My great-grandmother, Ethel Kelley, was born 29 July 1890, the fourth child born to David Howes and Mary Ann Kelley, and their only daughter. She was born in the family house on Ferry Street in West Dennis—the same one her father was born in and her daughter Mildred would be born in as well.
|Ethel with her brother Harold
She graduated from 8th grade, but left the Cape as a teenager to go to Brockton to find work, so I don’t believe she graduated from high school. Her older half-sister, Pollie, was already in Brockton, and her brothers Charlie and Arthur may have been there as well. She worked in a bakery and one day in walked Wallace Booth. He was a very handsome man and although Ethel was somewhat plain, he fancied her and kept coming into the bakery, eventually asking her out on a date.
|Ethel as a teenager/young woman
Wallace had tuberculosis of the bone as a child and lost a leg, so had a prosthetic leg which was nothing like the ones they have today. The family story went that Wallace grew up on a farm and that the family was quite poor. He didn’t have suitable footwear and got frostbite, losing the leg. An old article shows that he had TB; perhaps the family didn’t like the negative connotation of the disease. That Ethel still fell in love with him and wanted to spend her life with him really says something about her character.
Wallace was born 16 March 1887 to William Booth and Mary Ellen Jones in Cowansville, Missisquoi County, Quebec. The area is called the Eastern Townships. He too left his small town to go out on his own; I’d imagine without having graduated from high school. He at first came to Manchester, New Hampshire, to work in a shoe factory, living with his uncle George Jones. He worked in a shoe factory in Brockton as well.
|Booth family home in Cowansville, Quebec
They were married in 20 August 1910 in Brockton—Ethel was just 20 years old and Wallace 23. After seeing how narrow the gene pool was of my Cape Cod ancestors, it’s a good thing she married a man from “away!”
|Ethel and Wallace on their wedding day, 1910
They lost their first three children, including a set of twins born prematurely after Ethel fell down the stairs and didn’t survive. They also had a daughter Ethelyn who died after eating strawberries (sounds like more family lore). They were then blessed with three healthy children: Wallace Cedric (Ced) in 1913, Mildred in 1917 and Charlotte (Sherry) in 1922.
Ced married Elsie Walker and they lived in Somerville and later Onset. They had four sons: Frederick, David, Robert Dale, Cedric Scott and Wayne.
|Cedric Booth ca 1917
Milly (my Grandmother) married first Arthur Washburn Davis and had son Robert. She married second Alfred Rollins, who adopted her son Robert (my Dad). They lived in various towns in Massachusetts, including Somerville, Lexington, Boston, Concord, and Onset.
|My grandmother Mildred (Milly) Booth
Charlotte married first Albert Sarafian and had a daughter Charlotte. She married second Daniel Milden and had Steven and Laurel. My grandmother became estranged from Charlotte, something that must have greatly bothered their parents.
|Charlotte (Sherry) Booth
Wallace, like most people, struggled financially during the Great Depression, moving his young family to live with Ethel’s family in West Dennis. His daughter, Milly, said that two of his business associates committed suicide when the stock market crashed. After leaving his work in shoe factories, he worked for his brother George in his machine shop in Charlestown, worked as a contractor and did interior painting/wallpapering and later was involved in industrial real estate. He was a good provider for his family.
|Ethel with Ced and Milly 1917
He was raised a Methodist but converted to the Reorganized Church of the Latter Day Saint religion to marry Ethel. He was a deeply religious man and served as a teacher within the church. The Church was a huge part of their lives—they were very involved with people they knew from church and often went on summer camping trips with their “brothers” and “sisters.”
|RLDS Campground postcard that Ethel kept
Even though they grew up so far away from each other, Wallace and Ethel had similar beginnings. Wallace was from a big family in the country, where everyone was expected to work hard and went to church every Sunday. It was the same for Ethel, but her home was on the ocean and she came from a long line of mariners. Both of them were of mostly English ancestry. Both had seen their share of tragedy. Ethel had lost three brothers, one of whom she absolutely cherished. Wallace lost four siblings, including a sister named Ethel, and his beloved mother. Wallace had a strict, very religious father and a loving, kind mother. Ethel had a serious, religious mother and a loving, warm father. They must have felt like kindred spirits from the start.
