Now we will take a brief look at Grandpa Warren’s paternal grandmother, Mattie Sands, and her ancestors.
I will also in this chapter cover the French Protestants in our Grandpa Williss roots.
Grandma Mattie. My/our great-grandfather, Frank Sands Williss, was given a middle name of Sands. It’s from his mother Mattie Sands. She is our closest connection to a line of Sands that we can at least date back to the mid-eighteenth century.
I will start with her and move chronologically backwards in time.
Grandma Mattie was my/our great-great grandmother. She was born Martha H. Sands in June 25, 1860, in Hopedale, Illinois, a small farming town. Her parents were Israel Sands, at the time of her birth a 29-year old farmer, and his wife Hope Gilmore.
Grandma Mattie, c. 1920s. In her photos, she often comes across as a classic old American librarian of yesteryear. Cousin Lori M. inherited a Victorian-era fan from Grandma Mattie’s wedding, and it’s hanging in a frame in Lori’s house.
I can’t say much about Grandma Mattie, since, like Grandpa’s other grandma (Grandma Sallie) there just isn’t much of a record to find. We can say that Mattie was born a twin to a brother Marcus. Tragedy struck when she was about 5 months old, and Marcus died. Next, one month later, her mother Hope died. I don’t have much information on their deaths but, based on my limited research, my guess is that both Marcus and Hope fell victims to a flu outbreak.
At the time of Hope’s death, there were already several children in the family. This had to have been too much for Israel. And yet the next thing to happen was he felt compelled to enlist in the Union Army, which he did in March, 1862. The children in the family were probably placed with Sands and Gilmore relatives who appear in the census records as living in the area. It’s not clear what happened to Mattie in the short term, but the next record we find for her is in 1870, and she was living in a foster type arrangement in Springfield, Ohio in the household of the Leidigh family. I cannot identify how the Sands and the Leidighs may have known one another. But Mattie apparently stayed with the Leidighs for the rest of her childhood, even though at least some of the older Sands kids were with Israel again in 1870, five years after the war ended. (Later on, Mattie would give her son Carl Williss the middle name of Leidigh.) I have no indication that this experience caused Mattie to disown her father. I wonder if it’s the case that Mattie was just so young when she was placed that everyone decided it was better she remain with her new family at the end of the war, given the passage of time.
We have no facts on exactly what type of adulthood she led. It must have been very busy bearing and raising five kids, while at the same time supporting Frederick Williss as he engaged in his various business activities. Lulu, for one reason or another, kept a few letters she received from Mattie. In one of letters, Mattie expressed disappointment that she did not learn of Lulu’s and Frank’s wedding until it was announced generally. Later, it’s not evident that Mattie had a strong relationship with Lulu after Frank passed away in 1920, Grandpa Warren was forced to drop out of school and Lulu was forced to work extra hours at difficult, menial jobs to support her children. In one letter, Mattie admonished Lulu for working as many hours as Lulu was doing, warning that it was “bad” for Lulu’s health. I have to wonder if the relative wealth of Mattie and Frederick, compared with the instant poverty for Lulu and the kids, caused an air of strain between the households. Still, if we were to judge strictly by the photos kept by Grandpa Warren and Aunt Corky, plenty of kinship seemed to have preserved between the two of them and their aunt and uncles. Corky and Lulu also still kept photos of Mattie and Frederick.
Grandma Mattie outlived Frederick Williss by 7 years, passing away in 1932.