The Maiden Aunts – Susan Ella and Minnie Eva Sears #52Ancestors Week 14 By Pam Sears Cooper, Ray Sears and Marilyn Sears Lindsey April 2, 2018

The Maiden Aunts – Susan Ella and Minnie Eva Sears

#52Ancestors Week 14       April 2, 2018

By Pam Sears Cooper, Ray Sears, and Marilyn Sears Lindsey

Susan and Minnie had 2 nephews: Russell Adams Sears (1869-1932) and Judah Perry Sears (1871- circa 1940).  Russell and his wife Jennie Crocker had 7 kids and 4 of them had children.  What joys they were! 
The 1908 photo is of Russell & Jennie and 6 of their 7 children.  There are many abbreviations used in genealogy; one of them is ae which means age.  From Left to Right: Samuel (ae 12), Barbara (ae 5), Constance (ae 7) looking over mother’s shoulder, Jennie (Crocker) Sears mother (ae 38), Winslow (ae 14), Percival (ae 17) looking over father’s shoulder, Russell Adams Sears (ae 39) and baby Eleanor (ae 2) seated.  Unfortunately, Joan is not pictured; she wasn’t born until 1912.

A glorious spring day dawned and yet sorrow engulfed the Searses’ house.  Ella (Davis) Sears had lost her husband.  Judah Howes Sears passed away on 11 APR 1870 in the prime of his life in East Dennis, Barnstable County, Massachusetts (MA).  He had been a farmer, carpenter, and businessman.  He was only 47 years old but he died from a wasting disease – consumption, or as we call it today – tuberculosis.

Anonymous woman in a fashionable straw hat

Samuel, Judah and Ella’s oldest child at 23, was a mariner and then started Sears & Potter in the straw goods manufacturing industry in Newark, New Jersey around 1867.  We find him in the City Directory with quite a few members of his family.  Samuel, his uncle Nathan Norris Sears and his wife Julia Potter were living at 30 Fulton Street along with Nathan’s mother Susanna (Howes) Sears (1803-1867).   Judah was living at 49 Bleecker Street.

This is a page from the 1867 Newark, NJ City Directory where Judah H. Sears lived and the Sears & Potter Company was.

They were entrepreneurs at Sears & Potter at 188 Broad Street.  Nathan Norris had married Julia Potter in 1863 supplying the complete name for this business.

Examples of straw hats circa 1860s
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We imagine we would have found Ella, Susan and Warren back on the farm in East Dennis potentially growing wheat, oats or barley for crops.  Then the by-product – straw – would be used for their manufacturing company.

Straw is for hats – think yellow or golden; hay is for horses.  Straw is the by-product of a wheat, oat or barley harvest.  Hay is legumes and green such as alfalfa and clover or grasses such as timothy or oats.  from

The Panama Hat fad had started in the 1800s and by the time of the Forty-niners on the West Coast (1849) it was even more popular.


Panama hats are a vital part of an island gentleman’s wardrobe. They’re versatile, iconic, stylish and functional. But one thing they’re not? They’re not from Panama.


Authentic Panama hats, like the ones we sell today, originate from Ecuador. But they’re not called “Ecuador hats” because Panama is where many of them were either originally sold or worn. Gold prospectors of the 1800s passing through on their way to California would purchase them there. So did the U.S. Government: they bought 50,000 of them for troops during the Spanish-American War. And workers who helped construct the Panama Canal wore them as they toiled in the tropical sun.

It starts with toquilla, a tall, palm-type plant native to Ecuador. The leaves are harvested during a specific period every lunar cycle that coincides with the plant’s fibers being drier than they are the rest of the month. The drier the straw, the better the hat. From there, the straw is hand-woven and formed into the hat’s unmistakable shape.

When judging the quality of a Panama hat, the rule of thumb goes:  the more weaves per square inch, the more luxurious (and expensive) the hat. Pay close attention to the rows in its crown. The texture should be thin and smooth; if possible, use a loupe or magnifying glass to see the intricate details.


Despite their origins in labor-intensive occupations, Panama hats have come to represent relaxed refinement the world over. In the United States, they surged in popularity after President Teddy Roosevelt was photographed wearing one in 1906. Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Winston Churchill all famously wore them.” From

There had been so many joyous occasions during Judah’s lifetime – most of which happened on Cape Cod, Massachusetts (MA).  Ella and Judah had had 5 children – 3 sons and 2 daughters.  Samuel and his twin brother Judah Willis were born in 1847.  Their third son Warren arrived in 1849.  Susan Ella was delivered in 1863 during the Civil War and finally, Minnie Eva Sears was born on 24 MAR 1869.

(Above) Judah Howes Sears and his family are shown in the Massachusetts State Census which was taken on 13 SEP 1855.  Judah is on Line #5 on the left page.

