When Maud Woodworth Bean’s father William emigrated with his parents from the cold north in Wisconsin to more hospitable climes in sunny California, some of his siblings joined him. Not so for his older sister Emma.
When William made the move to Covina, California, it was 1886—at least, according to his own obituary almost forty years later. By the time of that momentous journey, he had been nearing twenty years of age, himself.
Also making the move were his parents, Lafayette D. and Eliza Smith Woodworth. Since William was the next-to-youngest son in the family, it would make sense that he and his younger brother, Lafayette junior, would accompany their parents.
On the other hand, of his many siblings, the ones closest in age were two sisters, Lillian and Emma, and a brother, Harvey.
At the time of the move west, Harvey—now married to Eva Victoria Williams, who had just given birth to their son, Milton—was not in any position to accompany his family, although he apparently did, much later in life.
Both sisters, too, were also married. As we’ve already seen, Lillian had married Fernando Cortez Hoskins in 1881, and had made a move in a different direction: east, to Ludington in Mason County, Michigan. By the time her parents removed to California, she was the mother of two children, herself.
Emma, also, had begun a life of her own. Marrying on April 7, 1877, in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, she became the bride of Gilbert E. Larabee. Apparently, Emma and her fledgling family remained in Pleasant Prairie for the next twenty eight years—up through at least the 1905 Wisconsin State Census. Even by the time of the 1910 Federal Census, Emma and Gilbert were still living in Wisconsin—although at this point, they had moved seven miles from the bucolic-sounding Pleasant Prairie to the nearby town of Bristol. Yet Gilbert was still listed as a farm owner in the census.
Some time before her brother William’s passing, evidently Emma lost her own husband. Though he was included in the 1920 census in Bristol, for the 1930 census, Emma was listed as widowed in the household of her son Leon (known as “Lee”). A quick search through Find A Grave yields a photograph of Gilbert’s grave marker.
Though Emma’s parents and brothers had moved two thousand miles away when she was in her twenties, she continued life in the very same place where she was born. She and her husband were both buried in the same county in which they were married.
And yet, I wonder whether they had always stayed in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. A little string of clues piqued my curiosity. The 1880 census shows the young family—a threesome with the addition of their toddler daughter, Hattie. While the unfortunate loss of the 1890 census has left us in the dark, the 1895 Wisconsin State Census showed another arrival in the Larabee household—although with just a listing of head counts of both males and females, nothing further, the picture was still a bit fuzzy. The 1900 census cleared up one part—providing the names of one of those other two children of Gilbert and Emma—but demonstrating by that very listing that Hattie was no longer with them.
Beside Emma’s name was a count of her children: three born to the family, though only two still living. With daughter Florence arriving in 1886, and son Leon soon following in 1889, there was no mention of Hattie.
Not finding Hattie through any records in Ancestry.com, I took a look at Find A Grave. Not that I’m usually successful in such an approach, but it was worth the try. At least one Hattie Larabee showed up in the search results. Oddly, she was not buried alongside her stay-close-to-home parents in Bristol, Wisconsin, but far, far away in a distant state: California.
Not only that, but she was buried in the same cemetery in which her grandparents and some of Emma’s brothers were buried: Oakdale Memorial Park in Glendora, California.
Taking a look through some historic newspaper indexes, I find no obituary or news clipping to explain her passing, or even why this Wisconsin girl had died so young—and so far from home. I’ll have to keep looking, of course. A mystery like this can’t quietly be set aside. Yet it may conceal an answer I might never find, as to why a daughter of parents who remained all their life in the same county, would herself wander so far from home.