Wednesday, December 31, 2014

52 Ancestors: #52 Fanny Gowdy and an American Romance in Paris

 Fanny Alice Gowdy
The Saint Paul Globe, 1903
Back of the prosaic announcement that Robert E. Mansfield, Consul at Valapariso, Chile, has petitioned his department at Washington for a transfer to France ... is an interesting little romance.  Consul Mansfield is in love.  And the object of his affection is ... Miss Fanny Gowdy, daughter of the United States Consul General in Paris.  

What is more, Miss Gowdy is also in love -- with Mr. Mansfield. And here Uncle Sam, after allowing them to be together for a long time, has separated them almost as far as he possibly could.  No wonder Mr. Mansfield wants to get back to France, and Miss Gowdy is anxious that he should be there.  ("Four New American Romances," The Saint Paul Globe, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 6 Dec 1903, page 30.)

The courtship of Fanny Gowdy and Robert Mansfield was a favorite topic in the gossip columns of many newspapers across the country and abroad.  It is not surprising; they were both young, attractive, and accomplished.

Fanny Alice Gowdy was born on March 6, 1870, in Arlington, Rush County, Indiana, to John K. Gowdy and Eve Eliza Gordon.   She was raised as an only child, since her brother died two weeks after she was born. In 1887, 17-year-old Fanny graduated from Rushville High School as valedictorian of her class with special honors in elocution and literature.  She went on to study literature, art, and linguistics at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

Robert Emmett Mansfield
Passport photo from
Fanny Gowdy and Robert Mansfield first met in Rush County, Indiana. Robert was a journalist in Muncie and often visited her father on business. When John K. Gowdy accepted the post of Consul General to Paris, his wife and daughter accompanied him to France.  Naturally, Robert was delighted to receive the position of Gowdy's personal secretary.

However, Mansfield was soon called away to Valparaiso, Chile, on a political assignment. The consular position in Chile was a highly sought-after office, but Mr. Mansfield was determined not to stay longer than necessary.  He soon petitioned for a transfer.

With so many thousand miles of territory between the young people their happiness could not be complete and therefore Mr. Mansfield can certainly be pardoned for his anxiety to effect a transfer to Calais, which is within easy reach of Paris.  The members of the Indiana delegation, who have hearts as big as the side of a hill, certainly will do whatever is in their power to help Mr. Mansfield, who is popular with them.  (New Castle Daily Press, New Castle, Indiana, 24 Oct 1903, page 1.)

Fanny Gowdy, age 28, and her mother in Paris
Mr. Mansfield was not the only one who thought well of Miss Gowdy.  At one time, there were rumors that Fanny was to marry a French count. It was clear that Europeans and Americans alike admired her elegance and charming manners, and she quickly became a leading lady of Parisian society.

Several newspapers credit Fanny Gowdy with the establishment of a popular literary salon.  This is regarded as a wonderful achievement by the Europeans, who understand the great importance of these gatherings [are] ostensibly social, but also frequently political. ("Four New American Romances", The Saint Paul Globe, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 6 Dec 1903, page 30.)

In 1900, Tennessee artist Willie Betty Newman, who was living in Paris, painted a remarkable portrait of Fanny Gowdy.  "Portrait of Miss Gowdy" was heralded as one of the best portraits of the year and received an honorable mention at the 1900 Paris Salon.

"Portrait of Miss Gowdy" by Willie Betty Newman
The painting was again displayed in 2002 as part of an exhibit of Newman's pieces at the Parthenon in Tennessee.  A review of the recent exhibit describes the century-old portrait: Newman captures Fanny -- a lithe, Gwyneth Paltrow-style beauty -- as she lounges on a divan with a vase of white flowers at her elbow.  ("An Artist Reclaimed" by Angela Wibking, 14 Feb 2002)

Another publication mentions the painting's "exquisite color arrangement."  I would love to see the original color palette of the portrait; unfortunately, I have only found it reproduced in black and white. I'm not exactly sure where the painting is now, but it may be in storage at the Smithsonian. Perhaps it will be displayed again some day so I can see it in person!

