In following the career tracks of Mabel Davis Hines Martin over the years—from her home in Erwin, Tennessee, to Detroit in 1920, then Baltimore in 1930, and ultimately New York City—there was one issue that, for me, was strangely missing: whatever became of Mabel’s daughter?
Much as I had first found out about the rest of the Davis sisters—from my mother, in my younger years—I remember having the same experience with Mabel’s story when putting that family line to the test in my own research. Just as my mother had dismissed Mabel’s sister Chevis’ first husband by intimating he had less than sterling character, she had led me to believe Mabel’s first husband had been much the same company.
And about the daughter? Oh, she was a “wild thing,” my mother would say. When pressed for what she meant by that, she really couldn’t say much more than that the girl wasn’t willing to stay at home.
Well, I thought, where did she go?!
I never got any satisfactory answer to that question.
It was many years after that conversation that I found him—LeRoy Okeson Hines, the missing husband who “left” poor Aunt Mabel. As we’ve already seen, he was a civil engineer whose job likely kept him moving from place to place, seeking better pay and better prospects.
When I discovered him, I was, frankly, quite surprised to see his daughter living with him, even after he and Mabel had officially gone their separate ways. That discovery started me thinking, again, about the impressions we pass along to the next generation through comments that more closely resemble hearsay than actual facts. Once again, I have to remind myself that, in all fairness to my mother, she was speaking about a cousin who was nearly twenty years her elder—how was she to know, at that time, what I’ve since found in the 1920 census or the 1930 census?
LeRoy and Mabel’s daughter, Stella Mabel, stayed with her father and paternal grandmother for all those years Mabel was pursuing her own career.
And then? I lost her—until I obtained a copy of Mabel’s own obituary. Here’s what I found out about Stella’s whereabouts in September, 1984:
ERWIN—Mrs. Mabel Jean Martin, 96, 237 Second St., died Saturday in the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital. She was a former buyer for Macy's Department Store, New York City, and also worked as a model. Mrs. Martin was a member of the Newcomer's Club of Erwin, Erwin Women's Club and the Erwin Bridge Club.Survivors include one daughter, Mrs. Mable Hines, Sacramento, Calif.; one brother, Jack Davis, Columbus, Ohio; several nieces and a nephew. Erwin Memorial is in charge.
She practically lived next door to me! And I had no idea. Of course, Stella most likely wasn’t Mrs. Mabel Hines; Hines was her maiden name—if she even got married at all.
Interestingly, she chose to go by her middle name, Mabel—the name representing the woman who never took her place as Stella’s mother.
I scrambled, of course, to find any record of a Stella or Mabel Hines in Sacramento—after all, it isn’t very far from here. Nothing turned up—at least, nothing I could find once I discovered the near-miss.
And then, one day while poring over possibilities on Ancestry.com, I ran across a listing in the Social Security Death Index. It was for a woman born on the same day as my Stella—November 17, 1907—and using the same form of her name as appeared in Stella's mother’s obituary: Mabel Hines.
According to that record, she had obtained her Social Security number before 1951 from Washington, D.C., which I wouldn’t doubt, remembering that her father had served in the military and was actually buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Then, too, she had an uncle on her father’s side—Paul A. Hines—who had also lived in or worked in Washington, D.C. Perhaps she, too, pursued a path as a career woman and got her start from her father and uncle in the nation’s capital.
The record showed a date of death in May, 1993. The last residence showing was far, far afield of Stella’s place of birth in Erwin, Tennessee, or even her last childhood home in Virginia. I couldn’t help but doubt the listing of the residence in Deming, New Mexico—what if this were a married woman? Or someone coincidentally possessing the same name? Why didn’t the name include “Stella”?
To no avail, I tried locating an obituary for Stella. Or even a burial record.
Perhaps this will have to remain one of life’s little mysteries, this story of what must have been the bittersweet growing-up years of the little girl who wasn’t raised by her mother when everyone else’s mom was always at home for her.