History Repeats

Week 37: #52 Ancestors – Mistake

By Eilene Lyon

Thomas Harvey Ransom, the only son of Dr. William C. Ransom to reach adulthood, emulated his father quite readily. Unfortunately, W. C. Ransom was not a good role model. Harvey (as he was known) took the mimicry a step too far, and it cost him dearly.

My family tree used to show Harvey Ransom with his wife, Nellie Pearl Wiggins, and their three children. What I discovered when working on an article about his father for Michigan History magazine, was that Harvey had other wives, and another child.

Harvey was born in Grant County, Indiana, in the summer of 1870.1 His parents were William C. Ransom and William’s third wife, Emily Hodgson. When William married Emily in 1865, though, he was still married to Edith M. Nickel of Crescent City, California.2 Not only did he abandon his California wife, he abandoned his three daughters (by his first wife, Ann Jane Jenkins, d. 1863), leaving them in Oregon when he returned to Indiana after the Civil War. Nice guy, right?

Rackleff family - Hunter
Two of William Ransom’s three daughters: standing is Indiana “Nannie” Ransom, on right is Cordelia Ransom Rackleff. Cordelia’s husband, William E. Rackleff and their first three children are also pictured. (Courtesy A. Hunter)

William and Emily Ransom also had a daughter, but she died very young, so Harvey essentially grew up as an only child, not knowing his three half-sisters.3 Following in his father’s footsteps, Harvey went to medical school and upon graduation went into practice with William in South Haven, Van Buren County, Michigan.4

If William Ransom hadn’t made a spectacle of himself in the national news, I might not have learned about Harvey’s first-born child and first wife. Just before William’s grand disappearing act in 1894, he was reported as hugging his little grandson goodbye.5 Whoa! Harvey didn’t marry Nellie until 1902, so this boy had to be from an earlier marriage.

It turned out that while still in medical school, Harvey married Eula Hulbert.6 They had a son they named Litt R. Ransom (no middle name, just an initial) in September 1891.7

William Ransom eventually turned up in Oregon, after running off with the widow of one of his patients.8 There, he visited his grown daughters, possibly for the first time in 30 years. He made one short trip back to Michigan to see Emily, his wife of about 35 years, but they did not reunite.9 William become a bigamist again, instead!10

Dr Ransom visit
Coquille City News, November 3, 1894. William turns up visiting his daughters, Nannie and Cordelia.

Harvey, seeing that his father was living it up on the west coast, decided the time was right to go meet his sisters. Leaving his wife and son in Michigan, Harvey took up a medical practice in Coquille City, Oregon, that William had established. William “and lady” moved to Portland to start up another practice.11 (I do not know the identity of this woman. One article suggests it was Emily.)

RAnsom and lady
Coquille City Herald, March 17, 1896.
Dr Harvey
Coquille City Herald, May 5, 1896. Harvey’s name is misspelled here as “Harry.”

However, Harvey soon left Coquille City, after having charmed his way through the local society, and followed his father to Portland. There, without benefit of a divorce from Eula, Harvey married again, to Florence L. Smith.12 Florence was born in Van Buren County, Michigan, so she probably came out to Oregon to be with Harvey. The newlyweds moved back to Michigan.

Ransom-Smith marr 1896 (1)
Multnomah County, OR, marriage return for T. H. Ransom and Florence L. Smith.

Not surprisingly, Harvey’s wives took a dim view of the bigamy. Both women divorced him: Eula in 1897, Florence in 1900.13 Eula, taking Litt with her, remarried. Florence died of peritonitis in 1904, just 27 years old.14

Harvey then married Nellie Pearl Wiggins and had three children with her (Theone, Ruth, and Milan). I do not know how much contact he had with Litt, because Litt’s step-father, Fred Greene, moved the family to Wisconsin.15 Sometime after Fred died in 1920 and prior to 1923, Eula and Litt moved to Pasadena, California.16

Harvey and Nellie divorced in late 1929.17 By the time of the 1930 census, Harvey had married his fourth wife, Pearl Blanche Schneider, and moved to Burbank, California.18 For the first time in over 30 years, Harvey and his son Litt were living in close proximity.

On his World War II draft registration, when he was 50 years old, Litt named Dr. T. H. Ransom as his next-of-kin (person who would know his whereabouts), and gave Harvey’s address as “City Hall Burbank Calif.”

1942 WWII Litt R Ransom CA - A 9-12-19
WWII Draft registration for Litt R. Ransom. (Ancestry.com)

When Thomas Harvey Ransom died on June 3, 1946 in Burbank, the death notice named his widow as Carma Anne.19 Thus, just like his father, Harvey had at least five wives. Hopefully, he never repeated the bigamy stunt. Litt R. Ransom never married.


THRansom death notice
Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1946, p. 18. (Newspapers.com)

Feature image: by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

(Apologies for the extensive footnotes!)