Early in 1906, Fanny and Robert officially announced their engagement, putting an end to the constant rumors generated by newspapers throughout America and Europe.  Soon after, Consul Mansfield started his voyage home from Chile.  Then he ran into trouble.  On January 31, 1906, an earthquake, measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, resulted in destructive tidal waves off the coasts of Ecuador and Colombia.
Washington Times, 14 Mar 1906 
Although Mr. Mansfield wasn't harmed in the disaster, the delay in his journey caused much anxiety for his family and friends.

San Fransisco Call. 12 Jul 1903
Robert and Fanny were married the 17th of April, 1906. If you were expecting to hear a grand account of an extravagant wedding ceremony, I'm sorry to disappoint you.   The popular couple chose to have a small, quiet ceremony at the Gowdy's home in Rushville.  They did not even make the wedding time known to their friends -- I suspect they were tired of being in the spotlight.  Apart from the immediate family, only two guests attended; Fanny's elderly aunt, Mary Jane Green, and Mrs. Posey, a neighbor.

In June of 1906, the Mansfields moved to Lucerne, Switzerland, where Robert served as consul.  After four years abroad, the couple returned home to Indiana for good.  During her lifetime, Fanny visited or resided in many countries including France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada.

Robert died at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on September 18, 1925 after a long illness.  Fanny died at the age of 67 in her hometown of Rushville on March 23, 1937.  The Mansfields never had any children, so there are no descendants.  Although I am only distantly related to Fanny (she is my 1st cousin 4 times removed), I felt compelled to recount her fascinating life.

Friday, December 19, 2014

52 Ancestors: #51 Emily Ann Montgomery, a Posthumous Child

Illustration by unknown artist.
I was a posthumous child.  My father's eyes had closed upon the light of this world six months, when mine opened upon it.  There is something strange to me, even now, in the reflection that he never saw me; and something stranger yet in the shadowy remembrance that I have of my first childish associations with his white gravestone in the churchyard, and of the indefinable compassion I used to feel for it lying out there alone in the dark night. (From The Personal History and Experience of David Copperfield the Younger by Charles Dickens.)

These words help me imagine what life might have been like for my third great-grandmother, Emily Ann Montgomery.  According to One Man's Family by Olive Lewis Kolb, Emily was a posthumous baby.

Emily Montgomery was born April 24, 1838, the eighth and last child of John and Elizabeth Montgomery. Her father passed away only a month before her birth, on March 6th.  Emily's mother remarried twice after John Montgomery died, first to Jacob Shiplet, then finally to a man with the surname Bly or Blythe.

Just a few days prior to her 19th birthday, Emily married John William Worland on April 20, 1857 in Shelby County, Indiana.  They had a family of nine children: George Isom, Cecilia Elyrine, Mary Elizabeth, Samuel Montgomery, Lewis Milburn, Martha, Zerada Frances, Lucy Burnetta, and Sarah Ella.

A devout Catholic, Emily was a member of the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Shelby County.  Six days after her 77th birthday, Emily passed away at the home of her daughter, Lucy Burnetta Hendricks.  She is buried at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Cemetery in Waldron, Indiana.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

52 Ancestors: #50 John Kennedy Gowdy and the Search for John Paul Jones

Consul General John Kennedy Gowdy
John Paul Jones was the founder of the American Navy, a prolific and eloquent writer, and a fluent speaker of several languages. Perhaps the most well-known aspect of his posterity was his reply to a demand for surrender: "I have not yet begun to fight."  

However, when the celebrated admiral died in Paris in 1792, his burial was poorly recorded and his funeral was attended by few. For 113 years, America's first naval hero lay in an unmarked tomb in France.  One of the chief detectives in the search for his burial place was my third great grand-uncle, John Kennedy Gowdy.

John K. Gowdy was born in the small town of Arlington, Rush County, Indiana on August 23, 1843 to Adam McConnell Gowdy and Nancy Oliver.  The Gowdy family migrated from Rush County to Jasper County in 1848. When Adam Gowdy died at the young age of 48, John became responsible for the farm.  He divided his time by working on the farm during the summer and returning to Arlington each November, where he lodged with his sister Mary Jane and attended the local school.

