Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Question (05/24/12)
TITLE: Angeline's Story
By Laura Hawbaker
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The “who” is easy enough. Angeline, my husband’s great-great grandmother is the object of my research, a mysterious woman we know so little about. She has left behind no pictures, diaries or letters. Very few people still living knew her. She was the second wife of great-great grandfather, David.
Birth records, census records and genealogies answer the “when” and “where” questions. Angeline was born in York County Pennsylvania in 1852 and moved to Iowa in 1884 to marry David. She is buried in Dallas County Iowa under a tombstone reading “Angeline Keller Hawbaker 1852—1932.”
It is that dash between the dates that so fascinates me. The dash that holds the secrets of the “what, why and how” questions. From the facts handed down by the generations I know the skeletal frame of Angeline’s story. When she married David she became mother to his four young sons. Four more children soon joined the family and then in 1892, David died. With a little research the story begins to flesh out, and ironically raises more questions than answers.
Doing the math I realize Angeline was a thirty-two year old spinster when she married David, a thirty-six year old widower. The marriage license was issued in Iowa telling me Angeline traveled one thousand miles for the wedding. How did they meet? David was originally from Pennsylvania (although from another area of the state) so they may have known each other previously. Had Angeline known David’s first wife Sarah? David and Sarah were teenage sweethearts when they married, just nineteen and seventeen. David had been widowed for barely a year before he married Angeline. Was David still grieving Sarah?
Then, to add more intrigue to the story, Angeline and David had three sons and one daughter and the daughter was named Sarah. Had Angeline offered to name her daughter after David’s first wife? Had David requested it? How did Angeline feel about that?
Another interesting character enters the story in the form of Angeline’s sister, Melinda. She apparently moved to Iowa somewhere along the way and is listed in the records as insane. Was Angeline taking care of her insane sister?
According to family stories, David were in the process of building a house for Melinda when he became wet and chilled, leading to pneumonia and death. Angeline, just four days from her fortieth birthday, was left to care for David’s teen age sons (the two oldest were married by this time) and her young family ranging from seven years to six months. How had she coped? What became of Melinda and her unfinished house? Did she blame Melinda for her husband’s premature death?
Reading through the deed to the family farm, it is obvious that David had died with debt on the land. Angeline, with the help of David’s oldest sons, struggled to keep the land, nearly loosing it to creditors several times. How had she managed? Did she ever feel like giving up and moving back to Pennsylvania? Had she cried out to God for help?
Questions, questions, questions plague me as I stare at my notes. As a writer I can use research and imagination to fill in the blanks. But, Angeline, how I wish I could have a chat with you! I would thank you for your bravery, your struggle, your faith in God. I would tell you of the hundreds of successful, Christian descendants. Thank you, Angeline, and I hope I can do your story justice!
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