Friday, November 18, 2016

Toward Died in Forward

The second wife of my three times great uncle, Robert Orr Muir, was Mary Watson Shaw (about 1846-1918). Her younger sister, Isabella, had a son named John Shaw who was born on 21 May 1870 in Lesmahagow, Scotland. Isabella was not married at the time of his birth and lived with her parents. John's grandfather was a cotton weaver and his mother worked as a farm servant. When John was eight years old, his mother married James McDonald, who was a coal miner. James Shaw, his sister and half-brother lived with his mother and step-father in Lesmahagow when the 1881 census was enumerated. When John was old enough to leave school, he joined his step-father in the coal mines.

On 14 November 1892, John arrived in New York City aboard the RMS City of Chester from Liverpool. He traveled in a second class cabin. The next year he become a naturalized citizen. When the 1900 census was taken John Shaw lived in McCalmont Township, Pennsylvania, which sits on top of the Freeport Lower coal bed. Not surprisingly, he worked as a miner. Living with John was a wife named Lizzie, who had been born in Pennsylvania to Scottish parents. They had been married about three years and had a one-year-old son named James. Lizzie had another child who was no longer alive.

Inman Line's RMS City of Chester; photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

By 1910 John Shaw and his family were living in Forward Township, Pennsylvania. It was said at the turn of the century, there was a coal mine every mile along the riverfront in the township. John likely worked for the Monongahela Consolidated Coke and Coal Company, known as The Combine. This company consolidated many independent mines under common ownership and built many coal patches in the township to provide housing for miners and their families.

Between 1900 and 1910 Lizzie had five more children but one died before the 1910 census was taken. Joining their oldest son James, were Elizabeth, George, Isabelle and Jeannetta, known as Janet.

John's wife Lizzie died on 10 February 1913 in Forward of accute dilatation of the stomach, which is the result of an enormously dilated stomach typically due to food or drink. I learned from Lizze's death certificate that her maiden name was Toward, which struck my funny bone -- a Toward died in Forward! Lizzie was 42 years old when she died leaving John with five young children ranging in ages from 14 to 4, which is certainly NOT funny.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" (Toward) Shaw death certificate; image courtesy of

John never remarried. He continued to advance in his career from mine foreman in 1910 until 1920 when he was a superintendent of a mine in East Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania. His oldest son, James, worked at the mines with him. Nellie Bonham was a servant for the family and likely looked after the cooking, cleaning, and younger children. When the 1930 census was enumerated John was 60 years and no longer worked. Two of his younger children lived with him, as well as a niece. Nellie remained with the family as a servant.

John died on 7 December 1936 at his home in the McDonald Borough of Washington County, Pennsylvania of carcinoma of the liver. He had lived in the United States 44 years and been a widower for 23 years.

John Shaw and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Toward's five living children were:
  1. James M. Shaw born 19 April 1899; died 11 June 1968; married Sara Jane McCoy
  2. Elizabeth Shaw born 26 September 1902; died 16 June 1972; married Edward Christy
  3. George Shaw born 29 May 1905; died 21 January 1975; married Bertha Novisel
  4. Isabelle Shaw born 10 February 1907; died 11 November 1985; married James William Bayley
  5. Jeannetta "Janet" Shaw born 12 May 1909; died 28 November 1987; married John Henderson

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