Sunday, March 31, 2019

Early-Muir Marriages: Ralph Early (1863-1909) and Elizabeth Hamilton Muir (1867-1902)

Three children of my three times great uncle, Robert Orr Muir (1839-1917), married siblings. I wrote about Robert Muir and his wife, Janet Early, last week as they were the first of the three Muir siblings to marry Early siblings. Two years later Robert's sister, Elizabeth Hamilton Muir, married Ralph Early, the brother of Janet Early. Elizabeth and Ralph's lives were tragic and all too short.

The Early-Muir marriages; created using Microsoft Powerpoint

Elizabeth Hamilton Muir was born on 3 April 1902 in Stonehouse, Scotland, to Robert Orr Muir and Jane Paton Loudon. She was their third child and first daughter. Elizabeth's mother died when she was two years old. Her father married Mary Watson Shaw in 1871 when Elizabeth was four years old. Mary had two illegitimate children who joined the family in Lesmahagow where Robert worked in the coal mines.

In 1878, at the age of 12, William Brown Shaw followed his step-father, Robert Orr Muir, into the coal mines. He worked at the Auchlochan Mine near Coalburn. On 5 October, William was ascending the shaft of the No. 2 pit, known as "Major Pit," when he fell out of the cage used to raise and lower miners. He sustained fatal injuries but survived 18 hours after the accident. He died the next day at home. This tragedy seemed to set the tone for the remainder of Elizabeth's life.

Elizabeth Hamilton Muir married Ralph Early[1] on 7 March 1890 in Hamilton, Scotland. Ralph was born on 26 July 1863 in Dalziel, Scotland, to Ralph Early and Catherine McNair White. He was their eldest known child, and his father was also a coal miner. He joined his father in the mines at the age of 12 or 13. Ralph's father died in 1881 of heart disease and dropsy at the age of 42, and his mother remarried in 1884.

Ralph and Elizabeth settled in Hamilton parish at 74 South Windsor Street in Burnbank where they were enumerated when the census was taken during the night of 5 April 1891. Elizabeth was pregnant with their first child, Jane Loudon Early, who was born on 5 June. Son, Ralph Early, was born 15 February 1893 in Hamilton parish at the same address. Daughter, Catherine White Early, was born on 25 March 1895 in Kirkfieldbank parish at Tillework Cottage. The youngest known child, Elizabeth Hamilton Muir Early, was born on 26 March 1897 Newtown, which was in Lesmahagow parish.

When the 1901 census was taken, Ralph Early lived with this four children in Hamilton. His wife, Elizabeth, was a patient at the Hartwood Asylum in Shotts. The census form indicated she had been a lunatic since birth. Elizabeth died at the asylum on 3 April 1902 of tuberculosis. She was 35 years old at the time of her death. I suspect Elizabeth may have suffered from epilepsy, which due to the seizures, was considered a mental disease at the time.

Ralph married Margaret (Martin) Taylor on 15 July 1902 at his home in Hamilton at 8 Hall Street. She was a widow and her first husband, Robert Taylor, died the previous year. A 1914 government housing report described the housing in which Ralph and Margaret lived as follows:

"This is a scattered group of houses belonging to the United Colleries, Ltd. They are situated on the outskirts of the Quarter district, and consist of 10 one-apartment and 6 two-apartment houses. The houses are very old, and are of a rather mean type. The sanitation and other conveniences can only be described as wretched. We are of the opinion that these houses are wholly unfit for human habitation."

Miners' housing at Low Quarters; courtesy of Scottish Mining Website

Margaret died on 8 January 1904 at their home in Airdrie of chronic bronchitis and cardiac failure. She was 42 years old. Ralph Early died on 4 August 1909 of apoplexy at the poorhouse in Airdrie. He death registration entry said he had been removed to the poorhouse from Hamilton. His mother registered his death. I wondered what became of Ralph and Elizabeth's children, who at the time of his death ranged in age from 18 to 12. I certainly don't have all the answers yet.

The Children

Jane Loudon Early was named for her maternal grandmother. In 1911 she was a patient at the Hartwood Asylum as her mother had been a decade previously. She was listed on the census as a lunatic. She died there 29 August 1913 at 22 years of age of epilepsy. The disease is hereditary and her cause of death made me wonder if her mother, Elizabeth Hamilton (Muir) Early also suffered from the disease.

Ralph Early was named for his paternal grandfather and father. In 1911 he served as a private in the Army Special Reserve at the Hamilton Barracks on Almada Street in Hamilton. I have not been able to find any records about Ralph after 1911.

Catherine White Early was named for her paternal grandmother, who she lived with when the 1911 census was taken. She married Edward Hunter 13 October 1916 in Lesmahagow at the home of her grandmother. Edward was the son of Harry Hunter and Agnes Halliday. He worked in the mines and Catherine worked as a shop assistant at the time of their marriage. I do not yet know if they had children. Catherine died 26 March 1954 in Douglas, Scotland, of polycystic kidney disease. Edward, her widower, still worked as a coal miner.

Elizabeth Hamilton Muir Early was named for her mother. In 1911 she was a boarder in the home of David and Maggie Munro. The home was next door to her aunt and uncle Robert and Janet (Early) Muir. Robert was the brother of Elizabeth's mother and Janet was the sister of her deceased father, Ralph. I have been unable to find Elizabeth after 1911.

[1] The Early surname was spelled in a variety of ways in the records on ScotlandsPeople, including Airlie, Airley, Earlie, and Earley.

Early-Muir Marriages: Robert Muir (1863-1927) and Janet Early (1868-1939)
Fatal Coal Pit Accident

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