GLADNESS S. LADD 1894-1916

 

Gladness.  The name just makes you want to smile, doesnít it? It conjures up an image of a happy, smiling little girl, with no worldly cares - perhaps wearing a pinafore and pigtails, skipping rope or playing dolls. This image, however, is based solely on my imagination, as I have never seen a picture of my grandmother, Gladness, at any age. Even worse, my mother, Marie Blakely, never saw a picture of her own mother, who died of complications from Marieís birth. How terribly sad.

 

Gladness had a life all too short, surely with both joys and sorrows, but perhaps not enough joys. She was the last of four children. Apparently a "late in life" baby, as her mother, Affa Isabelle (Polmateer) was nearly 40 years old when Gladness was born April 6, 1894 in Sioux City Iowa. The first of the four children was born in Wisconsin, the remaining three in Iowa.

 

Peter A Ladd, Gladnessí father, married Affa in Brillion, Wisconsin, 25 January, 1874. Their first child, Jessie Isabelle, was born December 1st, 1876 in Brillion. Peterís Civil War pension application indicates the family lived in Iowa from 1876 - 1899, which means Jessie was a very young infant when they made the move in Dec of 1876. Why the family left Wisconsin and migrated to Iowa is unknown. They remained there for 23 years, first in Mary Township, then in Sioux City. Jessie died in Sioux City, November 5, 1892, one month shy of 16.  The cause of death is not known. Gladness was yet to be born.

 

The second daughter, Mary Mabel, was born in Mary Township, Iowa, November 3, 1879. It is known that Mary Mabel did marry, but pages from the family bible do not indicate a marriage date.

 

Son, Archie, was born eight years before Gladness, March 18, 1886. He was the only one of the four children to live a full life, dying in a Mt Vernon, Washington nursing home, June of 1968, age 82. Archie was likely the one sibling that Gladness remembered being at home during her early years, as Mary Mabel was 15 when Gladness was born, probably married soon after and left home.

 

Gladness was five years old when the family left Iowa in 1899, settling in Clark County, WI. The 1900 Federal census shows the family in Sherwood Township. The Wisconsin state census of 1905 shows the family still in Sherwood Township, living two doors from the family of Samuel Shoop. A school census of June 30, 1907 shows Hazel Shoop, 17, and Gladness Ladd 13, in the same one room schoolhouse. Known as Longfellow school, it was located in District 4 of Sherwood Township. A little over a month later, August 4, 1907, Archie and Hazel Shoop were married in Sherwood Township, and soon after moved to La Centre, Washington.

 

Gladness was now the only child at home. She likely had friends from the neighborhood, but due to the gap in ages between her and her living siblings, she had likely been raised a bit like an only child.  Death pays another visit to the Ladd family. An entry in the family bible indicates "Mrs. Mary Miller, died Sept 30 1908, age 28 years 11 months, 27 days". There is no indication of place of death. Gladness was 14 years old at the time of Mary Mabelís death. She was aware, of course, of another sister who had died before her own birth, but Mary was a sister Gladness knew and loved. Gladness now knew the sorrow of a siblingís death.

 

And Peter was about to take a new fork in the road.  Less than two months after the death of Mary Mabel, Peter applied for admission to the Wisconsin Veteranís Home, King WI. His crippling rheumatism had made it impossible for him to function, and adequately care for his family. He and Affa entered the home on January 19, 1909 from Neillsville, WI, which merely indicates a mailing address, as the family was still living in Sherwood. Gladness was about to experience a big change. A minor, not yet 15, she evidently was not allowed to live in the Veteranís Home. How alone she must have felt at this point in her young life.

 

Peterís admission records, dated December of 1908, indicate Gladness living in Merrilan WI, with no specific mention of what family she might be with. Affaís brother, Henry Polmateer, is in Merrilan and is named on the admission papers as the one to contact in the event of Peter or Affaís death. It might be assumed that it was Henry who took Gladness in.

 

A very personal death then touched young Gladness. In January of 1910, her mother died in the Wisconsin Veteranís Home and is buried there. By the April 15, 1910 census, Gladness, just turned 16, is in Neenah WI, working as a domestic in the home of L.M. Kimball, Postmaster. It is assumed that she came to Neenah to be nearer to her father residing in the Wisconsin Veteranís Home. Sometime soon after, still in her 16th year, she is a domestic in the home of Josiah B. and Isabella C Blakely. An interesting note is that Peter A Ladd and Josiah B Blakely are both found in the Neenah WI census for 1860. Perhaps they were friends who then kept in touch, though their life paths were very different. Peter entered the Civil War navy and was discharged with disability at age 18. Josiah graduated Ripon College, WI; attended Oberlin College divinity school in Oberlin OH; and served 5 Ĺ years as missionary in China. Gladnessí future husband was born in China.

 

Family lore said that from the time Gladness came into the Blakely home Isabella assumed the role of mother for Gladness. When Albert Blakely came to visit his parents, he fell in love with Gladness and wanted to marry. Albert was nearly 15 years her senior. Isabella said Gladness was too young and they must wait. Finally, Albert, 35, and Gladness, 20, were married September 23, 1914, in Neenah WI. The newlyweds set up housekeeping at his new farm just west of the town of Bayfield, WI. It was in this farm house, one year and four months later, that Gladness gave birth to baby Marie. One week later, Gladness was gone.

 

No substantiating documentation has yet been found, but family lore has it that on January 2, 1916, the snow began to fall and it snowed constantly through January 19, 1916, when Marie Isabella was born. A week later, when it came time to remove Gladnessí body, a team of horses was needed, dragging a huge log, to clear the roadway for the horse drawn hearse.  Clark Bell, future husband of baby Marie, remembered watching these efforts from a hill nearby.

 

The January 28, 1916 issue of The Bayfield County Press gives this obituary:

 

 

MRS. ALBERT BLAKELY DIED WEDNESDAY NIGHT

A great deal of sympathy is being expressed by local people for Mr. Albert Blakely over the death of his young wife, which occurred at the Blakely home near this city Wednesday night.  The death of Mrs. Blakely, while not entirely unexpected, she having been ill for several weeks, is indeed a great shock to her many local friends and the community as a whole, as she was a sweet-dispositioned, generous and lovable lady, well liked and respected by all who had gained her acquaintance during her residence of a little more than a year in our community.

            Mrs. Blakely was born on the 6th day of April, 1894, and came to Bayfield a little more than a year ago with her husband, to reside upon the farm property he had purchased just west of here.

            Funeral services for the deceased will be conducted tomorrow, the Rev. F. L. McKean officiating, and interment will be made in Greenwood cemetery. 

            The Press joins with all Bayfielders in extending sympathy to Mr. Blakely and other sorrowing relatives.

 

The epithet on her tombstone reads "Sometime we will understand".

 

Written by Donna Bell Cross

Daughter of Marie Blakely

August 2005

 

 

 


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