April 10, 2009

Smile for the Camera, 12th Edition- A Noble Life: Melissa Jane Lillie Raeburn

A Noble Life, Melissa Jane Lillie Raeburn, 25 Jan 1855 - 2 July 1927

Noble (Adjective) having high moral qualities; a solid citizen; an upstanding person.....

Can you love someone you have never met? Silly girl! Perhaps just simple admiration.

I may not know all about my great grandmothers life but from what I have learned so far she will be the subject of this story. When I read my *aunt Barbara’s memories of her, I can see her in her home, around town and in church, with her husband and children, grandchildren, family and friends. I am there, and I have gotten to know her....I love my great grandmother.

Melissa Jane Lillie is the daughter of Thomas Lillie and Anna Youker. She was born in Harrison Twp., Potter County, Pennsylvania in 1855. Her siblings were John G., Frank, Esther, Nelson and Simeon. Her parents took the family to Michigan when she was just a wee little one. Many of the Potter County families and friends joined them in each of the Michigan counties and eventually made Grand Traverse County their home.

Melissa Jane was married at age 25 in Blair Township, Grand Traverse County to William Raeburn of Ontario. Melissa Jane's uncle George W. Youker, local Justice of the Peace and a minister, performed the marriage ceremony. Jane and William lived on the Raeburn family farm in Glen Huron, Simcoe County Ontario. Her brother Frank and his wife were their neighbors in Glen Huron. Jane and William had four children, Ernest, William, Margaret and Anna. By 1899 Melissa Jane and William moved to Sault Saint Marie, Michigan with their children.

Aunt Barbara’s Memoirs-

Grandma Raeburn was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on January 21, 1855. Her mothers name was Anna Youker and her fathers name was John Lillie. They moved from Harrisburg to Traverse City, Michigan. She had four brothers (John O Lillie, Frank, Simeon and Nelson)and one sister, Esther Sackett who lived in Battle Creek, Michigan. Frank had a daughter, Anna, born 1879 and died 1897. Esther had a son, William. Anna Youker Lillie had three brothers in Traverse City- G.W., J.P. and John G. Youker.

My Grandmother was a very quiet woman. I never heard her raise her voice. She was rather stern looking. When my Grandfather would get riled up about something, I can still hear her say, “Now Will, it’s all right.” She was very kind and never gossiped or said unkind things about others. She was a small, slim woman. She wore her hair on top of her head in a flat bun. Her dresses were long. She baked her own bread in the old wood range. I used to love the hot heels of bread with butter. For breakfast, I always had shredded wheat with hot milk. We always had baked potatoes for dinner. They always had goose for Christmas.

She was a faithful churchgoer- Methodist Church. I remember her washing Grandpa’s white hair when he would come home from firing the furnaces. We always ate in the dining room at night. She used to knit socks and mittens. I never could learn because I was left-handed.

Grandma had cancer of the breast. By the time she went to the doctor it was too late to operate. Grandpa heard of some “quack” in Ontario who claimed he could remove it. Grandma and aunt Ann went to Canada and they were being tortured, I am sure. This “quack” used something to draw out the cancer. She died there in June. I was twelve. She is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery.

I remember Mrs Mac rocking me in the entry off the kitchen when they brought my grandma’s body home. I was twelve years old and could not understand why God had taken my wonderful Grandma! Grandpa was broken-hearted. After she died, he always said “your Grandma” or your ‘mother” never calling her by name. But when he was dying, he kept calling for Jane (Grandma’s real name).

Grandma and I took a trip to several places in Ontario the summer I was five years old. We went by train- I remember the same seats that reversed. We traveled all night and I slept on the opposite seat from Grandma. We visited one farm where two sisters lived. I burned my hand on an oil lamp. It was something I had never seen before. I remember visiting the Millers in Collingwood, I believe. My Grandmother was going to Niagara Falls with some relatives and I was to stay at home, but I made such a fuss they had to take me. On the way I was stung by a bee and they all said it was because I didn’t stay home and I was being punished. They stopped the car and made a mud poultice to put on the sting. Mama made Grandma a beautiful taupe dress and me a white linen dress with scalloped edges on the jacket. I had my pictures taken on a cannon wearing it.

