Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keeping It All in the Family

Leonard E. Grant, Jr.
After last week’s post about the Grant family photograph I was still curious about several aspects of the Grants and their spouses and children. My main curiosity was about Leonard Grant’s divorce from his wife Emma. I also wondered about Minnie Grant’s first husband, Eldredge Hubbard, and their kids Florence and Clarence. So I poked around a little. What I dug up can’t be called strictly incestuous. But it treads a little too closely to incest for comfort.

Leonard E. Grant, Jr. (1857-1923), married Emma E. Pomeroy (abt 1858-?) in 1891. By 1903 they were divorced. On May 15 of that year, in Chardon, Ohio, Emma E. Pomeroy Grant married a second time to a man named William H. Chase (1850-1914).

This remarriage seems innocent enough on the surface. But what’s a little off-putting is that William Chase happened to be Emma’s former brother-in-law. It's unclear whether William’s first wife, Sarah M. Grant (1853-?), had divorced him or died, but she was the sister of Leonard Grant, Jr., Emma's first husband. I’d prefer to believe that William was a widower when he married his former sister-in-law, Emma.

Eldridge Hubbard living with John Grant in 1900 US Census
While satisfying my curiosity about Leonard and Emma, I uncovered another unconventional arrangement within the larger Grant family. Grace Armenia “Minnie” Alderman (1870-1922) divorced her first husband, Eldredge Hubbard (abt 1852-aft 1930), before 1896. Four years later, in 1900, Eldredge was living on the same property as his ex-wife and her second husband, John Elwood Grant (1870-1915). Eldredge was their hired man. I hope he was living in an out-building or something and not in the same house with Minnie and John.

John Elwood Grant
What could the reason for this unusual arrangement have been? Was Eldredge just too poor to find his own place? The two children of Eldredge and Minnie were also living there. Did Eldredge just want to be near his children? What was John Grant thinking to allow his wife’s first husband to live with them? Maybe they were just very open-minded for the time. Why would Eldredge work under the husband who’d supplanted him? Had this arrangement lasted for the four years that John and Minnie had been married by 1900? And how much longer did it last after 1900?

By 1920 Eldredge Hubbard was living with his daughter Florence and her husband Charles Carnegie. But in the 1930 US Federal Census Eldredge is listed as "inmate" along with a lot of single, somewhat elderly men. My first thought on seeing this was that he’d committed some crime and was in jail. But I suspect that he was actually living in a nursing home or a similar facility—maybe for the mentally ill or the mentally handicapped? He was about seventy-eight years old by 1930, so I don’t expect he lasted much longer.

Florence M. Hubbard Waste Carnegie
But the family antics kept on. Eldredge Hubbard and Minnie Hubbard Grant’s daughter was Florence M. Hubbard (1888-1972). On June 17, 1905, in Hambden, Ohio, just before her eighteenth birthday, Florence married Frank B. Waste (1880-1955). Could Frank Waste be the mystery man sitting next to Florence in the Grant family photo of the previous year? The man resembles the Grants, so I’ve assumed he was a blood relation and dismissed Frank Waste as a possible identity. But considering the tangled web of relationships in the Grant-Hubbard sphere of influence, Frank Waste could well have been related.

The Mystery Man
Florence and Frank Waste had two children. First came a girl, Jesse A. Waste, on October 10, 1906. I don’t know what marital problems Florence and Frank had, but on February 4, 1907, they divorced. A little over a month later, on March 18, 1907, baby Jesse died. Had a sick baby been an unbearable pressure on the marriage? Or was daughter Jesse’s death sudden? I have no answer.

Florence and Frank’s second child, Harold James Waste, was born December 30, 1907, almost eleven months after the date of Florence and Frank’s divorce. Did Florence and Frank live together for a while after the divorce was granted? They obviously had sex after they were no longer legally married. What the heck was going on?

