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Biography

Nancy “Nannie” McCullough Orme was born on October 23, 1834 in McLean County.  In 1853 she married William Ward Orme.  Between 1854 and 1860 the couple had four children:  William, Bernadine, Lucy, and Edward.

Almost everything we know about Nannie comes to us through the letters her husband wrote to her during their frequent and long separations.  Based on these letters it is safe to say that Nannie was a faithful, loving, and supportive wife.   

After the difficult birth of their first child, William sent his young wife to Washington, D.C. to stay for two months with his family so that she could recuperate.  While there, she visited President Pierce, probably more than once, and may have served as personal representative for her ambitious husband.  William was obviously proud of her.  By the time Nannie returned to Bloomington, she had received 32 letters from her husband.

In August, 1862 Col. Orme and the 94th Illinois Voluntary Infantry left Bloomington to fight in the Civil War and his letter-writing to his wife resumed.  When William desired a promotion to General, he wrote to Nannie of his request that David Davis and Leonard Swett to use their influence with Lincoln in his cause.  He knew that Lincoln thought well of him and he suggested to Nannie that she could also lobby for him with Davis and Swett and even instructed her on what to say.  This Nannie surely did as she often showed his letters to Davis, Swett, and other friends.

Nannie would certainly have also feared for her husband’s personal safety and must have expressed those fears to him.  In one letter he wrote, “You don’t want me to get back without going through a big battle, do you?”  When he finally did get into the Battle of Prairie Grove he wrote the details in a long letter knowing he would have an anxious and appreciative audience not only in his wife but also in the friends with whom she would share the news.

It was shortly after this that Nannie learned of her father’s death in battle in Mississippi.  This was devastating news to the family and William was able to get home for awhile.

     Then came his letters from Vicksburg and New Orleans where his health rapidly deteriorated.  When he was assigned to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Nannie traveled there frequently to care for him.  Sometimes she took some of the children with her.  When he left Chicago and came home it was surely through her tender ministrations that he recovered sufficiently to take another government position.  Again, his health declined and he expressed his wish to die at home with his wife’s “sweet words of hope and consolation” in his ear.  And that’s what happened.

     Nannie was widowed at age 32.  She was more fortunate than most women in that she was financially secure.  It would be ten years before she remarried, this time to Dr. Dunbar Dyson, an old friend of William’s.  Dr. Dyson died in 1893.  Nannie lived out her life watching her children grow, marry, and succeed in life.  She died on May 30, 1912 and was buried near her first husband William and next to her second husband Dunbar in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington, IL.

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