The photograph of Lydia Magnan

Last year, I set out in an attempt to pay heed to Women’s History Month by researching the lives of some of the “lesser known” women from Manistee’s past…women whose names were not as locally well-known as people like the Ramsdells or the Filers are today.

The above photograph of Lydia Magnan was taken by local photographer Jacob Hanselman in 1898 and is cataloged as photo #33 in the Costume Portraits Collection - Album #1 at the museum.

The above photograph of Lydia Magnan was taken by local photographer Jacob Hanselman in 1898 and is cataloged as photo #33 in the Costume Portraits Collection – Album #1 at the museum.

As the museum is filled with photo after photo of people who we really don’t know much about, but are a part of the county’s history, I thought it might be interesting to pick a random album, flip through it and with my index finger land on the first photograph of a woman that it willed and attempt to write an article about that woman employing the museum’s various research resources.

So with that in mind, I am continuing that same process again this year. For this first article in the second volume of this series, I picked an album from the museum’s collection titled, “Costume Portraits: Album 1” and landed on the photograph of Lydia J. Magnan.

Lydia J. Magnan was born on March 9, 1871 to Adolph and Lucy Magnan. Adolph was originally from Canada but immigrated to the United States in the late 1850s. Upon landing in Milwaukee, he moved to Manistee a short time later where he became employed in the area’s sawmills. He later took up residence in Stronach and subsequently became the village’s first postmaster, a title which he held from 1867 to 1880. Upon moving to the city, Adolph eventually went on to become a bookkeeper for Louis Sands, the Judge of Probate for Manistee County and the city’s mayor for one-term.

It was in Stronach that Lydia was born to the couple, the third of 14 children. Not much is really known about Lydia’s formative years other than that she attended Central High School (formerly located on the corner of First and Oak streets) in Manistee and later studied to become a teacher.

Records show that by 1892 she was employed as such at Central High, a profession she continued in until approximately 1905 when she moved away. However, the explanation for her move cannot really be found. By this time in her life, her father had moved to Ohio and later Chicago before ending up in Boyne City, Michigan for several years. So there is a chance that she had moved to be with her family yet her name does not seem to appear in the federal census or city directories from those intervening years.

Regardless, Lydia returned to Manistee, as did her father, in the late 1910s/early 1920s and resumed the profession of teaching at Central High School. Roughly two years later, city directories show that she became the owner and manager of a small neighborhood grocery store located at 309 Walnut St. By 1926, Lydia had changed professions again and had taken a position of clerk/bookkeeper for the freight offices of the Manistee and Northeastern Railroad, a job she would hold for the rest of her life.

In terms of her personal life, Lydia Magnan never married but was seemingly close to her siblings. While the family had lived in Stronach, they eventually settled at 337 Fourth St. where they lived for several years with father Adolph as head of the household. Over the years she lived in numerous places around the city either as a border with her family or by herself. Those places include: 72 Clay Street, 361 Third St., 318 First St. and 376 Third St.

By the mid-1920s, one of Lydia’s brothers, Aloysius, had become a superintendent of Orchard Beach State Park. In the spring of 1931, Lydia came down with an illness caused by complications from cirrhosis of the liver and she was taken to her brother’s house, located on the grounds of the state park. It was there that she continued to linger with the severe illness for eight more weeks.

On May 20, 1931, she passed away at Orchard Beach State Park at the age of 60. On May 21, 1931, her obituary was published in the Manistee News Advocate. At the time of her death she was survived by two of her sisters and five brothers. Other than a brief description of her life, the obituary noted:

“She was well-known here and leaves a large circle of friends to mourn her passing.”

On May 22, 1931 she was laid to rest in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

 

avatar

Posted by Mark Fedder

Mark Fedder is the executive director of the Manistee County Historical Musuem. He can be reached at (231) 723-5531 ormanisteemuseum@yahoo.com.

Leave a Reply