On January 10, 1913, Florence married again, this time to a man sixteen years her senior, Charles B. Carnegie (abt 1872-?). They had three sons: John Carnegie (abt 1914-?), Oren Lewis Carnegie (1922-2006), and Clarence Newton Pete Carnegie (1925-2006). Florence appears as head of household in both the US Federal Censuses of 1930 and 1940 with the three Carnegie boys, but where is Florence’s husband Charles? There’s no sign of him in those censuses. Florence is listed as married, not widowed or divorced, but Charles's whereabouts remain a mystery.

Charles Elwood Grant
Meanwhile, Harold Waste, Florence’s son by Frank Waste, grew up in the Carnegie household. On February 2, 1946, Harold Waste married Helene Thelma Stafford (1902-1985) and became her second husband. Helene’s first husband had been Charles Elwood Grant (1900-1945), a son of John and Minnie Grant and a half-brother of Florence Hubbard Waste Carnegie. So as her second husband Helene Stafford Grant married her first husband’s half-nephew.

The family follies didn’t stop there. Minnie and Eldredge Hubbard’s son, Clarence N. Hubbard, married twice. On May 25, 1912, Clarence married Nellie B. Frisbie (1891-1975), but their marriage didn’t last. By 1951 Clarence was married to his second wife, Alice Rosa Holmes (1908-2003), daughter of Thomas James Holmes, prominent bibliographer of the works of Increase Mather and son Cotton Mather.

Clarence N. Hubbard
When Clarence Hubbard died in May of 1973, his widow Alice Holmes Hubbard lost little time in looking around at the family to find her next husband. Oren Lewis Carnegie, son of Florence Hubbard Waste Carenegie, was the nephew of Alice’s first husband and fourteen years her junior. Oren had been married since about 1947 to Hattie M. (maiden name unknown). But he seems to have been in a hurry to marry his uncle’s widow. Oren divorced Hattie on Dec. 11, 1973, and sixteen days later, on December 29, Oren married his Aunt Alice, continuing the family tradition of marriages of questionable propriety.

Those are all the unusual pairings I’ve found in that section of the family. I don’t suppose there’s room for many more of them. But that’s what I kept thinking after I’d found the first couple.


  1. On first reading, this post made me wonder how this specific family dealt with this melange of divorce, in-law incest, and out of wedlock childbirth. Hard to tell - save the fact they kept marrying each other.

    However, while this family may well have been outside the norm, I think it's more interesting to look at all this as evidence that the alleged "family values" of the past, and the so-called "sanctity of marriage," may be little more than misplaced nostalgia - if not outright 1950s "nuclear family" propaganda.

    We may want to imagine a world of LITTLE HOUSE OF THE PRAIRIE, DONNA REED, and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER - but it's pretty clear from this blog that sometimes Old Mother Hubbard ended up marrying her nephew in the cupboard.

  2. One of the books that passed thru my hands at the library recently was a book on the LITTLE HOUSE series. The chapter I skimmed talked about the dubious legality of the LITTLE HOUSE homestead. The closest I got to reading the LITTLE HOUSE series myself was having the first book (LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS) read to my class in grade school. Maybe I saw an ep or two of the TV series ... Anyway, the book I was skimming claimed that the homestead was carved from Indian land without permission. The family only got title after the army moved in and rounded up whatever tribe thought they got to live on their ancestral lands.

    Eric's research reminds me of the notion that in counting up our ancestors we can safely double them with each generation. Two parents, four grandparents, eight greats, etc. I bet it doesn't take long to go back to, oh, instead of 16 great-greats, 12 maybe ...

    Then who's to say the ones listed in the historical record are true blood kin?

  3. I had BIG WOODS read to me in 3rd Grade, too. Your understanding of ON THE PRAIRIE is essentially correct and fully covered in that book, too. I always resisted the LITTLE HOUSE books when I was a kid - though I really liked BIG WOODS. However, A year or so ago I acquired a boxed set of them all from a thrift shop for dirt cheap and gave them another try and plowed right thru them. The saccharine-soaked Michael Landon God's country aesthetic was almost wholly missing from the books. THE LONG LONG WINTER is a superb survival novel and now a favorite. I may be going against popular opinion but I think ON THE PRAIRIE is the weakest and worst book in the series.

  4. Might be worth another go now that I'm all old and can read fast.