Looking for Julaney

I’m not completely sure about my great-grandmother’s name.  My mother always told me it was Juliana, but my mother was born twenty-two years after her grandmother’s death, and had to take someone else’s word for it. 

Because her life was brief she appears in only three federal census rolls.  In the first she is a two-year-old referred to by the initial “J.”  In the other two she is a housewife known as Julia McCaul.  The very earliest record containing her name is a list of marriages performed in Ray County, Missouri, in 1871, where the youngest daughter of Thomas and Nancy Lovewell, the only one of the pair’s offspring to survive childhood, appears as “Julia Love Well.”  Julia married a young Irishman named Edward McCaul on November 12 at Richmond.  She had turned fourteen less than two months before the wedding.

She was born September 24, 1857, in Marshall County, Kansas Territory, where her parents were part of an abolitionist colony.  While serving as a government scout in 1859, Thomas learned about the discovery of gold near Pikes Peak.  He hauled his wife and daughter to Clarke County, Iowa, where Nancy’s brother and sister lived, and headed West to strike it rich, probably before his little girl celebrated her second birthday.  He would not see her again for thirty-four years.

The 1979 book of family history, “The Lovewell Family,” explains that Thomas’s daughter, who is always called “Julaney,” was widowed by an accident that befell Edward McCaul at the St. Louis Depot.  Hearing about the village of Lovewell, and desperate for help, she wrote the postmaster to ask him if the place had anything to do with her long-absent father.  The postmaster delivered the letter to Thomas.  According to the family narrative, “he boarded the train immediately and found her there in St. Louis - ill, a widow, and with six children to care for.  He brought the children back to Lovewell, gave them a home in the new town, and saw to it that the children were well cared for until they were grown.  Julaney re-married later to a man named Robinson.  She died with tuberculosis May 17, 1894.”

When I first read the passage, I had no reason to suspect that “The Lovewell Family” was hiding something, and that it also contains an odd little clue about what was being concealed.

When I first went to the Center for Historical Research in Topeka, I was looking for anything I could learn about “Julaney.”  I knew from the 1880 Federal Census that Julia and Edward McCaul lived with their two boys at Carbondale, Kansas, where Edward had a restaurant.  Aside from waiting patiently for an interlibrary loan, going to Topeka was the only way to get a look at the Kansas Census, which was taken in years ending with “5.”  I checked the 1875 rolls but could not find the McCauls living anywhere in the state.

Spooling through microfilmed issues of the Carbondale Independent, I was surprised to see Edward’s name listed several times.  He was a familiar figure on Main Street, an entrepreneur with a billiards parlor next door to his restaurant.  The billiards parlor seemed to take on additional partners as time went on, and the paper reported that Edward was treating his businesses to a new coat of paint, that he was leasing some space to an auction company, and finally, that he was offering a house for sale.

Things in Carbondale seemed to be going south.  I read a short history of the town and discovered that a fire in one of the coal mines killed six miners and three members of a rescue party in 1881.  With one mine closed, the town was further crippled by the national recession of 1882-1885.  Bad economic news would explain the family’s later relocation to St. Louis where Edward had a date to keep with a depot roof.  I thought about looking at the 1885 Kansas Census, but my time in Topeka was precious, and I was loathe to waste any of it.  I knew that my grandmother’s maiden name was Robinson, and that she had been born in January of 1887.  After mourning the loss of her husband, Julia McCaul still had to remarry and become pregnant with Robinson’s child by the spring of 1886.  With Edward McCaul putting his house on the market in 1883, what was the chance that the family was still in Carbondale, waiting to be counted in 1885?  Pretty good, it turns out.

There were still a few minutes before closing time, and I had already run through my checklist of documents to search.  What the heck.  In went the 1885 film of the Carbondale Census.  I found the name immediately at the top of a page: “Julia McCaul.”  No mention of Edward, but there were three children now, including little Alice, born in 1883.  So much for her father finding her “a widow, and with six children to care for.”  Time was running out, unless she gave birth to triplets in the coming months.  But wait, there were other people listed in the McCaul household.

“No way!”

I whispered, but it was a loud whisper and a few heads turned.

Julia was living with a miner named John Robinson and two little girls, Alice and Manie Robinson.  I thought the second girl’s name might be “Marie,” but the second consonant is clearly meant to be an “n,” and “Manie” may be a feminized form of “Mannen,” the name of a Robinson brother who lived in Nebraska.  There were three of her children, two of his, and before long, one of theirs, Lillie Robinson, born in Portland in 1887.  Julia did have six children to care for in 1893.  It had all happened very much as “The Lovewell Family” said.  Events just hadn’t proceeded in that order.  That was the secret:  She not only had two husbands, but seems to have lived with each one twice.  I had a lot to think about on the drive home.

Perhaps originally named Juliana, or Julana, Thomas Lovewell’s eldest daughter seems to have preferred being just plain Julia.  Her name probably appears in “The Lovewell Family” just as her father pronounced it, “Julaney,” with three long vowels.  In her youth her name had been written as “J.” Lovewell, Julia Lovewell, Julia Love Well, and Julia McCaul.  On April 9, 1894, she officially became “The Widow McCaul” when Edward died of pneumonia at the Missouri Southern Railroad Hospital in St. Louis.  A fall from the roof might have broken his back, but left him alive to endure further months of suffering.

Only a few weeks after Edward’s death, Julia died of cancer in Lovewell, Kansas, surrounded by her father and children and a sometimes-husband, John Robinson.  The name chiseled on her headstone at White Rock Cemetery is “Julany Robinson,” a man’s wife but still her father’s little girl.

One cannot write about her without first spending some time deciding which name to use consistently, to avoid confusing readers.  Even today, her identity remains almost as complicated as the life she lived.

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com