Discoveries: Mary Had a Little Lamb...but Newspapers Tell the Whole Story

Newspapers are essential for doing family history because they tell us the stories behind the dates, bringing our ancestors to life.

Here's an interesting historical newspaper story about Mary who had a lamb—yes, that Mary, and that lamb—made famous by the "Mary Had a Little Lamb" nursery rhyme.

Much has been written about Mary Elizabeth Sawyer (1806-1889) of the "little lamb" fame. Books, articles—even movies—have covered the history of this heartwarming tale based on the true story of the girl and her adoring lamb.

But not much has been written about the story of Mary's lamb itself—although its fate was told in a 1913 newspaper article.

The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 21 January 1913, page 4, reported that the famous little lamb that followed Mary to school met an early and untimely end. According to this newspaper article Mary's cow got rid of her lamb because the "cow became jealous of the affection which Mary showed for the lamb, and seized the opportunity to dispose of it."

One hates to picture the actual scene, as reported in this line: "the little thing got within range of a cow, which proceeded to dissipate it."

I guess that didn't fit with the lyrics of the nursery rhyme!