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Mary Ellen Wiley Richardson

Mary Ellen Wiley Richardson

Mary Ellen (Ella) Wiley was born July 1845 in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was the third of eight children born to
Joshua Cooper Wiley & Mary Ellen Kettlewell Wiley.

I do not know anything about Ella's life in Wheeling before she married Theopolis W. Richardson, life-long Wheeling resident and recently returned Civil War veteran, December 21, 1865.

The newly weds moved to the small but busy waterfront town of Sardis, Ohio where Theopolis's father Joseph A. Richardson owned property and in his capacity as merchant had established a waterfront dry-goods store. Family oral history has it that Theopolis worked with his father and operated a riverboat to ferry goods for the business. The 1870 census listed Theopolis 's occupation as a retired dry goods merchant. This early retirement may have been the result of his deteriorating health condition.

Ella and Theopolis had five children;

Alice 1866
Joseph Edward (Edward) 1868
Eugene Wiley 1870
Maud Virginia 1872
Amy February 2, 1873.

Theopolis had chronic health problems, the legacy of his months spent in the Confederate prison camp Andersonville. In September of 1873, Theopolis died at the young age of thirty, leaving Ella a widow with five children, the youngest only 3 months old. Theopolis left no will, nor did he own any property.

A month after Theopolis died, Ella bought the property on which she lived in Sardis from her father-in-law.
In 1894 Ella was still living in this house on Water St. , but the historic floods of the 1930's destroyed the Sardis waterfront buildings, and today, where Ella's house once stood, is open green space.

In 1879 Ella sent her 13 year old daughter Alice to the
Soldier's and Sailors Home for Orphans in Xenia, Ohio. Ella wrote on Alice's application that she lacked the funds to support or educate Alice at home. A strong consideration for sending her eldest daughter to the school could have been the fact that Ella's sister Katherine Wiley was a matron at the Home in Xenia. Katherine was on staff from 1879 to 1893.

When Ella's father-in-law Joseph Richardson died in March, 1880 all five of her children were listed in Joseph's will but they did not inherit anything of value. Joseph left a young widow and children of his own.

In 1880 Ella applied for a Widow's Penion widow pension application based on Theopolis's civil war service and the fact that his death was due to his service. The pension file does not tell us whether Ella received a pension, but her later applications did give eloquent testimony to her desperate financial situation after the death of her second husband, David W. Skinner, in 1888.

On December 25, 1883, Ella married David W. Skinner in Monroe County, Ohio. David W. Skinner was around 20 years her senior, a farmer from Wetzel county, West Virginia. Mr. Skinner had lost his wife to cancer several years earlier and had older children of his own. Several days before their marriage Mr. Skinner signed a deed in Wetzel county to pass his farming tracts of land to his own children for 1 dollar. He retained a life interest in the tracts, the ultimate control was given to his son John G. The following year, again in Wetzel County, Mr. Skinner accepted a bond obligation to handle the estates of Ella's four younger children. Presumably Alice was not a consideration since she was already in her majority. In 1886 Ella was still making application on behalf of her children for a pension, but the record does not reflect whether she received one.

Unfortunately, on December 6, 1888 the slighly deaf Mr. Skinner, upon leaving the Sardis wharf on his skiff in the dark, was hit by the steamer Courier and died of internal hemoraging the next day. No will was filed in either Monroe County, Ohio or Wetzel County, West Virginia, but his daughter Adaline was appointed administrator of her father's estate.

Ella's application for a pension was filed under her married name Richardson, but in 1903 and 1917, in her applications for Amy's dependent child pension and her own widow's pension, she used her married name Skinner. On the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census she was enumerated as Ella Richardson. Also interesting to note, in the local papers she is always referred to as Mrs. Ella Richardson.

At the turn of the 20th century, twice widowed, 55 year-old Ella, was living in Sardis. Of her five children, three lived with, or near her.

Alice graduated from the Orphan's Home and went on yo earn a teacher's certificate in Woodsfield, Ohio. She taught in the Sardis grade school until her 1894 marriage to the town doctor, Dr. Sheridan C. Griffith. The Griffiths and their three children lived next door to Ella until they moved to Worthington, Ohio in 1915.

Single at 31, Joseph Edward (or Ed) lived with Ella and worked in the local shirt factory. In 1901, at the age of 33, Ed married a 20 year old local girl named Erma Dieter and moved to Wheeling, West Virginia. Ed, Erma and their three children came to visit Sardis often over the next 15 years, but by 1920 Ed and Erna were divorced and Erma remarried, moved to Pennsyvlania, taking their daughter Constance with her.

After 1920, Ed's sons Andrew and Eugene were in the household of either Ella, their aunt Maude Maloney's in Chicago, or sometimes in their Aunt Alice Griffith in Worthington, Ohio. Ed himself lived with his sister Alice later in life. He committed suicide in her house in 1941.

Ella's youngest and mentally challenged 27 year old daughter Amy, and her 4 year old granddaughter Lena where living in her household in 1900, 1910 and 1920. Ella's dependent pension request on behalf of Amy filed in 1917, clearly stated that Amy had been mentally weak since birth and was not able to care for herself. Lena was Amy's illegitimate daughter. A small bit of family oral history suggests that Amy was too mentally challenged to have been responsible for the course of events that produced Lena. In 1932 Amy was the informant on Lena's death certificate and named a John Graham as Lena's father, but I have never been able to find any information on him. Amy apparently never did live alone, and after Ella's death in 1923 she lived with her daughter Lena. After Lena's premature death from consumption in 1932 Amy lived with Alice in Worthington, and later died in a nursing home in Columbus, Ohio in 1957.

Ella's daughter Maud married William Maloney in 1895 in Chicago and had three sons. Ella had extensive connections in Chicago through her Wiley family. Ella's brother Andrew Wiely lived there through the 1880's, and presumably her mother Mary Ellen Wiley was living with Andrew when she died there in 1893. Ella's sister Katherine Wiley, the matron in the Orphan's home in Xenia, and Adah Wiely, both unmarried sisters, were living in Chicago in 1900. After Maud's husband William Maloney died in Chicago in 1918, Maud was a frequent visitor in Ohio and figures prominently in family stories from the descendants of Alice Griffith in Worthington. Maud visited Sardis often when her mother was alive.

Ella's son Eugene, my great-great-grandfather, left Sardis at a young age, and except for an occassional visit, never returned to live there. Eugene lived and worked in Pennsylvania, but was mostly undocumented until he eloped with Susannah Radcliffe Wade, a sixteen year old from Jollytown, Pennsylvania, in 1893. Ella visited Eugene and his wife in Jollytown in 1895, by which time the first granddaughter Ruth was a year old. Eugene and Susannah had 10 children, but by the time Ella died in 1923, Susannah had died of cancer (1921) and their six year old son Stanley of croup (1922). Eugene married two more times, but had no more children.

Ella died April 28, 1923. She was survived by her sisters Adah and Louise, 5 children, and 16 grandchildren.