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2013 Cemetery Walk - Mary A. Pake (1845-1936) - portrayed by Doris Nelson.




Portrayed by Doris Nelson

My name is Mary Agnes Holmes Pake. I was born in 1845 in Plattsburg, New York. My husband, Samuel James Pake, was born in 1842 in Canada. He was a very enterprising man, even as a young boy. When he was only 12 years old, he started working as a clerk in a mercantile store there in Canada.

When he was 17, he moved to Connecticut and worked in a store there. By the time he was 19, he was a bookkeeper for a large manufacturing firm in Connecticut.

Three years later, in 1864, when the Civil War was going on, he enlisted in the Fifth New York Heavy Artillery Regiment. That means he got to handle the big guns, like the cannons, etc. He served under General Sherman in Virginia.

When he got out a year later, he was a Lieutenant. He came back to New York, and that's when I met him. He looked so handsome in his uniform. We hit it off right away and started courting.

Then on Christmas Day of 1865, we were married. Soon afterwards, we moved to Evansville because my sister lived there. Samuel got a job as a traveling salesman for a large wholesale dry goods company.

We started our family there. We had two children, a boy and a girl. The little girl died in infancy, though. Bless her heart. But our son, Royal Guy Pake, or "Rollie" as we called him, grew to be a fine young man.

One of the stops on Samuel's traveling salesman route was in McLeansboro. There, he met a man by the name of I. G. Berridge. They got their heads together and decided to start their own business on the south side of the square and call it the Berridge-Pake Dry Goods Store.

Samuel still had his traveling salesman job, so he was more of a silent partner in the beginning, so the store was actually named I. G. Berridge and Company. It was located on the west side of where the Hamilton County Flooring is now. The first building was the Post Office, and the next was their store.

After about four years, Samuel got tired of all the traveling around he had to do, so we decided to move to McLeansboro so he could have a more active part in the store. With his years of experience and strict attention to business, the store prospered.

Samuel built us a large three-story house on South Washington Street and we became an integral part of the community. Samuel joined the Masons, and eventually worked his way up to become a Master Mason. I did a lot of entertaining in my new house and became acquainted with several of the ladies around town.

One of my very good friends was Mary Ellen McCoy. When she died in 1921, she left me some of her jewelry in her will. She also left her beautiful home to the city to be used as a library, and I served on the first library board.

But I think the thing I am most proud of is the role I played in getting the St. James Episcopal Church started. When we first moved here in 1878, there was no Episcopal Church in town, so in February of 1880, when I heard that the Bishop of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. George Seymour, was coming to Mt. Vernon for a visit, I went up there to talk to him and see if he would help us get a church started in McLeansboro. He graciously agreed to do so and asked if we could raise $500 to help pay the clergy.

Several of us got together and we were able to raise $200 subscription right there on the spot. The Rev. Ingram W. Irvine was invited to take charge of the church. We were constituted with eight charter members, but soon others joined until we had about 15 attending. We didn't have a place to meet at first, so we met in Shoemaker Hall, which was a kind of community building, until we could make other arrangements.

Charles Heard, who was a prominent businessman in town and owned a quite a bit of property in and around McLeansboro, heard about our plight and gave us a lot on North Pearl Street on which to build our church. On this lot was a marker that the surveyors had put down when they were laying out the city which denoted it as the center of McLeansboro. We were thrilled to know our church was going to be right in the center of town.

In July, 1880, a meeting was held at our house for the purpose of electing trustees in order to build a building on that lot. Samuel was elected a trustee, as well as William Rickords, who was also the treasurer, Chalon McCoy (Mary Ellen's husband), Lemuel Powell and Joseph Shoemaker.

The question came up as to what we would call our new church. William Rickords had previously lived in Chicago and had attended the large St. James Church up there. He suggested that we name our church after that one, so that's what they agreed to do. The official name adopted was the St. James Protestant Episcopal Church.

W. G. Thompson of Mt. Vernon was hired to build it, and the cornerstone was laid on August 19, 1880 by Bishop Seymour. It took a little over a year and $10,000 to build it, but by the time we had the dedication ceremony in November of 1881, the church was paid for.

We thought we had the most beautiful church around. It was built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style in the shape of a cross. And above the pulpit area, there is a stained glass window of a descending dove, which is an exact replica of the one in Chicago. Samuel was appointed as the Jr. Warden, which means that he had charge of the care of the building and grounds.

Our church became a popular place for weddings and funerals and other events. On a sad note, one of the funerals held there in 1889 was that of our son, Rollie. He was only 20 years old when he passed away after a short illness. Samuel and I were devastated at the death of our only son. As long as I lived, I never got over the fact that he was taken from us so young. When they built the vicarage next door in 1892, they put a plaque on the front of it which said it was dedicated to the memory of R. G. Pake. It's still there to this day.

A few years later, in 1895, my older sister Sybil came for a visit. She had first married J. S. Baker and they had a little boy, but when the little boy was seven years old, his father died. She remained a widow until she was 57, then she married D. W. Boyd and they moved to Connecticut.

Three years later, she came to visit us, and had planned to stay for several months. She hadn't been here but a few months when she suffered a paralytic attack, or I guess you would call it a stroke nowadays, and she passed away. She was 60 years old. There was nothing else for us to do but to bury her next to our son and to share our tombstone with her. That's why it says "Baker-Boyd" on one side and "Pake" on the other.

A few years later, I decided to go visit some old friends in Evansville, and while I was gone, our house caught fire. Some of the neighbors saw the smoke and came over and began carrying stuff out. I was told one man carried a stove down the ladder from the second floor with the fire still in it. Now that's good neighbors for you.

The firefighters found Samuel on the second floor in a back bedroom partly overcome by smoke. They lowered him out the window and carried him over to the neighbor's house and put him to bed, where he stayed for quite some time.
Luckily the fire damage was repaired we moved back in it.

Samuel tried to go back to work, but he just wasn't the same after that. It wasn't long until he developed pneumonia and passed away at the age of 56. That was on January 5, 1899.

I didn't want to live in that big old house by myself any longer as it held only bitter memories, so I sold it to John Henry Miller, who lived in it for several years. He then sold it to W. S. Threlkeld.

I moved into a smaller house just down the street. I never remarried, but I kept busy with my church and library board and other activities. I lived to be 90 years old and passed away in 1936. I didn't have any children or grandchildren to carry on the name, so when I died, the name Pake died with me.

But my legacy is the St. James Episcopal Church. I understand it is no longer holding services, but it is available for special events. And it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's still a beautiful building after all these years.