11 March 2011

Clorinda, Mary and Myra

Robert Betts, Shirley and Mack in the Johnson family cemetery, Arkansas, 1985.

Women's History Month challenge for March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

I'm doing the family genealogy project right now and wondering why 85 seems to be our number. So many of our family members make it to 85, but then seem to decide that it's time to see what happens next. We're not original, but we seem to be consistent.

But genealogy is a gaunt framework of dates and places. There are few stories, and you have to dig for those. I'm sure that my friend Bill, a professional genealogist, is laughing at my amateur discoveries as this saga progresses. (I nearly quit last week when I found out about Gene's Deppe relatives who, as first cousins, married each other and had many children--and they were both Deppes. Double Deppes. At that point the family tree goes into a whirling spiral, as does my concentration.)

So here's a story drawn from names and dates that I don't really know. Maybe we can find out more.

My great-grandfather, Dr. John Johnson, married Mary Elizabeth Helms in Arkansas in 1872. They raised a large family, including their oldest daughter, Clorinda, born in 1873 and named for her grandmother Clorinda Fowler Johnson. Mary died in March 1888. Dr. Johnson remarried in November 1888, to Elmyra Elizabeth Wacaster, who was just a year older than Clorinda.

Clorinda grew up and married James Wacaster, Myra's brother, in June of 1892. She died in November 1892, tragically young.

Myra had 6 children, 5 of whom lived to 85 or longer, including my grandfather. Shirley cannot remember any daughter from Dr. Johnson's first marriage ever being mentioned. But the two families were obviously inextricably entwined.

Interestingly, Myra is buried with her original family. Mary is buried with the Johnsons.

So what happened to the younger Clorinda? How did she feel when her widowed father remarried so quickly to a girl her own age? Why did she marry her stepmother's brother? And why did she die so young? And why was she forgotten? She is not a direct ancestor, but her story is haunting me.

I need a lot longer than 85 years to get all these stories hunted down.

No comments: