Even Unto Death
Shortly after starting to homestead Mearl suffered a ruptured appendix forcing him to travel to Salem, Oregon, where he would recuperate with his parents. While in Salem he met Olive, a slight young girl. He spoke to her parents, he wanted to marry her and take her to homestead with him in Montana. He was a handsome man with property, but Olive had other ideas, so the family story goes. She was in love with another man. Her family forced the marriage and Mearl would pay for that all his life. She was a hardworking wife, a dutiful wife, but not a loving wife.
She came from a wealthy family, a family related to presidents and senators. I'm sure the sight of Merle's homestead was a very difficult reality for her. Not to mention the fact that her first baby turned out to be twins, twin boys, born on this bleak desolate homestead. The twins were followed soon after by another son. Olive was clearly out numbered by the men of her family.
Mearl and the boys clearly loved her as well. The boys played with her and minded her while their parents worked the farm. Play was not the product of store bought toys, but of imagination. There were horses and pigs to ride, and then the twins found the best entertainment yet.
In a field on the homestead was a rusting rotting corpse of a car, a wreck that had gone to the grass. It was the perfect vehicle for hours of entertainment for the children. The twins took a rope and fashioned a swing inside the car. They had to improvise, there were no trees on this homestead on the Great Plains.
It provided the four children with hours of enjoyment - until. Until Elenor, the baby, decided to venture out to the car alone. She must have thought she was a big girl, big enough to swing on her own without her brothers' help.
Her absence was soon noticed. The search began. They found Elenor hanging by her neck from the rope swing. Their precious little girl had accidentally hung herself.
In her grief Olive blamed the twins for Elenor's death. It was the twins who had fashioned the rope swing in the car and it was the twins who should have been minding the baby. The boys were only children and it had been an accident, but she blamed them. She was a hard hearted woman. How difficult it must have been for the boys to carry their Mother's blame and their own childhood guilt. To this day it has never been spoken of by my father-in-law.
Olive exacted her last measure of revenge in her will. She left her half of the family dairy farm to her third son, three real estate properties and a sum of money in excess of $300,000 to the youngest child (another daughter), and she left the only surviving twin (my father-in-law) the chair she sat in every day of her life. Every day since I had known her. A chair. To look at that chair was to see Olive. A constant reminder of her presence, of her unjustified blame, of her final slight, even unto death.
Note: In the family album Elenor's photograph is identified as "Elenor just before she was killed." Not died, was killed. I think this says it all.
in this case the villain of the piece - or was it.
Homestead. Photograph. ca. 1916. Digital image. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007
Olive and The Twins. Photograph. ca. 1918. Digital image. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007
Mearl and The Twins. Photograph. ca. 1918. Digital image. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007
Elenor. Photograph. ca. 1927. Digital image. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007.