Elizabeth Ann Oliver, 1845-1920

- by Alice Marie Beard

Elizabeth Ann OliverThe photo was taken December 1900, when Elizabeth was 55. On the day of the photo, Lizzie's daughter from her second marriage was marrying her second and third husbands' sister's sons' half-brother. Lizzie's life was always a little complicated.

Lizzie was born Elizabeth Ann Oliver, 6-Aug-1845 in Bethlehem, Albany Co., NY. She died 31-Jul-1920 in Bismark, Vermilion Co., IL. Her body was buried at Potomac Cemetery, Potomac, Vermilion Co., IL. Into those 75 years, Lizzie packed a lot of story.

In 1867, she turned 22. During that year, Elizabeth worked as a maid on a canal boat on the Erie Canal. The boat was the "Michigan." She apparently had married before 1867 because her diary from that year mentions seeing a lawyer about getting a divorce.

It is possible her first husband was John MORAN. There was a marriage in Cuyahoga, Ohio, on 10-Apr-1866 between John Moran and Lizzie A. Oliver. If this is the same Lizzie A. Oliver, it has yet to be proven. Arguing in favor of the April 1866 marriage being Elizabeth's are the following:

  • During that time she used the diminutive "Lizzie" rather than her proper name "Elizabeth."

  • Cuyahoga is a county in Ohio; within Cuyahoga is the city Cleveland, and Elizabeth was based in Cleveland in 1867.

  • In her 1867 diary, Lizzie identifed herself as married [since she needed to speak with a lawyer about a divorce], but is no husband present in her diary.

  • The 1870 U.S. Census for Danville, Vermilion County, Illinois, has a likely match for Lizzie: Lizzie MORAN, age 24, born in New York, working as a housekeeper, with a 2-year-old male child named Curtis MORAN, listed as born in Illinois. Neither Lizzie Moran nor Curtis Moran is found on any later census. It is possible that this guess could be confirmed with a death certificate for Curtis Moran from the Vermilion County, Illinois, court house.

When Elizabeth married Vermilion William O'Neal PAYNE in December 1870 in Co., Illinois, it is known that she came with a son. The marriage record notes her as "Elizabeth Oliver," no name from her previous marriage. However, when Elizabeth married William's brother Abel in 1889, she noted it was her third marriage. Elizabeth's son who existed when she married William Payne is not mentioned in her 1867 diary. And the son appears to have died before the 1880 census. A small porcelain dog that the boy used to play with survived until at least the 1980s. The porcelain dog was so small that it could have been held in a child's hand. The boy's name, however, was unknown to Elizabeth's two surviving daughters from her marriage to William Payne. The child is alluded to in another family account as a child adopted by Lizzie and William; that is not correct.

Before 1880, Elizabeth had borne William five or six children. All died in infancy. On 15-Jun-1880, Elizabeth delivered a daughter: Artemesia Frenetta Payne. The baby died 22-Jun-1880. The Register of Deaths in Vermilion Co. notes under cause of death, "Inflamation of Peritoneum from officious meddling with umbilical cord by an old woman who was called in to dress it." Complication as noted by the doctor: "This woman has had 8 children, all of whom died in a short time. This one was born cyanotic." Duration of disease: "3 days."

Was the doctor trying to say something else? At the very least, Elizabeth had an unusually poor track record in keeping children alive long enough that they could tell their own stories. While infant mortality was high before 1900, and while most women suffered the loss of some of their children as infants, Elizabeth's losses were notably beyond the range of normal. There is no record of how the other children died, beyond the 1880 mention from a doctor that they all "died in a short time."

When Elizabeth and William's daughter record
Mary was born in 1883, the birth noted her as the 8th child born to Elizabeth. Whether Mary was the 8th child, or the previously born and deceased Artemesia was the 8th child Elizabeth delivered cannot be determined from records. Elizabeth and William had another child born in 1885, Hettie. Both Mary and Hettie reached adulthood, and there were no children after 1880 who were born and died mysteriously.

William died in December 1888. Ten months later, William's brother
Abel/Able divorced his wife of several years and two days later married Elizabeth.

Elizabeth's death certificate lists her cause of death as "fatty degeneration of the heart."

Elizabeth kept a journal in 1867, the year she turned 22. The journal survived until at least the 1980s and was transcribed by one of Lizzie's descendants who copied Lizzie's words, with errors included. On the inside front cover is the following: "Lizzie A. Oliver Born Aug. 6, 1845 died 1920 at 75."

Let us allow Lizzie to speak for herself:

Diary of 1867
Tuesday, January 1, 1867
went to see my brother Peter. found him at home well & he came home with me. met bob the wheelern and coming home and worked hard all day. it was a pleasant day and I am very lonely. I have 22 dolars and out of debt for to comence another year.