Soon afterwards, the next generation had its first member; Samuel and his wife Ella “Eva” (Hayden) Sears had a baby named Russell Adams Sears (1869-1932) and hopefully, Judah had had a chance to meet Russell before he passed on.  Samuel was the only one in Minnie’s generation to have children.  Otherwise, the Sears name would have died out in that branch.

(Above) Russell Adams Sears in 1898; (Below) Samuel D. Sears – his father’s signature


Minnie and Susan’s nephew Russell was born a few months after Minnie on 13 OCT 1869 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.  Then Russell’s brother Judah Perry Sears was born on 26 Nov 1871 back on the Cape.

Judah’s death (1823-1870) was in April – just months before the US Census.   How could there be 5 adults living in one house and no one was employed?  They must have all been entrepreneurs.  Or they raised everything they needed on the farm.  Or Samuel’s job in New York was supporting them all.  Maybe even all of the above.

It must have been quite a responsibility to support his wife and baby, his mother-in-law, his mother, brother, and 2 sisters and his auntie.

Samuel had already felt the loss of Judah Willis Sears (1847-1848) his twin brother.  Now he had lost his father.

Minnie was so young.  What would she grow up to be without her father?  Her sister Susan was just 6 years old.  What did they know of death?  How would they survive?


Examples of straw hats circa 1870s

It seems that Judah’s family was well-trained and ready to provide for their growing family.  Sears, Ledwitch and Company ran the East Dennis Straw Works in 1871.  Samuel and Warren Sears were partners along with William Ledwitch, who was a stranger in East Dennis, in the making and selling of straw hats. From Dennis, Cape Cod by Nancy Thacher Reid

Leslie Ray Sears III writes: Samuel’s first child was born in Brooklyn in 1869 and they are back running the straw works by the time the second boy was born in 1871.  from Sears Genealogical Catalog


Stetson Hats

John Batterson Stetson, known as the inventor of Stetson hats, was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1830. John B. Stetson’s father, Stephen Stetson, taught him how to make hats and of the hat trade. After his father’s death, John B. Stetson decided to open his own business, but befell ill with tuberculosis. So before he could open his business, he had moved out to St. Joseph, MO landing a job in moulding bricks. Stetson soon became a partner in the brickyard. Soon, nature struck with heavy rain and flooding before Stetson could secure a future at the brickyard. It destroyed nearly all the non-baked bricks. This caused Stetson to lose his job. Afterwards, Stetson in need of financial stability, set out on foot, with some companions, to the Rocky Mountains (Pike’s Peak), in search of gold. In the summer of 1862, during a gold trek, Stetson demonstrated the process of felting to his companions. He shaved off the fur from the hides they had taken to use during the trek and began pounding the fur together. Occasionally adding water and dipping in into boiling water, he turned the fur into a felt hat. After reaching Pike’s Peak, a horseman saw Stetson’s hat and purchased it from him for a five-dollar gold piece. Thus, began the all-encompassing image of the western cattleman and the cowboy hat.

By the mid-1880s, Stetson had employed nearly 4,000 employees and was operating the world’s largest hat manufacturing company in Philadelphia. Stetson, an industrialist and philanthropist, saw a need to offer internal and external benefits to his employees. He set up a free health care system and began offering shares of his company to his employees. Stetson also set up a hospital in Philadelphia and was a founding trustee of the Stetson University in Deland, Florida. John B. Stetson not only turned his hat making skill into a multimillion dollar company, but into a legend.” From

Dennis was a thriving village in the 1870s.  There were social activities: sewing circles, lyceums, church socials, and berry picking expeditions.



By Robert Frost (1874-1963)

“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way

To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,

Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!

And all ripe together, not some of them green

And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”

Robert Frost circa 1904


Temperance groups were common and Dennis voted to be a “dry” town.  They were pushing to adopt the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would make it illegal to produce and sell alcohol.  While their efforts were successful in 1920, the 21st Amendment repealed it in 1933.

Minnie and her siblings attended the East Dennis school which was located on School Street.  How appropriate!  The students took field trips to neighboring schools for outings.  ” Other options were private tutors, usually the local minister, or to be sent away to grammar school.   From Dennis, Cape Cod by Nancy Thacher Reid P 313-426

Warren finished school around 1867 and later married Lura Caroline Woods on 16 FEB 1874 in Milford, MA.  It was a first marriage for both.  They didn’t have any children.  He was living in New York then and working as a Straw Goods Manufacturer according to the marriage license.

Minnie was 9 when her oldest brother Samuel died of consumption in 1878.  Coughing, chills, fatigue, fever, weight loss, night sweats and loss of appetite were the common signs of the disease; it was a very difficult death.

Now let’s take a jump back in time to understand the beginnings of this family in America.  Minnie and her family descend from Richard Sears (1590-1676) who is often called “Richard the Pilgrim.”  My family descends from the same man.  Our family trees are identical for the first 4 generations.  There were Richard and his wife who had Paul Senior, Paul Senior and his wife who had Paul Junior and Paul Junior and his wife who had Edmund.

