Back when I got all those papers of my grandfather's, one of them told an interesting story about his grandmother, Mary Ellen (Curtis) Reed, who died when my grandfather was about 5 years old. She had gone to Central Florida to visit her two daughters, Eliza Reed Ellett and Edith Reed Lamoreaux. Eliza became ill with blackwater fever (a serious complication of malaria) and died on April 2, 1896 at age 26. A week later her mother Mary Ellen Reed died, just five days short of her fiftieth birthday. They were buried together in Love Cemetery in Center Hill.
Verifying this story was an entry in Grandpa's journal, dated March 27, 1958:
"Went on to Center Hill, where my grandmother Reed and her daughter Eliza died and were buried 63 years ago. I wanted to see the graves and find out grandmother's first name. Eliza married Pelham Ellet and went to Florida with him to live. Lawrence was born of the union, and later she contracted blackwater fever. Her mother came down from Fennville, Mich. to care for her, caught the disease, and died nine days after her daughter. We found the cemetery very neat and well cared-for, a beautiful place. The inscriptions read:
Elize Reed Ellet
Apr 8 1869
Apr 2 1896
Gone but not forgotten
Ella, beloved wife of
James L. Reed
Born Apr. 16, 1846
Died Apr 11, 1896
We found two other graves in the cemetery:
Charles G. Lamoreaux 1861-1944
Edith Reed Lamoreaux 1866 - 1948
In August of 1975, on my way to Tallahassee to start my senior year of college, I drove through Central Florida to Sumter County, where Center Hill is located.
I found the cemetery without too much trouble, and parked my VW under the Spanish Moss. I found the same graves that my Grandpa Reed had, but left without looking around any further.
And in October 2008, when my daughter Stacy and I were in Florida for my high school reunion, we took a side trip to Center Hill (actually, two - because we couldn't find the cemetery the first time!). This time, because of all my research, I knew a little bit more about the family. Nonetheless, I was surprised and touched to find a grave for 1-year old Percy Lamoreaux, the son of Edith and Charles. He had died in April of 1895, just a year before Edith's sister and mother died. I imagine it was with mixed feelings of sorrow and joy that Edith took her sister's young son Lawrence to raise as her own.
And there I thought the matter stood, until the other night when I looked again at the album I received last fall. With a rising sense of excitement, I noticed photographs that were obviously taken in Florida, among palm trees and orange groves. Then I looked closely at a photo of a steam roller called the Okeehumkee, and looked it up on the internet. It turns out that it was a well-known ship (there's a mural
of it in the Florida House of Representatives) that traveled up and down the Oklawaha River in the 1890's in - Central Florida.
This is the photo in my album, and there is a photo exactly like it in the Library of Congress photographic collection, here.
And here's a photo that intrigues me - I think it's taken aboard the Okeehumkee, and perhaps it might be my great-great grandmother, Mary Ellen Reed. I think maybe she and her daughters took a pleasure trip before coming down with the fever.
And as for Edith and Eliza, I believe I've found photographs of them, as well.
This is one of the few labeled photos in the album, of my great aunt Edith Reed Lamoreaux, my great grandfather Percy Reed's sister, which was probably taken in Florida, between 1896 and 1910. In fact, I think it may have been taken in 1908, because on the page opposite is a photo of Lawrence Ellett and his cousin Orville Reed (my grandfather's brother).
It had not occurred to me before, but obviously after Mary Ellen and Eliza died, the Michigan relatives continued to make the journey to Florida to keep in touch with Edith and Charles Lamoreaux and their nephew Lawrence. At some point they moved to Miami, where Charles died in 1944 and Edith four years later. And somehow in all of this, the album was left behind, to end up in someone's garage sale, and eventually to find its way back home to me.