Maw's Dish, Part 2


This is Part 2 of the story of a small dish that belonged to Shirley Audra Wiseman Leith, more commonly known as 'Maw". You may recall as previously stated, the plate in question has a history but that history has been lost. Thus we will never really know the true origin of the the small dish or plate. Also as previously mentioned in the first Part of this story, the plate has no markings on the back or bottom that would help to identify the source.

Maw (Shirley Leith passed away in July, 1992. Her Pennsylvania daughter, Nancy passed away in January, 2001. Josephine (Jo) Carr passed away in May, 2001. Betsy (Margaret Lillian Leith Lewis) passed away in November, 2014. So, all of the principles with knowledge or some involvement are no longer with us.

When Betsy came across the plate among Maw's possessions she was confused as to who the plate belonged to as it had Jo Carr's name on the bottom. That piece of masking tape had been there since December, 1964. Betsy assumed it belonged to Jo Carr and sent it to me. But, in fact, the plate was an ancestral plate belonging to Maw.

Upon reading the web page about Maw's plate, Mary Campbell Gartner sent Everette an e-mail indicating that she had supplied the styrofoam box that the plate was shipped in. She had a similar size plate that she had purchased and it's container was a perfect fit for Maw's plate. So we cannot date the plate based on the styrofoam container. Because of the plates obvious wear and tear it is reasonable to assume that Maw was not the original owner. Furthermore, Mary indicates that she recalled having discussions with Maw about this plate and other antique items and recalls that Maw indicated that it had been handed down from generations past.

So where does that leave us? There seems to be only two avenues that can be explored and that appear are likely.

Either the plate was an heirloom of the Buchan family of Scotland or an heirloom of the Ragan family of Henderson, Tennessee. Buchan is the maiden name of Elizabeth Buchan, David Leith's first wife. Ragan is the name of Sarah Lillian Smith's mother. Lillian as she was known was David Leith's second wife and the mother of William Wallace Leith. Did the plate pass through the Buchan lineage or the Ragan lineage before becoming the possession of Shirley Wiseman Leith, better known as Maw.

David Leith was born in Dundee, Scotland on 15 March 1847. David was the youngest of seven children (2 girls and 5 boys) of Thomas and Isabella Kenny Leith. Both of David's parents died before he was two years old (late 1848 or early 1849). David and a sister were given over to guardianship of a maternal aunt, although David spent a good deal of time in boarding schools. It is not known what happened to the other five children, but David never saw them again.

David married Elizabeth Buchan (born 19 October 1839) on 3 June 1868. He was 21 and she was 29. David and Elizabeth had four children, three girls and one boy, all born in Scotland.

David made a living as a drummer but preached the gospel on street corners as was his calling. In October 1873, David traveled alone to America where he was admitted to the Methodist Conference of Churches in Jackson, Tennessee. In 1875 he completed 4 years of study in just 2 years and was ordained an "Elder" in the Methodist Conference. After three years in the United States he returned to his family in Scotland in 1876. He accepted a position of pastorate of a Methodist Church in Wick, Scotland and was later transferred to Glasgow. While David was in America, his son David Henry passed away. After his return his third daughter was born (1877).

The Leith family imigrated to America arriving at the port of New York on 28 September 1881. Upon arrival in Memphis, Tennessee David was reaffirmed to the Southern Methodist Conference. David became a Naturalized Citizen in 1886. Throughout the following years he served the Methodist Conference faithfully having been transferred to numerous churches throughout Tennessee and Alabama after one or two year stints.

Elizabeth Buchan Leith passed away in Paris, Tennessee on 16 January 1910 at 71 years of age. At that time the three daughters were adults in their 30's and 40's. Two of the three were married; the third, the youngest (Jeff short for Jefferson) never married. Shortly after Elizabeth's death David married Sarah Lillian Smith of Henderson, Tennessee. He had previously been the pastor of the Methodist Church in Henderson. David was 64 and Lillian, who had never been married, was 35. This union was blessed with the birth of a child, William "Bill" Wallace Leith, born 20 October 1912.

Did the plate belong to Elizabeth Buchan Leith? Did it travel from Scotland and was it a part of the David Leith household when Elizabeth died? Did it pass to Lillian by virtue of her marriage to David? Or was it Lillian's plate that she brought to the marriage?

Sarah Lillian Smith Leith's mother, Ellen Elizabeth Ragan was born in 1840 and past from this earth in 1930 at age 90. The Ragan clan has been traced back to the 1850's to Lillian's 2nd great grandparents in North Carolina. The plate could have been passed down from anyone of these generations of ancestors.

Unfortunately, it is anyone's guess. My money is on it having traveled to America from Scotland and then traveling thousands of miles as the possession of an itinerate Methodist Minister of the Gospel's wife, Elizabeth. I suggest that it was in David Leith's possession when he married Lillian Smith, about 1911.

David Leith passed away on December 26, 1919 at his home in Memphis, Tennessee having retired from the ministry several years previous. David was buried in Paris, Tennessee alongside his first wife. Sarah Lillian Smith Leith was 43 at the time of David's death. William "Bill" Leith, their only offspring, was 7 years of age.

Sarah Lillian Smith Leith died on 24 March 1932 at age 56 in Memphis, Tennessee. Bill Leith would have been her sole heir and owner of the plate at age 19. Lillian did not live to see her son get married.

William "Bill" Wallace Leith married Shirley Audra Wiseman on Bill's birthday, 20 October 1933 in Memphis, Tennessee. Bill was 21, Shirley was 19. Bill and Shirley (Maw) had two children, both girls; Margaret "Betsy" Lillian Leith (September 27, 1934) and Nancy Ellen Leith (September 21, 1936). All of Betsy and Nancy's grandparents had passed away before their births.

William Wallace Leith passed away on 10 May 1964. Shirley Audra Leith passed from this life on 2 July 1995. They are both buried at Forrest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

This concludes the tale of Maw's plate for now. You are left to conjure up your own tale of how the plate came into Maw's possession. Hope you have found some pleasure in reading the story of this small plate.



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