Wednesday, January 2, 1867.
pleasant today and alone. was told john was in town have got the blues like everything. expect to have trouble with him before long and I wish I was where no one new where I was and then I would not have any troble with any body but myself.

Thursday, January 3, 1867.
got up late this morning and Mrs. hachett
[or hachelt] scolded all the morning and went to bed all right at last.

Friday, January 4, 1867
[?] and I went up town and I bought this book. I paid 20 cents for it. sent up town for 10 cts worth of magnsea for I have not bin well this week.

Saturday, January 5, 1867
got up late this morning again but got all my work don in time and scrubed all the dineing room. went after my washing and found it all right -- paid 5 cent for it.

Sunday, January 6, 1867
[?] it is not very pleasant to day and I feel pretty well except my side is very lame and hurts me very bad -- it is three oclock and my work is all don and nothing amuse myself with. it is snowing very hard now. mr. list left today for he got scolded and I am glad for one sunday evening. Barbery has got a bough to night and I am very lonley and tired of living.

Monday, January 7, 1867
have worked hard today and am sick in bed with the headache to night.

Tuesday, January 8, 1867
fell pretty well today but have had the hedache this afternoon. went to bed sick

Wednesday, January 9, 1867
got up very well and went to work in the evening. went down to see my brother a minute

Thursday, January 10, 1867
this morning was tormented about my man and so made up my mind that I would go and consult a lawyer and see if he could get me a divorce. went and found that there was some hope of it and went to see my brother in the evening and he come home with me

Friday, January 11, 1867
my brother came at ten and went up to the ofice and see the lawyer and told me not to have anything to do with it and so I will get my money back and let him go to the bad place if he likes

Saturday, January 12, 1867
went uptown and have bin to see the lawyer and he is going to get me my divorce without any trouble. I hope he will for then I won't
[?] be in milk and water. feel real well tonight.

Sunday, January 13, 1867
8 oclock. have just got my work don and have nothing to read and dont no what to do with myself

Monday, January 14, 1867
have don my woasing and feel quite well today. there was a fire neer by but did not amount to anything. mrs. H____ is gon up town and left me alone. have got the headache this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 15, 1867
don my ironing today and feel as well as ever

Wednesday, January 16, 1867
there is nothing hapens today but work

Thursday, January 17, 1867
it snowed very hard today and the snow is very deep and cold

Friday, January 18, 1867
it is pleasant today. I have bin eating a lunch and it has give me the hickup. I rote a letter to night to John my brother

Saturday, January 19, 1867
today has bin a day of work for me and I am well and it is very pleasant this evening. to nice to sit in the house all the evening. the sleigh bells are ringing all around. my brother was here tonight and he is comeing here to board tomorrow if the lord sees fit

Sunday, January 20, 1867
it was quite a pleasant morning but before noon it began to snow again and it snows real hard since

Monday, January 21, 1867
it has snowed all day and I don my washing and have got to go to geting the early supper

Tuesday, January 22, 1867
nothing happened today. it was pleasant

Wednesday, January 23, 1867
had a good days work and feel pretty well this evening

Thursday, January 24, 1867
it was pleasant today and I had a barell with all and allmost killed myself

Friday, January 25, 1867
it thawed today and frose in the evening. I mended dick's coat and washed his clothes today.
[Dick was her brother.]

Saturday, January 26, 1867
today is very stormey and cold

Sunday, January 27, 1867
it is a very fine day and I feel very lonely
[lovely?]. I have not got a letter in some time.

Monday, January 28, 1867
it has bin very pleasant today and I left my washing till tomorrow morning. it is bed time and I wish it was spring

Tuesday, January 29, 1867
it is a very nice day and I feel very well and it is cold as greenland. I wrote a letter to Johney tonight and took it up to the letter box half past nine. I saw a drunken man on the street and I was afraid

Wednesday, January 30, 1867
I have don my ironing today and have got ready to comb my hair

Thursday, January 31, 1867
went up town this morning and got back in time to get diner. got me a pair of shoes to small and had to change them this afternoon. saw mr. list coming home

Friday, February 1, 1867
don my work today and had the sick headache. went to bed early

Saturday, February 2, 1867
the headache today again

Sunday, February 3, 1867
went to see brother dick today. it was bad walking

[pages after Feb. 3 up to March 10 deliberately ripped out]

Sunday, March 10, 1867
it is not pleasant today. it rains

Monday, March 11, 1867
it is not pleasant. I don my washing today and feel all right tonight

