A midwife in 19th century rural Illinois
Lucy Peterson, 1837-1882
(Mrs. Roderick & Mrs. Doyle)
- by Alice Marie Beard

Lucy died at 45 or 46, the mother of at least eight children, the local midwife, married to an illiterate miner who had survived the Civil War. She was motherless at 12 and married at 18 to a man 15 years her senior. It's likely that her first child died leaving no record since Lucy's first known child was born more than four years after she married. Three more children from her first marriage lived long enough to have recorded lives. Before Lucy was 36, her first husband was dead.

When Lucy married again in 1873, she had children 14, 10, 8, and 3.

Lucy's second husband was
Tom Doyle who had been born Frank Reed. There is no indication Lucy ever knew this man's secrets. She was the 36-year-old widow with four children; he was probably about 38, not legally divorced, sad because he'd lost his sons when his wife left and took them. He was poor, illiterate, and by then had spent at least ten years lying about who he was. When she married Tom, he was firmly established under the false name Tom Doyle. His first wife had taken their two sons, and he grieved the rest of his life not knowing where they were.

Within two years of marrying Tom, Lucy bore a set of twins: a son and a daughter. She and Tom had two more daughters who reached adulthood, and she may have lost some children along the way.

In 1881, when Lucy was 44, her oldest daughter married. That was the only child Lucy lived to see married.

Lucy served as the local midwife in her area of Vermilion Co., IL. When a woman was having a baby, it was often Lucy who got a knock at the door at odd hours of the day or night with a husband or family member asking her to come to the aid of the woman giving birth. In February 1883, when snow was covering the ground in Vermilion Co., Lucy got a knock at her door. A man wanted Lucy to come to help his wife. Lucy followed and helped to deliver the baby. As she walked home through the snow, she tripped over a low barbed wire farm fence that she couldn't see because it was covered with snow. When she fell, her old hernia protruded once more. She did what she had done before: She pushed the hernia back. This time, when she pushed the hernia back, she twisted it. Lucy died of a strangulated hernia on 21 Feb 1883, in Bixby, Vermilion Co., IL. In those days, there was no surgery available to fix a hernia.

Lucy died at 45 or 46, leaving behind a son 24, a married daughter 20, a daughter 18, a son 13, a son 9, and daughters 9, 5, and 3. Her nine-year-old twins never really recovered from her death. The daughter never married and spent some years in an institution for the insane as an adult. The son spent the rest of his life blaming his father for not having paid for an operation to save his mom. The son never understood that such surgery was not yet performed when she died in 1883.

Lucy was buried at the Potomac Cemetery in Potomac, Vermilion Co., Illinois, in a grave that remained unmarked for over 75 years. Cemetery records were lost in a fire in the 1930s. All that was known of her burial site was from the family's oral history that said her body had been interred in an unmarked grave, near where
William O. Payne was buried five years later (1888). When Lucy died in 1883, the only official relationship she had with William O. Payne was that Payne had been the brother-in-law of Lucy's husband Tom during Tom's first marriage. Seventeen years after Lucy died, and 12 years after William O. Payne died, Lucy Peterson and William O. Payne developed a new relationship: Lucy's son married William's daughter.

Early in the 21st century, old cemetery records were found in a bank storage box. Records showed Lucy's burial site -- next to the burial site of her daughter Susannah who died in 1891 as the wife of John Henry Henders. Susannah's burial site is marked with a tall, square, pink granite monument.

The photo above shows Lucy's burial site in relation to the burial site of William O. Payne. The black arrow leading out from the #1 white oval points to the tall grave monument for Susannah (Roderick) Henders; Susannah was Lucy's daughter from her first marriage. Lucy's burial site is immediately next to Susannah's burial site, on the other side of Susannah's monument. The black arrow leading out from the #2 white oval points to the back of William O. Payne's monument; the peony plants that surround Payne's monument can be seen. The cemetery roadway is visible on the left side of the photo.

Lucy with her first husband:

BORN: Abt 1822, Ohio
DIED: Bef 1873
MARR: 24 Apr 1855, Vermilion Co., IL
BORN: 1837, Dayton, Montgomery Co., OH
DIED: 21 Feb 1883, Bixby, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Potomac Cemetery, Potomac, Vermilion Co., IL
Cornelius Andrew PETERSON (1806-1877)
Cilinda LANE (1810-1849)
CLICK HERE for a lengthy pedigree for Lucy's mom Cilinda Lane.]
CHILDREN from first husband
BORN: 1859, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 20 Nov 1930, Potomac, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Potomac Cemetery, Potomac, Vermilion Co., IL
MARR: 6 Jun 1903, Champaign, IL
BORN: 1863, Vermilion Co., IL
MARR: 6 Aug 1881, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL

3) Susannah RODERICK
BORN: 6 May 1865, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 18 Feb 1891, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Potomac Cemetery, Potomac, Vermilion Co., IL
MARR: 15 Oct 1886, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL
4) Solomon A. RODERICK
BORN: 1870, Vermilion Co., IL

Lucy with her second husband:

HUSBAND: Thomas Reed DOYLE (born Francis REED)
BORN: Abt Nov 1835, at sea?, Quebec, Canada
DIED: 8 Feb 1916, Kankakee, Kankakee Co., IL
BUR.: 15 Feb 1916, St. Patrick Cem. (now Resurection Cem.), Danville, Vermilion Co., IL
MARR: 11 Jan 1873, Vermilion Co., IL
BORN: 1837, Dayton, Montgomery Co., OH
DIED: 21 Feb 1883, Bixby, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Potomac Cemetery, Potomac, Vermilion Co., IL
Cornelius Andrew PETERSON (1806-1877)
Cilinda LANE (1810-1849)
CHILDREN from second husband
1) Itha Elmer DOYLE (twin)
BORN: 1874, Bixby, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 22 Jan 1958, Niles, Berrien Co., MI
BUR.: Potomac Cemetery, Vermilion Co., IL
MARR: 19 Dec 1900, Vermilion Co., IL
2) Ida Ellen DOYLE (twin)
BORN: 1874, Bixby, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 21 Sep 1943, Catlin, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Oak Hill Cemetery, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL

3) Amanda E. DOYLE
BORN: 13 Jul 1878, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 15 Nov 1927, Vermilion Co., IL
BUR.: Bethel Cemetery, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL
MARR: 9 Mar 1892, Fountain Co., IN
MARR #2: 26 Sep 1914
4) Minnie DOYLE
BORN: 1 May 1880, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 10 Nov 1949, Marion, MI
BUR.: Grand Blanc, MI
MARR: 4 Mar 1900, Vermilion Co., IL
MARR #2: 1908
12 GRANDCHILDREN from 2nd husband:
5 from Itha Elmer: Lucy, Lester, Hettie, Ralph, Elizabeth Ann
4 from Amanda: Mary, Wesley, Myrtle, Dolly
3 from Minnie: Murray, Tillman Mark, Edward Samuel
Eleven of the 12 reached maturity; Dolly died at about 12 years old.

Lucy's full siblings:
Lydia Peterson: b. 1827; m. PHIPPS
John Peterson: 1828-1894); m. PHIPPS
Elmira Peterson: 1832-1907; m. GAW
Sarah Peterson: b. 1834; m. RODERICK
Benjamin Peterson: 1836-1916; 1st m. PILKINGTON; 2nd m. GARLAND
Eli Peterson: 1840-1887; m. WRIGHT
Mary Jane Peterson: b. 1842; 1st m. GEARHARD; 2nd m. GAW
Charlotte Peterson: 1844-1873; m. WILLIAMS
Selinda Peterson: 1847-1882; m. BAKER


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