While in Canada we stayed on a farm owned by Pearl Lillie Bradley and her husband. It was a large farm and had a lovely white house. They had two adopted children- a boy and a girl. The boy had been seriously ill and he had a huge cabinet full of trucks and other toys, all given to him when he was ill. He wold not let his sister or me touch them. He kept them locked in a cabinet. The girl did not even have a doll. My Grandma went shopping and bought both of us a doll and some sugar wafers for a tea party. I was so disgusted with the boy that I wouldn’t let him come to the tea party. My Grandma took me down this hilly front lawn and made me sit down and told me how bad I was behaving. It didn’t change my mind about this little beast!

Another thing I remember about Grandma was that she never spoke ill of anyone. One day a woman and a girl moved in with a man across the street. I did not know it but the woman had been a member of the red light district. The girl was my age and we played together. One day we were playing-making a house out of blankets in Grandpa’s yard. He came home for lunch. Grandpa was so upset that Grandma would let me play with her. I remember him saying “Heaven knows what diseases she can get!” Grandma said, “Now Will, the Bible says not to visit the sins of the Fathers on the children”. I piped up and said, “But Grandfather, you always talk to her father!”.

Grandma Raeburn’s brother, Nelson Lillie, never married. HE lived in New Orleans and was a house painter. He used to come to the Soo for several weeks in the summer. One summer he painted Grandpa’s house. I always looked forward to his visits. We used to visit Beatrice Dean and her mother and Emma Ladd and her mother when he was in the Soo.
Esther Lillie Sackett, Grandma’s sister, visited too. I remember when Grandma died (I was 12 years old). When I walked in, it was a shock to see her sitting in Grandma’s chair-she looked so much like Grandma!

I would love to see the photograph of my aunt Barbara in her white dress sitting on the cannon at age five circa 1920!

Aunt Barbara also added that aunt Anna played the piano for friends and the family in the Raeburn's home and everyone sang songs like, I Want a Girl, Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad, and The old Grey Mare, Old Black Joe and alot of hymns.


  1. I, too, have Potter County, Pennsylvania ancestors who came to Michigan: JACKSON, PECK, and ROBBINS. They came after the Civil War to Oceana and Newaygo Counties. We may find a connection yet!

  2. Interesting! The lillie's were in Michigan by at least 1859, when Melissa Jane's brother Simeon was born. Small world!

  3. Ok this really is a small world. I just stumbled across your post and was surprised to find surnames Raeburn (spelled Raybourn, Rayburn in my family) and Sacketts. My Rayburns were from VA and TN and my Sacketts were from OH, IA, and MO though they are not related in my family to each other. It's still a small world. Your Grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman.

  4. Ah bummer we couldn't make a connection for them all! Where did your Rayburns come from? (to the U.S.)mine emigrated from Ireland c 1840's...probably won't be able to get them back to Scotland. Kinda 'stuck' in Ireland. The Sacketts were from Pennsylvania c 1800's and probably NY before that.

  5. There is a book that might help in your research. Lilly, Julius W., Lilly-Lilley-Lillie Family History, Pub. Los Angeles Public Library, 1930.
    I have Lillie, but no direct lines.

  6. Thanks for the tip, I searched my MELCat online for the book, but it isn't in the system. I will have to keep looking.

  7. How interesting! Elizabeth Lillie (Wilkinson) is my great great grandmother on my father's side. My father grew up in Potter Co. PA. I have been trying to research this elusive family and have enjoyed reading your tree! Thanks!

  8. Wow, well hello 'cousin' !! E,mail me and lets see if we can help each other out. My email is in the profile section on the right. If for some reason it doesn't work right click on it and the address should show up, look forward to hearing from you!! yeah!