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Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd. ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 519-520.

MARY WHITING WHEELER OSBORN. The subject of this sketch was born as early in the century as November 26, 1809, at Dorchester, Massachusetts, unto William and Jerusha Wheeler (nee Whiting). Like her contemporaries in "rock-bound" New England, she had only a common school education, finishing with the "R's" at fourteen, and beginning the active duties of an unusually long and happy life.

Her mother died at a time when this daughter, of whom we are writing, was but six months old, leaving only one other daughter, Jerusha, who died in Michigan in 1891, aged past eighty-five. Indeed, the whole family seem to be of exceptional vitality. Mary Whiting Wheeler, even before leaving school, was, nights and mornings, already at her tasks, which developed in her the busy, contented spirit which has continued to characterize her days down into the vale of advanced years. In the old days of the early nation, all were useful members of society; to labor was a pride, not in any sense a mortification. And so, at fourteen, our subject most cheerfully started in to help support her aged grandparents, Jotham and Susannah Whiting, of Hingham, Massachusetts, by fitting shoes, which for years was her skilled and remunerative custom, for such old merchants as Caleb Loud, Elias Hunt, Abner   Curtiss  and  Goddard   Read,     the   local Astors and Stewarts of their day.

It is worthy historical mention of those times, now faded since the invention of machinery, to pause to narrate how she received for her labors from four to seven cents per pair for fitting shoes, ''finding" for herself needles, thread, wax, awls, clamps, etc., the merchants furnishing only the stock. Yet she sometimes made as high as six pairs a day, which was good pay for the times, and we can readily believe that none of her mates ran their fingers more deftly along their work than she.

Her early days were spent in Abbington (now Rockland), Massachusetts, where many of her relatives still survive, and where on November 6, 1827, in her home, she was married to John William Osborn, of Pembroke, Massachusetts. He was a very skillful shoemaker of his day. She moved with her husband, in 1830, to Pembroke, Massachusetts; thence in 1840 to Tecumseh, Lenawee County, Michigan, where her husband died in 1877; thence to Elkhart, Indiana, to live with her eldest daughter, Mrs. Susannah W. Hart. From this place she came to Chicago, where she is at present staying with her daughter, Mrs. Sherwood.

She has had eleven children, of whom nine are yet living—Susannah W., who married Malcolm Hart, of Elkhart, Indiana; James W., who married Margaret Delamater, of Tecumseh, Michigan, who died leaving three children, Vesty E., Margaret and Mary Alice; John Henry, who married Anne Whittemore, by whom he had three children, William and Carrie, twins, and Mamie Loretta; Mary Caroline, who married Nathaniel Lampman, and became the mother of four children—William Hart, Charles Edward, Oliver Rufus and Albert Clealand; Abigail M., who married George W. Sherwood (for whom and her husband, as long time residents of Chicago, see sketch on another page); Benjamin A., who married Sarah Whittemore, by whom he had two children, Frederick Arthur and Margaret; he had a second wife, Rose Calvert, by whom he had no children. George F., who married Laviah Hill—one child, Jennie; Louis A., who married Mollie Steinberg, to whom were born three children, Edgar Louis, Hattie May and Bessie B.; Lucetta A., who was married to Charles Bemis, and became the mother of six children, Herbert, Wallace, Bertha Alice, Earnest Osborn, Guy, Bernice and Ethel May; Edward Wilbur, who died in Adrian, Michigan, in February, 1855, aged four; Edward Eugene, who married Annie Calvert, by whom he had four children, Lillian May, Harry Wilbur, George Malcolm and Benjamin Franklin.

At the age of eighty-five past, the subject of this sketch is living in good health and spirits, hale and hearty; and seemingly the veil of more than a nonogenarian will be drawn before she leaves a life whereof she has none but pleasant memories to add to present comforts. She has thirty-six grandchildren and thirty-two greatgrandchildren. Who of our residents can point to a more numerous progeny, while yet living?

Without the aid of glasses she sews with a readiness and accuracy that is marvelous; is an excellent conversationalist and with memory exceptionally retentive for her years. On the occasion of the celebration of her octogenarian birthday, no fewer than three metrical compositions, in good taste, written by her descendants, greeted her ears:

"Care's wrinkled the brow of dear mother,

Her hair is now turned quite gray;

One hardly would think so, to see her,

That mother is eighty to day.''

(See genealogy under shetch [sic] of George W. Sherwood.)


– Submitted by Sherri Hessick on May 27, 2007.


DISCLAIMER:  The submitter is not related to the subject of this biography nor is she related to anyone mentioned in the biography.