Despite humble roots, Mary Ann Hartley made an impressive life for herself and her brothers. This may have been, in part, due to her ability to attract a couple of wealthy widowers, who provided her with much-needed security.
Mary Ann was the daughter of a coachman from Colne, Lancashire, who died when she was a child. With no paternal income, Mary Ann would have been expected to go out and earn her living. She moved to Settle to find employment as a hat maker. She may also have hoped to find the security of a husband. Mary Ann and three other girls from Colne lived with Charles and Nancy Ratcliffe, who had also moved from Colne. Charles managed a cotton mill, and Nancy ran the millinery business in which Mary Ann worked.
On 14th February 1848, Nancy died, aged 57. A year and a day later, after a suitable period of mourning, on 15th February 1849, Charles, aged 63, married Mary Ann, who was then just 20. Mary Ann was already four months pregnant with their daughter, Mary Ellen. However, Charles was to die just a year after Mary Ellen was born. This twist of fate resulted in Mary Ann and her brothers John and Henry running the cotton mill. John and Henry both had successful careers weaving cotton — John spent his life running King’s Mill in Settle and is also buried in the graveyard.
Mary Ann left the running of the mill to her brothers and, following on from Nancy, ran her own millinery business while bringing up Mary Ellen, who in later life married a headmaster and lived in Derbyshire.
Ten years later, Mary Ann made a second marriage to another wealthy widower, Leonard Ward, an inland revenue supervisor. His wife Mary had recently died, leaving him in Settle with three children. Mary Ann gave Leonard another three daughters and the family lived in Ashton-under-Lyne.
After Leonard died, the widowed Mary Ann moved to Massachusetts, USA, with their daughter Martha. Martha’s husband, Simpson Booth, was a cabinet maker who had recently dissolved a business partnership. After an eventfuul life, Mary Ann died in Massachusetts at the glorious age of 92.