I believe Georgia Ann Wilson is my only divorced ancestor, in an era when it was uncommon.
She was one of four daughters of Samuel and Martha Williams, who homesteaded in Jackson Township, Guthrie County, Iowa, in 1854–along with Samuel’s parents. They were early and devout members of the Morrisburg Christian Church.
Georgia Ann married a man named Frank Davis when she was 17. Baby Fred Davis was born the next year. His parents divorced. No clues as to why, only guesses, but Georgia and little Fred probably ended up living with her folks.
Five years later, she married Daniel Wilson, four years her junior. Dan evidently didn’t want to raise another man’s son, so Fred grew up with his grandparents.
But while working with early Iowa ancestors for Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots, I noticed that Samuel and Martha Williams had had a son born first, probably in Ohio, who died at the age of 1. His name was Roy.
They came to Iowa in 1855 with a two year old daughter, Emma. Three more daughters were born in Guthrie County, Iowa–Serepta Ann, Edna Alice, and Georgia Ann.
Perhaps it was her parent’s idea to let Georgia start over again with a new family. What are your thoughts? Perhaps this gave them a chance to raise a son, which had been denied them with the death of their firstborn.
Georgia Ann Wilson is buried in Guthrie County’s Morrisburg Cemetery, along with her first child (Fred Davis), her parents, Williams grandparents, and many other relatives.
Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots
The photo on the cover is of newlyweds Clabe and Leora Wilson in front of Georgia Wilson’s house, which still stands, in Panora.
I often ponder how many children died in infancy back in the day. My father, too, had a brother who died in infancy, unnamed and undiscussed, and I’ve often wondered what he might have been like. No records were kept as to the feelings or emotions involved in that loss. A trip through almost any old graveyard reveals the tombstones of such infants.
Leora’s mother was the firstborn in her family. The next three children died as infants or a young child. I have tintypes of those three little ones and know where they are buried. They went on to have a half dozen more children, but those must have been such sad years.
I can’t imagine the hardship of a single mother back then. It’s no wonder that Fred went to live with his grandparents.
I bet they were both living with her parents after the divorce. I just wonder what it was like for Clabe and his sisters to visit the grandparents with their mother’s first son living with them.
Probably awkward, but maybe they embraced him.
Did Clabe and his sisters know that Fred was their half-brother, rather than their uncle?
I would guess yes. At least they knew him as adults.
Fred’s grandparents were likely quite young when they took over his care since his mother was a teenager when he was born. In that era of homesteads, it likely was not unusual to assume care of grandchildren whatever the circumstances.
In those days, a divorced woman did not have a right to keep her children, so if she was able to live with him and leave him with her parents, she was very fortunate. If her ex chose to keep his son, she could do nothing about it. Suggests that either her first husband was not a suitable father, or exactly the opposite – that he wanted his son to be with Georgia for the son’s sake.
I have a feeling that he was also not a suitable husband and that the marriage was so the baby would have a “legitimate” last name.
Back then, anything might have been their reason. But I think it’s family and you do what you can.
I think you’re right, GP.