As you work on your family history many times you will come upon ancestors that are above and beyond the norm. We are taught that the Lord will never give you more of a load than you are capable of
carrying, and then you read about someone like “Maggie Olyer”
Born 17 mar 1879 in Hastings County, Ontario Co., Canada. She was the 3 rd child of Anthony Moses Genereau and Margaret Jane LaValley. Moses as we will call him was 24 yrs old, French laborer- working as a lumber jack in the winter and in the brick yards in the summer, this meant the family was mobile in the year 1883, the family was in Cornwall, Ontario-by 1885 they are in Meadow bay,
Ontario, were her sister Louise was born. Then “Maggie’s” 10th birthday they were in MartinTown, Ontario 1889. Up until now there was little time to go to school-there were 8 children and a mother heavy with child , living in small house on the outskirts of Martintown. The father away in woods working. Then one evening in October there was a great deal of activity outside the home-the children were rushed off to a loft upstairs so they would not be part of it. There father along with a strange lady was in the kitchen both covered in black tar & feathers. Things quieted down but the lamp was on all night, the muffled moans and ugly words resounded all night.
When she awoke in the morning her life would change forever--he father was gone--her mother was crying, unable to join the family.
see my article family secret
In a few days “Maggie” was told to gather up her things and was sent to Cornwall, Ontario, she was 10 almost 11 and advanced enough in years to do odd jobs around a frontier home, so the Branson family took her in. From 1890 until 1895 “Maggie” worked for the Branson’s and lived with them in log cabin just across from the entrance to the Cornwall bridge to U.S.A. [I visited the cabin in the 1860’s] they were good to her, she even went to school a few days a week. While in school a boy using a pen tattooed her initials on her upper left arm M G with a small x below---he never got to finish with his initials the Branson’s put a stop to it.
Then good news 1895 just before Christmas her mother and Alex her brother were there after
her-everyone is being gathered up in a big slay, packed with all there belongings-cloths, blankets, food and some furniture they were all going to see Moses their father he was waiting for them in Malone , N.Y.
The poor horse was having hard time in the deep snow and ice covered river they had to keep
putting down pine bows so he could get his footing, at first it was fun - pick up the bows from the road behind you, run up ahead of the slay and lay them down, then back for more.
Maggie is now 16, her older brothers are not with them, the rest unite with there father, a family
meeting is held and everyone is told there name would be Cummings [He had worked for Jim
Cummings in Martintown] from that time forward they would not use Genereau , they left Malone, N.Y. and went to Spring Cove, N.Y.. There they find a small cabin at Camp #5, but its O.K., her father is the blacksmith and saw sharpener, mother is in charge of mess hall and “Maggie” is going to help her. Then one day Alex her brother arrived, he was using name of King, he moved in with the family and worked with his father now called Jim Cummings. Maggie went to her grave insisting her name was Cummings but she had given to much information about the family-a 30 year search revealed the truth.
There are no other girls here just her and her sister Louise, but the place is full of young French
lumber jacks--There are the 3 Olyer brothers Delbert, Riely, and Berlin. A couple of years go
by and then on 28 March 1904 Berlin Olyer and Maggie Cummings are married they move to
Waverly N.Y. [in 1900 Census] to live with his father John olyer and his family Maggie is 21. In
short period of time they move back to Spring Cove were Maggie starts a family from 1901 to
1904 she has 3 girls then in 1907 a son john is born and dies within the year . Then she has a
set of twins Forest and deforest, only a few days old they die. its in January so the twins are
dressed and placed in a room that is shut off from house, with windows open children are kept
frozen until spring when ground can be opened for grave.
Lumbering is dropping off, virgin timber has been cut off Maggie is upset over losing the
children so the Olyer boys go to Little Falls, N.Y. They all get jobs with the New York Central Rail Road. In 1908 Berlin moves family to Little Falls, N.Y. where Maggie has another set of twins Leslie and Louise, and another son Vernon.
