Sunday, August 17, 2014

52 Ancestors: #33 Bessie Judson McCain (1877-1958)

Bessie Judson McCain, my great grand aunt, was born on this date in 1877, in Florenceville, New Brunswick, the oldest of four children born to John McCain and Harriet Atwood Harnett, and their first daughter.

She lost her father at age 19 to a accidental death from drinking contaminated water, and soon after moved with her mother, two sisters and brother to Portland, Maine.

The 1900 US Census found her and her sister Augusta (Gussie) working as nurses-in-training at the Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary in Portland, which had just opened its doors 9 years earlier in 1891.

Maine Eye & Ear Infirmary
Portland, Maine
Photo Credit: John Phelan/Creative Commons

Two years later Bessie married the widower Edward Elden Cheney, eighteen years her senior, on February 19, 1902. For most of their married life, they lived on the Eastern Promenade in Portland. She lost her husband, however, in 1919. Edward Cheney died at 59 years of age of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

In her widowhood, Aunt Bess, as she was known, lived at various addresses around Portland, including Spring St., Brown St., and Cumberland Ave. She was always included in family gatherings, like this one from the mid-1950's:

Aunt Bess on the far right, with me on my dad's knee.

Bessie passed away at age 80, on August 15, 1958, and is buried with her husband in Evergreen Cemetery in Portland.

Photo credit:

Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary Portland ME
By John Phelan [CC-BY-3.0 (], Wikimedia Commons


1920 US Census; Census Place: Portland Ward 6, Cumberland, Maine; Roll: T625_640; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 44; Image: 103, Bessie J. Cheney., 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, The Generations Network, Inc., 2004),, Database online. Portland, Cumberland, Maine, ED , roll  , page .. Record for Bessie J McCain., 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, The Generations Network, Inc., 2006),, Database online. Portland Ward 1, Cumberland, Maine, ED , roll T624_539, part , page .. Record for Edward E Cheney.

Bessie J. Cheney tombstone,  Evergreen Cemetery, Portland (Cumberland County), Maine; photographed by Pamela Schaffner on 8 August 2009.

Maine. Certificate of Death (15 Aug 1958), Bessie Judson Cheney; Maine Vital Records, Augusta; photocopied from microfilm, received in the mail Jan 25, 2013.

"Maine, Marriages, 1771-1907," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Aug 2014), Edward E. Cheney and Bessie Judson Mccain, 19 Feb 1902; citing Portland, Cumberland, Maine, reference 122; FHL microfilm 12027.


This is the 33rd in a series, “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks,” coordinated by Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small.

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  1. She had her tragedies - hope she was happy in the main. Did she have any step children?

  2. None that I can find. He and Ecla Pettengill were married in 1885, and Ecla died in 1900.