Sunday, March 29, 2015

Learning about Mr. Ed

I've been on a Beilstein kick this weekend. I was looking through some of the records I have on my 2nd-great-grandmother Philena Emily "Lena" Beilstein, using Rootsmagic 7's Web Hints feature to link my tree to records in FamilySearch and MyHeritage. Pretty awesome little feature, I must say! While linking records to her entry in my family tree, I noticed that my data on her 2nd-to-last husband, James Edward Layfield, was a little sparse. My grandma told me that Ed, as he was known, was the husband she was happiest with, though I don't know exactly why that was (didn't think to ask what made her happier with him than the others). So I thought I'd do some digging and see what I could learn about him.

Lena and James Edward Layfield
I found he was born in Detroit about 1874. I'm not sure who his parents were - one record says they were Edward and Elizabeth (Williams) Layfield, and another says they were Charles and Annie Layfield. I spent a little time looking, but couldn't confirm either set of parents, so for now James' parentage is unknown. He worked much of his life as a cook, including some time spent working for a hotel in Butte, Montana, but also apparently (like so many others) worked in the mines in Montana. He was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair. By 1909 he had moved to Montana, as that's when he married Agnes Browning, daughter of D.H. Browning and Jane Garner. They had been married for 15 years, thought with no children I could find record of, when Agnes passed away.

A few years later, he and Lena were married in August of 1932. They lived on Utah Avenue in Butte while Ed continued to work as a cook. Then, in early 1937, Ed became ill and a short time later, passed away on March 14, 1937. He and Lena had been married just 4 1/2 years.

If Lena and Ed were only married such a short time, where did my grandma get the information or idea that Lena's happiest marriage was to Ed Layfield? Part of me wonders if it was because (as far as I can tell) Ed was the only husband Lena lost to death. I still don't know what became of Jack White, her 4th husband, or Charles Roper, her 6th and last husband (though I suspect he may have died while married to Lena, as she's listed in a 1948 Butte directory as Mrs. Lena Roper). Theirs wasn't her shortest marriage, and I don't really have any other details about it than that one statement from my grandma. But whatever it was about their marriage, it was enough to make an impression on Lena's granddaughter, who passed it on to me.

One interesting side note. Ed's first wife, Agnes Browning, was born in Utah around 1858. That would have been just 11 years after the Mormons first settled the Salt Lake valley, which got me wondering if she was Mormon. It also clicked in my head that Jonathan Browning, inventor/improver of some types of rifles, was Mormon, and I wondered if there was a connection. A quick search of FamilySearch showed that, indeed, Jonathan Browning was her grandfather's brother. It looks like Agnes never joined the church though. That gives her something in common with Lena's first husband, David Briscoe, whose parents were also Mormon and apparently raised their kids in the church, but David never joined from what I can tell. Who knows, maybe Lena and Ed talked about their quasi-Mormon former spouses?


Sierra said...

Don't discount the family story. My husband's great grandmother was married 7 times. She is buried with husband #5 even though husband #7 outlived her. #5 was her favorite husband and they were only married 3 1/2 years before he died of cancer.

ironhide781 said...

I didn't mean to imply I doubt the story. I just wonder why she favored Ed over the others, or at least gave the press ion that she did.