Hits and Missus

While there are bound to be obstacles when charting a relatively unknown person’s journey through history, genealogical researchers run into a special set of roadblocks when the subject is a woman.  Not only was a wife expected to assume her husband’s family name - often the family names of successive husbands - her identity tended to be wholly subsumed by her husband’s, when her existence was acknowledged at all.  In an 1874 issue of the Jewell County Monitor, a reporter gushed over Thomas Lovewell’s holdings at White Rock, Kansas, naming every kind of fruit tree populating his vast orchard, part of a homestead “which he has (after several years of hard labor) succeeded in making one of the gardens of the west.”  Absent from the story was any mention of the existence of a Mrs. Lovewell, and that at least half of the hard labor had been hers.

Orel Jane Lovewell was born Orel Jane Davis, but would have been introduced as Mrs. Alfred W. Moore, just before she and Thomas Lovewell left Iowa for Kansas in 1866.  Although she stepped out of her second husband’s shadow late in life, her 1928 obituary omits any mention of her earlier marriage entirely and gets most of the details of her life slightly askew, except for her age at death and the names of her surviving children.  Even then, the newspaper truncates the married name of Orel Jane’s youngest daughter to “Mrs. Diantha Hendricks of Sheridan, Wyo.”

By the time her mother’s obituary appeared in print, Diantha was long parted from her first husband, James Samuel Manning, but was still married to her second, Olaf “Ollie” Hendrickson.  Judging from the obit and other sources, there was much disagreement about the exact spelling of Ollie’s surname.  “Hendrickson” seems to have been the most favored version, ahead of a pack of also-rans which include “Henrickson,” “Henricksen,” and “Henderson.”  According to most Lovewell family genealogies Diantha’s marital career ended with the death of Ollie Hendrickson, although it’s clear that she did wed for a third and probably final time in 1944, to Benn W. Walsh in Big Horn County Montana.  

Diantha Henricksen

After Walsh died in 1951, Diantha remained a widow for more than two decades before her death in 1972.  One might expect, then, to find her buried as Diantha Walsh.  I could have kept guessing last names and variant spellings on Findagrave.com, but it was easier to search my copy of Rhoda Lovewell’s new book, “The Lovewell Family Revisited.”  According to her headstone, it was as Diantha Henricksen that she was laid to rest in the Sheridan Municipal Cemetery in Sheridan Wyoming.  If Diantha ever thought of herself as “Mrs. Walsh,” she may have stopped doing so even before 1951.

A relatively unimportant puzzle that cropped up concerning Diantha, is her birth year.  Many family genealogies have her born in 1881 or 1882.  The record of her marriage to Benn Walsh favors 1881, listing her age as 63 in November 1944.  According to her headstone, seen above, she would have turned 62 that year.  However, she was actually only 61 on the day of her final wedding, having been born 27 September 1883, and named after her cousin Diantha Davis, who lived near Hardy, Nebraska.  The date of her birth, recorded by Thomas Lovewell on a pension from, is corroborated by an announcement in the Belleville Telescope on October 11, 1883.

The baby crop over here has just fairly opened.  At the head of the list we will have to put a girl down to Tom Lovewell.  Tom says he never claims anything himself only boys, but I guess he will have to acknowledge the corn this time… Thus the population of White Rock is on the march, and lots of more precincts to hear from.

Some accounts of her life refer to Diantha as a widow when she tied the knot with Ollie Hendrickson, although James Manning’s descendants insist that Manning lived long enough to marry Pearl Francis Aylsworth in Hot Springs, Wyoming, in 1925 and died at Casper in 1939.  There was probably more drama in Diantha’s life than we realize, and it may have started soon after she met her first husband, James Manning.  Thomas and Orel Jane Lovewell’s youngest child was only 15 when she married Manning at Superior, Nebraska, on March 7, 1899.  An explosion of violence occurring barely a month later must have left the newlyweds estranged from at least one branch of the family.

Attempted Murder
Jim Manning Tries to Kill Jake Stofer Jr.

Friday night of last week the officers were on the alert, looking for one Jim Manning, in response to a telegram asking them to arrest and hold him for assaulting Jake Stofer Jr. with intent to kill.  It seems Manning had a grudge of years standing against Stofer and that it was recently increased by Stofer ordering him out of the house a few weeks ago.  Friday evening about train time in Lovewell, Stofer was standing on the street and Manning coming up from behind, hurled a brick which struck Stofer in the head and knocked him, stunned, into the gutter.  Manning then jumped upon Stofer and beat him in the face, breaking his nose, and otherwise severely injuring him.  Shortly after the occurrence Manning fled and up to this writing has not been captured.

Stofer’s injuries while painful, are not dangerous and he will probably recover in a few days from the effects of a cowardly murderous assault.  Manning if caught, will undoubtedly suffer severely for his crime.

Jake Stofer was the brother of Ben Stofer, who had married Diantha’s sister Mary Lovewell a few years earlier.  It seems unlikely that there were two men named James Manning, both having ties to the Stofers, prowling the byways of Lovewell, Kansas, in 1899.  I’ve run across no mention that Manning was ever held accountable for the assault and battery of Jake Stofer.  Perhaps after tempers cooled and bruises healed, the matter was put aside.*

However, I’ve also seen no mention of James Manning ever showing his face in the area again.  When his wife did stop by for a visit, local correspondents uncharacteristically balked at referring to her as “Mrs. James Manning.”  One Courtland paper rather pointedly announced that “Diantha Manning is visiting friends in and near Lovewell before going to her husband.” 

* Manning was arrested in Colorado in the summer of 1900 and was slated to be returned to Kansas by the sheriff of Jewell County.  He never made the trip.  For the reason why see "Jewels from the Vault."

Photograph by Marsha Hanson Dillon from Findagrave.com

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com