a laborer, machinist, and meat salesman at various times in his life.

The couple married in Fall River in June 1887 - both were 24 years old - and  settled into a neighborhood on the hill overlooking Taunton River as it empties into Mount Hope Bay.  Sidney got into the grocery business, perhaps with help from Martha’s father, Stephen Bailey Borden, and worked his way up over the years until he was manager, then owner, of a grocery on Linden Street in Fall River.  Martha must have been a good mother as pictures of the girls indicate they were well cared for, perhaps even indulged.

The little girls' photo was likely taken in 1893, the same year Lizzie Borden was accused of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River.  Both Grandma Alice and Aunt Nettie vehemently denied any blood relation to Lizzie.   Uh, seems unlikely as Bordens in that area descend from two Borden brothers.  

A mid-to late 1890's photo shows a well-dressed family on a sleigh ride outing.

Alice, Martha, and Nettie

In 1900, the family was living in a rented duplex at 594 Bradford Avenue, a nicer neighborhood, and Sidney was working as a grocery clerk.

This photo of Nettie may well be around the 8th grade, but perhaps taken when she graduated from BMC Durfee High School in 1908.

By 1910, the family owned a house at 972 Maple Street, indeed a nice neighborhood.  Sidney is a grocery store manager, Alice is 18, still attending BMC Durfee, and Nettie is 21 years old, working as a bookkeeper at Small Brothers, one of the textile mills for which Fall River was known.  Nettie remained with this company for her entire career, finally retiring at age 72.  Sidney became the owner of the grocery store on Linden Street.

In 1915, Nettie's sister married a young man from Massachusetts Agricultural College, now University of Massachusetts, and left the family home to be a farmer's wife - and we have seen what an amazing farmer he was.  When I was growing up I had heard Nettie had a fiance or young man she liked very much who was killed in World War I.  For this or whatever reason, she never married and lived with her parents for the rest of their lives.

In 1921, Sidney, Martha, and Nettie moved down the street to 724 Maple Street where they remained until just before Martha died in 1936.  In 1935, the parents and Nettie moved into a house at 172 Hanover, just behind the 724 Maple Street address, and Sidney lived with Nettie until he died in 1941.

Nettie's house at 172 Hanover Street
I believe 724 Maple is the house in far left of photo
Nettie had a way of making everyone her family, and likely her co-workers at the thread factory filled in for the absence of her parents and sister.  Alice's family, children and grandchildren became the focus of her travels, and often she of theirs.  As a youngster growing up on the farm in Lewis County, we looked forward to the Christmas gift we always knew we would get from Aunt Nettie.  I can still remember the visit when she bought me a pair of red boots.  She visited there by train,

Vanceburg Station in 1940's
Alice, Nettie, and perhaps Helen Plummer
and followed us to northern Ohio.

Jeannette, Aunt Nettie, George
Ray & Kathie
Joellen, Janie, young George
No trip to New England was complete without stopping off "to see Aunt Nettie".

Aunt Nettie, Jeannette
Donald, Joellen, George "Clif"
Fall River Herald News ran an article in 1960 on her retirement at age 72,

Bookkeeper Feted by Firm after Fifty Years' Service

Small Brothers Mfg. Co. last night honored a woman who has been with the organization for 50 years.  She is Miss Nettie B. Studley, the thread-manufacturingfirm's head bookkeeper.
When Miss Studley joined Small Brothers in 1910 to begin her first job, the firm was only 25 years old and still operated by its founders, Elisha H. and Reuben C. Small. The bookkeeping department was small; in fact, she was it. 

As a retirement gift, they gave her a TransCanadian Rail trip which she took by herself - age 72 no less.

In 1968, Nettie  gave up her residence and moved into senior living at the Fall River Home for the Aged at 1172 Highland Avenue.  She loved to show off her room and the elegant setting, pointing out they took every meal with linen tablecloths, silver, and crystal glassware.  She continued to be a prolific letter writer.  She was mentally sharp and  at age 87 amazed my Ohio Republican Chairman then-husband with her command of politics over lunch.

Throughout her life, she had a hobby of needlepoint and some of the family are lucky to have beautiful pieces she gifted.    She continued to crochet and knit afghans through her later years.

Nettie at the Fall River Home for the Aged
Fall River News in November 1980 covered a ceremony with Nettie as the guest of honor in which a tree planted by Sidney in 1940 needed to be moved and replanted.

"I remember when poppa planted the tree", she said, reflecting a remarkable memory that can summon people and dates that have long since passed.  "He wanted to brighten the area around the Haffenreffer House on Hanover Street (then owned by the hospital).  So he donated a garden that he planted himself."

The article went on to say,

The nonagenarian observes the local scene with a keen eye from her present domicile.  She marveled at the prospect of a new five story patient care facility that will consolidate Union and Truesdale services at the Union site.  

"Change is welcome", she noted, "when the old is accommodated to make way for the new".

The Fall River Herald News covered her 100th birthday party, noting she supervised all the arrangements herself.  

100th Birthday Party
Nettie died in 1990 at age 101.   Her obituary noted she was acknowledged as one of the first women in the area to hold a major corporate position in the city.

Alice died in 1976 at age 84, seventeen years younger than Nettie.  Alice had a more active lifestyle on the farm, and I have long thought the longevity difference was related in part to Nettie's positive outlook, evident even in that 1893 photo.


Pat said...

You didn't mention her little size 2 granny shoes! (I don't care what you say - she told me they were size 2!)

Pat said...

Isn't that pic of the two little girls adorable?

And why do you suppose Nettie had a more positive outlook - maybe because she never married? Food for thought...

Katharine said...

The difference is apparent in photos from an early age, so I think it was a natural disposition. Doesn't mean it couldn't have been changed with some effort and insight.

janie said...

Think she told me they were a size 2, also. She was always positive. I loved the crinolines she sent me for Christmas. Looked forward to them. When I saw that top photo, I immediately thought of Haley. Do they have a similar look?

Katharine said...

They both have that round high forehead.