Friday, April 6, 2018
Remember back last month, when I was wondering how to find Thirza—that woman whose abandoned family photographs I found in a northern California antique shop—and opted for searching in census records for her name plus parents, instead of looking for the younger siblings with the more common given names?
Well, I should have looked for Nellie and Mabel Browne, too—because they were the ones who held the key to figuring out what happened to Thirza's parents.
Amend that: I still don't know. Not really. Not the whole story. But I did find some convincing records, based on Nellie and Mabel being in the same household as someone named Ophelia. Only she wasn't still called Ophelia Browne. She had gotten married again.
It was the timeline in Thirza's own obituary, years later, which told me I might have the right family. After all, according to Thirza's obituary, she had moved to Sargents, Colorado, in 1892—"with her parents," the obituary had stated. And there, eight years later in the 1900 census, was a family with a Nellie and a Mabel "Brown" listed.
Only thing was, they were labeled as step-daughters to the head of the household, someone named Henry C. Allen. It would be logical to assume, then, that Henry's wife, Ophelia Allen, would be the mother of those two teenagers.
If Ophelia was the former wife of Thomas Browne, Thirza's father, then what happened to Thomas? The 1900 census said Henry and Ophelia were married for seven years, giving us an approximate year of 1893 as the date of their wedding. As it turns out, there was a marriage performed by a judge in Cañon City, the county seat of Fremont County, Colorado, on January 18, 1893. The two parties, aggravatingly, were listed simply as H. C. Allen and O. E. Brown, but their respective ages of fifty four and thirty seven seem to line up with the ages in the census seven years later.
Thanks to my brilliant deductive powers, that leads me to believe something must have happened to Thomas Browne during the year of 1892. As for proving that assertion, I have nothing yet to go by: no record that I can find—at least online—of his death or burial. All I have is the presumption that, since his wife remarried, she had been left a widow. Back in that time period, such logic could sometimes be held up—though not always.
As for Ophelia Ellen, formerly Browne, now Allen, there was a better "paper" trail. With a headstone boldly proclaiming her name as Ophelia Ellen Allen, Thirza's mother was buried, back home in Greeley, Colorado, in June, 1908.