Louise Elliott, of Metropolis, has always had a soft spot in her heart for people who adopt children. That is because in August 1928 out of all the other children at the Orphan Asylum for Southern Illinois in Cairo, she was chosen by Ed and Emma Wiesenborn.
Elliott’s story began in 1923 when she was born in southeast Missouri in Mississippi County as Anna May Hyde. Elliott had five brothers and sisters. From research, Elliott learned her biological father James Hyde died in 1923. After he died, taking care of six children became too much for her mother Dedia Hyde to handle. She fell upon hard times and made the decision to give her children up for adoption.
Dedia Hyde took all of her children from Missouri to the orphanage in Cairo. Although Elliott was just a young child, she can recall that when her mother got ready to leave, she and her brothers and sisters were clinging to their mother’s skirt. She said they did not understand why they were not going with her; they thought they were going home too.
However, that was not the case — they were left at the orphanage.
Elliott does not remember exactly how long she was at the orphanage waiting to be adopted. “It wasn’t a very happy experience in the orphanage,” she said.
However, she can remember how one of the meals at the orphanage was oatmeal, and she can only guess that they must have had a lot of it because even today, at the age of 90, she cannot bring herself to eat oatmeal.
One day Ed and Emma Wiesenborn, of Pulaski County, came to the orphanage. The Wiesenborns had a farm and from what Elliott remembers her parents telling her, Ed had hoped to find a boy to adopt — a son to help out on the family farm.
But, from what her mother told Elliott about that day, her father took one look at young Anna, who had naturally curly hair, and Ed decided Anna was the child he wanted. Days later, the Wiesenborns were back to retrieve young Anna, who was then renamed Louise Wiesenborn and lived in Pulaski County on a farm, which sits adjacent to Shawnee Community College. Elliott said everyone around where they lived knew that the Wiesenborns had adopted her. “I had a wonderful home, really,” she said. “It was one of the greatest things in the world (to be adopted).”
She went to Forrest View School, a small school that used to be in Pulaski County. Elliott later attended Grand Chain High School. By her senior year of high school, she had been going with Carl Elliott for a year and everyone kind of assumed they would end up getting married. Her senior year, she and Carl eloped to Missouri. On their way back across the bridge from Cape Girardeau to Illinois, someone they knew saw them and word got back to her parents that they had eloped.
Later Carl and Louise would have three children: Carl Edward “Eddie” Elliott, Diane Elliott Wittenborn and Sharon Elliott Mumford. “Everybody has got a different opinion on adoption, really. I couldn’t have asked for a better home,” she said, pointing out she had a much better home with the Wiesenborns than if she had stayed with her biological mother.
Adoptions that took place at that time had less red tape. The adoption paperwork Elliott still has is rather sketchy. In fact, when she went to apply for Social Security, she discovered that her birth date was incorrect. On her adoption papers, it lists that she was 4; in reality, she was 5. For many years, she thought
her birthday was on July 4, when in fact the date is July 5.
Later on in life, Elliott looked up her biological brother and sisters and was able to
make contact with each of them. She learned her biological mother died in
1933 at the age of 33 due to malnutrition. She found her mother’s grave and
bought a gravestone for it. Her biological father is buried at the National Cemetery
in Mound City.
In the 1970s her biological brother Paul, who lived in Springfield, Mo., used to come visit her.
Mumford said when she went to her mother’s home and met her uncle Paul, she was in awe at how much her brother looked like him and how many mannerisms they shared. “I couldn’t take my eyes off of him,” she said.
“I always knew I was adopted,” said Elliott, who says that one adoption had a huge impact on future generations. She has eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild on the way.