Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eliza Harper -- Wash Woman

Eliza Harper - Widow and Wash Woman

Imagine what life was like for all the widows of the men who were hanged. They were left on the Texas frontier during the Civil War without the protection and support of a husband. Many did not have family nearby to help them. Many also had small infants to care for, such as Dicy Chiles and Eliza Harper.

Census records show that Eliza Harper left Texas with her family and moved back to Illinois by 1870. Her oldest son, Thomas, was born in Illinois, so we know that she had lived in Illinois previously about 1848. Maybe she had family still in the area -- but we don't know for sure. In 1870, Eliza was living in Peoria, Illinois with her children. She is supporting her family as a "wash woman" -- washing clothes for other people.  In the days before electricity, laundry was a hard, back-breaking job!  First, bending over a washboard scrubbing the clothes.  Then, wringing the clothes out by hand, rinsing, again wringing by hand, and then, hanging the clothes out to dry.  Finally, once dry the clothes needed to be ironed with a heavy iron that was heated on the wood stove.

Photo of "girls washing" from Vintage Everyday Blog
An eight-year-old daughter, Nancy, is listed in the 1870 census. That means Eliza had a baby daughter born sometime around 1862, about the time when her husband was killed in the Great Hangings at Gainesville.

1870 Census, Peoria, Illinois
Peoria, Illinois 1870 Census
Name: Eliza Harper
Estimated birth year: abt 1829 Age in 1870: 41 Birthplace: Ohio
Home in 1870: Peoria Ward 4, Peoria, Illinois
Occupation: Wash woman
Household Members:
Harper, Eliza, 41, f, w, wash woman, Ohio, cannot read or write
-----, Thomas, 21, m, w, laborer, born Illinios
-----, Elizabeth, 19, f, w, at home, born Illinois
-----, William, 18, m, w, laborer, born Illinois
-----, Sarah, 15, f, w, at home, born Texas
-----, John, 13, m, w, at school, born Texas
-----, Nancy, 8, f, w, at school, born Texas

Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Peoria Ward 4, Peoria, Illinois; Roll: M593_267; Page: 379.

There is a marriage listed in the online Illinois marriage index for M. D. Harper and wife, Eliza.  Here is the marriage index info:
Illinois marriage index: 
HARPER, M -- DOUGHERTY, ELIZA; 06/22/1845; Tazewell County;  00A/0123 00001150

Any additional help on the Harper family would be appreciated -- Thanks!

Additional posts on the Harper Family:
M. D. Harper Update
Harper - 1850 Census
M. D. Harper

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