“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,… it was the season of Darkness...” – Charles Dickens
As I unravel my daughter’s family history — it doesn’t take long to realize that many of her forefathers suffered a great deal. Families lost land and money, parents buried their children and husbands their wives. Here are a couple stories of loss from each side of her family tree.
Joe Lee Claywell
Joe’s wife Sallie Guinn died from complications of labor during the birth of their fourth child, Sallie. At the time of her death, his oldest child, Charlie (Molly’s great-grandfather) was only six. Joe’s other two children, Ruby and Jim were four and two respectively. The fourth child Sallie only survived about three weeks past her mother’s death.
Joe would remarry and have five more children and one of them would die at a young age. Less than three months after he turned 15, Glendon C. Claywell died, presumably due to injuries caused when he was thrown from a mule. When I spoke with his sister Minnie Conner, she said a winter storm prevented the family from getting Glendon the help he needed. He died on Feb. 28, 1934.
Christopher Hughes, on Molly’s maternal side, definitely lived through hard times.
Just two years before he died, he was hit by a train causing him to lose a leg. When he was younger, his brother-in-law Oscar, was lynched by a mob. Oscar had the misfortune of being held in a county jail at the same time as a horse thief. A mob broke into the jail, and since the mob did not which person was the horse thief, both men were hanged.
But the greatest tragedy Chris faced was the murder of his daughter Ida May when she was 27.
Ida is my mother-in-law’s grandmother. Ida’s oldest son James, who was seven when he witnessed his mother’s murder, is my daughter’s great-grandfather (my mother-in-law’s dad).
The shooting took place in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, Oct. 5 1913 in Wilmore, Kentucky when Ida and her three children, James, Warren and Mary (an infant) were at High Bridge Park — an area which was still in the prime of its tourism appeal. The park was site of the first cantilever bridge built on American soil and besides the attraction of the bridge, the park had “picnic grounds, a restaurant, a dancing pavilion and riding stables.”
It was in this public venue where Ida was killed. According to a news article describing the shooting,
“The strangest part about the tragedy was that not a word was spoken when the shooting took place.”
The article further states that Ida was holding her baby when she was shot.
The woman accused of killing Ida was her neighbor, Lillie Gibson, who would have also been about 27 at the time — and that’s where the story’s trail starts to go cold. Gibson was determined to be a ‘lunatic’ by a jury and of ‘unsound’ mind so the court committed her to the insane asylum in Lexington, Ky. I have been unsuccessful in determining if she lived out here life there — or if she was ever tried for the crime.
Her husband, Silas, died about six years after the murder on July 4, 1919 — a Lillie Gibson is buried next to him. This Lillie died in 1977 at the age of 95. I am currently tracking down death certificates for both of these Gibsons.
As far as the Smith family, James Franklin would marry Mollie Pitcher a few years after the crime and they would have five children. He died in 1944 and is buried in Kenton County, Kentucky.
After Ida’s death, the three children were initially raised by their paternal grandparents. James Luther, the oldest, would eventually leave home when he was around 12 years old.