Monday, October 10, 2016

She Was a V, A, M, P …

My only memory of the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour is Cher's recurring vamp song, which comes to mind now that I'm delivering on my promise to dish the dirt about Emma Shearer.

I will let this newspaper article from October 2, 1908, tell the story:

2016-10-10. Shearer 1 of 2
2016-10-10. Shearer 2 of 2
(Click on images to enlarge)
Lake County Times (Hammond, Ind.) 2 Oct. 1908.


Although the article gives her earlier husband's name as James Adams, per the county records it was Anthony S. Adams, and the date of their marriage February 28, 1901. She was then about 34 years old, he about 28 — old enough to know what he was doing, you'd think. But what "disclosures" could he have made to provoke her to kick him out of the buggy? My guess is that he hadn't gotten around to divorcing a previous wife … or perhaps had a lot of debt.

After divorcing Mr. Adams, Emma appears not to have married anyone else until November 17, 1906, when she and John Kroledge joined their hearts together. He was ten years her junior. Their marital bliss lasted almost two years, it seems.

Several weeks after the above publicity about their impending divorce, another disgruntled hired man came forward:

2016-10-10. Shearer - Mattas
Lake County Times (Hammond, Ind.) 20 Nov. 1908.

I have not been able to learn the outcome of any of these cases. I assume the divorce came through, since John Kroledge married again during Emma's lifetime.

But I did come across this tantalizing tidbit from the spring of 1909 …

2016-10-10. Shearer Ohearn
Lake County Times (Hammond, Ind.) 13 Apr. 1909.

… which stirred up in my mind a vague memory of Emma and Michael O'Hearn being connected somehow, long ago; so I went searching among my notes and found that yes, indeed, they had been closely connected. I don't know exactly when it started, but by the spring of 1895 they were secret lovers. She was about 29, he about 33. In the spring of 1896 their quiet romance ended — loudly.

2016-10-10. Shearer-Ohearn
Hobart Gazette 17 Apr. 1896.

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Hobart Gazette 8 May 1896.

♦    ♦    ♦

I have yet to learn much about the rest of Emma's life, but at the moment it appears there were no more marriages. In 1910, Emma — living alone, apparently, on her farm on Tenth Street — gave her surname as Kroledge and her status as widowed (the enumerator was Charles A. Blank, who, as a resident of Miller, might not have heard the real story). In 1920, she was still Emma Kroledge, but now "divorced." In her household was a 51-year-old hired man; let us hope he was satisfied with his wages. I cannot find Emma in the 1930 Census.

Emma Kroledge, "widow," died in the Lake County Poor Asylum on May 7, 1932.

2016-10-10. Emma Kroledge obit
Hobart Gazette 12 May 1932.

What little I know of Emma's siblings suggests that all of them were, shall we say, unsettled. I believe brother Charles served a short time in prison in the 1890s; someday I will discuss him in more detail.

Her sister, Mary Ellen, had married John Mander in 1873, and, as we've learned, the marriage was not happy.

"Mrs. Nora Ensign" is somewhat mysterious, because I can't find that Emma ever had a sister named Nora; she did, however, have a sister named Elizabeth E., born in 1857, whose death certificate (1934) described her as the widow of William Ensign … who, according to the marriage records as transcribed on Ancestry.com, married "F. Ellen Shearer" in 1881. We've met Elizabeth Ensign before and learned that she described herself as widowed in 1910 and divorced in 1920. She had two sons, John and Walter (and through John she was the grandmother of Richard Ensign). I can't find Elizabeth in 1930, but I do find a Nora Ensign living in Hobart — about three years older than you would expect Elizabeth to be. Which leads to something else interesting: the marriage records show a Nora Ensign marrying a Fred Kappelman in 1899; and the 1900 census shows John and Walter Ensign living with their mother, whose name is nearly illegible but looks as if it could be "Kappelman, Norra" (you can see for yourself here), and who told the enumerator she had been married for one year. The question is: where was Fred Kappelman in 1900? I have no idea. I have reason to think he was still alive, though I can't find him outside of the local newspapers.

As for William Ensign, I don't know what became of him. I can't find any record of his death.

And as for the "family lot in the Hobart cemetery" mentioned in Emma Kroledge's obituary: I cannot find Emma, nor her parents, nor her sisters in Hobart Cemetery — or anywhere else, for that matter.


Additional Sources:
1880 Census.
1900 Census.
1910 Census.
1920 Census.
1930 Census.
1940 Census.
Indiana Death Certificates.
Indiana Marriage Collection.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

Could they have unmarked graves? Considering she died in the poor asylum that could be one explanation.
What a soap opera!

Ainsworthiana said...

It wouldn't be surprising if Emma's grave was unmarked. I'm mostly wondering about her parents -- at the time each of them died, their children (especially Emma) were not hurting for money and could have afforded a marker. But then again, none of them seemed overly concerned about social conventions.

Suzi E. said...

Interesting family, to say the least. I also wondered why the parents didn't have a headstone either as the they sounded prosperous. For a small town and the era, Emma was quite the free spirit. I guess scandals fade and die away over the years but given the notoriety of Emma it is somewhat surprising that she was lost in infamy. Thanks for bringing her to life!

Anonymous said...

I remember a variation on that song where she sang "She was a V-I-L-L-I-A-N.....she was a villan!"

Jon Casbon said...

Great story! There is a Claudie Shearer in my family tree - married Berton Edwards 1902 in Valparaiso when she was 14 years old. I wonder if/how they are related.