The End of Adaline

People who keep track of such matters have long assured us that more boys are born than girls, with numbers more or less leveling out somehow in the end, as if girls are scarcer than boys but also sturdier.  It’s hard to demonstrate this point with the Lovewell family where trends seem to run in the opposite direction.  

Of the nine children of Thomas Lovewell whose names we know, six were girls.  Lydia, born to Thomas’s first wife Nancy, did not live to the end of her first year, dying of a fever around 1850.  Juliana,* the only one of Thomas and Nancy Lovewell’s children to reach adulthood, died in 1894 at the age of 36 after a brief reunion with her father, whom she had last seen when she was two.  While family lore long insisted that Juliana fell victim to consumption, we now understand that the cause of her untimely death was cancer.  The circumstances surrounding her younger half-sister Adaline’s death remained a mystery, at least to me, until a few days ago.

Adaline Kirk Lovewell, born at White Rock in 1872, moved along with her family a few miles west to the little town of Lovewell which was taking shape beside the shiny new tracks of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.  There, in her parents’ parlor, she married Lovewell Station’s first telegrapher, Thomas Clinton Smith, in 1889.  Thomas Smith may have taken on new responsibilities in 1890 after the first depot agent, William Baldwin, absconded with $300 of company funds, took a handcar into Nebraska and caught a train to Denver.  Tracked down and extradited, Baldwin was about to stand trial in Jewell County when his father made good the missing funds, resulting in all charges being dropped.  

By early 1893 T. C. Smith was working for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway as their depot agent in Partridge, Kansas, a few miles west of Hutchinson.  In September he was transferred to what must have been the much more lucrative station at Dodge City, which is where his career went off the rails.  

In the fall of 1895 Thomas Smith suddenly snapped.  Helping himself to several hundred dollars from the freight till, he went on what the Kansas press characterized as a wild, hell-bent spree in Kansas City, involving wine, loose women, and games of chance.  Amazingly, when dragged back home for trial, Smith continued to be well-liked in Dodge City, where citizens petitioned for leniency before sentencing, and clemency afterward.  Released from Lansing in 1898, a year shaved off his sentence for good behavior, Thomas C. Smith may have returned to Addie and his children Augustus and Wynetta, although I’ve seen no evidence that he did.

I’ve wondered aloud for years whether Addie might have been the Lovewell daughter who actually died of consumption, leading to a dimly-remembered legend which became attached to her half-sister Juliana.*  It was a neat hypothesis, but completely wrong.  In fact, except for an apparent case of influenza in 1890, there’s no clear sign that Adaline was ever seriously ill before  July 10, 1902, when the Osage City Free Press reported:

Mrs. T. C. Smith has returned from Lovewell, Kan.  She went there two weeks ago hoping the change would benefit her health but she did not feel so well there as here and so she returned.

By the end of September Adaline must have consulted a physician, because the Osage County Chronicle was able to provide a firm diagnosis:  "Mrs. T. C. Smith is sick with quinsy at her home on Ellinwood street."

Though it sounds like a quaint affliction that might have vexed the Dowager Countess of Grantham on "Downton Abbey," quinsy is a rare and serious condition, something like tonsillitis gone berserk, encountered most often in children or young adults.  A quinsy patient can experience an intensely sore throat, has difficulty swallowing, speaks with a raspy voice, and makes a high-pitched breathing sound known as stridor.

In its December 5th edition, the Formoso New Era reported that Addie and her children had arrived at her brother Stephen Lovewell’s house at Lovewell on the 2nd.  The paper followed up with encouraging news on January 2:  "Mrs. Addie Smith who has been very sick is somewhat improved at this writing.  Dr. Johnson is attending the case."

The next report on her condition in any of the local papers was a death notice in the Jewell County Monitor, which got her married name wrong.

Mrs. Addie White daughter of Thomas Lovewell, died January 8th aged 31 years and some months.  The funeral service was held at the U. B. church and conducted by Rev. John Reiser.  The loved one was weary with this life and was laid to rest in the White Rock cemetary.  She leaves two young children who will find homes with relatives at Lovewell.

By the way, later that same year a pair of novice songwriters would publish a song that quickly became an American standard, and is probably the reason my spell-checker always wrestles with me as I type  “Adaline.”

Sweet Adeline

*For what may be the last word on the young woman's name, see the blog entry “Genuinely Julanay

© Dale Switzer 2023