But our lines diverged with the next generation. Edmund (1712-1796) had 10 children – Edmund Junior the oldest child and Elkanah Senior the seventh child were born 14 years apart.  Minnie’s line descends from Edmund and mine from Elkanah Senior.

Minnie is 9th generation from Richard the Pilgrim; my dad Leslie (Les) Ray Sears Jr. is also 9th generation.  They were fourth cousins because 4 generations lay between them and Richard.

Minnie didn’t have any children so there are no kids from her line to complement mine.  I am in the 10th Generation of this puzzle and Angelica my older daughter is in the 11th.  Can you fill out the puzzle below for Angelica?   

 And that’s also how we get the phrase “Fourth Cousins once removed.”  It means there is an unequal number of generations on Minnie’s side of the family tree and on Marilyn’s side.


1 Edmund

B 1712

2 Edmund

B 1743

3 Jacob

B 1771

4 Nathan

B 1800

5 Judah

B 1823

6 Minnie

B 1869

2 Elkanah Brothers Uncle/Nephew Great Uncle/

Great Nephew

Gr-Gr Uncle/Nephew Gr-Gr-Gr Aunt/Nephew
3 William Uncle/Nephew First Cousin First Cousin

Once Removed

First Cousin

Twice Removed

First Cousin

3 x Removed

4 Elkanah Great Uncle/

Great Nephew

First Cousin

1 x Removed

Second Cousin Second Cousin

Once Removed

Second Cousin

2 x Removed

5 Leslie

B 1892

Gr-Gr Uncle/

Gr-Gr Nephew

First Cousin

2 x Removed

Second Cousin/

Once Removed

Third Cousin Third Cousin

1 x Removed

6 Les

B 1928

Gr-Gr-Gr Uncle/

Gr-Gr-Gr Nephew

First Cousin/

3 X Removed

Second Cousin Twice Removed Third Cousin

Once Removed

Fourth Cousin
7 Marilyn

B 1954

Gr-Gr-Gr-Gr Uncle/GGGG Niece First Cousin/

4 x Removed

Second Cousin

3x Removed

Third Cousin

Twice Removed

Fourth Cousin

Once removed

8 Angelica

B 1977

GGGGG Uncle/



The reason that I know all of these facts is that the sisters were my cousins.  We know this from all the genealogy records that my family has developed or found from our ancestors’ records.  Thank you, Ancestors!

It is so exciting for me to read these accounts and find out about their lives.  I wish History class in school had been hands-on this way.

Ella and her family were lucky to be living in East Dennis where there were hundreds of family members.  There were so many that East Dennis was often called “Searsville.”  This provided them with a rich social life and plenty of relatives to call on in times of need.

One of these relatives was Jacob Sears (1823-1871), “he attended the East Dennis public school.  Jacob married the girl next door – Olive Kelley, the daughter of Stillman Kelley, partner in a large fleet of fishing vessels that operated from a dock on Sesuit Harbor’s eastern side.” From

Jacob was a “successful farmer and cranberry grower.  He had developed a competitive advantage for his business through the invention of a method to ship cranberries in casks filled with water, which allowed his crop to arrive perfectly fresh in distant ports. He ultimately broadened his business interest into shipping and railroads.” From

In the 1850 U.S. Census of Barnstable County MA, Judah and Ella and their 2 oldest surviving children, Samuel and Warren, were shown living next door to Paulina Sears, Judah’s aunt.  Stillman and Olive Kelly lived next door to Paulina.  The Kellys had 8 children and one of them was Olive F. Kelly (1840-1893).

Olive Kelly married Jacob Sears of cranberry fame on 29 APR 1860.  By the time of Olive and Jacob’s wedding, Barnstable County had 36,000 people and Dennis had around 3,400 residents.

There had been rumblings of secession and war for years now and everyone dreaded the start of a war that would divide the country.  “There were four military drafts between 1863 and 1865, which included 3.175 million records. Historically, the 1863 draft was one of the most tenuous moments in the Union outside of the battles fought on Northern soil. Most of the concern was due to the draft riots that took place in New York in 1863.” From

List of all persons of Class II, subject to military duty in the First Congressional District of Massachusetts on June 30, 1863.  Judah Sears is listed on Line 18.

This was when Judah Howes Sears registered for the Draft.  He was classified Class II which meant he was married.  So he wasn’t called to serve.  His boys were too young to serve; Samuel was only 18 by the time the war ended.

