Remembering a downtown fixture: ‘Black Maggie’

Greg Hoersten

March 19, 2014

LIMA — Her name was Maggie Norman Arthur.

But to many who grew up in Lima in the 1950s and ‘60s she was “Black Maggie” or “Dirty Maggie,” a familiar figure downtown when downtown was a place of department stores and lunch counters. Half a century after she last wandered Lima’s streets she’s recalled on Facebook sites dedicated to local reminiscences, a black-clad, half-remembered apparition from a long-ago childhood. She’s remembered as odd in a way that made people uneasy.

Not much is really known about her so her story is filled out on the Facebook sites with myth and hearsay:

“She always wore this black hat with silver or gold sequins on it.”

“Her husband cut off an ear during a domestic dispute so that is why she wore her hat tilted over one ear.”

“We didn’t bother her because we heard she carried a razor blade knife.”

“My brother and cousin must have been tormenting her when they were young, following and calling her old Black Maggie. I guess she turned on them and started chasing them.”

“I remember seeing Maggie at the lunch counter at Kresge’s and when someone left she would eat off their plate if there was any food left on it.”

“I heard when she died, they found out she had a lot of money.”

“The story I recall is that she had a metal plate in her head.”

“She was a scary person … something was said about when she was younger she was a nanny to a set of triplets that were born in Lima.”

When infirmity ended Maggie’s wanderings in July 1963, the Lima Citizen took the opportunity to talk to her in her room at the Allen County Home, where she was taken after she was found “immobilized on a bench at the corner of Market and Main streets due to an ailing leg.”

Her account veers from what is known from official sources — census reports, marriage licenses, birth certificates.

Maggie told the reporter she was a lifelong Lima resident, that she had been born “on the South Dixie.” She said she had been married three times and widowed three times and had had six children, none of whom survived past 17 months. “With hanging head, Maggie says, ‘I am used to being hurt. I’ve been hurt many times,’” the reporter wrote.

“Her most recent hurt was a few months ago when she was hit by a truck. Her back and leg were injured making it difficult for her to get around,” the story continued. “She was hurt in another accident many years ago and lay unconscious for weeks. Following this accident her husband was killed. He had been a soldier in the Salvation Army. ‘He was a good Christian husband,’ Maggie declares.”

Maggie told the Citizen reporter she had a “sleeping room” at 217 Flanders Ave. and was often downtown because she had to acquire all her meals there. “At one time in her youth, Maggie was an organist in the United Brethren Church in Cridersville and until she couldn’t walk anymore, used to make regular trips to a friend’s home to read the Bible. ‘My friend just couldn’t see to read anymore, Maggie says.”

At one time, she was a babysitter for triplets in Botkins, she told the reporter.

“Maggie has an alert mind and looks forward to one of her favorite pastimes — painting. In the past she has painted birds and butterflies,” the reporter wrote. “Maggie seeks friendship as she says: Some people say a dollar is worth more than friendship. I don’t believe it.”

According to her birth certificate, Maggie was born Maggie Huber on Feb. 20, 1890, in Shelby County, although her last name is likely a misprint as her parents are listed as Jonathan S. and Sarah C. Park Hubbard. She had an older sister, Daisy Elizabeth, and three younger brothers, William James, Fred L. and Elmer. The 1900 census lists the family as living in Piqua.

On June 2, 1909, Maggie married a divorced man named Harry Adolph Hance from Casstown in Miami County. That marriage did not go well. “Maggie Hance has filed suit for divorce against her husband Harry Hance, charging him with failure to provide food, clothing and medical attention,” the Lima Daily News reported Feb. 3, 1910. “She further asserts that when she went to him in Piqua to talk over matters he pointed a loaded revolver at her and threatened to kill her. As the result of this threat she claims she became ill and unable to work.”

Maggie married Adam Norman, of Springfield, on Dec. 18, 1910, and would be with him until Jan. 8, 1937, when he was hit by a truck and killed while pushing a wheelbarrow near their home at 511 S. Baxter St. Norman was 64 at the time of his death, Maggie 46.

On Feb. 20, 1938, the Lima News reported a marriage license had been issued to Richard E. Arthur, 75, farmer, of Gomer, and Maggie M. Norman, domestic, of 511 S. Baxter St. Richard Arthur had been married for 46 years to Mary Ellen Bebb, who died in 1935.

In the 1940 census, Maggie’s listed as Maggie Arthur, and married, although her husband is boarding elsewhere in Lima. When her mother died in 1941, she’s is listed in the obituary as Maggie Arthur of 1300 E. Market St.

Richard Arthur died in May 1942 and is buried with his parents and first wife in Pike Run Cemetery. His obituary does not list Maggie among his survivors.

There are no records showing any children born to Maggie. She died Feb. 15, 1975, at the Paulding County Hospital, five days short of her 85th birthday.

She’s buried in Fletcher Cemetery in Perry Township as are her parents, brother, William, and sister, Daisy. Her grave has no headstone.

Writing on Facebook nearly four decades after Maggie’s death, a woman recalled taking care of her at the Allen County Home: “If I remember correctly she had both ears and was a nice but quiet lady.”