The best-remembered of the family, Jennie Wade, was the third child born to Captain James Wade and his wife Mary Ann. The couple’s first child died in infancy; in 1841, Georgeanna was born, followed by Jennie in 1843. Captain Wade was a native Virginian with connections to a prominent family there and ancestry that had served in the Revolution.
In these early years of Jennie’s life, Captain Wade served an apprenticeship as a tailor under Johnston Skelly who had moved from Cumberland County to Gettysburg. Skelly’s son, Daniel, later in life told the Gettysburg newspapers of the era that Captain Wade and his family lived with the Skellys for two or three years.
The relationship forged between the families would prove pivotal in Jennie’s life, as her relationship with Johnston Jr (aka Jack) would become the subject of fevered speculation and innuendo.
When Jennie was two, Mary Ann became pregnant again. With his earning power limited, James was unable to provide for the family, so Mary Ann took the girls and lived in the Adams County Almshouse through the duration of her pregnancy. In March 1846, John James Wade was born. That same month, Captain Wade separated from Skelly’s business and started his own business.
The next month, Mary Ann brought the girls and baby John home. And Johnston Skelly went out looking for a new apprentice.
By the 1850s, the captain and Mary Ann would add Samuel to the family as well. But early in the new decade, as they had at the start of the 1840s, Captain Wade’s problems with the law surfaced again.