Thursday, 24 August 2017

Lucy Poe Blandy – DC’s last ‘real’ daughter of 1812

Lucy Jane Poe was the eldest child of William R Poe's second marriage to Mary Jane Dale and the longest-lived of any of his children. Before her death she was acknowledged as the last ‘real’ daughter of those who served in the War if 1812 - and the oldest female voter in Maryland.

Although we don’t have many details about her earlier life, some of her reminiscences were recorded in the Washington DC Evening Star shortly before her death.

The last phase of Lucy’s life began round 1918 when she moved from Missouri to be with her second husband Herbert Bandy who had obtained a job as an information officer with the Department of the Navy in Washington DC.  The couple had married about 20 years earlier in Missouri. They later rented a comfortable but modest home in Maryland which still exists today and took in two borders.

Her husband may not have been a relative of Admiral William Henry Purnell Blandy (1890 – 1954); but they attended the same church and both worked for the Navy.

Mrs Lucy Poe Blandy & Mrs John Parker Gaillard, 6 September 1924.
Retrieved from the Library of Congress. (Accessed August 23, 2017.)
Does anyone know the monument behind them?

We have few details of her previous life. She married Marshall Brown when she was about 26 and raised a family of two boys in Missouri. What became of her first husband is not known, but she maintained connections with her boys.

Prior to that there is one reference to her in a divorce case. The case of West verses West was heard in Missouri by Judge Knight who allowed full details to be discussed ‘to the delight of the large audience’.  According to the St Louis Democrat February 21 1875;

‘Mrs West took the stand, and related how Newt failed to provide for her; how he was too fond of his toddy, and had been too friendly with Lucy Poe, a Du Quoin girl…’

This was before her marriage to Brown and she was about 19 years of age. She was not called as a witness herself. Lucy grew up in Du Quoin but her parents had met and married in Missouri so there were probably some family connections back in Missouri.

Lucy’s second, and younger, husband had been born in Wales and grew up in London. The reason for his migration to the US is not clear. But in less than a year of his arrival he had married Lucy. He worked as a stenographer and perhaps this was a very marketable skill.

Lucy’s reminisces are recorded across three articles in the Washington Evening Star during the 1940s.

In August 1942, she celebrated her 90th birthday and there was an item in the paper about it together with a few quotes in support of the war effort. ‘The United States is bound to win -we’ve never lost a war yet, and we’re not going to lose this one.’

Mrs Blandy with her husband look over 90th birthday greetings.
The Evening Star August 20 1942, p 1

The edition of 7 November 1944 records that polls in the 1944 presidential election ‘opened today and Marylanders and Virginians apparently were casting a record vote’. 

Incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee, sought his fourth term. World War II was going well for the United States and its Allies. Roosevelt had already served longer than any other president, but remained popular. Dewey, the Governor of New York, campaigned for smaller government, but was unsuccessful in convincing the country to change course. Roosevelt would die and be replaced by his new Vice President, Harry S. Truman, within a half-year of winning re-election.

In Prince Georges County, the paper recorded that Mrs Lucy Poe Blandy ‘the county’s, oldest voter’ prepared to cast her ballot early that afternoon. She had ‘never missed a vote since women received the right to ballot’. (The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting American women the right to vote had been ratified on August 18, 1920.)

‘A simple existence, regular habits and freedom from worry are the essentials for a long and happy life’ she told the paper in 1946, saying it was the formula which enabled her to celebrate her 94th birthday. For many years Mrs Blandy had held a unique position in the Society of the U S Daughters of 1812 being the only ‘real’ daughter in the Washington area of a War of 1812 veteran. Most other members of the Society were granddaughters or great granddaughters.

Her membership of the Daughters was also a help in finding information about her father.

Related to Poe 
‘Her father William R Poe – cousin of the Great American poet – served as a corporal in the Virginia militia during the war that gave this country final freedom from England.

‘Mrs Blandy exhibited a keen sense of humour as she recalled days when she once saw President Lincoln on a campaign tour. We lived a simple life but we always had plenty to eat, and plenty of clothes.’ ‘Yes’ her husband put in ‘and she wore a good many more clothes that the postage stamp costumes the girls wear today.’

‘And instead of the wonder drugs the world has now, we used quinine, sulphur and molasses and a big jug of whiskey.’

‘People had stronger convictions then too. When my father, who was a Democrat, decided to vote for Mr Lincoln, for instance, he had to go to the country store where we voted several times before he was able to make himself put in a Republican vote. When Lincoln was elected though, our house was illuminated from top to bottom with candles and decorations, and when he was assassinated drapes were hung about the house.’

She said she always voted for ‘what I thought was right, I don’t think it’s right to let politics make any difference.’

Civil War Sufferings
Her home town during the Civil War period was in a precarious position at all times. ‘We were near the Mason-Dixon Line and so we often caught it from both the North and the South. The town once gave a dinner for Union soldiers and after they ate all we had they shot what livestock was still alive and called us rebels.’

‘So, when we heard any troops were coming after that we hid everything in cellars.’ Residents of the town posted lookout to warn citizens of Confederate soldiers and were also instructed to notify residents when Northern troops passed through.

‘When the boys came through they cleaned the town of everything they could find in the way of food.  But the people didn’t complain because they knew they had to make some sacrifices for the boys in uniform.  The was no USO then and many soldiers marched without shoes and underclothing.’

‘But those were good old days.  People weren’t worried to death about things like money. We lived quietly and peacefully.’

Lucy was a life member of the Order of the Eastern Star. The Order was founded in the late 1800s to provide a way for female relatives of Master Masons to share the benefits of knowledge and self-improvement that Freemasonry made available to men.

Mrs Blandy said she was active in a number of organisations until her health began to fail.

‘Christmas day [1946] brought sorrow to the members of the District of Columbia Society when it was learned that our last real daughter Mrs Herbert William Blandy had passed into the great beyond.

Mrs Blandy celebrated her 94th birthday in August and was enjoying active life until September when she sustained a bruised hip as the result of a fall which confined her to bed and from which she did not recover. 

She was born in Thompsonville, Illinois, August 17 1852, daughter of Corporal William Romulus Poe who served in the Battle of New Orleans and a cousin of the celebrated poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe. She moved to St Louis Missouri where she met Mr Blandy a native of Clapham Junction, England. They were married in Plattsburg, Missouri, and in 1917 moved to Washington D C and later located in the new development of Mt Rainier, Maryland. 

The State President, in company with the Registrar National Miss Stella Picket Hardy, State Chaplain Miss Amy S White, State Librarian Miss Mary C Oursler, Mrs William F O Brien and her daughter-in-law Mrs Randolph Anderson attended the funeral in Mt Rainer Methodist Church and the burial in the Acacia Circle Fort Lincoln Cemetery Mt Rainier Maryland.’

National Society Unites States Daughters of 1812 Newsletter, March 1947, Pp 17 - 18

Herbert Blandy moved to California where he passed away in California in 1951 but his body was returned to be interred with his wife. The stone is a simple one with a masonic symbol for Herbert and Eastern Star symbol for Lucy.

See also: Jottings of interest October 2017