52 Ancestors: Mary Ellen O’Brien #11

The theme for this week is “lucky.” I chose my Great-grandmother, a child of Irish immigrants, because from what I know of her life, she considered herself a fortunate person.

Mary Ellen O’Brien, or Minnie to family and friends, was born in 1874 to Patrick and Ellen (Hughes) O’Brien in Boston. She was the eldest of three daughters and one son and by the 1900 census the whole family was living in their own house on Bowdoin Street in the neighborhood of Dorchester. Minnie was working as a bookkeeper.

Handwritten letter from Minnie to Carol
Letter from Minnie to Carol

About two years earlier Minnie had met an young man named Carol Melcher and started a correspondence with him. I have some of the earliest letters Minnie wrote to Carol in October of 1898. According to one of the letters Carol wrote to Minnie and family lore, Carol’s mother did not approve of Minnie and would sometimes “forget” to tell him if she called for him. I am not sure why, perhaps because Minnie was a few years older than Carol, or more likely, that she was a daughter of Irish Catholic immigrants instead of a New England Mayflower descendent like Carol.

Despite any obstacles, Carol and Minnie were married August 1900 at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Boston. They raised three daughters together in a house in Dorchester.

Minnie is at the top of my list of ancestors I wish I could have met in person. She loved poetry and art and family who knew her told me she was known for her laugh and sense of humor. She died in December of 1943 at the house of my grandmother in Arkansas, who cared for in her last days.

Here is a portrait taken of Carol and Minnie around the the time of their wedding. She certainly looks serious in it, though that was the custom at the time.

Carol and Mary Ellen Melcher (nee O'Brien) circa 1900
Carol and Mary Ellen Melcher (nee O’Brien) c1900

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