My grandfather was a good provider-since Maggie made all the cloths for the children, in 1915 he bought her one of the new sewing machines. Somehow she ran the needle into the back of her right hand-in a few days she had a infection and local doctors were ready to remove the hand. My grandfather worked in the Switch yard NYCRR Albany, so he took her to Albany Medical center. A young doctor ask him if he could try something new-he might be able to save the hand-everyone agreed it went forward. They cut a opening in her upper leg-removed all the
flesh from her hand then slid it into the pocket type opening and allowed the flesh to attach itself
to back of hand . This was first skin graft in the Albany Medical Center-it was a success but
they were unable to do it as they do today. She always had a thick bump on the hand but was able to use it. For the next 30 or so years she would carry a towel or something to keep it covered..
In the fall of 1928 on a Saturday they cleaned up the Buick touring car [my Avitar], picked me up and before we left, sat me on the hood and took the picture. Then it was off to Cherry Valley, N.Y. about 14 miles away [big trip in
1928] to pick up vegetables’ for Maggie to "can" this was a annual thing - bags of potatoes, onions, apples, beans, carrots, the car was packed top put down so more could be put in. Gramp was at the wheel [much different than the hand car he used on RailRoad you had to steer a car] and I was on Maggie’s lap, about a mile out of Cherry Valley the then dirt road is cut out of a mountain,
the left side of road drops off in a very step grade around a mile from the road to the creek at the bottom. The fields are cress crossed with barbed wire and full of crab apple trees and brush-along with cattle. Gramp lost control of car on the curve and went over the side--the car kept picking up speed despite the shearing of brush, trees, plus the entangled barbed wire. Thank God the old Buick stayed on its wheels coming to rest on the other side of the creek only a few foot from another road. Maggie was covered with blood she was so scared
she had clinched her teeth with her upper lip between them completely bit off the upper lip - it hung by a tiny piece of flesh on one side.
Gramp quickly got rid of the barbed wire and drove the car onto the road--speeding into Sharon N.Y. were he found a doctor, they laid Maggie on a table and he sewed the lip back on. She never complained, her worry was all about the vegetables and how she was going to get them canned. Now she had to keep the hand covered and in almost every photo you will see she is shielding her upper lip.
In 1930 her father was very ill, she had 9 brothers and sisters but felt it was her calling to go to him, were she spent most of the summer.
She was a very active woman Monday thru Thursday she would visit the relatives there was a daughter in Albany, one in Syracuse, another in Little Falls, Amsterdam and Nelliston-she had a Railroad Pass and used it. She was always at home on Friday that was bake day. All during the
depression my grandfather must have had good income. She would bake hams, turkeys, beef and breads and dessert My grandfather came home for Saturday and Sunday, these days were devoted to him-always a speckled blue tea pot on the warming shelf of stove and endless supply of cinnamon donuts. Sunday was homecoming she would set the dinning room table [held 12 stout people or 15 regulars] as much as 3 times [kids ate at card table except me I always sat
to his right with each group ] it was at these gatherings my grandfather would tell family stories, I never saw her, Maggie set down and eat, there was always someone else she had to help.
After my grandfather passed away in 1944, her health began to slip, she had a kidney operation in 1945, then a few years later gallbladder.
1964 she was at my mother home, she left to go to Syracuse but never got there, we finally got a call from Martintown, Ontario, Canada she was to sick to come home on train, Vernon her son went and got her. I am sure she went to see Alex to try to persuade him to keep family secret.
See my article family secret
She passed away after falling and breaking a hip in 2 July 1965 Little Falls, N. Y. her dau my mother died 16 July 1965 Coopers town, N.Y. neither of them new the other one was sick.
In the article about Dexter is her wedding photo, at the beginning of this article is a photo of the old Buick incidentally I was never again allowed to ride when my grandfather was driving. He just had a hard time steering a car and the clutch was real foreign to him he drove a hand car on the rail road - no steering wheel and to go backward you just switched seats.
Here is a photo of Maggie at cabin located in Spring Cove taken in 1942 "maggie" is the one sort of slumped over in the doorway, probably depressed over the thoughts of this place that was once her home.
If you click on the photo it might enlarge
Again let me urge you to talk with the older members of the family you never know what photos or documents they might have to broaden the knowledge you have of the family