To be a father of four daughters in our times would mean being a man eventually footing the bill for four expensive wedding celebrations. Not so for Patrick Phillips, whose early death meant his daughters would not have his escort to walk the aisle before exchanging those life-changing vows.
I don’t know whether to read anything into the fact that those four daughters married rather late—at least for that era—but I wonder what might have influenced the choices they made for life partners. All four girls did eventually marry—two before their widowed mother died, two afterwards. All four married men who listed their occupation as salesman. All four—despite the fact that I cannot find Grace in the 1940 census—remained in their hometown of Fort Wayne for the remainder of their lives.
Eldest daughter Helen was the first to say “I do.” She found the love of her life in Michigan native Ralph E. Landis. Nicknamed “Jake,” he was an Army Signal Corps veteran of World War I. Ralph had lived in Fort Wayne for most of his life. By the time he and Helen were married in 1926, she was nearing her twenty fifth birthday. The couple had two daughters.
The next of the daughters to be swept off her feet was Patrick and Mary Phillips’ third daughter, Margaret. At the time of her wedding, she was already twenty four—actually three months younger than her eldest sister was at the time of her wedding. Margaret’s beau was Paul E. Elliott, an Ohio native and former Indiana University School of Medicine student whose studies were cut short by family needs when his father died. Paul was an extremely successful businessman—Fort Wayne residents prior to the 1970s would remember him as “Gunnar” Elliott—and received many accolades for his accomplishments over the years. Paul and Margaret were the parents of an only daughter.
There was quite a gap in the time between these two family weddings and the next two. It seemed, for a while, as if the other two sisters were going to remain unmarried. The two remained in their mother’s household, as can be seen in the 1930 census—the old Kelly home on 1919 Hoagland—but by the end of the following year, the glue that had held the family home together all those years, their mother Mary, had herself passed away. By 1935, the unexpected began happening: second daughter Grace had a suitor. By the time she married John Fred Bushman in June,1935, she was approaching thirty two years of age. Perhaps it is no surprise that she and fellow Fort Wayne native “Red” Bushman had no children—although I can only draw that conclusion based on their obituaries; I have not yet been able to locate them in the 1940 census.
By the time of that 1940 census, Mary Phillips’ remaining daughter, Mary Celeste—still unmarried—was living in the home of her oldest sister Helen and her husband, Ralph Landis. But that was about to change. In that same year, Pennsylvania native John Kenton Miskel took the thirty three year old Mary Celeste as his bride. Though this couple also had no children, they remained close to family, living in Fort Wayne for the rest of their years.
What was interesting about these four sisters is that, not only did they all remain in Fort Wayne, but three of their spouses, at one point or another, ended up working in the same family-run business. While so many people today find themselves far removed from their hometown—and give a new spin on the term “extended family”—these four sisters, who once huddled together with their widowed mother in a humble southside home, found that closeness had become a lifelong habit.
Although Patrick Phillips’ line had “daughtered out,” his early departure fostered, by necessity, a closeness that became the next generation’s heritage. While his surname could never be passed down to future generations, his family gained an invisible but arguably more valuable legacy in that stronger family bond.