Sunday, February 18, 2018


In the previous post we asked for help in researching Maria before she married CTR. I want to thank those who contacted me by email. I have done some extra research in newspaper archives over the past few days and am putting together here an article on what is known. IF ANYONE CAN ADD TO THIS PLEASE MAKE A COMMENT OR CONTACT ME BACK-CHANNEL.

Mahlon Foster Ackley (1807-1873) was born in New Jersey. Selena Ann Hammond (1815-1901) was born in Philadelphia. They married and their children were all born in Allegheny. Of the five who survived to adulthood, Maria was in the middle. She had two older sisters, Laura and Selena, and a younger sister and brother, Emma and Lemuel.

Some biographical material about Maria’s parents can be found in Selena Ann Hammond Ackley’s obituary from 1901.

The Ackley family history site also quotes another couple of obituaries (unidentified) which provides the following extra information:

She journeyed by stage and canal with her mother to Johnstown, Pa, where she was married to the late Mahlon F Ackley of Allegheny, who was employed on the Pennsylvania railroad, which was then in the process of construction. Early in the 1840s she came to Allegheny with her husband and had resided there ever since. She saw the city grow from a straggling village to a metropolis. Mrs Ackley was for many years a member of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, and before the formation of that church was, with her late husband, connected with the Arch Street church of the same denomination. (end quote).

The 1850 and 1860 census returns list Mahlon as a carpenter and in 1870 as a car maker.

As well as giving her history, Selena’s obituary also gave details of her five surviving children in 1901. Taking them in order of birth they were, Laura J Raynor (1839-1917), widow of Henry Raynor who died in 1873. Selena A Barto (1848-1929), widow of Baptist minister, Charles Edmund Barto who died in 1883.  Then we have Maria Frances Ackley (1850-1938) and Emma Hammond Ackley (1855-1929). And finally there was Lemuel Mahlon Ackley (1857-1921), who became a lawyer in Chicago. Maria went to him first when she left CTR. Lemuel died quite spectacularly when a disgruntled defendant shot him in a courtroom in 1921.

Laura Ackley became a dressmaker before she married. Selena Ackley became a teacher and Maria followed Selena to become a teacher as well.

In the 1870 census both girls (Selena aged 22 and Maria aged 19) are listed as teachers.

Selena (with variant spelling Salina) Ackley is mentioned in the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial for July 24, 1868. At a meeting of the Board of School Directors of the Reserve Independent School District she is elected to work as Assistant in the Spring Garden School.

However, Selena would leave the teaching profession on marrying Baptist minister, Charles Barto. I don’t have a date for their marriage, but their first child was born in 1873. Years later as a widow with two adult children she listed herself as “private teacher” in a census return.

This means we can safely assume that all references to “Miss Ackley” as a teacher in Allegheny or Pittsburgh for the period 1872-1879 refer to Maria.

Maria was asked about her schooling in the 1907 court hearing. She said she had been educated at the High School, Pittsburgh, and then at the Curry Normal School. The latter was for teacher training. It may not be connected but early ZWT meetings c.1880 took place at the Curry Institute.

There are a number of newspaper references in Pittsburgh papers to Maria Ackley, M F Ackley and Miss Ackley, all in connection with teaching.

The first one is particularly interesting and so is reproduced here. The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for June 24, 1871 described a meeting of the Allegheny Teachers association where Maria gave what amounted to a lecture on public speaking.

Maria’s speaking ability would stand her in good stead many years later when she went on the road to defend CTR in the 1894 troubles.

Maria gave another lecture the following year. From the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial for April 3, 1872 – from the annual meeting of the Allegheny County Teachers’ Institute (Second Day) “In the evening, Miss Mariah Ackley read an essay entitled Will It Pay?”

Two more references from 1872. The Pittsburgh Daily Post for June 20, 1872 – “the following teachers have been elected for the 19th ward public schools: Grammar, Miss Lyons and Miss Ackley.” Then the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for July 27, 1872 – “Miss T (?) Ackley was elected teacher to fill the vacancy in Room no. 7 of the North Avenue building.”

1873 adds another dimension to Maria’s work when she is elected as a Sunday School Teacher. From the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for April 5, 1873:

Three years later she is still teaching in Sunday School and is given a pin-cushion to show appreciation. From the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial for January 4, 1876:

In 1877 she is mentioned in the teacher elections for the public schools. She is elected as Marie F Ackley for the North Avenue School. Also elected is a Mary D Lecky. We will come back to her with the next cutting.

However, not all was plain sailing in the teaching profession. In early 1878 Maria was accused of assaulting a pupil. The news was in the Pittsburgh Daily Post for January 19, 1878:

It appears that her fellow teacher in the North Avenue School, Mary Lecky, was concerned that someone might think it meant HER. The Pittsburgh Daily Post for January 22, 1978, carried a clarification:

Putting this in context, we must remember that corporal punishment was allowed at this time and the complaint may have been malicious. There is no information in the newspapers as to how the investigation turned out, but we must assume Maria was cleared of any misconduct. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for July 3, 1878 carried a report of the latest election of teachers. For the Second Ward, North Avenue School, Marie F Ackley was elected again; as was Mary Lecky.

However, with that kind of experience and after a decade of teaching (with more of the same looming ahead) perhaps Maria was getting tired of it all. Getting married, as her two older sisters had done before her, was the normal way out for a single woman.

On March 13, 1879, she married Charles Taze Russell.


Chris G. said...

Very nice information. The name Knorr being in the documents is very curious, but I'm sure that's a story for another time.

thank you sincerely, for your hard work here.

jerome said...

It would have been fun if Maria had physically assaulted Nathan H Knorr's father or grandfather, but I suspect that's a stretch of the imagination too far..,

Bernhard Brabenec said...

Br. Knorr's father was born in 1872. So he couldn't be it. Maybe an other related person.