I had initially scheduled this week’s posts to continue the Stanley saga, but I think it’s important to switch my focus for a short time. Today, September 26, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of Stanley’s sister, Lena.
Mary Magdalena Smith, known by friends and family alike as Lena, was born in 1895. She was the fourth consecutive daughter born to her parents, George Henry and Mary Lucinda (Rauch) Smith. By all accounts, Lena and her two surviving older sisters, Clara and Minnie, were extremely close.
As a result, her death at the age of 22 came as a tremendous, devastating shock to her sisters. When I first started researching our family tree as a teenager, my grandma Lucia, Clara’s daughter, told me her story.
According to Grandma, Lena had moved from small town Ohio to Boston in her late teens. While there, she became involved with a young man from a prominent family who did not approve of their relationship. What happened next was a mystery. Suddenly Lena turned up dead. Lena’s father and brothers-in-law traveled to Boston to collect her body and bring it home for burial in the family plot.
It seemed that perhaps some foul play had been involved in Lena’s death. Grandma wondered whether the family had arranged to have her put out of the way.
Considering that my grandmother wasn’t born until six years after Lena’s death, this story had clearly made the rounds in the family a time or two. Clara probably spent the rest of her life wondering what had happened to her beloved sister. Certainly Grandma was keen to know whether this was a mystery that might be solved.
Several times over the years, I began searching for Lena. But you know how genealogy is. There are so many amazing, interesting things to discover. It is so easy to get diverted and end up off down the rabbit hole! And so I had practically forgotten about Lena–until last week, that is.
I was chatting to a Smith cousin (Hi Cheryl!) when it occurred to me to ask her whether she had ever heard Lena’s tale. After all, her grandfather was one of Lena’s siblings. She hadn’t, but just telling the story again lit a fire under my rear end.
I searched once more for her death certificate and this time, I hit paydirt!
Next Time: The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith, Part Two