Biography of Sadie Donnelly

Sadie Donnelly was born to Patrick and Bridget on December 14, 1875 in New York. She is my 2nd great-grandmother on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family. She married John Reilly on April 30, 1893 in New York. She gave birth to 5 children while married to John: Arlington, Madeline, Lawrence, Helen and Adele. Both Helen and Adele died in infancy or as young children. Lawrence was the only one of her children who married as an adult. Madeline was engaged, but her fiance was killed overseas during World War I, and she never ended up marrying.

Sadie lived her whole life in either Brooklyn or Queens. Her husband disappeared in 1903, allegedly drowned after falling off a ferry in New York Harbor. She became a single working mother, struggling to take care of her three children. They didn’t always stay with her while they were growing up. Madeline and Lawrence in particular would go stay with their paternal grandfather, Michael Reilly.

For work, Sadie worked for the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit agency, one of the forerunners to the modern New York subway. She was a nickel snatcher, or subway token clerk, for the BMT. One of the stations she worked at was Times Square. My grandfather, as a young boy, would visit his grandmother at her station, bringing her dinner. The stations were often cold, especially in the winter, and she would have to bundle up to stay warm.

In about 1909, Sadie appears to have remarried, to a man named Nelson Baldwin, and she appears in the 1910 Federal Census married with an infant son named Nelson Jr. However, by the 1915 New York Census, both Nelsons, father and son, are gone. Her son Arlington continues to live with her until her death. She died on September 3, 1960, in Levittown, NY. She developed diabetes, and gangrene in her leg. Doctors wanted to amputate, but she refused, stating she was born with both legs, she would die with both legs. She is buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY.

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