Three of a Kind

I received a surprise phone call from Thomas Lovewell’s granddaughter Rhoda a few nights ago.  We indulged in a fine long chat during which she revealed some historical information that was stunning news to me: evidence of a first wife for Thomas’s brother Solomon.  He’s the Lovewell brother who, I believe, went West with Thomas in 1859 and kept right on going until settling in Washington Territory by 1860.  The existence of Eliza Jane Lovewell was revealed in land records which Rhoda uncovered in Ringgold County, Iowa.

Until hearing her story I was aware only of Solomon’s later marriage to Lucinda Clanton at Walla Walla and his one land patent in Iowa amounting to a measly 40 acres, the same size as his brother William’s purchase from the federal government.  I already knew, however, that William’s wife had applied for some 260 acres of federal land in her own name, and also understood that William and Martha Lovewell engaged in enough private land transactions by the late 1850’s to make the husband-and-wife team the largest landholder in Ringgold County.  Apparently the other Lovewells in Iowa could not keep pace with William and Martha.  Most of the documents with Eliza Jane’s name on them concern plots of land deeded to the youngest Lovewell brother Alfred or as he’s listed in some of the paperwork, “Alford.”

Land records for Eliza Jane Lovewell appear to be the most important clues to the existence of Solomon Lovewell’s first wife, the girl he evidently left behind in 1859, because the 1860 Ringgold census finds her living with a farm family named Shafer or Shaper, perhaps the household of the abandoned 21-year-old bride’s father.  Having given up waiting for Solomon’s return, on July 2nd 1861 Eliza Jane Lovewell married another Ringgold County resident, a young blacksmith named Myron Barton.  Her second try at matrimony worked out more favorably, or at least more permanently and productively.  The 1880 census shows that Eliza Jane and Myron still lived in Iowa with their nine children.

Why I find this news especially interesting is that it brings to three the number of Lovewell brothers who walked out of a first marriage.  The verdict is not unanimous, but it appears that William Lovewell left Charlotte Bohall and their two boys in southern Indiana, possibly to follow the ’49’ers streaming toward California, doubling back to Iowa by December 1850 in time to marry an older woman, Martha Ogden, a widow with five children.  Thomas Lovewell installed his first wife Nancy and their two-year-old daughter in Clarke County, Iowa, while he headed off to Pikes Peak in 1859.  Now it appears that Solomon Lovewell followed suit, undeterred by the allure of a wife ten years his junior.

If you appreciate irony, consider the fact that two of the brothers who did not desert their wives were the two who died young in the Civil War, Alfred and Christopher.  Christopher was cut down by gunfire at Vicksburg, while Alfred, who as far as we know never married, died in the throes of delirium after consuming poisonous greens at Fort Churchill, Nevada.  Both died in May 1863.  Perhaps it’s just as well that Solomon steered away from military service.

Thomas prospered and lived long enough to be adored by grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  William also seems to have done well, but lived only to the age of fifty-three, a life that still may have felt long, hitched to his third wife, the much-younger but volatile and sharp-tongued Matilda Wise.

© Dale Switzer 2023