Stuck In the Middle

As far as I know, Thomas Lovewell, whose children and grandchildren all seemed to have interesting middle names, did not own one himself.  There is not even a clue as to a middle initial.  His older brother William’s name sometimes appears as “William B. Lovewell,” leading us to guess that his middle name was “Bedel," but it’s only a guess.  Of all of Moody Bedel Lovewell’s boys, the only one of Thomas's brothers whose middle name I know for sure is Christopher Wolfe Lovewell.  His middle name might have honored the memory of James Wolfe, the English general who died on the same day as his French counterpart, General Montcalm, on the Plains of Abraham after the decisive battle of the Seven Years War and the fall of Quebec in 1759.  There was certainly a Lovewell family connection with the Seven Years War, known in North America as the French and Indian War, and the names of Moody’s children may reflect that connection.

Solomon Lovewell’s middle initial is given as “T” in the 1910 census and in the Oregon death index which recorded his demise in 1912.  A few of his descendants believe the “T” stood for “Thomas," a name Solomon sometimes preferred to be called.  If the story is true, the situation must have made for amusing reunions with his older brother from Kansas.  The name “Solomon" could have been chosen as a tip of the hat to Solomon Lovell, who was a militia lieutenant in the French and Indian War, but later had a spotty record as a brigadier general in the Revolutionary War.  

The enshrining of a family lineage within middle names is seen as the province of high society, perhaps in emulation of the royals.  Many of us remember that endearing moment during the wedding of Charles and Diana, when the young princess could not get the full name of her betrothed right, even when it was divided up and fed to her in small chunks.  Americans seldom go that far, but even over here some family names are glued together with hyphens until they sound like law firms.  On a more modest scale, Professor J. T. Lovewell’s middle name, “Taplin," surely celebrates that historic matchup of five Taplin offspring with five Lovewells in the 1700’s.  The professor’s second wife, Carolyn Forbes Barnes, created the music department at Washburn College.  She is no doubt responsible for the singing talent of their daughter Marguerite, and, judging from the only picture I’ve seen of J. T., also for the “unusually pretty" girl’s striking physiognomy.  After their marriage, Carolyn was always known as Carolyn Barnes Lovewell, while their daughter Marguerite’s name is seen in print as Marguerite Barnes Lovewell.  After her marriage to Harry Kingsley Grigg in 1921, it sometimes took the long form of Marguerite B. Lovewell Grigg.

I'm reminded of a line from Kansas City native Calvin Trillin, who remarked that many of his classmates at Yale seemed to have three last names, although when he mentioned the observation to his roommate, Thatcher Baxter Hatcher, the rich, Eastern preppy thought it all sounded pretty normal to him.

I sometimes go through older postings here, correct the occasional glaring misspelling (It has to really flash for me to see it), and also tidy up a few facts.  The piece on Marguerite Lovewell (“Rising Star”) needed some amending.  I mentioned that Marguerite married a salesman named Harry Kingsley Grigg in Pasadena in 1921.  Unfortunately, I wrote those words from memory, which turned out to be hazy.  On the marriage license Mr. Grigg actually gave his occupation as “merchant,” and he was being modest.  Harry Grigg had been president of a coffee company for decades when the 56-year-old widower, who also lived in Mount Vernon, New York, married 34-year-old Marguerite Barnes Lovewell.  There is probably an interesting family story here, but I’m speculating based on a few scraps of newsprint and public records.

I wonder - after the death of Prof. J. T. Lovewell in 1918, did the checks that funded Marguerite’s singing lessons in New York stop coming?  In the 1920 census she’s living in a boarding house in Mount Vernon with a roommate.  A year later she marries wealth.  By 1940 her younger sister Carolyn Lovewell, another gifted soprano from Topeka who was in no hurry to wed, lives in the same house with Marguerite and Harry and the couple's children, Kingsley and Barbara.

It’s one of the hazards of delving into family history.  You want people to have happy endings, to accomplish their goals and find fulfillment in their lives.  If Marguerite Lovewell never got to stride across the stage of a European opera house, I hope she was satisfied with being a mother and the featured soloist at a large church in New York with wonderful acoustics.  And I hope that her son, Harry Kingsley Grigg, Jr., didn’t mind that his mother called him “Kingsley."     

© Dale Switzer 2023