Stories From The Grave
Carrie May Lander
Carrie May Lander, often referred to as C. May or May, was born in 1867. She was the daughter of Elizabeth and Samuel H. Jeffers. C. W. Burden was her maternal grandfather. She had two brothers—Charles W., who was born in 1866 and did not live to see his first birthday; and Harry M., who was born in 1869.
In 1889, when she was in her twenty-second year, May married Edward Lander, a young man who was the same age. The marriage took place in May's family home. In the year following the wedding, May and Ed celebrated the birth of their son, Homer. Then, in the nineties, tragedy visited her family. May's brother Harry died in 1892, and her father died in 1898. Two years after her father's death, May gave birth to Bessie. She must have been quite a bright light for this family after such sad events.
Throughout her life, May was a leader in her community. She participated in the Rebekahs, the Companions of the Forest, and the Native Daughter orders. She was described as “a popular member in lodge rooms. She knew the principles of the organizations and performed accurate work.” In her years of service, May served in various positions including Captain of the Drill, Chief's Companion, Noble Grand, Instituting Director, District Deputy President, and Treasurer.
I wanted to mention two stories of May's service in these organizations. In 1908, as District Deputy of the Rebekahs, May and her maternal grandfather, C. H. Burden, the past Grand Patriarch of the Odd Fellows Encampment in California, accompanied Mrs. Ella Van Court, the president of the Rebekah Assembly, to the Sierra Lodge. This was quite an honor as Mrs. Van Court held the highest office in the Rebekahs in California. In her speech, Mrs. Van Court praised the Sierra Lodge, an order with a membership of two hundred people. In addition, when the Gold Nugget Rebekah Lodge opened in Columbia, May gave the speech at the inaugural event, held on a Saturday night, starting at 8:00. This lodge began with fifty-seven members, and there was a question as to how to install all these new members in one meeting. May was the one who brought out several Bibles and suggested that a group of people could put their hands on one Bible, and they could say their vows together. At that meeting, the lodge celebrated with a banquet at midnight. The meeting went on until 5:00 in the morning.
May was described as a “true and devoted wife” and “a loving, indulgent mother.” In that same year that the Gold Nugget Rebekah Lodge opened, May spent several months traveling through California with her husband and daughter. Bessie was in her tenth year then. She and her mother traveled with her father while he worked on dry kilns for lumber companies.
For many years, May suffered from an undiagnosable illness. Physicians were baffled by her condition. Yet she always remained hopeful and active. In 2010, May had to undergo surgery for what turned out to be a kidney disorder. For several months following the operation, many people feared that she would die. However, May bounced back and resumed all of her many activities. Her family and the community at large rejoiced at this turn of events.
On the Wednesday before her death in 1912, May accompanied other Rebekahs to the Pulpit Rock Lodge in Jamestown to assist in the installation of new officers at that lodge. Two days later, May suffered a debilitating seizure. It was sudden, crushing news. As it was later reported, “For the past several months her movements and lively disposition, associations in social diversions and active interest in everyday affairs encouraged her friends in the faith that she had many days to come of a useful and joyous life. Hope was shattered.”
By the following week, the doctors had decided that surgery was the only option left. On Tuesday, May's mother arrived from Sacramento, and May was escorted to the Sierra Hospital. However, when the surgeon began his procedure, he immediately knew that nothing could be done. May had an obstruction of bowel due to an intestine knotting, and there was a perforation as a result of a gastric ulcer. May died the following morning.
In her obituary, May's accomplishments were described in the following way: ““Her life was an active one. At no time did she exhibit a reluctance to aid and promote features for the welfare of her friends or the societies.” It was also stated that, “Her death is an irreparable loss, and the community sorrows with them.”
There was a house service and a cemetery service to mark her passing. A vested choir sang at both events. The Rebekahs and Companions were pallbearers, and the Native Daughters served as honorary pall bearers. According to the newspaper, “the floral offerings were profuse and beautiful.”
The year she died, Bessie would have been thirteen. Homer would have been twenty-two. Ed would have been forty-five.
In 1915, three years after May died, Ed and Bessie moved to Riverbank where he managed a movie theatre. By August 6, 1915, Ed had remarried (Hilda Landers) and moved from Sunnyvale to Standard City. In 1925, Ed and Hilda left Standard City to live in Bay Point in Contra Costa County where Ed would work as a foreman. In the newspaper account of this move, they quoted Edward as saying, “ . . . he will always consider Tuolumne County his home even though he can find better positions elsewhere.” This account also states that their “many friends” wished them luck in their new home.
Edward died of a stroke in 1934 at the age of 73. He died in Modesto, where he lived the last three years of his life. In his obituary, his carpentry work was praised. “Many of the better class buildings in this county today was his workmanship.”
Ed and May's son, Homer, died in 1940. At the time, he worked at the Patonia Mine in Nogalez, Arizona, and he died in an accidental mine blast. Bessie at that time had married (Mrs. Bessie Winn) and lived in Oklahoma.
I was so grateful to get a chance to learn about May Lander's life. Her dedication to her family and to the community is an inspiration to me. I marvel at all the things that she did when she often was in poor health. Despite her troubles, she shined a bright light in all that she did.
Written By Wendy Ledger
Tuolumne County Historical Society
(Carrie) May Lander far right