Sunday, April 2, 2017

Anna Elizabeth O'Connell Faulkner: From Lincoln To Kennedy (52 Ancestors #13)

Anna Elizabeth O'Connell Faulkner was my great grandmother. And my namesake. She lived to be 100 1/2. She was born when Lincoln was president and she died a year before Kennedy was shot. Thinking about this just really boggled my mind. Her life straddled two centuries. When I think of all the technology, the inventions, the comforts of life that occurred in her lifetime I'm sort of blown away.

Let me paint a picture, if I may.

Anna was born Sept 4, 1861 in Dutchess County New York. Anna was the youngest of  twelve children born to James and Mary Dempsey O'Connell. James and Mary immigrated to New York from Ireland, with their first three children, about 1842. Their fourth child was born in Kings County New York in 1844.

By the time Anna was born the family was settled in Dutchess County New York.  Abraham Lincoln had just become the 16th President of the United States. Daily life was still pretty primitive. The family was living in an uninsulated wood frame house with an outhouse for life's necessities. The home was most likely heated by a fireplace or wood stove. Candlelight or oil lamps illuminated the evening hours. I imagine baths were taken in the kitchen, once a week, with cool water after the third or fourth bather took their turn.

One of my favorite films, "Streets Of New York", opens with a portrayal of life in New York in 1862.

What was life really like at the start of the civil war? To us it seems such a quaint, far away time, but it was a thoroughly modern world in 1861. Was Anna aware of the times? Was her life any more difficult because of the war? Three of her brothers enlisted, but I imagine she was too small to know what was going on.

Poughkeepsie Female School
Although Anna had 11 brothers and sisters, she was still able to attend school and graduated from the Poughkeepsie Female School. I have not been able to find out much about this school, except that in it's time it was a very impressive institute. I believe they instructed girls through the eighth grade.

After her graduation Anna went on to teach school. I do not know at what grade level she taught.

Anna went "West" to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1881. I do not know why. Her father had died several years prior. Her mother, along with two brothers and two sisters also took the long journey west.

Upon arrival in St. Paul Anna became a bookkeeper for the large wholesale dry goods outfit Lindeke, Schurmeier and Warner.

St Paul MN c. 1893
In 1891 Anna married Dr. Lloyd Anson Faulkner and the couple moved to Duluth MN, where Dr. Faulkner started a Natural Science Establishment called Dr. L. A. Faulkner & Co. Purveyors of gems, iron and copper mined from Lake Superior.

In 1892 the couple had the first of their five children, the artist Raymond Lloyd Faulkner. Dr. Faulkner, naturally, attended to the birth.

By 1900 the young family of five had returned to St. Paul, residing at 165 Forbes Av.

Let's look at life in 1900 America. William McKinley was just elected the 25th President of the United States. Women were not yet allowed to vote. People were enjoying music in their own homes thanks to wind-up phonographs. Indoor plumbing was still just a curiosity. Electricity was beginning to appear and replace the dangerous gas light in many homes. Houses were now being heated centrally with coal and hot water.

Anna must have been amazed at all the technological advances being made at the time!

washing machine ad c.1910
1917. The world was at war. This was Anna's second war. This time she is old enough to remember.  The Faulkner's now had five children. Three boys and two girls. Anna's first born was drafted. Anna's second son lied about his age to enlist. Automobiles were replacing horses, people were listening to the radio in their own homes. Plumbing moved indoors, at least for cold water! Iceboxes helped keep food fresher longer. The washing machine became a wash day savior.

The world had become a rapidly changing place, I wonder what Anna thought of it all?

1920's publicity still
The 1920's arrived and the world, as Anna knew it, was shrinking rapidly. Both of her sons arrived home safely from the Great War. The 18th and the 19th amendments had been ratified in rapid succession. Anna now had the right to vote, to be an equal to her husband in the deciding of the country's direction and rule. Plumbing moved completely indoors. Electricity arrived in the home and new time saving appliances were introduced. Among the explosion of new inventions were the electric refrigerator, stove and vacuum cleaner! The telephone became a new way to communicate with friends and neighbors. Airplanes made it easier than ever before to travel across country. Moving pictures became all the rage.

In 1928 penicillin was discovered, effectively eradicating so many common diseases that previously resulted in certain death.

America was riding high and Anna was right there in the middle of it.
Hooverville of the 30's

Then the world came crashing down.

October 29, 1929. Black Tuesday.

Anna, 68 years old, had raised her children and sent them out into the world. At a point in her life when she should have been preparing to settle in for a quiet retirement with her husband, her life was thrown upside down. Her husband continued to practice medicine, taking payments for services any way he could. I don't know how the Great Depression affected her or her life for certain. I can wonder and imagine as to the struggle it may have been after the decade of living large and easy.

In 1933 Anna's husband died of cancer. Anna, at 72 years old, moved in with her daughter and son in law.

This seems like a good place to end our story, but there was so much more to come!

no caption needed
1942, the world was at war ... again. This was Anna's third war. It was now time for her third son to serve his country. Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office. The 32nd President of the United States. Women were wearing pants in public. There were pay phones on every corner. The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

The 1950's arrived with a joie de vive not seen since the early 1920's. Television arrived and became a commonplace fixture in the modern home. TV dinners were replacing home cooked meals on weeknights. The civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Air raid and civil defense sirens were now a part of the fabric of life. The pastoral farmland of the nation was rapidly being eaten up by new housing. Air traffic was commonplace.

Jan 20, 1961. John F Kennedy was sworn into office as the 35th President of the United States.

Anna was 99 years old.

In September 1961 she celebrated her 100th birthday.
Anna O'Connell Faulkner on her 100th birthday

Anna Elizabeth O'Connell Faulkner died on April 18, 1962. She lived through 3 wars, 19 Presidents, and an unprecedented technology explosion, the likes of which we may not see again.

Oh, and she had a glass eye ......

Four generations Anne Faulkner holding Anne Faulkner


  1. That's a terrific story and I love the way you chose to tell it as a cavalcade of history. Mind blowing indeed!

  2. That's a terrific story and I love the way you chose to tell it as a cavalcade of history. Mind blowing indeed!

  3. Excellent story and what a time to find it! My sister and I are currently in Wappinger Falls exploring our family genealogy here. My great grandmother was Anne's sister Mary J O'Connell married to William James Lester. We will spend our last day here researching the O'Connell family.

    1. Wow! That is an amazing "coincidence" - I am excited to meet you and will catch up with you via email!