|Tha osag nam beann||The sigh of the hills|
|Gu fann ag imeachd||Is weakly departing|
|Gach sruthan 's gach allt||Each stream and brook|
|Gu mall le bruthach||Go slowly down the hillside|
|Tha ealtainn nan speur||The birds of the sky|
|Feadh geugan dubhach||Are sad in the branches|
|A caoidh gu'n d'fhalbh||Lamenting that you left|
|'S nach till thu tuille||And will never more return|
--"MacCrimmon's Lament" (Traditional)
Today marks the 194th birthday of my 4th-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Mettert Baker. In many respects, she had a privileged life, being the wife of a wealthy businessman and living in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond.
But she also suffered through many losses in her life. Her father George Mettert likely passed away when she was a teenager; he last appears on the 1830 Census, and by Mary Ann's marriage in 1838, her mother Nancy was listed as her guardian and giving consent.
Elijah and Mary Ann Baker lost two daughters, Georgetta and Mary, in infancy. Another daughter, Mattie, died on Christmas Day in 1872 at the age of 21 in a tragic accident.
Then came the 1860s, bringing the Civil War and reconstruction era. Yet as hard as the war was on Richmond, the roughest patch for Mary Ann came in the late 1880s as a number of personal tragedies struck in the family. In 1886, her niece, Mrs. Mary Morton, lost her young son Oden when she mistakenly mixed up her sons' medications.
The following year, the Bakers' only son, Dabney Gathright Baker, died of cancer at the age of 46, leaving behind his wife Lucy and four children. Just four months later, Mary Ann's nephew was killed when a boiler exploded at the paper mill where his father worked.
Mr. Mettert, an elderly gentleman, whose hair is silvered with gray, and who has been a watchman at the mill for a number of years, said:
"It is my custom to keep my lantern lighted at night, so that when I hear a noise I can look about the premises at once. My son came in the front door (opening on the new street at the north side of the building), and I met him directly he came in, knowing that he wanted to see me. After we had been talking for a little while he said that he wanted to see Alec, the colored engineer, and went down into the engine-room to see him. I came on back here and sat down where I am now (at the back of the establishment). In a few minutes I heard the sound, and upon examination found that there had been a terrible explosion. My son after seeing Alec went into the boiler-room, and he is now dead, or I fear he is, as nothing has been seen of him.
In April of 1888, two of Elijah and Mary Ann's young granddaughters, Ruby and Mary, died within days of each other. With the girls' deaths, their parents were left childless.
Less than three weeks later, on May 4th, Mary Ann's husband Elijah died from congestion in his lungs at the age of 76. The couple had been married for 50 years. In his will, Elijah divided up his properties, valued at $85,000, amongst his children and grandchildren, leaving Mary Ann their house at 2241 Venable Street and $800 per year. The house is still standing today.
Two months after Elijah's death, the Bakers' eldest daughter, Mrs. Nannie Wood, passed away at the age of 45.
Mary Ann herself lived until 1896, passing away at the age of 77. In all, she outlived five of her children (and another daughter, Charlotte, died later that same year), two sons-in-law, six grandchildren, and at least three of her siblings.