Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fearless Females: Wow, I did not know that...

Women's History Month Fearless Females blog prompt: Have you discovered a surprising fact about one of your female ancestors? What was it and how did you learn it? How did you feel when you found out?

Oletha Williams
It was definitely an interesting find when I asked my aunt what happened to my great grandmother's second husband. Her response, "I don't know the name of Grandma Baum's second husband, or her third. Mr. Baum was the fourth and they never divorced. According to my mother, he just 'disappeared."  

So, how did I feel? Here's my response to learning that tidbit, "So, today, I think that if she continued to marry she must have spent her life looking for her prince charming, only to be disappointed over and over again, how sad."

It was not all "doom and gloom" however for Oletha Williams (Stockton, Unknown, Unknown, Baum)! Pictures show a vibrant lady who knew how to have fun. She was a single mom, not an easy position in those days, but she thrived. According to family she was always optimistic and a very interesting woman. 

Oletha J. Williams was born in Jackson Township, Ohio on August 23, 1878. She grew up in Ohio and had two older brothers, Cassius Cerine Williams and Emmet Williams. Her parents were Cyrenius Williams and Nancy Jane Estill. Oletha married Owen Delos Stockton on December 26, 1899 in Brown County, Ohio. In the 1900 US Census they are shown living with Owen's widowed mother, Sarah Winner (Stockton) in Ohio.  In 1910 (US Census) Oletha and her daughter (Lena May) are shown as living with Oletha's mother and Owen is no longer in the picture. They divorced at some point in the early 1900s as Owen remarried in 1916. 

In her adult life, Oletha owned a chicken farm, raised mastiffs, and invested heavily in the real estate market in Florida in the 1920s. If you know Florida history then you know that was a huge gamble and her investments went bust like most everyone else's in those days. The 1940 US Census lists her occupation as a hotel maid.  

There is a 30 year gap in my research on Oletha. She disappears from US Census records after 1910 until 1940. I surmise that she spent most of this time bouncing back and forth from Ohio to Miami with a possible side trip to New York where her daughter Lena May lived with her husband Vito/Victor Abbate.  Finding her during this period is going to require some major research since we do not know the names of her 2nd and 3rd husbands...not deterred however, the search continues! 

Oletha's only child, Lena May Stockton (Abbate) was my grandmother. Pictured to the left are Lena May and her mother Oletha and Lena's children, my aunt Virginia Lee Abbate (Thompson) and my father, Victor James Abbate. The picture was taken not long after the family moved to Miami, Florida from New York in 1936.

Oletha died in Miami, Florida in October 1965, she was 87 years old.

Oletha and her mastiff companions.

Oletha on Miami Beach.
Oletha and friends on Miami Beach.

Oletha and daughter Lena May Stockton (Abbate).

My great grandmother, Oletha and I, April 1960.

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