At the age of 18, John K. Gowdy joined the Fifth Indiana Volunteer Cavalry.  He helped pursue and capture General John Hunt Morgan, the only Confederate leader to pass through Indiana. Gowdy served under General Ambrose Burnside in the winter of 1863-64 and under General William Tecumseh Sherman during the Georgia campaign.  After the war, Captain John K. Gowdy became an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic.

On January 24, 1867, John married Eve Eliza Gordon in Rush County, Indiana.  The Gowdys had three children, but only one, Fanny Alice, survived past childhood.  Their two year-old son, Latta Theodore, died two weeks after his sister Fanny was born, on March 24, 1870.  Between the years of 1887 and 1888, John K. Gowdy built a fine brick house in Rushville, Indiana. His former residence is now home to the Rush County Historical Society and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places of Rush County.

John K. Gowdy's house.
Gowdy was twice elected sheriff of Rush County (the youngest in the history of the county at the time.) From 1890 to 1897, he served as chairman of the Indiana Republican State committee.  In recognition of his services to the party, he was appointed by President William McKinley as consul-general to Paris on March 20, 1897.  The news of his position was reported in many papers throughout the country, including this California publication:  He will take with him to France, his wife and charming daughter.  Mr. Gowdy has no knowledge of the French language, but thinks he can manage it.  (Sacramento Daily Union, Vol. 93, No. 51, 13 Apr 1897.)  Consul-General Gowdy also took his horses to France.  The horses, "Rush" and "Brooks," were bred and trained in Rush County, Indiana. While in Paris, the horses were involved in an unfortunate incident:

John K. Gowdy at far right, wife Eve and daughter Fanny in coach.
Chaffeur Stephen Hordsbath and the Rush County horses.
Paris, France, 1898.
[M]iscreants broke into the private stable of United States Consul Gowdy in Paris and cut off the manes and tails of the American-bred horses that he had taken over from Rush Co., Indiana ...  It is assumed that this action was designed as a hint to Mr. Gowdy that he should do in Paris as the Parisians do, and drive bang-tailed horses.  It is an outrage and the severest punishment should be visited on the perpetrators if they can be discovered.  (The Breeder's Gazette, Vol. 34, 1898.)

Nearly two years after Gowdy began his service in France, he wrote a letter urging for an investigation to locate the remains of John Paul Jones:

To Representative Charles B. Landis, January 2, 1899, Paris, France.

It does seem strange that we have not identified ourselves in gratitude to him who fought our battles at sea in our struggle for independence and who was the first to secure our recognition as a Republic.  His achievement of glorious deeds commends itself to the gratitude of the country.  Every thoughtful American citizen can not but feel the deepest regret that we have shown no interest in his resting place.  The graves of other heroes of the Revolution have been marked, and honor paid.  John Paul Jones' love of liberty and devotion to the United States Government, and its principles, were the strongest passions of his life.  Besides fighting our battles, he identified himself in many ways with our Government, that in the past century should have called forth, as for other heroes of the Revolution, the praise and admiration of a grateful people.
                                                                                                               John K. Gowdy 

John Paul Jones Monument, Washington, D.C.
The quest began in June of 1899.  Two search teams were formed, one headed by U.S. Ambassador Horace Porter, and the other directed by John K. Gowdy. Although Consul-General Gowdy later wrote that the two worked in "perfect harmony", it seems that there was a spirited competition between the two teams.  The exhaustive search was concluded on April 14, 1905, when Porter's men discovered the coffin shortly before Gowdy's team arrived at the spot.  On January 26, 1913, the remains of John Paul Jones were at last re-interred at the Naval Academy Chapel at Annapolis, Maryland.

According to a transcript of an unidentified American newspaper, Captain John K. Gowdy ... never received the credit that [was] due him for his part in the search for the body of John Paul Jones.  On his own initiative and at considerable personal expense, Gowdy, while consul-general at Paris, employed a searching party and directed its operations.  John K. Gowdy later said that he did not have any hard feelings that the Ambassador received full credit for the discovery.

Consul-General Gowdy was also instrumental in the purchasing the right to build the Panama Canal. As recognition for his extensive services to France, John K. Gowdy was awarded the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, on September 30, 1905.

