Monday, July 23, 2012

William Strong and his ward

A little while ago I posted about William Strong's furniture store in Chicago. I realized that I had never shared the story of William Strong and his ward, Willa Mena Butler. Willa was my 2nd great grand aunt, sister to my 2nd great grandfather, William Butler. Family records state that Willa was a half sister to William, but "official" records show a different story. But I digress.

The actual story here is the relationship between Willa and William Strong. Willa's mother was Celia Temperance Bliss. Celia died in 1865 apparently leaving her two daughters, Willa and Celia, a large inheritance. In 1870 the girls are living with their father, William Butler.
1870 census, Chicago, Illinois
But in 1880, they are listed with William Strong as cousins.
1880 census, Chicago, Illinois
As it turns out in 1874 the two girls, Willa and Celia, sued their father for his misappropriation of their mother's inheritance, which I wrote about here. Following the suit, the girls could clearly no longer live with their father and would have been too young to be on their own so William W. Strong was appointed as their ward. I can only imagine that her mother's side of the family stepped in to assist them in there mother's absence.

While conducting a search on Willa Mena I came across the following:
Marriage announcement from June 18, 1882 Chicago Daily Tribune.
Crazy talk! He married his cousin? After much digging, I learned that Willa was not William's cousin, she was cousin to William's first wife, Marietta Carpenter Strong. Marietta's father was Philo Carpenter, famous for being the first pharmacist in Chicago and a civic leader. Philo's sister Polly, was Willa's grandmother. So I suppose that makes William a second cousin by marriage to Willa. Either way it is still a bit sketchy.

I have found no record of any surviving children from the marriage of William and Willa. William died in 1900 at the age of 67. He appears to have been a wealthy man, starting out in furniture manufacturing and then moving in to real estate. Every census I found with William included at least 2 servants. The ward did good, I suppose.


zelsersk said...

People did marry their cousins until the late 1800s when it was banned in some places. My my German side of the family, I have found this bit. said...

Lovely tale. I have only recently started investigating my family tree and so far they have all been rather disappointing normal. That said a lot of the family tales handed down(particularly stately occupations and entwined blood links)have so far proved the stuff of nonsense!The one use of 'fancy' so far turned up is some great aunt who was a"fancy box maker" on a Glasgow marriage certificate.
The search continues :-)