I’ve dabbled at writing for years, and long thought I’d write a book. Finding a topic that kept my attention didn’t happen easily. I tried my hand at a bodice-ripper, and became bored after 20 handwritten pages (in the days when home computers were an oddity.)
A few years ago, my book found me. I was researching my family history, and discovered that my Great-Great-Great-Grandmother, Mary Howard, had a tragic, forgotten story. I knew she had lost a son in the Civil War and this loss was her “life’s great grief.” I had not known that before marrying my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, she had an entirely different life.
In 1833 she was married to someone else, had 3 children and a 4th was on the way. When”the Cholera” struck Columbus, Ohio in 1833, her life was suddenly changed. In a short period of time she lost a sister, father, mother, husband, daughter, and a son. Another son, a brother, and Mary herself were ill but survived. Her early pregnancy also survived. By spring, the young widow was mother to two small sons, when they sickened with scarlet fever and died.
Mary Howard’s obituaries mention her grief over losing her Civil War soldier, but make no mention of her first family’s existence, raising questions about the grief of losing so many in such a short time. How could the loss of so many be outweighed by the loss of one? Why was there no record of this first family? The questions would wake me at night, until I knew I had to find out more, and tell Mary Howard’s story.
At first, I thought I would need to make up the answers to those questions. In 2013 I discovered that hundreds of letters existed that were written by or to Mary, her father and others in her family. Off I went to Dayton, Ohio to copy those letters. As I transcribed many of these letters, searching for the details of Mary’s life, I realized that this writing project had a mind of its own. I was repeatedly aware that Mary’s father, Horton Howard, was demanding that I tell his story first. No matter how often I told him to sit down and wait until after I’d told Mary’s story, he insisted I tell his first.
So, it looks as though I have a family saga on my hands. First the story of Horton and his three wives and many children, then Mary Howard’s story, and then the story of her son, Howard Affleck.
This blog will share some of my research and thoughts as I write Horton’s and Mary’s stories, and the stories of other members of her family.