Nettie Rich was born to John W. Rich and Ann S. Thompson on December 23, 1867, in Walker’s Wharf, Charlestown, MA. While that neighbourhood today is under the Big Dig, back then it was just 2 or 3 blocks away from the Charlestown Prison, and a very bad neighbourhood.
She had a daughter out of wedlock in 1882, less than a month after she turned 14.
There is no solid information about Nettie after the birth of Alta.
The loss of the trail of Nettie is due in large part to the destruction of the 1890 US Federal Census in a fire in 1921, about which you can read more, here.
However, there is one suspicious bit of evidence I found. When Alta married Edward Fuller at age 18, she listed her mother as Nettie, but her father as a Ralph Chapman. I highly doubt he is the man responsible for leaving Nettie in such an unfortunate position. Instead, we must consider the following:
- My searches have shown that Ralph Chapman was not a common name in the late nineteenth century, nor was Nettie.
- There is a Nettie married to a Ralph Chapman in Detroit on the 1910 US Federal Census, of the correct age, who married him at age 21 (when Alta would have been about 8) in 1889. She had 6 children by him.
- It seems unlikely that someone named Nettie of the right age would be married to a Ralph Chapman, and Alta would just coincidentally choose to write it on her marriage license…
Therefore, I would suggest that perhaps, to have a bit of a fresh start, would escape out west to a city just starting to have a bit of an industrial revolution and where a man might have prospects but women were scarce.
Of course, we will never know for sure.