“In 1864 during the Civil War, the City of Dennis was cited for breaking the law which required a public high school.  In 1868 the town met that deficiency halfway by adding a high school department to the Dennis School for the summer term and to the Dennis Port School for the winter term.  The practice of holding high school classes alternately on the north and south sides of town one term at a time was continued until 1889.  The five two-story graded school buildings which had been built in each of the villages between 1859 and 1867 now housed all of the school children of whatever age. In some years a school might have three departments, Primary, Intermediate, and Grammar.  At other times there were only two departments, Primary and Grammar.  The difference may have been the number of children in each age group, but another consideration seems to have been the availability of teachers.  In school reports from the 1850s onward, the school committee was constantly reminding the voters that they needed to pay teachers more.  It is surprising to find the same teacher employed for more than a year unless that teacher was a resident of the town.  The Grammar Department teachers were usually students from Dartmouth College and two winter terms were the maximum amount of time they would teach here.

“Teachers were interviewed to determine their ability (to keep order) not their educational quality.  They made $30 a month if they were female and $50 a month if they weren’t.”  (Dennis, Cape Cod P 418-426 by REID)

“In the 1850s, the East Dennis public school was consolidated into the Dennis village school system, and a new school was built next to Worden Hall on the Old King’s Highway, also known now as Route 6A. Jacob Sears was concerned that the integrated school system might not provide a comprehensive course of instruction, and he decided to use his fortune to do something about it.”

1601 Massachusetts Highway US 6
Route 6A runs right near the red line on the map above

“The Nineteenth Century saw the rise of small, local centers of learning, culture, and entertainment across rural America. From the Lyceum Movement founded in Concord, MA, in 1826, to the diverse educational, cultural, and social phenomenon of Chatauqua in the latter part of the century, America moved increasingly toward the democratic notion of education and cultural enrichment for everyone.


“Reflecting both his personal concerns and the spirit of his time, Jacob Sears stipulated in his will that, following the death of his wife Olive, the entirety of his estate should be used ‘for the benefit of the inhabitants of East Dennis and vicinity for educational purposes.’ This bequest led to the creation of the Jacob Sears Memorial Library.”

uncrop 1896SEARSJacobb1823memoriallibrary2006
Jacob Sears circa 10 JUL 1896

“…in its heyday in the 19th century, Chautauqua was one of the most important cultural institutions of its time, with an incalculable effect on the dissemination of education and culture in the United States, particularly for women, who had little access to higher education. Today, after exhausting its original mission, Chautauqua, almost incredibly, has carried on, averting financial crises, and prospering.”  From

Now we are caught up with our history and can learn about life after Judah’s death.  As adults, Susan took the time to travel and continue her social life and Minnie was discovered to have a fine voice and there were many announcements in the newspaper about her talents and travels.  She was requested to perform in many of the town functions.

Minnie’s Life

17 APR 1877 “Dennis – The spring term of the Public Schools will commence Monday the 16th inst. The following list of teachers have been assigned positions, viz:

East Dennis—Miss Ida M. Sears, Grammar department (Susan’s teacher), Miss Mary  J. Kay, Primary department (Minnie’s teacher.)

So. Dennis—Mr. Win. S. Barnum, Grammar department, Miss Grace F. Whelden, Primary department.

West Dennis—Mr. E. D. Howes, Grammar department, Miss Nellie A. Howes, Intermediate department, Miss Eldora Matthews, Primary department, Miss Mary H. Kelley, Sub Primary department.

Dennis Port—Mr. Everett Harris, Grammar department, Miss Mary C. Perkins, Intermediate department, Miss Emily S. Howes, Sub Primary department.

Dennis—Mr. Chas. Sears, Grammar department, Miss Susan E. Hall, Primary department.”

Then again in the 1880 U.S. Census Ella was continuing to keep house at ae 52 and both daughters were in school at ae 17 and ae 11.

Susan’s News

12 JUN 1883 “Warren Sears is at home for a short vacation. Miss Susan E. Sears came home from Boston Saturday to stop a -while.

There have been seventy-five cases of measles in town the past five weeks.”

Minnie’s Life

26 JUN 1883 Barnstable Patriot Page 3 “Last Sunday was observed as the Children’s Day. The church was very prettily decorated with cut flowers. Rev. A. H. Shaw preached to the children in the morning, and in the evening the children gave a very pleasing concert to a full house. The following is the (shortened) programme for the evening:

Singing by the School, Children’s Day.

Devotional Exercises.

Declamation by Master Isa Sears, The Wasp and the Bee.

Recitation by Miss Minnie Elland, Forget me Not.

Recitation by Miss Carrie Lord. Mother ‘ s Way.

Declamation by Master Sammy Sears, The Bird ‘ s Sermon.

Song by Miss Belle Howes and others, The Children’s Thanks.

Recitation, by Miss Minnie E. Sears, Make Home Happy.

Declamation by Harry E. Sears, The Two Dimes.

Song by Misses Marion, Josie and Agnes, Sweet Little Stars.

Recitation by Carrie Lord, Little Rogers’ Prayer.

Singing by the school, Speed The Gospel Armv.”