Tuesday, March 12, 1867
well it is just the same today as yesterday

Wednesday, march 13, 1867
don my
[??] today and it is lovely as ever tonight

Thursday, March 14, 1867
it is pleasant today and I long for April to come

Friday, March 15, 1867
J is tring to creep around again but he can't come in

Saturday, March 16, 1867
saturday evening and all is well and I wish it was the first of next month

Sunday, March 17, 1867
everyting is lovely today and I feel gay and happy thinking of the future

Monday, March 18, 1867
[unreadable] sewed some today and feel glad it is most time for me to go away

Tuesday, March 19, 1867
[unreadable] to [unreadable]

Wednesday, March 20, 1867
I feel
[unreadable] today. A very bad headach and a cold and sore throat

Saturday, March 23, 1867
don my work today

Sunday, March 24, 1867
saw bill Smith today. he was here and would not come in

Monday, March 25, 1867
done my washing today and it was a fine day

Tuesday, March 26, 1867
sewed a good deal today

Wednesday, March 27, 1867
saw John today and did not speek to him

Sunday, March 31, 1867
came down to the boat. dick came with me

Wednesday, April 3, 1867
comenced work today and feel like I was at home again

Thursday, april 4, 1867
worked all day and fell sick to night

Wednesday, May 1, 1867
Well here I am. it is a bright warm day and we are in Cleve. but I don't care to go any place.

Wednesday, May 15, 1867
it is a very dull day and I feel as thought I was forsaken by all on earth

Thursday, May 16, 1867
the weather is very nice

Thursday, July 25, 1867
had a good cry this morning but that is nothing new for me

Tuesday, August 6, 1867
this is a very nice day and I am 22 years old today

Wednesday, October 9, 1867
left the Boat this morning and am sory I can't stay

Oct. 10, 1867
Comenced Work for Farsher

Friday, October 11, 1867
am homesick as ever any body ever was in there
[their] life.

Sunday, October 13, 1867
went to church with a fellow and I no they would not like it if they new it an
[and?] that propelor [?] is would make them mad at me I guess

Tuesday, October 15, 1867
prase yea the Lord

Friday, October 18, 1867
went to pulaski with Bill and it will mak a fuss. I no very well

Sunday, October 20, 1867
it has made an afel fus for me to go with that fellow and I wish he was in teeas before I saw him. it is just so every since. I go with anyone good or bad but I dont like them if I do go with them. that one I love come home this morning. he heard it all soon as he come

Wednesday, November 6, 1867
this is the dulest place I ever saw in my life. Clara sets here from morning till night and never speeks to me but she thinks I am not quite so good as she is for I am a cabin maid but I don't care what she thinks for there is one that dont think as she does

Sunday, November 10, 1867
it seems as if I would give all there is on earth if it were mine if I could be with the one of my heart onc more for a minute or two but I can't so I will make the best of it

Tuesday, November 12, 1867
was to the dressmaker to day and got my dress fixed

Friday, November 15, 1867
was up town to day and no one noes how lonesome I am to go to the boat I am half crazy but wont have to stay much longer

Saturday, November 16, 1867
[This entry was a full page. However, it was so blurred and smudged with age that it was completely unreadable.]

Sunday, November 17, 1867
there is a new comer here to day. it is a girl

Monday, November 18, 1867
he is gon again and left this morning on the early train but I had the pleasure of eating breakfast with him alone and that is a pleasure we can't have many times this fall but hope to some time if we live long enough

Sunday, November 24, 1867
felt prety bad for to leave the boat but must go. I suppose it will be a long winter for me all alone but spring will come and I will be very glad for then. I will be happy once more.

Monday, November 25, 1867
oh dear how bad I feel this morning for I expect to have to leave all I love on earth today and dont expect to see them untill spring if ever and it makes me feel like death but I must be cheerful now for the last moments so I will drive away my bad feelings and be cheerful as I can. The night is very dark and I am here yet

Tuesday, November 26, 1867
are not to Cleveland yet but will be to night and then I must say good by to all on bord the michigan for this faul and sad it makes me feel. you cant think how it grieves me to part with the only girl I
[unreadable] for a short time but it must be so. we might as well put on a cheerful look and make the best of it. it will not always be so I hope not.

Wednesday, November 27, 1867
I have worked as fast as I could today and got my quilt redy to quilt and everything lookes pleasant. we saw a schooner sunk. stoped by it. could not do anything with it so we went on.

Thursday, November 28, 1867
this is Thanksgiving day and they had a fuss with it. schoner this morning but got
[unreadable] I am afraid I will have to go back to Cleveland son [soon] for what is said about the boat. my dear is very cross this morning and has bin all day but not to me.

Friday November 29, 1867
it has bin very ruf on the lake today and I had to lay in bed all the time from breakfast till super and allmost starved to death. SB brout me a chunk of bred and cold meat and I eat it in bed.

