Thursday, May 1, 2014

52 Ancestors: #17 Mary Jane Gowdy and the Mysterious Oil Painting

Mary Jane Gowdy Green, 1876
English artist Edwin Farrer painted this now faded portrait of my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Jane Gowdy.  For years, my family did not know who the subject of the portrait was, except that she was a relation of my grandfather's.  I discovered that the artist immigrated from England to Rush County, Indiana in 1870.  The portrait was dated 1876.  Trying to find out who the woman was, I reviewed the records on my grandpa's family in Rush County, and Mary Jane was the only one that fit.

Mary Jane was born on July 18, 1830.  She was the eldest child of Adam McConnell Gowdy, a blacksmith from Ohio, and Nancy Oliver of Kentucky.  Her brother, John Kennedy Gowdy, was the consul-general to Paris during the McKinley Administration.  Mary Jane had two other brothers, Lewis Oliver and Adam Thomas, and a sister, Martha Ann.

The Green residence, Arlington, 1988
On May 18, 1846, Mary Jane married the physician James Wilkinson Green in Rush County.  According to several sources for her birthdate, she was not yet sixteen when they were married.  She and James became the parents of thirteen children.  Out of nine sons, six of them became doctors, including my great-grandfather, John D. Green.  The Green family lived on a farm in Arlington, Rush County, Indiana.  In 1886, Mary Jane's brother-in-law, a physician in nearby Shelbyville, died and left his medical practice to his brother James.  They left Arlington behind and relocated to Shelbyville.

"Mrs. Green is what might be termed an extraordinary woman; she has raised a large family and is one of the best of wives, mothers, and companions; her home has always been noted for its generous hospitality." (Illustrated Historical Atlas of Rush County, Indiana, 1879.)

Mary Jane died on September 20, 1907.


  1. Thanks so much for your wonderful research. I'm Lot Green's grand daughter and happen to visiting Rush County, Indiana, right now doing some research on the family myself. I'd love to email you sometime if that would be okay with you. Best, Rebecca

    1. Sure, that would be great! You can email me at: