Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sometimes, Things Don’t Add Up


No matter how much we want to contort the facts to force them to submit to our preconceived notions of how things were, back when, in our family, we simply can’t.

Not if we want to arrive at the truth.

Of course, it doesn’t help that we are still squirming under that strange mention of a now-dead “nephew” of John Kelly Stevens—Raphael Kruse—when no connections to a Kruse family seem to materialize in documentation.

All we have, so far, is a mention of a Mrs. Henry Kruse in Eliza’s own obituary—if, incidentally, that is the obituary for the right Mrs. Stevens.

Now what?

If you were thinking that Eliza Murdock Stevens’ husband predeceased her, you are thinking on the right track.

If, however, you assume that his obituary will provide any more information on the names of those three daughters, you assume incorrectly.

Are you kidding? That would be too easy.

Not to mention, this obituary starts moving us backwards in time to that era in which people—especially women—are rarely named in public reports.

In including John Stevens’ own obituary below, I’d like to say, “Here, let this suffice you.” But I know it will do no such thing.

In fact, it will insert a few messy puzzles of its own.

Here’s how the Lafayette Daily Courier published John Stevens’ own obituary on Saturday, July 15, 1893. It showed in the Indiana newspaper on page 1, column 4:
This morning at one o'clock occurred the death of John Stevens, aged 80 years, at his home, No. 22 Green street. The disease which caused his death was jaundice, superinduced by extreme old age. He had been sick a good while, and the hot weather had acted seriously against him. Mr. Stevens had lived in Lafayette nearly fifty years, and was married some forty years ago to Eliza Murdock, eldest sister of James and Thomas Murdock. Five children were born to them, four of whom, with the widow, survive. Mr. Stevens was a well known citizen, a highly respectable man, and possessed of a great many loyal friends. The funeral will occur Monday morning from St. Ann's church at 9 o'clock, interment in St. Mary's cemetery.
Five children, you say? Well, there were John’s three sons by his previous marriage to Catherine Kelly: James, John Kelly and William. We’re pretty certain of that—although William’s strange disappearance from records for great stretches of time does cause some alarm. And then there were the three daughters John and Eliza had in common. Admittedly, one of them—Elizabeth—died before her father did, in 1892. But even with Elizabeth already gone, that still doesn’t explain the newspaper’s count.

Of course, as has happened many times since, we can chalk that up to newspaper error.

Or perhaps there is more to the story.

4 comments:

  1. Sherlock Holmes would have enjoyed this "case of the mystery relative". :)

    People died and remarried so swiftly back then, I think about 1/2 the people in the country had 1/2 siblings!

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    Replies
    1. Good observation, Iggy. Half-siblings and step-siblings were probably a lot more common than we suppose, emerging from those "good ol' days."

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  2. Replies
    1. Well...you know there is always an explanation ;)

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