Sunday’s Obituary: Margaret McVitty Little


8 August 1841 was a cool summer day in the small Irish town of Drummans in County Monaghan. But it was plenty warm in the home of tenant farmer William McVitty. For it was there that Mrs. Margaret McVitty gave birth to Miss Margaret McVitty.

Yeah, you read that right. It’s not like genealogy isn’t hard enough as it is, right? Irish research? Now there’s the same name in a family!


Little Maggie, as she came to be known, was the seventh child but only the second daughter of William McVitty and his wife Margaret Gibson. When she was nine years old, her father came to America in search of gold. It was 1850 and the Gold Rush was on. It isn’t known how successful William was at prospecting, but four years later he went back to Drummans and brought his family to Perry, Ohio. Maggie was 13.

Moving in general is difficult enough, but picking up and moving to a new country has to be terrifying at 13. I know it was for something better than what they had, but still. Our forebears had to have been made of sterner stuff than we are. Or maybe just me, who knows?

If you read the post about John Little I wrote a few days ago, then you are at least a little familiar with the reasons that Irish immigrants might have left home and what they had to face once they got here. Well, the McVitty’s are pretty much the same.

At 16, Margaret married John Little. Two years later, their first son, Robert, is born. All seems lovely and peaceful.

While heavily (and probably uncomfortably) pregnant with their third child, John goes away to war, leaving Margaret all alone. Being a stubborn Irishwoman, she just went about her business, probably having faced worse in her life back in Ireland.

Three years later, John returns home and I’m sure Margaret thought things would return to normal now. But they didn’t, no matter how hard they tried. John was wounded and was unable to do the work to support their growing family. For a while, I’m pretty sure they depended on the kindness of her brothers James and Isaac to get along until the children got a little older and could do work to support the family.

When Robert was old enough, he grew onions for his uncle James and then taught school. Emma, the second born, worked as a domestic servant. Things were not perfect, but looking up. Then Margaret faced every parent’s nightmare: the death of her son Robert in 1880. Her husband had died the year before and she was left a 38 year old widow with very small children. Most women in her situation remarried quickly to have a means of support. Margaret did not do so.

With no visible means of taking care of herself, in 1885, she filed for a pension for John’s military service. She was denied. The stubborn Irishness reared its head and she enlisted doctors and friends in her cause for what she considered her rightful due as a Civil War veteran’s widow. She eventually got $8 a month for her troubles.

Margaret Little lived the next forty years surrounded by her children and her grandchildren. Her youngest daughter lived at home until her marriage in 1906. She moved her mom right in with her in the new home. Henry Croft must have been a good man. He let his mother-in-law live with him for 23 years.

Margaret began to suffer from high blood pressure and poor circulation as well as probably some confusion. But then, she was 86 years old. On 20 March 1929, she had a stroke and was confined to her bed. Four days later, in the morning of March 24, she passed away. She was buried next to John in the Perry Township Cemetery the next day. I know what the obituary says, but that’s where she is. Exactly where she’s supposed to be — with her family.