28 JUL 1885 Barnstable Patriot Page 3 “The ladies of the Union Circle gave an entertainment and dance in Worden Hall, Thursday evening, 16th. The nursery maids ‘ drill and Japanese wedding were very amusing. The select reading, “Sweet Briar Rose” by Miss Sarah Howes and a solo by Miss Minnie E. Sears were both well appreciated by the audience.”

15 MAR 1887 Barnstable Patriot Page 3 “Lyceum met Wednesday week, at the usual hour. First of the evening was devoted to exercises, viz:

Singing—White Wings; Carrie L. Howes

Speaking—Grandfather’s Storv; Arthur Ellis.

Singing—Freeman G. Hill.

Reading—The Shadow of the Blind; Helen M. Chase.

Singing—The Letter that never came; Mrs. Paul F. Sears, of East Dennis.

Reading—Deathbed of Benedict Arnold; F. Burnbam Hall.

Singing~ Miss Minnie E. Sears of East Dennis.

Reading—Entertaining Her Big Sister’s Beau; Blanche Howes.

Singing—The Green Mountain Yankee, Freeman G. Hall. —Register.”


12 JUL 1887 Page 3 Barnstable Patriot “The concert, given by Miss Minnie 13. Sears on Wednesday, seemed to be a success in every way. The programme of the evening is given below :

Overture—Miss Snow and Mr. Foster.

Solo—(Selected), Mr. Burnham Hall.

Solo—”Wood Nymph’s Call,” Mrs. Paul F. Sears. 

Reading—”Curfew,” Blanche K. Hall.

Solo—”Cuckoo,” Minnie E. Sears. 

Violin Solo—(Selected), Mr. Freil. Foster.

Solo—”O’er the Dancing Sea,” Susie T. Howes.

Piano Solo—”Titania,” Blanche E. Hall.

Reading—”Witch’s Daughter,” T. Bell Howes. 

Piano Solo—(Selected), Miss Lottie Snow.

Solo—”Le Reveli” Minnie E. Sears. 

Quartett—”Good Night, Farewell,” Misses Howes and Messrs. Hall.—Register”


In 1872 Dr. Susan Dimock had a nursing school at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.  Susan soon graduated from Grammar School and received training to be a nurse.  She possibly attended Dr. Dimock’s program.

Minnie’s Life

22 MAY 1888 Barnstable Patriot Page 5   “Miss Minnie E. Sears has returned from Somerville where she has been spending most of the winter having her voice trained.”


14 AUG 1888 B.P. Page 3 “Quite a party of our young people enjoyed a picnic on Tuesday last, and a social In Worden Hall in the evening….The concert on Wednesday evening, given by Miss Minnie E. Sears and others, was much enjoyed by the large number present. All parts were so well rendered that it was hard to say which was the most pleasing. The following is the program rendered:  Violin Solo—Sonata, Mr. Fred Foster.

Reading—The Dandy Fifth, Miss Minnie M. Nickerson.

Reading—Money Musk, Miss Nickerson.

Solo—Who’s at My Window, Miss Sears.

Violin Solo—Finale Concerto, Mr, Foster. —Register.”


20 NOV 1888 Barnstable Patriot Page 3 “Miss Susie Hall returned from Brighton Tuesday. She accompanied her aunt, Mrs. Warren Sears, who drove their team to Brighton the week previous. Miss Minnie E. Sears has found a position in Boston and gone to accept the same. The schools commenced last Monday with the same teachers as last term.—Register.” 


13 AUG 1889 Barnstable Patriot Page 2 “Don’t Miss the Grand Concert. Lovers of music will not miss the great concert in Exchange Hall, Harwich, next Thursday evening, the 15th. Remember the eminent talent—Prof. Charles Adams, the great tenor; Mrs. Richardson, the beautiful soprano; Mrs. Sawyer, a contralto of wide reputation; Mr. Dow, the noted pianist; the famous Tripp sisters, violinist and elocutionist, all of Boston. They will appear in quartettes, trios and solos. Some of these artists participated in a concert at West Harwich last week with flattering success, a crowded house greeting them. The above talent is unusual for Cape Cod. The artists are summering at West Harwich, and volunteer their services for the benefit of Miss Minnie E. Sears of East Dennis. An excursion train will run from Chatham, returning after the concert. Don’t miss it. »

The 1890 Census results were mostly destroyed by fire so those records are not available.  What a shame that we have a huge hole in our family stories.

Minnie’s Life

01 SEP 1891 Barnstable Patriot “East Dennis. On Saturday evening, a very pleasing concert was given by our talented young vocalist, Miss Minnie E. Sears. Those taking part were Master Ralph Gorham of Boston, violinist; Miss Grace Ryder of Boston, pianist; Miss Jessie Howes, East Dennis reader; Miss Minnie E. Sears, East Dennis soprano soloist; Miss Blanche E. Hall, East Dennis, pianist; Miss Etta L. Chapman, East Dennis, reader; Miss Lottie Snow Brewster, accompanist. The selections were all exceedingly well rendered. We congratulate Miss Sears on the marked improvement she has made. Her voice shows the result of its excellent training under Prof. Charles R. Adams, her teacher and of much hard work. Especially notable was her rendering of “Annie Laurie” displaying the taste and touch of the artist.—Register.”

