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Who was Mary Jane Gorton?

This week, it was snowing here in Pennsylvania - a great time to do some digging but not the cold, backbreaking kind - the genealogy kind! I decided to revisit a question that pops into my mind every now and then: Who was Mary Jane Gorton? The question led me to finding the will and surrogate records of my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Polly (Brown) Leonard.

If you follow my blog, you know that recently I found a wealth of clues about my McGinnis and Smith connections from surrogate records and reunion announcements published in the local newspapers. In the same way, the mystery of Mary Jane Gorton came about. While searching for clues on one of my favorite sites,, I found two notices which seem to provide a glimpse into the extended family of Charles & Mary Leonard.

From the Geneva Daily Times, June 10, 1918:

"Mrs. Lydia Raymond was called to Moravia and Auburn last week in the matter of a will of her aunt for which she is named executor".

From the Moravia Republican Register, Feb. 1919:

"The people of the State of New York, to Arthur Leonard, Joseph Leonard, Irving E. Leonard, Susan Canavan, Charles Leonard, Flora Sherman, Bert Pease, Helen Hamlin, Luella Townsend, James Leonard, Albert Leonard, Elma Wilkins, Ethel Bross, Cyrus Gorton: Upon the petition of Lydia J. Raymond of the town of Lodi, N.Y., you are hereby cited to show cause before the Surrogate's Court of Cayuga County at the Courthouse in the City of Auburn on the 15th day of April, 1919, at 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon, why a decree should not be granted judicially settling her accounts as Executrix of etc. of Mary Jane Gorton, late of the town of Venice, N.Y., deceased..."

Lydia J. Raymond was a daughter of Charles Russell Leonard and Mary "Polly" Brown, my 3rd great-grandparents. Lydia was born in 1874 and married in 1888 to Frank Raymond, born abt. 1865, a son of Fitch Hopkins Raymond.

Because Mary Jane Gorton was called Lydia's "aunt", we can assume she was a sister of one of Lydia's parents - Charles Leonard or Mary "Polly" Brown, but it is also possible she was Lydia's husband's aunt - a sister of one of Frank Raymond's parents. As for Charles Leonard, we only know of him having one sister, Jenette (Leonard) Reynolds, although he could have had more. He did have several half-siblings from his mother's marriage to Thomas Knapp.

I was able to locate Mary Jane's will and surrogate records on FamilySearch. In the papers, it clarifies that she was aunt to all of Charles Russell Leonard's children, eliminating my initial thought that Mary Jane could have been an aunt of Lydia's husband and not a sister of Charles or Mary.

You can read, download, or print the pages from the surrogate records, shown here:

Mary Jane Gorton died May 7, 1918 in Venice, New York. Cert #31644. News of her death was reported in the local paper as follows:

"Mrs. Cyrus Gorton died suddenly Tuesday at her home in East Venice. Funeral services were held yesterday." (Moravia Republican Register, May 1918). 

This valuable clue from the New York Marriage Index indicates Mary Jane Gorton's maiden name was either Brown or Johnson and since she was Lydia Raymond's aunt, we know it could only have been Brown! It seems likely that she married a man named Johnson before marrying Cyrus Gorton at the age of about 53 in 1900. So Mary Polly Brown had a sister named Mary Jane Brown? Strange, but not impossible!

It appears she was Mary Johnson at the time of her marriage, so I checked the 1892 census to see if I could find her. The following potential matches were found. I still haven't found the details of this Johnson marriage. If anyone has any information, please comment below or contact me.

Cyrus and Mary were counted on the census of 1900 in Sullivan, Madison County, New York. In 1905, they lived in Locke, Cayuga County. In 1910, they lived in Venice and in 1915 they lived in Throop. Cyrus was a blacksmith, apparently moving frequently for work.

Mary Jane Gorton is buried in Bird Cemetery in Locke, in the same section as Mary "Polly" Brown Leonard Wilson Walsh and her second husband, Joseph Wilson - Section PF-1. (These links to their corresponding Findagrave memorials). Her obituary and entry in Bird Cemetery's index are shown here:

Six months after Mary Jane died, Cyrus married on November 16, 1918, to May E. Willson, also known as Marjorie Raymond, daughter of Ebenezer Raymond and Harriett Hartigan. Cyrus died on July 20, 1929, in Romulus, and is buried in Ovid Union Cemetery with Marjorie, who died on March 8, 1939.

Cyrus Gorton was a descendant of Samuel Gorton, the subject of "Life and Times of Samuel Gorton", written by Adelos Gorton in 1907. His family is found on page 474 as follows:

In May of 1892, Mrs. Wealthy Gorton died. According to her obituary, which corresponds with the Gorton book, she was born in Brookfield and married Daniel P. Gorton. They lived in Brookfield and in New York Mills. They had seven sons, including C. H. Gorton of Syracuse at the time of her death. She also had two brothers, Reuben Nash of Skaneateles Falls and Isaac Nash of Brookfield. (Utica Weekly Herald, May 31, 1892).

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