Monday, August 19, 2013

Waynick Cemetery: Little Lucy May

Old cemeteries like Waynick are heavily populated by infants and children, victims of childbirth difficulties and childhood diseases that rarely claim lives today. While frequent deaths do not mean parents grieved less,  there does seem to have been a degree of stoicism about such occurrences then.

And most often, any back story once known accompanied the child to its grave and has long since been forgotten. 

I do know Lucy's story, however, and it illustrates several things --- including the fact that even in the good old days troubled parents inflicted troubles on their children.

Lucy May Maxwell, who died in her fourth year on Dec. 1, 1881, was a cousin of mine --- staying at the time with her paternal grandparents, John C. and Catherine S. Maxwell, in the Waynick neighborhood. She is buried on the Maxwell lot, alongside two of the Maxwells' daughters who had died young during the 1860s, Mary E. and Lucy Belle.

Those who have transcribed the inscription on Lucy's tombstone over the years have not looked at it carefully enough to see that the initials on it are those of her parents, not her grandparents.

Lucy's father was Albert Asbury Maxwell and her mother, Cora Jane (Redlingshafer) Maxwell, my aunt, a sister of my great-grandmother, Mary Belle (Redlingshafer) Myers.

Cora had been born on Sept. 5, 1856, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, to my great-grandmother, Isabelle Greer. Great-grandfather, John G. Redlingshafer, had been away from Washington County for a year or two by then, traveling west with his parents and siblings and scouting for land upon which to settle permanently. He eventually decided upon Lucas County and made his claim in Benton Township, south of Chariton.

When he returned to Washington County to marry Isabelle, he found her in an advanced state of pregnancy. They were married, however, on Nov. 30, 1856, soon after Cora's birth, and set out for Lucas County the following spring.

There is no indication that Cora was treated any differently than the other Redlingshafer children who followed: Mary Belle, John William, Minnie Dorothy and Ernest Greer. But the neighbors most likely knew something of her story --- the Wolf Creek neighborhood was heavily populated by John's brothers and sisters and their large families and gossip is hardly new.

Cora, almost 17, and Albert Maxwell, almost 21, married in Lucas County on Aug. 17, 1873, and became the parents of three daughters --- Catherine, Mary and Lucy May --- born either in Lucas or Pottawattamie county, where the couple resettled near Oakland after leaving the Chariton vicinity.

Little Catherine, age 4, died at Oakland on Oct. 23, 1878, just after Lucy's birth, and before 1880 the Maxwell marriage had run aground. Cora returned to her parents' Benton Township home, bringing Mary and Lucy with her. John and Isabelle then assumed primary parenting responsibilities.

That's where the situation stood until until late November of 1881, when Albert Maxwell returned to Lucas County for a visit and "removed" Lucy and Mary from the Redlingshafer home to the home of his parents near Waynick Cemetery. "Benton Boy" --- most likely cousin John Rosa who often served as neighborhood correspondent --- reported in The Chariton Democrat Leader of Dec. 8, 1881, that Lucy May died of "membranous croup" three weeks after the move.

After Lucy's death, Albert returned to Pottawattamie County, married again and fathered another family. He seems never to have played an active role in the life of his surviving first daughter, Mary.

Mary returned to the home of her Redlingshafer grandparents and was raised by them, becoming her grandfather's companion and housekeeper after Isabelle's death during 1894.

During 1885, Cora married John J. Jackson --- an interesting character whose real name, as it turned out, was John Tapp. He seems to have been on the run at the time from, perhaps among other people, an earlier wife whom he had neglected to divorce.

Cora and John settled at Givin, a small town southwest of Oskaloosa in Mahaska County, and had four children of their own. Theirs was a long and rocky relationship, apparently marked by cycles of abuse, separation and reconciliation.

Although they divorced in 1909 (Cora alleging desertion as well as cruel and inhuman treatment), John was being cared for by her when he died on Nov. 1, 1924, aged about 84. Cora died in Oskaloosa on Oct. 24, 1933, and was buried by John's side in Forest Cemetery.

Mary went on to build a successful life for herself as caregiver, nurse and administrator in Des Moines, accumulating sufficient money to buy a Lucas County farm. Financial missteps, including what according to her kinfolks at least was an unfortunate marriage of her own, preceded her death in extreme poverty in Camdenton, Missouri, during 1961.

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