Friday, June 14, 2019

2019 #52Ancestors: Week 7 - "Love"

Week 7 of the #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge featured the theme of "Love" (since it was supposed to be written during the week of Valentine's Day). My family tree features hundreds of love stories, but I decided to take the theme in a slightly different direction and write about my great-grandmother, who actually had "Love" in her name: Ella May Lovejoy Kessinger.

Ella as a teenager, before her marriage
in 1897.
Because of two large generational gaps in my family (my grandfather was born when Ella was 41, and my father was born when his parents were about 39), there is a lot more of an age difference between me and Ella than between the typical great-grandmother and great-granddaughter. In fact, Ella would have been 140 this year! And although she died before my father was even born, I think about her a lot. I look at my friends and family who have small children and how hard they work as parents, and I think, "My poor great-grandmother had FIFTEEN children. How on earth did she do it all!?" I'm fortunate to have several photos of her throughout the course of her life, including a couple of her when she was young in beautiful Victorian and Edwardian clothing. But I am most fortunate to have a recording of her from a cottage prayer meeting that was made in 1950, only two short years before her death. In the recording she talks about her love for God, and how she was praying for several of her children, who were not attending church at the time. Many people whose great-grandparents lived at the same time mine did don't even have photos or recordings of them, so these are things that I treasure dearly.

Ella Lovejoy with husband Clifton
Kessinger on their wedding day:
October 31, 1897.
I am also fortunate enough to have several letters that were written to Ella from various family members, and several that she wrote. They are collected in one annotated volume that was compiled by my cousin, the author Linda Lenhardt. The book is called Cliftons and Kessingers: Their Kin, Their Letters, Their Stories, and is available on Amazon. One piece of memorabilia stood out to me in particular: a postcard from Ella to her husband, Clifton, postmarked from City Hall Station 5, NY on September 26, 1927. The postcard had a photo of the Statue of Liberty on one side, and a short note from her on the other that reads: "Dear Husband, I have been to the top of this statue today. You must know I feel better. We took a boat ride over there. I enjoyed myself. Your best friend, Ellie." I teared up when I saw the photo of this post card in the book while looking for info for this post, because about a year ago I too rode a boat across New York Harbor to see the Statue of Liberty. I had no idea that Grandma had ever been to New York City. (She might have been visiting her son, Archie, who apparently lived in NYC for awhile. There are letters from Archie to his parents that have a NYC return address.) The idea that I shared this same experience with her, 91 years later, was just amazing to me.

Ella May Lovejoy was born on Mary 7, 1879, to Alfred Lovejoy and Sophia Lavinia McFarland of Poca, Putnam County, WV. She was the second-youngest of fourteen children. Her mother, Sophia, died when Ella was only two years old, on September 22, 1881. Her father, Alfred, remarried to Mary Elizabeth Wade in 1885, so Ella was raised by her stepmother during most of her childhood. For a long time I believed that Alfred passed away in 1886 because of information found on the tree of a fellow researcher, but according to Ella's marriage record she was married at her father's house in 1897. Alfred does not appear in the 1900 census, so I believe that he passed away between 1897 and 1900.

The Kessinger Family on May 6, 1922: Allie Violet's
wedding day.
Ella was married to Clifton Kessinger on October 31, 1897. They originally lived in Poca, Putnam County, WV, but moved to Kanawha County, WV by 1920. They first lived in Kelley's Creek, but then moved to Ruffner Hollow (now Greenbrier Street) by 1930. Their last residence was on Oak Ridge Drive, where several of their descendants still live to this day.

Ella and Clifton had fifteen children together, thirteen of which lived to adulthood. Their first child, Virgie Violet Kessinger, passed away at 3 months old. They went on to have fourteen more children: Allie Violet, Roy Sleigh, Archie McClung, Calvert Donnelly, Willa Grace, John Thomas, Alva Lee, Alfred Arnold, Gladys Marie, Harley Canalis, Mary Elsie, Robert Hulling, Juanita Ruth, and Harold Warren (my grandfather). The youngest daughter, Juanita Ruth, passed away at age three from a burn injury. The injury happened on her older sister Allie's wedding day, on May 6, 1922. She passed away nine days later on May 15, 1922, at Saint Francis Hospital. The rest of Ella and Clifton's children lived good long lives; five of them lived to be 90 or older, and most of the others lived well into their 80s.
Ella with her husband, Clifton, in their later years.

Ella passed away on November 14, 1952 from congestive heart failure. She was buried in the Kessinger Family Cemetery in Poca, WV. Although she died before my father was born, he remembered hearing about a strange occurrence that happened on the night of her death. She had been sick for a long time, and had been in a tremendous amount of pain. When she finally passed away, the family members in the house shortly afterward heard a strange rattling and dragging sound on the steps leading down to the house's basement. When someone went to check who or what was there, they found nothing. My grandfather said that he believed it was the Devil making his way back to his domain, having done his worst to torment his mother and ultimately lost, since she went on to her Heavenly reward when she passed.

The few pieces of information that I've put together here are only a shadow of the wonderful life that Ella lived. It would take years to thoroughly research documents and anecdotes and compile them into a thorough account of her life. If any family members have stories about her, please share them in the comments, so that they can be preserved for future generations!

~ ~ ~

My descent from Ella May Lovejoy is as follows:

Ella May Lovejoy (1879 - 1952)

Harold Warren Kessinger (1920 - 2012)
Son of Ella May Lovejoy

Joseph Wayne Kessinger (1958 - )
Son of Harold Warren Kessinger

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Joseph Wayne Kessinger

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