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Sunday, November 16, 2014

52 Ancestors #46: Mary Caroline "Molly""Marion" Kells, Writer

     My mother's Aunt Marion, who she always talked about with respect and admiration, has been a bit of a mystery to me in researching the family tree.  Mary Caroline Kells was born 22 July 1889 in Melrose, Stearns, Minnesota.  She was the second daughter and seventh child of Stephen Avery and Isabella Duncan Kells.  Her mother died in 1897 and her father followed in 1898 so that she was an orphan by the age of 9.  Her older sister, Madge, married and raised her younger brothers and sisters, thus keeping the family together.  In the 1900 Census she is called Mollie and is living with her brothers and sisters in Melrose.  In the 1910 Census she is Mary and is teaching in Getty, Stearns Co. I have not been able to find her in the 1920, 1930,  or 1940 Censuses. Apparently she went to college in St. Joseph, Minnesota, at the College of St. Benedict.

     I am going to call her Marion here because that is the name my mother called her.  She hated her name, Mary Caroline.  She was known in the family as Mollie and is still called that in the family of the descendants of her older sister, Madge.  At one point she used the name Marie. At some point she adopted the name Marion, this is the name my mother and her cousin, Roberta Dorr, knew her by. My mother's cousin Cecile said that at one point, after her marriage, she went by the name of Marion Carlyle Kells Feldman. I haven't been able to find her under any of these names in the 1920-1940 Censuses. Her death is recorded under Marion Kells in both the Social Security Death Index and the Cook Co. one.

     According to my mother, Marion was a writer.  I haven't been able to find anything she wrote but in two letters I have that she wrote to my mother's brother, Lyman she talks about writing stories and having three of them off to "the editor".  Hopefully, I can find something she wrote someday, I suspect that she wrote under a pen name.

     I had thought that she never married.  This is what my mother seemed to think and what her cousin, Roberta Dorr, told me.  However, I found a number of photos of family reunions which showed a man named Jesse with Marion.  I put him on the tree thinking that perhaps they were an unmarried couple, a more bohemian lifestyle, not inconsistent with a writer from Chicago.  Then I found their marriage record! They were married in Seattle, Washington, for some reason, on 6 July 1922.  Laura Clark Kells, wife of her brother, Duncan. was one of the witnesses.  Marion's brothers Oakford, Lucas and Duncan were all in Seattle or area at that time, so perhaps that's why the marriage was there. In the photos I have, Marion and Jesse look very happy together.  Unfortunately, the marriage didn't last.  By 1942, when Jesse enlisted in the Army, he was divorced.

     Around 1957, my parents, sister and I visited Chicago. We primarily were there to see my father's brother and his family.  However, one day my mother took my sister and I to visit her Aunt Marion.  We went to an apartment building, up an elevator and to her apartment.  I recall her as tall with a certain amount of presence (or course, old in my eyes as well).  Her apartment was fascinating to me for all the interesting old things in it. Unfortunately, I don't recall very specifically, but probably an Art Deco style.  Marion and my mother had a good conversation and they were very happy to see each other.

     As I said, my mother admired Marian and said she was a writer, Cousin Roberta seemed to be puzzled about Marion, the grandchildren of Madge say that she was a loud, brash person and was a psychologist or social worker in Chicago. All may be true! There is a picture she painted of a floral arrangement that hangs today in the house of Mary Margaret Ellering, granddaughter of Madge, in Melrose.  I think she was an artist and very much her own person.

     Marion died on 14 Apr 1942 in Chicago, Illinois.  I'm going to let her own words end this. She wrote this in a letter to her sister-in-law, Edith, on the death of her brother, Lucas Kells.

     "Death will come but it is not the end.  Whatever there is of immortality, Luke will be rich in its heritage. There is so very much we do not understand: but I believe - and I think you do....I was thinking today of the things he liked and admired and felt that I wanted to carry them on in my life, and as though they were part of his.  That is what we all can do.

                                                         With all my love,

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I certainly remember mother talking about her aunt but didn't remember much about her. I faintly recall the 1957 visit in Chicago, but don't recall going to see mother's Aunt Marian.

    Glad you've been able to piece together something about who she was. Nice letter.