|Wallace and Ethel with their son Cedric ca 1914
Early in their marriage they lived on Montello Street in Brockton, in a house built by Wallace. They also lived in Hyannis, Medford and Somerville. I remember their home on Daley Road in Medford. It was a brick ranch home with a large, finished basement. There was a huge Weeping Willow tree in the back yard, where my sister and I liked to play under the branches, laying on our backs looking skyward.
|Ethel and Wallace's home in Brockton
|Ethel and Wallace's home in Medford
Ethel liked Asian décor in her home and she was a fantastic baker--her pies and pecan rolls were the best part of holiday meals. She had a myriad of aprons and I’m fortunate to have some of them. She and her sister Polly never let a shred of fabric go to waste, making quilts, clothes, aprons, little bags for various uses, doll clothing, pot holders and more. There was a time when Ethel and Wallace’s marriage faltered and they separated. During this time Ethel took in boarders at her home in Hyannis. But they worked things out and seemed to have a happy marriage.
Ethel’s one guilty pleasure was reading Gothic novels, some of them quite racy! She was constantly knitting and crocheting; always had an afghan in the works. Wallace liked having the latest and greatest things. He only drove Cadillacs, and he was the first in the neighborhood to have a dishwasher. He worked hard and demanded others work hard as well. My Dad said he was quite a task master; he didn’t enjoy working for him! I was seven when he died and my memories of him are spotty. I remember how his eyes twinkled when he smiled, that he was well-spoken and kind, and that he seemed to have so much respect for his wife.
I thought of Wallace as a very active man--climbing ladders to paint houses, driving to Florida for vacations, hopping onto the boat for a cruise. I noticed he limped, but not until I saw him in the nursing home at the end of his life did I realize he had a prosthetic leg. A cousin from Canada sent me a photograph of Wallace as a teenager with a group of children. His pant leg was pinned up, his leg missing below his knee, and a wooden crutch lay on the ground next to him. His family must not have been able to afford even a wooden leg for him. I’m truly in awe that he didn’t let having just one leg slow him down.
|Wallace as a boy in Cowansville, Quebec, second from left
They didn’t like to fly, so would drive on their vacations. They would often go to Florida and from photographs I see they would often include visits to RLDS Churches in their travels. Ethel had her driver’s license, but I don’t remember seeing her drive.
Family was important to both Wallace and Ethel. Wallace was particularly close to his brother George and sister Grace, who both lived in Arlington, Mass. He would occasionally drive to Canada and Vermont to see his sisters Bertha and Nellie. Ethel was especially close with her half-sister Pollie and her brother Arthur.
|Wallace and Ethel
Later in life, Wallace and Ethel came to Onset to live on one side of their daughter Milly’s waterfront home. They enjoyed boating and Wallace was proud of the job my Dad did restoring our large boat. He died on 13 January 1970 at a nursing home in Falmouth, where he had been for seven months. He was 82 years old.
As she aged, I remember Ethel often crocheting or reading, always with her feet up on a stool. She had a problem with retaining water and had swollen ankles and would fret about them a lot, talking about which one was more swollen on any given day. She’d often wear a cardigan sweater and very sensible shoes. Although I remember her being a serious lady, she definitely had a lighter side. She really liked our dog, Inky. She was staying at our Lexington house one night so my mother could drive her into Boston for a doctor’s appointment the next day. The next morning she had us all cracking up at breakfast. She woke up in the middle of the night, unable to move her legs, thinking she was becoming partially paralyzed. It turned out Inky had snuck up on the bed to snuggle with her!
Ethel died of cardiac arrest on 13 January 1981, at age 90, at a nursing home in Falmouth. I was 18 years old and consider myself very fortunate to have had so much time with my great-grandmother.
Ethel and Wallace are buried at Agawam Cemetery in Wareham, Mass.
|Front of Ethel and Wallace's stone at Agawam Cemetery, Wareham