 Did Susan move to Boston to study nursing?  Maybe Minnie studied at the Boston School of Oratory and that’s why they had a townhouse there.

Susan and Minnie’s home at 81 Brook Street in Brookline MA


10 NOV 1891 B.P. Page 3 “Concert Saturday evening, 31st ult., in Town Hall by Mr. Fred N. Foster, Violinist; Miss Lottie A. Snow, pianist and accompanist; Miss Minnie E. Sears, soprano.”

29 AUG 1893 Barnstable Patriot Page 3 “The Christian Endeavor gave an excellent entertainment last Friday evening. Mr. H. J. Jernegan of Fall River, gave some fine singing; also Miss Minnie E. Sears of East Dennis. Miss Berglen, graduate of the Boston school of oratory showed much talent and proficiency in her recitations and selections and all present agreed it was a great treat.”

Warren died of consumption when Minnie was 24.  He left his personal property to his wife Susan.  In his will dated 4 FEB 1893, he gave his house and 3 acres to his sister Susan Ella and his mother.  All of this is subject to the rights of his sisters Susan and Minnie according to their father’s will. (from MA Wills & Probate 1635-1991 P 806)   This may be how Ella, Susan, and Minnie were able to afford a house in East Dennis and in Brookline MA.

Samuel D. Sears’ headstone (above) and Warren Sears’ headstone (below)


All 3 men in Minnie’s family died of consumption and all were involved in the straw manufacturing industry.  Was there a connection?  Had she helped in the Sears, Ledwitch & Company manufacturing? Was she next?


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics had been reviewing the situation in 1919 in factories regarding what health conditions a factory was responsible for and concluded “…it is only when the disease is caused by a poison whose symptoms are unmistakable or by acute infection with a germ that can be identified, or when it is caused by some physical agent, such as excessive heat or the pressure of air in a caisson, that we can actually prove the occupation to be responsible.

“Nobody has any difficulty in deciding that lead colic or lead convulsions in a white-lead worker should be charged up to his occupation, but it is a very different thing to prove that a general hardening of the arteries, with Bright’s disease and perhaps softening of the brain, in a lead caster who has never had lead colic, is caused by his occupation…But for every case of that kind there are probably 20 or more of slow, chronic poisoning with benzol in rubber works, in canneries, in straw hat manufacture, when rosin in benzol is used for sealing cans, and in cleaning and drying… So, also, a case of anthrax in a tannery worker, which develops into fatal blood poisoning, is recognized as occupational, but tuberculosis developing slowly in a sand-blaster of sanitary ware in not so recognized…The commonest form of injury caused by dust is a slowly developing fibrous change in the lungs, which may become the seat of tuberculosis if anything happens to lower the worker’s vitality, or which may prevent his recovery if he contracts pneumonia.” Page 179 From U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Volume 9 Issue 1  July 1919


Therefore, it is no coincidence that Judah, Samuel, and Warren all died from consumption.

Susan’s News

22 JUL 1895 Hyannis Patriot – “Miss Susan E. Sears returned home from abroad on the steamer, “Lucania,” which sailed from Liverpool, England, June 29th arriving in New York July 5th. Miss Sears has spent several months visiting different parts of Europe.—Register. “

The Lucania Steamer took her maiden voyage in 1898.  She could hold 600 first class, 400 second class and 1,000 third class passengers.  She was gutted by fire at her Liverpool dock and was broken up at Swansea in 1910.

Marked by 2 small brooks at the north and south borders, Brookline MA is a suburb of Boston that was first settled in 1638 and was incorporated in 1705.  It is the hometown of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) who was born in 1917.  So the Sears girls and JFK were contemporaries.

1900 Ella, Susan and Minnie's address 81 Brook St., Brookline MA_0001.jpg
(Above) Map of present-day Brookline MA where the Sears sisters lived at 81 Brook Street.  The John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site is north of their home.  Boston University is on the Charles River.

Life for the Sears women continued in East Dennis and Brookline, MA.  In the summer of 1896, the Jacob Sears Memorial Hall at 23 Center Street was completed on the south side of the street in the village of East Dennis.  A dedication was planned for 10 JUL.   Jacob, a longtime East Dennis resident who bequeathed funding for the construction of the meeting hall to be used for a wide variety of civic and social functions, was Minnie’s 1st cousin once removed.

There was a 12-piece orchestra and at age 27 Minnie sang a solo at the dedication and the large audience was suitably impressed with the building and the program.


