In honor of St. Patrick’s day, when all of America is Irish, I’m taking a look at the woman whom family lore said came all the way from Tipperary.
Mary Ann Wiles was the mother of Joseph Joel Simpson, my second great-grandfather. She was the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Wiles, Irish immigrants, who settled in St. Louis.
The story goes like this: Mary Wiles was about 14 years old when she came to America. Her family owned the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company in St. Louis.
Here’s what I actually know based on records and census documents:
- She was likely born June 4, 1836 in Ireland, according to an 1880 census record I’ve found via Ancestry.com. A New York passenger list for the Orient, shows her arriving from Liverpool, England, in New York around 1855. It, too, lists a birthdate around 1834, so it could be her.
- By 1860, she has married Robert Simpson, though I can’t find a marriage certificate in Missouri. They have several children together: Hartley (b. 1860), Sarah (b. 1861), Nora (b. 1865), Joseph Joel (b. 1868) and Beatrice (b. 1871). The family lived in Illinois and Missouri.
- Her husband, Robert, and youngest daughter, Beatrice, both died in 1873. Robert died March 31 and is buried at Grand Tower, Ill. Beatrice died June 24.
- She eventually remarries. Missouri marriage records show that she and Levi Warren were wed December 21, 1873 in Perry, Mo. They had two sons, Arch and Cyrus Warren.
- There was such a place as the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Co. in St. Louis, but her connection to it isn’t confirmed that I’ve been able to find.
- Mary died Feb. 18, 1898, at age 51, at Grand Tower, Illinois. She is buried in a cemetery there.
Like much of my research, I’ve clearly got holes to fill. Some notes I’ve typed up from past searches include these tidbits:
- 1870 census lists her name as Ann, Wife of Robert.
- In 1860 census, when she’s living with Robert in St. Louis, it appears that her sisters also are living with the family. I don’t know if she’s married to him yet or was helping him with the children from her previous marriage because census records indicate he has at least two other children before he marries Mary Ann Wiles.
- In that 1860 census, I can find Bridget Leonard, 35, (b. 1825 in Ireland), wife of Frances Leonard (also born in Ireland) and they have three children — two of which were born in Ohio; third in Missouri.
- Also Honora Wiles age 14 — census says she was born in Missouri, which means the family likely immigrated between 1825 and 1835 about the time Mary was born OR Bridget and Mary stayed back in Ireland while the rest of the family came here. See 1850 census of Joseph Wiles.
I remember my grandfather telling me the story of Mary Wiles and then going to see her grave at the cemetery. I thought it was cool to have an actual Irish ancestor and a real connection to the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, there are plenty of other Irish ancestors on my paternal family tree, but there stories will be for another day.