When I think of "mother" relative to my ancestry there is no stronger image than that of Phoebe Chesley, mother of eight (one of whom had Downs Syndrome), grandmother to over thirty, and great-grandmother to an untold number many of whom she lived long enough to see born.
Pictured above are two sets of four generations of women, three generations on each side of the baby! Standing L to R -- Flora Mae Hutchens (nee. Moore), Bessie Ann Walker (nee. Hutchens), Lucy May Walker Copeland (nee. Chesley); Sitting L to R -- Elizabeth Moore (nee. Johnson), Beulah Walker, Phoebe Chesley (nee. Ward). The baby's father was Lynndon Walker, Lucy's son.
Phoebe ruled with a strong will and a compassionate heart. She was the glue that held that huge family together, some of the time without the presence of her husband Charles who served in the Civil War. After the passing of Charles, she lived with my great-grandmother Lucy. At first thought I would say it was an honor. But research says it was likely because Lucy needed the most help.
From Settling the Seven Valleys 1872-1982 (Loup Valley Queen, 1982) --
Some notes on Charles H. and Phoebe Ward Chesley and their eight children. They were married in 1848 in Plattsburgh, New York, where they grew up and here their first four were born, George 1849, Candis 1852, Charles E. 1854, Ida 1856. With one nursing baby and three toddlers the couple traveled by wagon train to Morrison, Illinois the summer of 1857. One year later twins Catie (Eva) and Carrie were born (Carrie died at three months), in 1860 Cyrus Henry and Lucy May, 1866. . . .
In 1870, when the oldest George was 21 and the youngest Lucy May was four, the family emigrated to homestead near Osborn City, Kansas. . . .In 1889 Charles E. moved his family to Custer County, Nebraska. By 1894 the entire clan had joined him there, including the elderly Phoebe and Charles H. now in their sixties. Some of the families homesteaded, some bought existing farms, my great-grandmother Lucy homesteaded.
Phoebe Ward Chesley, the mother, grandmother, and great grandmother to the above families lived to be 98. She was cared for in the home of her youngest daughter Lucy Walker Copeland. She was still making quilts until the last years, always wore a neat ruffled bedcap, used a magnifying glass to read her Bible. She died in 1928.
© 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker