The C. A. McAdams Family

Our American Roots

by Charles G. Petersen

Lillian May Whitcomb Picture

Early years
Lillian did not have an easy life. She was the last of 5 children born to Alden H. (Henry?) Whitcomb and Jenett Knapp. When she was born on March 6th in 1878 in Elysian in Le Sueur County in Minnesota, her father was working as a 'hotel keeper' as stated in the 1880 censes.

Sometime after 1885 and before 1892 the family moved to Ramsey Township near Bancroft, Iowa. Her sister, Clara, died in 1890 at age 18. In 1892, her mother died at age 52, a month before Lillian's 14th birthday. The 1895 Iowa census shows her as the only person living with her widowed father. Just 6 months after Lillian's 19th birthday in 1897, her father died.

Marriage and Children
On July 7th in 1898, less than a year later, she married 22 year old Charles Andrew McAdams, probably in Bancroft. Picture What she did during that time between her father's death and her marriage is not known. She had 2 older brothers that came west to Minnesota with the family but there is no record yet found that indicates she lived with them.

Fourteen months after her marriage, she had her first child, Paul, followed by Clara in 1903, and Alden in 1906.

Demeanor
While her husband was outgoing and gregarious, she was just the opposite. While she was a good grandmother to me, I don't ever remember her smiling. Maybe it was the early family losses, maybe it was the near poverty existence they lived in after her husband was forced, due to illness, to stop working regularly at age 54 back in 1930. Fortunately all of the children were living on their own by that time and I'm sure they helped as they could to support their parents.

Visiting Grandma
While they were associated with a fundamentalist church and held prayer meetings in their house, I don't ever remember them going to church.

From as long as I can remember, we traveled from Ringsted to Swea City, a distance of 16 miles, on many Sundays, at least every other Sunday sometimes more often, for noontime dinner or at least for an afternoon visit. We went to Grandma's house every Christmas. It was Christmas eve with the Petersens and Christmas day with the Grandpa and Grandma McAdams. Sometime we would arrive late on Christmas eve, after the Petersen gathering was over, and sleep over there that night. The house had 2 small bedrooms upstairs and a bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen on the ground floor. There was a dark dank musty basement under the house where the laundry was done and where Grandpa had a small shop-like work area.

My brother and I often spent a week or two in the summer with Grandpa and Grandma.

Later years
They lived on very little income and some of that was hoarded, for after Grandpa died and Grandma was moved into a resthome, they found a roll of paper money the size of your fist in her apron pocket.

After her husband died, Lillian lived in the house alone for awhile, but when it became clear that she was no longer taking care of herself, her son, Alden, moved her to a nursing home in Burt, Iowa. She died there on December 28, 1961 at age 83.