A Good, Long Cry

It occurs to me that when I shared a family photograph a few days ago, I should have given a more complete account of the elderly lady who posed on a couch next to her newest grandson in 1962.  Lillian Logan was the daughter of the woman who is depicted at Thomas Lovewell’s side in the banner atop every page on this website.  The woman in the banner is, of course, Thomas Lovewell’s daughter Julany.*

Almost all of the children born to Thomas and Nancy Lovewell in Illinois and Iowa, died in infancy.  Only two-year-old Julany lived long enough to wave goodbye to her father as he headed west for Pikes Peak in 1859.  Father and daughter were photographed together in 1893 to commemorate their recent reunion and her rescue from a St. Louis slum.  She was probably thirty-five when they sat for the portrait at a photographer’s studio in Courtland, Kansas, shortly after Thomas had installed his daughter and four of her children in a cozy little cottage in the village of Lovewell.

There seems to be no good reason to doubt the standard family tale that one of Julany’s neighbors in St. Louis, a railroad worker, mentioned the name of a new town along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe line in northern Kansas.  The ailing mother with six hungry children and a husband who lay dying in a railroad hospital, wrote the Postmaster of Lovewell to inquire whether the name of the new town had anything to do with her long-lost father.  It did indeed, and when alerted to her plight the founder of Lovewell took the next eastbound passenger train to St. Louis.

After Julany died of cancer the following spring, Lillian and her half-sister Alice lived off-and-on with Thomas and Orel Jane Lovewell or at the house in Lovewell inherited by one of their brothers.  Alice, who was three years older than Lillian, married and moved away.  At seventeen, Lillian married the boy next door, William Finley “Will” Logan,  the son of Thomas Lovewell’s friend and the town’s blacksmith and sometimes Justice of the Peace, James William “Bill” Logan.

Bill Logan moved his smithy to the nearby town of Formoso.  After a disappointing stint working for a carriage-maker in Wheatland, Wyoming, his son Will hauled his family to Formoso as well, eventually taking over his father’s business.

Late in life Lillian Logan asked one of her daughters to drive her to the old White Rock Cemetery east of Lovewell so she could visit her mother’s grave.  When they found the headstone for Julany Robinson, Lillian was overcome with emotion, crying loudly into a kerchief for several minutes before finally composing herself and slowly making her way back to the car.

My mother told me that story after passing along a copy of Roy V. Alleman’s The Bloody Saga of White Rock, a fictional treatment of Thomas Lovewell’s life story, blended with some actual history.  I knew the moment I heard my mother’s tale of the visit to White Rock Cemetery that I needed to see my great-grandmother’s headstone for myself.

We finally arranged for a visit on the last day of 1998, the coldest day that winter.  We stayed for only a few minutes but it was all I needed.

Over the next several weeks I began to understand that the inscription on Julany Robinson’s headstone completely derailed the traditional timeline for Thomas Lovewell’s adventures in the American West.  I’ve spent several years since then trying to winnow out the myths, reduce the tall tales to life-size, and set events in a logical order based on documentary evidence.

And I set out along that path mainly because an old lady once needed to be taken for a drive and have a good, long cry. 

* Her name is variously given as Julany, Julaney, Julanay, Juliana, and Julia

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com