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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Jennie: At Last, Part 1

'The journey to Martha Jane (Jennie) Pretty Corbett was a long one. It began with a two year old girl, her brother and sister. They were left behind when their Mom died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1903. That longing for Mom and knowledge of her family stayed in the heart of that two year old baby until the day she died at the age of eighty-eight, a country away from where she started.

          Martha Jane (Jennie) Pretty Corbett

Born in 1900 to Jennie and Clarence Corbett in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Hazel was the youngest of four children born to the couple. The oldest child, Elizabeth Mabel Kella or Keller, born 1892, died five short years later. She was called Mabel in her family. The other two children were Ethel Leona, born in 1895 and Harold Edson born 1897.

                                        Mabel Corbett

                Hazel, Ethel, Harold Corbett

The children knew that their mother was Jennie Pretty from Dildo, Newfoundland and that there was a Robert in the family, her father or brother they assumed. That was all they knew. 

They remembered something about their Mom however. No matter how sick she was, she'd sit up in bed and put ringlets in the girls' hair. It looks like she put them in Harold's hair too because his hair is so curly in some of the pictures. 

Though her story was sad in the end, Jennie had started out from her home in Newfoundland with her sister, Elizabeth, in the late 1880s (we think), probably with the spirit of adventure as all young people have. They stopped in Halifax on the way and this is where the picture of the two sisters was taken. (We assume this is Jennie's sister, Elizabeth, because the eye condition visible on the woman in the picture is the same as Elizabeth's son had. Jennie and Elizabeth did cross into the United States together.)

                          Jennie and Elizabeth Corbett

The women went to Boston and worked as seamstresses. Jennie eventually met Clarence Corbett from Five Islands, Nova Scotia. They married in 1891 and Mabel was born the next year.

     Jennie Pretty Corbett and Clarence Corbett


Elizabeth married two years later. However, the children didn't know anything about their Aunt and her family who lived in the same state. There weren't any ties with the Pretty family at all.

When she was sick, Clarence took Jennie back to Canada, initially to his mother, then to his half brother's family, Cassie and Charles McLellan. Eventually however, the family went back to    Massachusetts, where Jennie died.

                       Jennie's headstone, erected recently by her descendants

Clarence Corbett met his second wife, Lucinda, in Boston and moved back to Five Islands with her, his three children and her four children from a previous marriage. We believe Lucinda's first husband died. However, of her four children, the couple raised one of them, having sent three of the children to be raised by relatives. The boy they raised had health problems and was spoiled. He and Harold didn't get along, so, incredibly, Harold, at fourteen years of age, went back to Boston to find work. 

Written by Betty Giddens Jennings and Marie Pretty Smith

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