Week 4: #52 Ancestors – Curious
By Eilene Lyon
The Putterer’s maternal great-grandparents, Arthur Lewis Gee and Mary Frances Stephens, have intrigued me since I came across their (separate) photographs. I knew that Arthur farmed in his early life, but wondered why he roamed around so much between 1900 and 1920.
In looking closer, I realized I made an erroneous assumption about his first wife, Mary Frances, who died in 1905, the day after her twenty-fourth birthday.1 Her headstone indicates that she was buried with two infants. I thought she died in childbirth with a set of twins. Curiously, the Illinois articles about her death and transportation of her body from Stuttgart, Arkansas, to her home county of Ford, Illinois, do not mention babies.2
I have not found any newspapers for Arkansas County, Arkansas, that would shed light on Mary’s death, nor did the county keep death records at the time. Instead, I delved deeper into the Illinois news accounts.
Arthur L. Gee was born in Woodford County, Illinois, in 1872, the youngest of four children born to William Gee of England, and Esther Forsythe of Scotland. William and Esther divorced around the time of their oldest son’s death in 1890.3 (James William Gee and his wife, Emma, died from a leaky gas stove, though their infant son, James, survived.)4
Mary Frances Stephens was born in Fleming County, Kentucky, where she was orphaned at fourteen. She relocated to Illinois with her older siblings (one sister and six brothers). At age eighteen, she married twenty-six-year-old Arthur Gee in Wall Township, Ford County.5 The following year, in August 1899, the couple had a baby boy.6
Tragically, two days after Christmas, a runaway team pulling their carriage/sleigh threw them all, and the baby suffered a fatal concussion.7 This undoubtedly is one of the two infants buried with Mary. I have been unable to find any record of the second.
I began to suspect that Arthur might have had money issues when I found a notice that his entire farm and all its livestock and equipment were being auctioned in November 1901.8 Was it a gambling problem? I wondered. Arthur and Mary moved then to Arkansas, where their daughter, Cleo Mae Frances Gee, came along in August 1902. She is The Putterer’s grandmother.
After Mary’s death, Arthur returned to Illinois, then in 1906, he traveled to South Dakota to work the harvest season.9 Then he settled in Ringsted, Iowa, for several years.10 He visited family in Illinois in 1908, the year his eighty-year-old father accidentally drowned in East Lynn Creek.11 William’s death notice stated that he had only one son–George. No mention of Arthur.
Arthur remarried in Ford County in 1909 to Ida Joanna Cavan.12 They relocated with Arthur’s mother, Esther, his nephew, James Gee, and Cleo to Livingston County, Missouri.13 Esther wrote her will in 1910, solidifying my suspicion about Arthur’s money problems. It was probated in 1912.
Esther left her farm to her son, George, and much of her remaining estate to her six grandchildren by her deceased daughter, Mary A. Stowell. She specifically stated that she had already given Arthur everything she intended to, and she had a promissory note due from him for $3,300. Rather than forgive the debt, she also willed the note to her son George.14
While living in Missouri, Ida gave birth to two boys. The first, Arthur James Gee, was born in a weakened state (premature?) and lived only five days.15 Allison Lee Gee came along in 1911 and became little half-brother to Cleo.
Arthur finally settled his family in Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, by 1920, living in rentals and changing homes every two or three years. He worked for a time as an auto mechanic, but by 1928 was unemployed.16 I found no further work record for him. Arthur and Ida remained in Bloomington until their deaths in 1951 (Ida) and 1962 (Arthur, age 89).
Feature image: Arthur Lewis Gee at age 46, c. 1918. On back it indicates it was originally given to his nephew, Jimmie. (Collection of the author)
- “Death and Funeral of Mrs. Gee” The Paxton Record (Paxton, IL) Sept. 14, 1905, p. 3 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- Ibid.; “The body of Mrs. Arthur Gee…” The Paxton Record, Sept. 11, 1905, p. 3 – via Newspapers.com; “The remains of Mrs. Arthur Gee…” The Paxton Record, Sept. 12, 1905, p. 3 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- William remarried in 1892, and Esther is listed as divorced in the 1900 census. ↩
- https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/27543698/james-william-gee ↩
- Arthur L. Gee and Mary F. Stephens. Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1800-1940 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. ↩
- “Born, Monday, to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Gee, of this township, a son” The Paxton Record, Aug. 9, 1899, p. 1 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- “Baby Dies of Injuries” The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL) Dec. 29, 1899, p. 2 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- “Arthur Gee will sell at public sale…” The Paxton Record, Nov. 14, 1901, p. 4 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- The Paxton Record, Aug. 30, 1906, p. 4 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- The Paxton Record, Dec. 23, 1908, p. 2 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- “An Old Man Drowned in East Lynn Creek” The Paxton Record, Mar. 9, 1908, p. s – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- “Court House News – Marriage Licenses” Woodford County Journal (Eureka, IL), Feb. 11, 1909, p. 4 – via Newspapers.com. ↩
- Arthur Gee. Year: 1910; Census Place: Rich Hill, Livingston, Missouri; Roll: T624_796; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0111; FHL microfilm: 1374809 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Esther Gee in the Missouri, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1766-1988> Livingston> Wills Vol. D & E images 640, 641 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/100696246/arthur-james-gee ↩
- Employment and residences from the 1920, 1930, 1940 censuses and Bloomington city directories 1920-1937. ↩