It is now called the “Jacob Sears Memorial Library and has been far more than a special place for housing and lending literary material. It has served as a community gathering place, a voting hall, and a venue for plays, lectures, musical performances, classes in art and music, and special exhibitions, as well as neighborhood meetings and events.” FROM

Susan’s News

10 OCT 1898 “Miss Susan E. Sears is in Brookline caring for the sick in the family of Mr. Jackson.”

Minnie’s Life

05 DEC 1898 Barnstable Patriot Mrs. Ella Sears and daughter, Miss Minnie E. Sears, have closed their house in this vicinity and returned to their winter home in Brookline. 


In the 1900 Census Report Ella, Susan and Minnie were still living together and had 2 boarders – Annie Roberts and Maria Foster a nurse.


Susan’s News

16 JUL 1900 Barnstable Patriot – “Miss Susan E. Sears is entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Jackson and son, Master Leonard, of West Newton. »


17 SEP 1900 “Miss Susan E. Sears recently spent a day or two in Boston and vicinity.


Another famine is said to be due in Ireland, a famine as far reaching in its results as that of 1846-7.”


1900 Ella, Susan and Minnie's address 81 Brook St., Brookline MA_0002.jpg
The Brookline City Directory in 1900

Both sisters

08 OCT 1900 Barnstable Patriot Page 3 “Mrs. S. H. Winkley, Mrs. Annie M. Roberts and the Misses Susan E. and Minnie E. Sears,  who have been spending the summer at Mrs. Ella Sears’s, have returned to their home in Brookline.”


The 1900 Brookline MA City Directory lists Ella & Susan at 81 Brook St., Brookline MA is in the Harvard Avenue neighborhood south of the Charles River.

Susan’s News

26 DEC 1904 “Miss Susan E. Sears went to Boston to attend the wedding of Miss Gladys Hughes Appleton.”


Susan was still a nurse at a retail clothing business and Minnie was a music teacher in 1910.  They had 7 people living in their house at this time; 3 were related – Ella, Susan, and Minnie.  The other 4 appeared to be boarders or servants.  Annie M. Roberts was still there but she was a patient.  Honoria Massette from Italy was also a nurse.  Sarah Tucker was a cook and Niles Lewis a hired boy.


Ella died of pulmonary edema in 1913 when Minnie was 44.  Weak lungs worsened by harsh factory conditions seemed to be involved in the deaths in this family.

So for almost half of her life, there was just her sister Susan – a bright spot in so much sorrow.  And Susan was a nurse.  Would that help the 2 of them live to advanced age?


Susan and Minnie had the right to vote in 1920.  Did they exercise it?  I would assume they did.  They were professional women who each had been educated and had a career.


Warren G. Harding, Republican from Ohio with Calvin Coolidge as his running mate campaigned against James M. Cox, Democrat from Ohio with Franklin Roosevelt as his running mate.  Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly for Harding; he won 84% in Barnstable County which was 6,383 votes compared to Cox’s 1,125 votes.

Susan B. Anthony and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1899

“The woman suffrage movement actually began in 1848, when a women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The Seneca Falls meeting was not the first in support of women’s rights, but suffragists later viewed it as the meeting that launched the suffrage movement. For the next 50 years, woman suffrage supporters worked to educate the public about the validity of woman suffrage. Under the leadership of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other women’s rights pioneers, suffragists circulated petitions and lobbied Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to enfranchise women.


At the turn of the century, women reformers in the club movement and in the settlement house movement wanted to pass reform legislation. However, many politicians were unwilling to listen to a disenfranchised group. Thus, over time women began to realize that in order to achieve reform, they needed to win the right to vote. For these reasons, at the turn of the century, the woman suffrage movement became a mass movement.”

In the 20th century leadership of the suffrage movement passed to two organizations. The first, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), under the leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt, was a moderate organization. The NAWSA undertook campaigns to enfranchise women in individual states, and simultaneously lobbied President Wilson and Congress to pass a woman suffrage Constitutional Amendment. In the 1910s, NAWSA’s membership numbered in the millions.

The second group, the National Woman’s Party (NWP), under the leadership of Alice Paul, was a more militant organization. The NWP undertook radical actions, including picketing the White House, in order to convince Wilson and Congress to pass a woman suffrage amendment.

In 1920, due to the combined efforts of the NAWSA and the NWP, the 19th Amendment, enfranchising women, was finally ratified. This victory is considered

the most significant achievement of women in the Progressive Era. It was the single largest extension of democratic voting rights in our nation’s history, and it was achieved peacefully, through democratic processes.” From


23 MAY 1929

“Miss Susan E. Sears

motored from Brookline

down to Bass River,

with her friend,

Mrs. James E. Patton,

for the week end.”

Hyannis Patriot Page 2


23 MAY 1929

 “Miss Minnie E. Sears

left a week ago last

Sunday to visit her friend,

Miss Sarah A. Williams,

of Beacon Street, Brookline.”