John K. Gowdy died at his Rushville home on June 25, 1918, at the age of 74.  On the day of his funeral, flags were lowered to half-mast and many local businesses were closed.  Scores of telegrams from old political friends were received by his family.  John K. Gowdy is buried at Arlington East Hill Cemetery in his birthplace of Arlington, Indiana.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

52 Ancestors: #49 Nancy Oliver, Who Waited 3 Years for Groceries

My 4th great-grandmother, Nancy Oliver, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky on the first of June 1807 to John Oliver and his wife Jane Hill.  Sometime around 1821, the Oliver family moved to Rush County, Indiana.

At the age of 22, Nancy married Adam McConnell Gowdy, a blacksmith who was two years her junior. The couple had two daughters, named Mary Jane and Martha Ann, then three sons, Lewis Oliver, John Kennedy, and Adam Thomas.

General Store, shared under creative commons license on Flickr.
Nancy's husband died in 1857; their youngest son, Adam Thomas Gowdy, died two years afterwards at the age of ten. Three of the Gowdy children (Mary, Martha, and Lewis) were married by this time, which only left one son, John Kennedy Gowdy, at home to look after his widowed mother.  The two lived on a farm in Rensselaer, Indiana.

[John] was living with his mother near Jasper [Indiana] when the war broke out.  He was 17 years old.  His mother sent him one day to a grocery two miles distant for soap, molasses, and a broom.  He found an excited group about the store discussing war news, and there was a recruiting officer in the town seeking volunteers. Young Gowdy promptly enlisted without consulting his mother, knowing she would object. Three years later, he came marching home again in a blue suit, with an honorable discharge in his pocket and the title of captain stuck to his name, enough to make any patriotic mother forgive anything or everything and be proud all the rest of her days. [But] he brought more.  He stopped at the grocery and bought the supplies his mother sent for three years before.  His first words on reaching home were: "Here, mother, are the soap, molasses, and broom you told me to get."  (The Literary Digest, Vol. 15, No. 2, pg. 59)

This same son was twice elected sheriff of Rush County.  John Kennedy Gowdy later became a famous Hoosier politician and served as Consul General to Paris during the William McKinley administration.  He received the Legion of Honor for his great service to France.

In her later years, Nancy Gowdy lived with her daughter Mary's family in Arlington, Indiana.  She died there at the age of 75 on September 3, 1882 and is buried at Arlington East Hill Cemetery in Rush County, Indiana.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

52 Ancestors: #48 Samuel Kimmel and the Stark County Infirmary

I don't know much about my 5th great grandfather, Samuel Kimmel, but I do know how he died... and it is a sad story.

Samuel was born in 1787 in Pennsylvania to Joseph Kimmel and Nancy Anna Stoner.  He married Catherine Mory, a Maryland native. They had six children, including my 4th great grandfather, Jacob Kimmel. Samuel moved with his family to Stark County, Ohio sometime before 1820 and lived there for the rest of his life.

Stark County Infirmary, Canton, Ohio
On September 15, 1869, Samuel and Catherine were admitted as paupers to the Stark County Infirmary, formerly called the county poorhouse.

Those eligible to live at the county home are homeless persons who are unable to care for themselves.  They may be recipients of old age pensions, if the amounts so received are not sufficient for them to take care of themselves. Likewise if relatives are unable or unwilling to care for a needy person, the latter is eligible.  Many patients have no friends. City residents who are unemployed single men are likewise eligible. Relatives will take care of women before they will men.  (Stark County Story, The Suburban Era in Stark County Ohio 1917-1958 Vol. 4)

The infirmary register listed both their ages as 81 and their former residence as Osnaburg, Stark County, Ohio.  Four of the Kimmel children had left Ohio and were scattered across several states by this time. One son, William Kimmel, died in 1865 from the black measles, along with much of his household.   However, Samuel and Catherine's youngest child, Margaret, still lived in Osnaburg with her own family in 1869.  I wonder why Margaret was unable to care for her elderly parents.  Did the other siblings even know that their parents were destitute and living in a poorhouse?

Samuel Kimmel died in the infirmary on March 18, 1871, at the age of 84.  He was not buried in a cemetery; I assume this was because no one could pay for his burial expenses.  Following his death, Catherine Kimmel was discharged.  I don't know why she had to leave or what happened to her afterwards.