Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Carolyn Sykes Guernsey Santonge

We now get another glimpse of life in the Otis Guernsey family, thanks to Annamarie Dunford, great-great-granddaughter of Otis and Amanda by their youngest daughter, Carolyn (aka Carrie), born circa 1901.

This is the daughter whom Otis and Minnie visited in St. Louis in the spring of 1921, by which time apparently she was married to Joseph Santonge. I reported on that visit so off-handedly, knowing none of the background … but Carrie's oldest daughter Irene has left us an idea of the years of unhappiness and separation preceding that visit, in these few lines written at some point in her life (and I wish she'd written more):

Text by Irene Santonge
(Click on images to enlarge)
Images courtesy of Annamarie Dunford.

My transcription:
Carolyn Guernsey ran away from home at the age of nine. Her father Oatis kept track of her but never forced her to return. Her mother [Amanda], a full blooded Cherokee, had been burnt to death when [Carolyn] was only two. Amanda worked in a shoe factory on the second floor to help supplement their income during a drought year. When fire broke out she had no chance. Oatis married a woman [Minnie] who mistreated and abused the younger children. Oatis was found in his cornfield in 1926 with his head bashed in. Assailants unknown.
You will notice, first of all, that the story of Amanda's death came down to this granddaughter in an altered version — retaining the essential horror of death in a fire, but scrubbed of the scandalous details of her lover and their elopement.

That's an interesting remark about Otis being attacked in his cornfield, isn't it? It sounds as if Irene was telling about his death — which actually occurred in 1927, but that could easily be misremembered by a grandchild. This is the first I've heard of any attack on Otis that may have killed him, but then again I haven't read the 1926-1927 newspapers in any detail. Annamarie relates that her grandmother told her Otis was killed because he had married an American Indian (Amanda). And yet his death certificate contains no mention of head wounds:

Otis Guernsey death certificate

"Chronic valvular heart disease" is the cause of death. Surely Dr. Dwight Mackey would have known a fractured skull when he saw one. This is very intriguing, and perhaps as I continue to read the microfilm I will eventually find out what really happened — or what was reported at the time, which is the best I can hope for.

While reading the binder of genealogy notes at the Merrillville museum, I came across another little portrait of life in Otis Guernsey's household, apparently from an undated interview with his oldest daughter, Nellie:
They all worked very hard. They were without a mother from the time Nellie was two. Father [Otis Guernsey] had to care for them. Nellie grew up in Deep River — her father raised them and was very strict with them. He really raised the switch to them. They were very poor, so poor that Otis put bibbed-overalls on Nellie and sent her to school. Nellie worked hard on her childhood home and had very little enjoyment like most young girls. She worked hard all her life. Also after marriage she just got used to hard work. Raised 6 children and worked hard for them.
I don't know quite what to make of that remark about being without a mother "from the time Nellie was two." Nellie was born in June 1895 (1900 Census), so she was eight when Amanda died in October 1903. It's possible the interviewer misunderstood Nellie, or made a mistake in the notes; it's possible that, so many years later, Nellie was a bit confused about dates; or perhaps this means that Amanda was not consistently in the home throughout her marriage to Otis, so Nellie felt motherless even while her mother was still living.

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So, getting back to Carrie: by 1921 she had married Joseph Santonge. I can't find a record of the marriage, so I don't have an exact date. Though I can't find either of them in the 1920 census, we know from the spring 1921 visit that Carrie was living in St. Louis (and that she was on good enough terms with her father and step-mother to allow them to visit her).

Carolyn and Joseph Santonge had three children: Irene was born March 26, 1921; Dorothea June 25, 1923, and Anna Marie September 18, 1925.

Here is Carrie with her three young daughters in 1925:

Carolyn and the kids

Here are the children in 1928:

Santonge kids + 1

Front row, left to right: Dorothea, Anna Marie, unidentified; the tall girl in back is Irene.

And this is Carolyn in 1939:

Carolyn Guernsey Santonge

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For Guernsey genealogists, Annamarie has sent me some of her research:

Guernsey-Garnsey family tree

Chester Smith Guernsey was Otis Guernsey's father.

Guernsey, Chester Smith

C.S. married Elizabeth Dibble.

Dibble, Elizabeth

C.S.'s father, Hosea …

Garnsey, Hosea

… had married Seviah Cunningham.

Cunningham, Seviah

Details of Otis' marriage to Minnie:

Guernsey-Jones marriage

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12/6/2014 update — Just a little more information to add, from Annamarie:

(1) An interesting detail about Amanda Rex (McDonald?) Guernsey has been handed down through the descendants of her daughter, Caroline — namely, that Amanda used to ride horses at the state fair.

(2) Carolyn Guernsey married Joseph Santonge in 1920. They divorced sometime time after the birth of their third daughter (Anna Marie). Sometime in 1934 Carolyn married Albert Berendt; they lived in St. Louis City, Missouri. She was born 4-3-1902, and she died 12-25-1941.

Here is her death certificate:

Berendt, Caroline - death certificate
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of Missouri Digital Heritage.

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