Ben Anderson: Tangled Lives

An Anderson couple

Benjamin Franklin Anderson and Nettie Anderson-Probably on their wedding day.

I talked about the sweet love and sad tragedy of Ben Anderson and Nettie Andress Anderson last week. After I published that story, I found a copy of Nettie’s obituary from 1910. Even given the floweriness of obituaries of the period, you can see why Ben might have stayed in love with Nettie the rest of her life.

Nettie Anderson Obituary. 1910

Nettie Anderson Obituary. 1910

Oh, my, what a paragon of virtue!  Poor Ben.  Left with the child mentioned in the article, and the other boy, Telmar Anderson (1903-1982), who was Ben Anderson’s nephew and ward (son of Guy Anderson). One would expect Ben to immediately  find another mother for the boys. But he never did that.

Instead he prevailed on family members to help him out. When Nettie died, Ben’s mother, Mary V. Brink Anderson was already living with his family–or more likely, they were living in her home in Killbuck. It appears from the newspaper article that although Ben ran the farm which he had bought from Mr. Roof, he had a house in town.  The farm was only a mile or so out of town.

(Excuse me if some of this seems repetitive from last week, but there are complications in the story, and I want to remind you of the relationships.)

In 1919, Mary V. Anderson, who had been a widow for 40 years, married a 2nd husband James Kline, and by 1920, the census shows Ben and the two boys living with his mother and step-father, which continued until Mary’s death.

Ben Anderson and Ruth Anderson 1923

Ben Anderson and Granddaughter Ruth Anderson. Daughter of Estill and Dora. 1923

Ben and Nettie’s only child, Estill (1905-1926) left home at 17  and married Dortha “Dora” Carpenter (1905-1954). They lived with her relatives Jim and Esther Carpenter in Killbuck. Estill had two children, Ruth Leone Anderson (1923-1989) and Estill Anderson , Jr. (1925-1991). Estill Sr. died in 1926, when Estill Jr. was 1 1/2 years old. 

During the 20’s, you may recall from what begins to sound like a soap opera episode of Life With Ben, Ben lost an arm and from then on he had a hook in place of one hand  and was unemployed. Telmar had left home by 1930, although I have not located him at that period of time. At any rate, Ben, now without sons, was still living with his mother and his new father-in-law.

By the 1935 and 1940 census, the situation has become confusing. In 1940, the census had a square to show where people had lived in 1935, and Ben’s box is marked as “same house”. The others living with him are listed as “same place” which probably means same town rather than same house. That would indicate that the house is actually Ben’s (perhaps he continued to live in his mother’s house and the father-in-law moved out when she died).

But even though it looks as though it was his house, Ben is not listed as “Head of Household,” probably because he is not employed. Instead, he is listed as “Grandfather” of the Head of Household. That would be Elbert Steele (20), who is married to Ben’s granddaughter, Ruth (Estill’s daughter) who was now 17 with a one-year-old daughter.

Donovan Anderson

Donovan Anderson. Ben’s Grandson and son of Dora and Telmar. Late 1940s.

But if that is not daunting enough for a household, besides Ben, Elbert, Ruth and their daughter Carol, three other people live there.  Dora Anderson (Estill Sr.’s widow) and her son Estill, Jr. but ALSO Donavan Anderson (1929-2001), who is not Estill‘s son, but Telmar‘s son.

Yes, Dora married Estill when she was very young and when he died, she married his cousin Telmar. However—the plot thickens–in this 1940 census she is listed as divorced and Telmar, obviously, is not one of the members of the household. So she was the widow of Ben’s son and the ex-wife of Ben’s nephew/ward. She and Ben were living under the same roof with Estil’s daughter Ruth, a very young mother.

The family bad luck seemed to continue with Carol Ann Steele, Dora’s granddaughter–and Ben’s great-granddaughter. I was excited when I discovered this relative because we were very close in age.  Ah-ha! I thought. A long-lost cousin I can look up. Carol was married three times, starting when she was only 16 or 17. She died in 1987. She was not yet 50.

Ben lived until 1963 and died in Barberton, in the Akron area where many of this grandchidren had relocated. So although he lived to be 83, he certainly saw more than his fair share of troubles. He had outlived his father (who died when Ben was a small child), his wife, his mother, his only son, his daughter-in-law, his only brother (Guy) and he lost an arm.

I hope if I ever locate any other descendants of these family members that they have been able to escape the chain of bad luck that seemed to start with sweet Nettie’s death.

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