Nov 30 - Dec 1 - 2
Tuesday December 3, 1867
I have nothing to say today

Wednesday, December 4, 1867
Oswego today. bad weather on the lakes now. I will be glad to get
[?]atched [first letter of previous word unreadable] for it is no fun to be bobin round and not no what you are going to do when you have got to look out for yourself for no one will look out for me. I no they think enough of me as long as I ask no [unreadable] of them so did any one else.

Thursday, December 5, 1867
We are in Oswego today and it snowed very hard. I fear I will have to go to Cleveland
[unreadable] the Michigan this winter had it woud make much difference to me for I think sometimes I am not welcom here perhaps - - - -

Friday, December 6, 1867
we left oswego for the canal and I hope we will get through, I am afraid my love and like me but I hope I think rong for I think sometimes he don't like me but for one thing and when I think so it makes me miserable and unhappy.

Saturday, Decemer 7, 1867
have got to charlotte and don't think we will get any farther this winter. it won't make much diference i guess.

Sunday, December 8, 1867
my Dear got mad at me as usual. he gets mad so easy at me that I don't think he likes me much for I cant get mad at him so easy. if I did we would hate one another but the lord keep him from hating me as it would leed me to something bad I know

Monday, December 9, 1867
helped the Steward in the ladies cabin today. dont think we will get through the canal so we will get all done. we can before & go for there
[unreadable] is gone. she was better than I am I guess for they were more liberal to her than me.

Tues., Dec. 10, 1867
cant get through so I shall have to go on the New York to Cleveland and I wish I was there for I no I must go.

Wed., Dec. 11, 1867
must go tomorow I guess and then for a lovely time but I have bin here longer than I expected to now so I cant grumble but I am never wiling to go but would be if my love could go with me.

Fri., Dec. 13, 1867
Well my time has come and I am redy to go but I hate to leave the one I love. I hope to see him again some time.

Sat. Dec. 14, 1867
I go to the cars at three o'clock today.

Sun., Dec. 15, 1867
I am have just arrived at Cleveland and feel tired after riding all night. got my super at buffalo
[N.Y.] and had to wate from mine till half past twelve there for the cars.

Tues., Dec. 17, 1867
paid Mrs. kelie five Dolars rent of her little house.

Elizabeth's Family Connections:

Family Group Record:
William O'Neal PAYNE
BORN: 2 Apr 1837, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 29 Dec 1888, IL
BUR.: Potomac Cem.,Vermilion Co., IL
MARR: 27 Dec 1870, Vermilion Co., IL
John PAYNE, Jr.
Virletta O'NEAL
NOTE: Civil War, 149th Illinois Infantry, Company E.
William was first married 1857 to Emma GREEN.

WIFE: Elizabeth Ann OLIVER
BORN: 6 Aug 1845, Bethlehem, Albany Co., NY
DIED: 31 Jul 1920, Bismark, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Potomac Cemetery, Vermilion Co., IL
NOTE: William O. Payne was Elizabeth's 2nd husband; 1st husband's name is unknown, but it may have been John Moran. After William. died, Elizabeth m. 16 Oct 1889 to his brother
Able Wade PAYNE [no children].
[Children #1 thru #5 or #6 born to this union
were born after 1870 and before 1880
in Vermilion Co., IL, and died in infancy.]
6 [or 7]) Artemesia Frenetta PAYNE
BORN: 15 Jun 1880, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 22 Jun 1880, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Wallace Chapel Cemetery, Vermilion Co., IL
7 [or 8])
Mary Louise PAYNE
BORN: 1 Jun 1883, Marysville, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 20 Aug 1953, Niles, Berrien Co., MI
BUR.: Vermilion Co., IL
Itha Elmer DOYLE (twin)
MARR: 19 Dec 1900, Vermilion Co., IL
8 [or 9]) Hettie Warner PAYNE
BORN: 5 May 1885, Potomac, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: Abt 1958, Gary, IN
SPOUSE #1: Nicholas S. BATY (b. 1876; d. 1918)
SPOUSE #2: Bert DAVIDSON (divorced)


Elizabeth's parents:
Abraham E. OLIVER, b. NY
Margaret E. SHARP

Elizabeth's siblings:
Richard OLIVER
Peter E. OLIVER, Captain: b. 13 Apr 1847; d. 11 Oct 1931 Vermilion Co., IL
John H. OLIVER: b. 19 Jan 1849; d. 10 Jan 1929, Vermilion Co., IL

Elizabeth's 7 grandchildren (all thru husband William O. Payne):
Lucy, Lester, Hettie, Ralph, Elizabeth Ann, Helen, Harold


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