Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Margaret (Semple) Muir (1850-1920)

Margaret Semple was born on 22 June likely in 1850 in Dalserf, Scotland, a small village on the banks of the Clyde river. No church parish record exists for her birth so her birth year is my best estimate. Her age was recorded as being nine months old when the 1851 census was enumerated on 30 March. Therefore, she would have turned one the following June, making her birth year 1850.

She was the fourth child of Peter and Janet (Torrance) Semple. Her father was a coal miner at the time of her birth. In 1851 the family lived in Canderdykehead, miners' housing owned by James Nimmo & Company, Ltd. They were described in a 1910 housing report and I imagine few improvements were made in the nearly 60 years between 1851 and 1910 with the exception of adding water closets inside each apartment:

"Two story, brick built -- erected under Building Bye-laws [sic] -- damp-proof course; walls hollow built; wood floors, ventilated; internal surface of walls and ceilings in good condition. Good sized apartments. No gardens. Wash houses and coal cellars provided."

In 1861 the family was living at 31 New Street in nearby Stonehouse, which is less than 5 miles from Dalserf. The family now consisted of eight children. Margaret's father, Peter, continued working as a coal miner. Margaret was 11 years old and worked as an apprentice weaver of mixed fabrics, along with her two older siblings.

Margaret was living in the Maryhill area of Glasgow and working as a dairy maid in 1871. She lived in a four-room house with four other young women. She was about a month along in her first pregnancy but likely did not know it yet. On 25 November 1871, Margaret had a daughter, who she named Janet Semple in honor of her mother and in accordance with Scottish naming conventions of the time. No father was listed on the birth registration. Janet was called "Jessie" throughout her life. She was born in Swinhill, which was the home of her maternal grandparents. My assumption is Margaret returned home upon learning she was pregnant or just before the birth.

Swinhill Farm on a British Ordnance Survey; image courtesy of

Two years later she married James Muir, a 25-year-old coal miner, on 4 July 1873, at her parents' home in Swinhill according to the forms of the Church of Scotland. Three months later their first child Robert Muir, named for his paternal grandfather, was born on 4 October 1873. Little Robert died on 25 January 1874 of hydrocephalus and convulsions, which is more commonly known as water on the brain.

Four more children were born between 1873 and 1882 but only one survived infancy. When the 1881 census was enumerated, Margaret was living with her parents at Swinhill Farm in Dalserf. Her husband James was not at home. Margaret's father's occupation was listed as a coal miner so the farm must have been something he worked in what little spare time he had. The house was full of grandchildren, including Margaret's two children.

Margaret had three more children between 1882 and 1886. A daughter, Henrietta, died of measles at the age of one, but Margaret, known as Maggie, and Peter, survived to adulthood.

In June of 1887 Margaret's husband, James Muir, immigrated to the United States. Margaret, and her living children: Robert, Maggie and Peter, followed in September. They boarded the Allen Line's S/S Manitoban in Glasgow, Scotland, and arrived in Philadelphia on 30 September 1887. Margaret's daughter, Jessie, traveled on the same ship as Jessie Muir, but was listed separately from her mother, several pages later on the passenger manifest. I imagine Margaret and the children took a train to join James Muir.

On 13 May 1889 Margaret had her tenth child, who she named Alexander. If she had continued using the Scottish naming convention, which she did for her previous children, this child should have been named for her husband James.  Alexander was born in Streator, Illinois, in the area of town called Coalville, which was the area where the miners lived.

Margaret had her last child, Jane Muir, who was called "Janie" throughout her life on 29 November 1894 in Reading, Illinois. When the 1990 census was enumerated, Margaret was still living in Reading in a house she owned free and clear. She listed her marital status as married. Her husband, James, however, lived in Mystic, Iowa, as a boarder in the home of Mrs. Margaret Greenbank, his future wife, and listed his marital status as divorced. Living with Margaret in her home were her sons, Robert and Alexander and her youngest daughter Janie. Robert and Alexander worked as coal miners. Margaret's daughters Jessie and Maggie were no longer living at home.

In 1910 Margaret and her youngest daughter, Janie, were living in a rented home on Third North Street in O'Fallon, Illinois. Her recently widowed son, Robert, lived next door with his two young children. Margaret claimed she was widowed.

Jane "Janie" Muir and her mother, Margaret (Semple) Muir, who was my great great grandmother;
photograph courtesy of Abby Muir

In 1920 Margaret and her granddaughter, Alice Muir, lived in a home Margaret owned free and clear in Nineveh, Missouri. Alice was the daughter of Robert Muir and his first wife, Ida Mae Riggin. Ida had died in 1909. Margaret listed her marital status was divorced. Margaret's two married daughters, Jessie and Maggie, lived in Nineveh near their mother. Curiously, so did James Muir. He was a boarder in the home of Ida Logsden and worked as a coal miner. By 1925, he was back in Mystic, Iowa, with his second wife.

Margaret was admitted to a hospital in Kirksville, Missouri, in late May 1920 where she had an operation on the 28th. She died three days later on 31 May 1920 of uremia. Contributing to her death were "old age and hemorrhoids." Her daughter, Jessie, was the informant listed on the death certificate. Margaret was buried in Novinger Cemetery on 3 June 1920.

This post was republished from Descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869), Volume VII, Son James Muir (1848-1926), which has yet to be published but is available at The Robert Muir Family blog. Margaret (Semple) Muir was my great great grandmother.

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