July 13 is a particularly festive day in my household as we celebrate the birthdays of daughter Lindsay and grandson Oliver. Turns out, there is another family birthday, as well, that of Sarah Catherine Skinner McIntyre, my first cousin, four times removed, on the Penrose side.
Sarah was born on July 13 1838 to Zebal “Eli” and Amelia Emmeline (Allen) Skinner. Her father died when she was eight and her mother remarried and started a second family with Reuben Spurgeon. Sarah didn’t get along well with her step father and she spent time in Virginia with her mother’s family of tobacco farmers, where she learned to harvest the crops and acquire a life-long addiction to chewing tobacco. In that regard, Sarah also acquired the ability later in life to mortify her grandchildren, as Sarah could spit the remains across a room and hit the spittoon with ease.
She learned mathematics in school, which was almost unheard of for women at the time. She loved to read, was skilled in folk medicine and medicinal herbs, avoided “real” doctors, and treated family, friends and animals alike. She loved to “kick up her heels and dance” and won contests with her Irish jig.
Sarah met her future husband James McIntyre while both were stumping for Abraham Lincoln in 1860, even preparing dinner for the future president while on the campaign trail in Ohio. Sarah and James were married in 1864 in Perry County, Ohio and immediately moved west to start a farming life in Missouri near the Iowa border. Sarah gave birth to five children but James died in 1883, leaving Sarah with four minor children and a large farm to manage. And that she did.
Sarah and four of her children left the farm to homestead, first in Nebraska, then South Dakota and finally settling in Montana, where she remained the rest of her life.
Sarah became a Seventh Day Adventist back in Ohio but when the Montana church ladies did not approve of her tobacco-chewing habits that drove her away from joining the church in later years
In short, Sarah Skinner McIntyre was a bad-ass woman who lived to almost one hundred. Sarah died on June 2, 1938, believed at the time to be the oldest woman in Carbon County, Montana.
Which brings me to my daughter Lindsay, a bad-ass woman herself, who carries on the tradition of strong, talented, independent, kind, and powerful family women in ways that continue to amaze me and for which I am so proud to be a part of. I strongly doubt Lindsay could hit a spittoon from across the room, but there will be time to mortify her grandchildren down the road in her own way.
In the meantime, happy birthday to Sarah, Lindsay, and Oliver. From my heart to yours …