  1. Rowland, O. W. 1912. A History of Van Buren County Michigan, Vol. II., The Lewis Publishing Co. Chicago and New York, p. 904. AND Thomas H. Ransom, Year: 1900; Census Place: Bloomingdale, Van Buren, Michigan; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0134; FHL microfilm: 1240745 – via Ancestry.com. (Note: another biography gives his birthplace as Hartford City, Indiana.) 
  2. Marriage to E. M. Nickel published in the Oregon Sentinel (Jacksonville) on June 18, 1864. Divorce of Edith and W. C. Ransom published in the Oregon Sentinel on May 25, 1867. 
  3. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/23627488/nevada-s-ransom 
  4. Portrait and Biographical Record of Kalamazoo, Allegan, and Van Buren Counties, Michigan. 1892. Chapman Bros., Chicago, p. 803. 
  5. “Dr. Ransom’s Disappearance.” The Semi-Weekly Palladium (Benton Harbor, MI) August 3, 1894, p. 1 – via Newspapers.com. 
  6. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952; Film: 42; Film Description: 1890 Midland-1890 Wexford- via Ancestry.com. 
  7. Litt Ransom. Year: 1900; Census Place: Lake Geneva, Walworth, Wisconsin; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 0092; FHL microfilm: 1241821 – via Ancestry.com. AND Litt R. Ransom. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. 
  8. “Dr. Ransom Said to be in Kentucky.” Chicago Tribune, August 23, 1894, p. 3– via Newspapers.com. AND Coquille City News, November 3, 1894, Oregon Historical Newspapers. 
  9. Transcription of a letter from Cordelia E. Rackleff to her sister, Marietta Haines dated November 17, 1900. Collection of M. Gill. 
  10. William Ransom married a woman named Georgia in Oregon about 1899 and they moved to Skagway, Alaska, shortly afterward. Georgia left William and he obtained a divorce in 1905. Emily had a pending divorce petition in Van Buren County in September 1900. Thus, William was a bigamist for a second time. 
  11. Coquille City Herald, March 17, 1896. Oregon Historical Newspapers. 
  12. Ancestry.com. Web: Multnomah County, Oregon Marriage Index, 1855-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. 
  13. Eula filed for divorce on November 2, 1897 and the case was dismissed on November 8, presumably because of the fact that Harvey was married to and living with Florence – a de facto divorce, if not a legal one. Ancestry.com. Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. AND Van Buren County Chancery Court record granting Florence L. Ransom a divorce from Thomas Harvey Ransom on October 3, 1900 (Family Search, page 2996). 
  14. Florance Ransom [sic]. Ancestry.com. Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. 
  15. See Note 7. 
  16. Eula Green. Year: 1930; Census Place: Pasadena, Los Angeles, California; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 1276; FHL microfilm: 2339905 – via Ancestry.com. Also, a newspaper article indicates Litt was performing in an amateur theater company in 1923. 
  17. Ancestry.com. Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Nellie filed the petition citing “extreme cruelty” as the reason for the divorce. Harvey contested, but it was granted. Nellie did not receive alimony, however. 
  18. Thomas and Pearl Ransom. Year: 1930; Census Place: Burbank, Los Angeles, California; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0852; FHL microfilm: 2339860 – via Ancestry.com. 
  19. Death notice for Thomas Harvey Ransom. Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1946, p. 18 – via Newspapers.com. 

43 thoughts on “History Repeats

Add yours

  1. You’re doing extremely well here (I hope that comes out right) with your doggedness to uncover the detailed truths about your ancestors. Some of them make for fascinating reading.
    I have one of my own related to possibly my own fathers bigamy and transfers in the British army during WWII which s quite stressful to even think about. But it MUST be done, I just need to stir myself to do it. But reading your stuff is an inspiration to set me off.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Ransom family always takes the cake. They keep drawing me back for more. I don’t know much about Litt. He served in WWI and afterwards worked as a salesman for many years. In 1923 he was involved in an amateur theater group. Perhaps he hoped to be a movie star one day.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Someone had to break the chain, mercifully, and so it was Litt.

    Harvey and William were wife collectors in a time before the reality television show, and really . . thank God for the timing of that at least.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL, there’s a thought.

        It made me think about these stories you read, where people carry on a life with families in two different places. I always am like, HOW? One family is exhausting enough at times! LOL

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, Interesting fella for sure. I too have a bigamist Great-grand father. He was contortionist and tightrope walker in circus, staged named The great Elmourne, he married my great-grand mother in Margaree, Cape Breton around 1902 they had three children together and ran away and married another lady, she was supposedly an actress or singer. They settled in New York city some where and he changed his name. Little is known of him. Good read thanks for sharing Eilene

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think he was not just handsome but very charming. In the story about his father, I got a glimpse of how he interacted with a young man on the “world cruise” ship. He really knew how to focus on a person’s strengths and use flattery in a very effective way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Usually pictures in the ghost-movies are made in such brownish-darkish-sepia-tone… & plus all the family is serious and nice, sitting close to each other (powerful, nostalgic touch, strong & ready to haunt you down😱😂 any time)

        Liked by 1 person

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