What’s In a (Middle) Name?

Sometimes they appear to serve no purpose except to give our classmates something to taunt us about.  Harry S. Truman famously didn’t have one, and seemed to get along just fine.  Hiram Ulysses Grant received a new one, his mother’s maiden name, “Simpson,” because of an error on the paperwork admitting him to West Point, which also changed the order of his names.  He fought the mistake for a while before giving in, evidently deciding that "Ulysses Simpson Grant" suited him.

If Thomas Lovewell had a middle name, no one seems to remember it.  His father, Moody Bedel Lovewell, found his came in handy to distinguish him from his cousin Moody Dustin Lovewell, whose middle name probably commemorated the family’s ties to Colonial American heroine Hannah Duston (Sometimes spelled “Dustin”).  Moody Bedel Lovewell’s father Zaccheus had served as a young ranger under Colonel Timothy Bedel during the American Revolution.  Zaccheus Lovewell’s gesture of respect for his old commander seems to have been echoed by many veterans.  After the Mexican War, Sergeant Nicholas Earp named his fourth son after an officer and neighbor he admired, General Wyatt Berry Stapp, going so far as to cram in two middle names, making his boy Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp.

The family story that Thomas Lovewell and Ulysses Grant knew each other as children is probably just a story.  While they were both Ohio boys, Grant, who was three years older, lived at Georgetown, Ohio, 130 miles downriver from the Lovewell home in Athens County.  Nonetheless, Thomas proudly dubbed his firstborn son Simpson Grant Lovewell, a label the boy would shrug off, preferring to be known as “S.G.” or simply “Grant.”  Sometimes it’s the middle names that win out.

I have no idea who the Rhodes was that the middle name of Thomas’s second son, Stephen Rhodes Lovewell, was supposed to honor.  Once, I suspected that it might be T. D. Rhodes, husband of May Lovell Rhodes, co-authors of “A Biographical Genealogy of the Lovell Family in England and America,” until learning that T. D. Rhodes was only seventeen when Stephen Rhodes Lovewell was born, and wasn’t even going steady with May Lovell yet.  According to “The Lovewell Family,” Stephen’s middle name might actually have been spelled “Rhoades.”  I’ll wait for one of his descendants to enlighten me.

There seems to be something deceptively simple about the name of Thomas’s youngest boy, William Frank Lovewell.  Thomas Lovewell's older brother was named William, and William did have a boy named Franklin.  William Frank Lovewell's own son was James Franklin Lovewell, which also happens to be the name of Franklin Lovewell’s great-grandson.  Don’t worry if you you’re not following any of this, because it’s not going anywhere.  William Frank Lovewell was not supposed to be William Franklin Lovewell.  Thomas wrote out the full name of each one of his children on a pension form, and it was always William Frank Lovewell.

Then I learned that there was a druggist in White Rock called William Frank.  Would Thomas and Orel Jane Lovewell have named their youngest boy after some ordinary country druggist?  It might seem unlikely, except for the fact that William Frank was not merely a druggist, and there was nothing ordinary about him. 

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, where he studied watchmaking, William Frank sailed into New York Harbor on Christmas Day, 1854.  After migrating to Ohio, where there was little call for watchmakers, he learned to be a shoemaker.  When the Civil War broke out he enlisted as a musician, rising to the job of chief bugler for the 15th Ohio Infantry.  After the War Department discharged its musicians, he returned to Ohio, raised a company of infantry and was elected their captain.  He traveled to Washington County, Kansas, after his discharge, where he was a homesteader, tanner, and shoemaker, while also learning the drug business.  In his spare hours, he continued to tinker with timepieces and became an expert at watch repair.  In 1872, William Frank came to White Rock, where he opened a drugstore.  His shop contained the usual stock of drugs, medicines and patent medicines, but also paint, varnish, rubber, toiletries, tobacco, and cigars.  He remained White Rock’s druggist until 1876, when he decided to return to his homestead in Washington County.

Names may be chosen chiefly for their musical value.  Villa Viola Van Meter, Adam Van Meter’s daughter and Stephen Rhodes Lovewell’s first wife, comes immediately to mind.  Others are simply whimsical, such as the ones chosen for Simpson Grant Lovewell’s girls, Violet Del and Pansy Blossom Lovewell.  Some remain mysteries.  Was the middle name of Thomas and Orel Jane’s youngest child, Diantha Desdimona Lovewell, a reminder for Thomas of the Shakespearean troupes who toured the mining camps of the West in his youth, or was it just a pretty, alliterative name?  Sometimes, however, a name is clearly an effort to keep alive the memory of someone who seemed remarkable.  The name given to William Frank Lovewell may have been one of these.             

© Dale Switzer 2016  dale@lovewellhistory.com