Wire Hangers and Devil-Hogs

I received an encouraging note from Lovewell researcher Phil Thornton indicating that much of the information in my last installment, “Drying Up With Kansas,” was news to him, and he plans to dig deeper into the complicated tale of Nancy Lovewell’s life after Thomas.  Good thing, too, because there’s plenty more we don’t understand.  Phil also brought up a fact that jolted my memory about an angle I should have covered, when describing the McCauls and Turnbulls and their scramble to join the ranks of the middle class at Carbondale.

I usually flinch at the idea of writing about this weirdly blended family, because brevity doesn’t do them justice.  When I try to explain their family dynamic to my own family, I can sense eyes glazing over.  My son usually makes an excuse to leave the room.  Lately he doesn’t make an excuse; he just bolts.  The latest blog entry ran 1,500 words, half again as long as my self-imposed limit, despite leaving out a couple of Michael Turnbull’s children, Michael, Jr., and Fanny.

One or two of Julanay McCaul’s offspring also tend to get lost in the shuffle, because even after all the children were born they never seemed to be in one place when the census-taker called.  Either Eddie, Jr., is missing from the picture, or Freddie is.  Freddie finally tore himself out of the family album altogether, staying behind in Washington Territory after 1890 and living out his adult life in the Northwest as Frederic Caul.

Anyway, back to what fell out when Phil Thornton jogged my memory.

He told me he was astonished to learn that Nancy was living only 130 miles from White Rock, as the crow flies.

Now, there are three things I know about crows:  Besides being idiomatically famous for taking direct flights, they’re smart, and they have a fondness for stealing wire hangers.  Checking the Internet a moment ago, I learned that crows fly in straight lines only when they see something they want, say, a tempting morsel or perhaps a wire hanger, but this is all beside the point.  Phil was correct.  Thomas Lovewell’s ex-wife and daughter were living only 130 miles away by crow-flight, 170 miles by road or rail.  This is eye-opening news for those of us raised on the traditional view that Thomas continued to scour the frontier looking for his lost family after returning from the West in 1865.  At the risk of tiptoeing into conspiracy territory, I’ve sometimes wondered whether his family, particularly his estranged wife, wanted to be found.

After marrying Michael Turnbull in 1872, Nancy suddenly stopped using her first name, preferring to be known as Maria or Mariah until her death in Topeka sixteen years later.  It may be only a coincidence that we also never catch her daughter divulging her own given name in public - until she lost a promissory note and was compelled to publish a copy of it in a local newspaper in 1883.  For most of her life she was known as Julia.  

The name Julanay, in any of its variant spellings is a rare find.  Type it into a search engine and you’ll probably be directed back to this website, or to the composite name JulanaY used as a Twitter handle.  When I set out on this quest twelve years ago, it was with the optimism that the lost girl and her mother would be fairly easy to track, never guessing that Thomas Lovewell’s daughter was concealed behind a nickname, while his wife had completely rebranded herself.  

Was this deliberate camouflage?  In Julanay’s case, probably not.  For Nancy, it undoubtedly was.  In her 1922 pension statement, Julanay’s half-sister Cora Alice Farrar testified that Nancy Lovewell’s daughters were brought up to believe that Thomas Lovewell had died in the Civil War.  It’s also clear that there was a third party who knew the whereabouts of both Thomas and his ex-wife.  When Nancy died in 1888 her sister Jemima Arnold, who lived in Independence, Kansas, dropped the Lovewells a note to tell them of her untimely passing.  Or, rather, she had someone else write and mail the note, because Jemima, like Nancy and many other women of their generation, was illiterate.

While not everyone in that era could write, people did get around.  The 130 miles between Carbondale and White Rock was no obstacle.  In 1884 Julanay boarded a train with her children to travel ten times that distance to rejoin her husband in Washington Territory.  Two years earlier Edward McCaul had gone to Canada to fetch his mother, recently arrived from Ireland.

I’ve learned a bit more about Edward even since my previous posting earlier this month.  In October 1883 a town promoter provided a neighboring newspaper with a list of all the businesses adorning Carbondale’s Main Street.  Ed McCaul’s restaurant would continue to be a town landmark for some years, but in 1883 it offered only “confectionery.”  In other words, it was a candy store.  His wife’s stepfather Michael Turnbull had also stopped pretending to run a bakery.  While the rest of Turnbull’s downhill slide is well documented, Edward McCaul’s whereabouts between 1885 and 1894 continues to be elusive.  A search for him in Washington Territory brought only the interesting story of a man of the same age with a similar name. 

Edward McCall, aged 35, of Renton, has been sent to the Hospital for the Insane.  He has been for some time laboring under the hallucination that the Devil is a hog and has particular designs on him.  So firm a hold has this idea taken of the afflicted victim that the sight of a hog puts him in a frenzy. 

Washington Standard 30 Oct 1885

Maybe Frederic McCaul changed his last name because he didn’t want people to think he was related to that guy.

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com