 Hyannis Patriot Page 2



Thurs. 27 NOV 1930

“Miss Eleanor Moulton,

after several weeks

spent with Miss Minnie

 Sears, East Dennis,

returned Monday to

her home in Tonset.”

Hyannis Patriot Page 6



Susan Ella and Minnie Eva Sears are nowhere to be found in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Census Reports.  Minnie died in 1945 and Susan didn’t die until 1951.  Where could they have gone?  Another gaping hole in the stories of their lives is unavoidable here.

On 30 JUL 1932 their nephew Russell died suddenly at his summer house in East Dennis.  The aunties were not mentioned in his obituary.

”Yarmouth Register, 30 Jul 1932,   Page 1

Russell A. Sears, for thirty years general attorney of the Boston Elevated Railway, who served formerly as mayor, city solicitor and member of the city council of Quincy, died suddenly Friday afternoon at his summer home in East Dennis.

Mr. Sears was sixty-two years of age, having been born in Brooklyn, NY on Oct 13, 1869. His father was Samuel Davis Sears and his mother Ella Evelyn Hayden. He was educated in the Boston public schools and entered the law office of Samuel L. Powers at the age of sixteen. Mr. Powers gave him careful legal training and in 1890 Mr. Sears was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. At the same time he was admitted to Mr. Powers’s law firm.

Mr. Sears was a member also of the bar of the United States Supreme Court. His other activities included his vice chairmanship of the Governor’s Committee on Street and Highway Safety and the presidency of the Transit Mutual Insurance Company. He was a director of the Massachusetts Employees Insurance Association, Granite Trust Company and the Citizens Gas & Light Company.

 He was a member of the Republican Club and the Exchange Club, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Bar Association of the City of Boston, and he belonged to the Neighborhood Club of Quincy and the Engineer’s Club of Boston.

 He was mayor of Quincy in 1898 and two years later became city solicitor. He had been identified with affairs in Quincy since he went to live there in 1891 and for many years he had made his home on Glendale road.

Mr. Sears leaves his wife, the former Miss Jane Crocker of Hyannis, whom he married in 1888. Also surviving are three sons Percival A. Sears of Liverpool, Eng.; Winslow Sears of Chestnut Hill and Samuel P. Sears of Boston. Four daughters who survive him are Mrs. Oliver M. Read of Shanghai, China; Mrs. Randolph P. Rice of Wayland; Mrs. George Phillips of Hollywood, Calif, and Miss Joan Sears of Quincy.

Funeral services were conducted at the First Unitarian Church, Quincy, Monday by Rev. Dr. A. L. Hudson of Dorchester, former minister of the church.

Quincy City Hall was closed during the hour of the funeral service. Mayor Thomas J McGrath led a delegation of city officials who attended. Officers of the Boston Elevated and representatives of George F. Bryan Post, VFW were present. Burial was in East Dennis.”

from Yarmouth Register Newspaper

 Russell may be the first male in the family to die of something other than tuberculosis (TB).  Thankfully he was spared that.


Before the mid-1850s, surgery, which was sometimes considered in the treatment of TB, had to be done without anesthesia.  As a result, the patient was conscious and felt each move the doctor made.

” A history of TB drugs often starts with the development of streptomycin. Following on from this, isoniazid will be mentioned, but very often para-amino salicylic (PAS) is left out completely.   Around 1940 aspirin was found to “play a vital role in the life cycle of the TB germ.  It was ten times more potent than any previously tested drug and it appeared to be non-toxic. In addition, it had been described in a published report by chemists many years earlier. This meant that isoniazid could not be patented. So anyone could make it and sell it, and it was not difficult or expensive to produce.  From

Streptomycin was first given to a patient on 24 NOV 1944.  More cures were developed and now TB is not as big a problem as it was in the 19th & 20th centuries.


Miss M.E. Sears and Mr. R. Sears sailed on the Britannic on 08 SEP 1934 to Liverpool.

This could be Minnie Eva Sears and her great nephew Russell Adams Sears II on a trip to visit Russell’s father, Percival in Liverpool.

We may never know because the shipping companies didn’t always include the passengers’ full names.

It is strange that Minnie lived her whole life in East Dennis and Brookline but died in Braintree, Massachusetts.  At the corner of Washington and South Streets in Braintree, Norfolk County, MA, there was a hospital specializing in tuberculosis.  Could there be a connection?  We may never know.

Susan was not found in the 1950 Census either.  Had she gone to live with a relative?  She died on 13 SEP 1951 and possibly wrote the story of what happened between 1930 and 1951 but we haven’t found any diaries or records she kept.

Minnie E. Sears and Susan E. Sears gravestones


Then our branch of the family took over the storyline and lived on Cape Cod and vacationed there often.  But that’s another story…




One thought on “The Maiden Aunts – Susan Ella and Minnie Eva Sears #52Ancestors Week 14 By Pam Sears Cooper, Ray Sears and Marilyn Sears Lindsey April 2, 2018

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