This tragic little tale begins on an almost lighthearted note --- a report of the failed attempt to stop an elopement that had brought a love-struck young couple from Van Wert, in Decatur County (Lucas County's neighbor to the southwest), to Chariton. Here's the story as published on Page 1 of The Chariton Herald of April 11, 1901:
"Mr. Roy Gould and Miss Dora Fierce of Van Wert, Decatur county, came to this city yesterday, procured a license and were married at the clerk's office by Justice W. S. Long. This occurred about 9:30 and they intended to take the south branch train at 10:20 to return to Van Wert. They had gotten aboard the train and thought all was well. Meanwhile, a telephone message was received here from the young lady's mother asking that they be arrested and brought back to Van Wert, but the message came too late for they had been pronounced man and wife almost an hour before it was received. They came back to the city again and remained here for a time when they left for Van Wert."
The bridegroom, age 24, was Leroy Gould, son of Newton Gould and his late wife, Isabel, a farmhand in the Van Wert neighborhood who had been only 3 when his mother died. The mother-in-law was Anna M. Fierce, 50, widow of a prosperous farmer, William, who had died at the age of 52 during 1895. Dora was their youngest child. One of the difficulties here was the fact that Dora lied about her age when applying for the marriage license. She claimed to be 20 but in reality --- born March 24, 1884 --- had only just turned 17 a few days earlier.
Nonetheless, the couple returned to Van Wert and settled into marriage --- sort of. But as it turned out they would not live happily ever after. Anna Fierce had been justified in her suspicions about young Gould. Eight months later Dora filed for divorce, as reported in The Leon Journal-Reporter of Dec. 19:
"Dora M. Gould vs. Roy Gould. The plaintiff asks for a decree of divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. It was a runaway wedding as the bride was not yet of legal age when they applied to Clerk Kehler for a license, but he refused, having been notified by her mother not to issue a license, but they went to Chariton and secured a license and were married. She alleges he has treated her in a shameful manner, cursing her and calling her vile names and of being unfaithful to him. That since their marriage he has squandered about $500 of her money and has wholly neglected to provide for her. That since their marriage he has become addicted to the use of intoxicating liquors and is an habitual drunkard. She asks that she be granted a decree of divorce and be restored to her maiden name, Dora M. Fierce."
The divorce was granted and Dora's heart seems to have mended quickly for some 10 months later she was prepared to tie the knot again --- in tandem with her sister, Bertha Fierce, whose bridegroom was a first-cousin of Dora's first husband, Roy. Here's the report from The Leon Journal-Reporter of Oct. 30, 1902:
"Mr. Lawrence Gould and Miss Bertha Fierce were married at the residence of Justice James Blair near Van Wert last Thursday, and on the same day the bride's sister, Miss Dora Fierce, was married to Mr. C.F. Reed at Van Wert by Rev. R.J. Tennant, pastor of the M.E. church at Van Wert."
Charles F. Reed seems not to have been a native Decatur Countyan so I'm not sure exactly what he was doing in Van Wert, but it most likely was in a business or professional capacity. Whatever the case, the newlyweds moved into a new home during 1903 and settled into their marriage, expecting a child in the late summer.
That expectation ended in tragedy, however, as The Journal-Reporter of Aug. 20, 1903, reported:
"Mrs. Dora Fierce-Reed and infant baby died Saturday morning at her home in Van Wert within a few hours of each other, the baby living but a short time after being born. They were buried Sunday, the funeral being the largest ever seen in Van Wert."
Meanwhile, Bertha and Lawrence Gould, a railroad brakeman, continued to make their home in Van Wert until 1906 when they decided to move west --- a relatively easy transition for an experienced railroad man with easily marketable skills. Disaster overtook them in California a few weeks later, however, as reported in a dispatch datelined Nov. 29, 1906:
"The little village of Van Wert was shocked and shrouded in gloom Sunday, November 11th, as the message to Lester Gould flashed over the wires bearing the sad news of the death of his son, Lawrence B. Gould, who in company with his wife only a few short weeks before, had gone west to work on the railroad. They first went to Utah, near Salt Lake City, where he secured employment and remained there a short time when they concluded to go on farther west, which they did, arriving in San Bernardino, California, about September 22, where he again secured work as brakeman on the Santa Fe railroad and in which occupation he was still engaged when he so suddenly and unexpectedly met his death in a rear-end collision between two freight trains near Victorville, California.
"All hearts beat in sympathy with the bereaved little wife so far away among strangers and the almost distracted parents and brother and sister. Mrs. Gould was accompanied on her sad journey home by friends, Mr. and Mrs. Nichols, of San Bernardino, California, as far as Kansas City, where they were met by her mother, Mrs. Anna Fierce, and two brothers-in-law, Clyde Gould and Ralph Hoadley, who accompanied them on to Van Wert, where they arrived on the afternoon train Friday. They were met at the depot by a large crowd of relatives and friends and also four B of R.T. men from Des Moines, the lodge of which the deceased was a loved and honored member, who took charge of the body, remaining there until after the burial. As the casket was silently taken from the car and placed in the waiting hearse, the tear of sympathy was seen to flow down the cheek of almost every one present. It was pitiful indeed to hear the almost crazed father talking to the body that once contained the spirit of his beloved son.
"The remains were taken to the home of his father, north of town, until Sunday afternoon, when funeral services were held in the Christian Church. After singing by the choir and a solo sweetly rendered by Mrs. Dr. Lindsay, followed by prayer by Rev. Mitchell, of Weldon, the pastor, Rev. Regan, of Des Moines, delivered a sermon full of comfort for the mourners. the casket and altar were beautifully decorated with floral designs silently speaking of the respect and esteem in which the deceased was held.
"Lawrence B. Gould, second son of Lester and Sarah Craft Gould, was born near Van Wert, Decatur County, Iowa, January 29, 1883, being at the time of his death, 23 years, 10 months and 11 days old, all of which with the exception of the past few weeks were spent in this vicinity."
I was unable to determine what became of Charles F. Reed after Dora's death, but he seems to have sold out in Van Wert during 1904 and moved along. Bertha Fierce Gould married as her second husband John R. Ross, a railroad fireman who died in 1928. She lived until 1957 then died at Indianola and was buried near her parents in the Van Wert Cemetery.