Letting Love Go

Week 7: #52Ancestors – Valentine

By Eilene Lyon

I think it’s probably rare for anyone to have just one romantic interest in their lifetime. Many of us can probably relate a story about someone we’ve loved deeply, but the relationship did not work out for one reason or another. We rarely get a chance to peek into our ancestors’ love lives preceding their marriage. Lucky for me, my Grandma Smith wrote about her mother, Clara Pearl (Ransom) Davis and from this hint, I was able to piece together the following story.

“Clara had been wooed at least twice, once by a barber who contracted tuberculosis, and another time by a very eligible, young Methodist minister.”

Grandma mentions two men who Clara “dated” prior to her engagement with my great-grandfather, a barber and a Methodist minister. I’ve never discovered anything about the barber. In the feature photo above, taken in 1900, 23-year-old Clara is on the right with two friends, Daisie Booth and Chris Frazee. I’ve not found anything about Chris, either. Could he be the barber?


Miles Reed and Clara Ransom at the University of Idaho in 1897 (Collection of the University of Idaho)

In this picture, I thought I might have a clue about the Methodist minister. Taken in 1897 in front of the original administration building at the University of Idaho in Moscow, this photo is my favorite, because of her warm, genuine smile – not a Clara trademark! And what a handsome gentleman at her side, Miles Reed. I was able to research Miles.

He was five years older than Clara and they were probably attending the University together. But Miles went on to become president of the Idaho Technical School in Pocatello (now Idaho State University).1 He was still working there when he died in 1918 of heart disease just before his 47th birthday.2 Not the love interest.

While scanning the photos Clara had donated to the University, I found two of Lewis Wesley Nixon (below). Census records revealed that he was indeed a Methodist minister.3 I had found Clara’s love. So, why did they part?


Lewis Wesley Nixon (Collection of the University of Idaho)

Clara was the youngest of thirteen children born to Robert and Emma Ransom. Seven of those children did not survive past early childhood. Robert and Emma had some difficult times when Clara was very young, and Robert died when she was just six. Clara moved twice before her teen years: from Indiana to Kansas, and from Kansas to Idaho.

When Clara’s older sister, Emma Hockett, died in 1899, leaving two young children, Emma Ransom went to Kansas to get her grandchildren, and brought them to Idaho.  Their father apparently was not able to care for them. When Emma Ransom had a stroke a couple years later, Clara assumed responsibility for the care of her niece and nephew.

According to Grandma’s story about Clara and the minister, “That time she was tempted [to marry], but felt that the minister moved about too much for the welfare of the niece and nephew she was now caring for, and perhaps the man did not want a ready-made family.  In any event they went their separate ways, each marrying and having families, but remaining friends.”

Probably her own unsettled childhood made her feel that the children needed a more stable home. So she let Nixon go, thinking it would be best for them. It must have been a wrenching decision for her, choosing family needs over romantic love. Clara and Nixon did remain friends for life. My aunt recalls Grandma writing to him even after Clara had died. And in Grandma’s photo collection is this image of L. W. Nixon –  “the one who got away” – and his wife, Edith Nixon.


L. W. and Edith Nixon

Feature image: Daisie Booth with Chris Frazee and Clara Ransom (Collection of the University of Idaho)

  1. Year: 1910; Census Place: Pocatello Ward 4, Bannock, Idaho; Roll: T624_221; Page: 28A; Enumeration District: 0033; FHL microfilm: 1374234. Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. 
  2. Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Boise, Idaho; Death Index and Image, 1911-1966. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. 
  3. Year: 1920; Census Place: Argyle, Lafayette, Wisconsin; Roll: T625_1992; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 172. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. 

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