Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Mary Ellen Stephens
Mary Ellen Stephens was born on the 11th of June, 1861, the first child of Andrew Jackson Stephens and Susan Smiley of Pulaski County, Kentucky. Mary Ellen is my great-grandmother on my father's side. Her son was my grandfather, Andrew Montgomery Goff.
The Stephens family is an interesting one to study, because the Stephens and the Smileys appear to be so different. Susan's father was a Baptist preacher, Eliphalet Smiley. Her mother, Eleanor (nee Holmes,) must have been the classic preacher's wife, moving with him from Virginia to Kentucky to plant churches and spread the Gospel.
Andrew's father, Ebenezer Stephens, however, was entirely different. Ebenezer apparently couldn't be without a wife. He married often and always younger. On his deathbed, Ebenezer sent a letter to the Justice Of the Peace to hurry on to his house so they could get the marriage on with, because he was too tired to make the trek into town. I'm not entirely sure yet who Andrew's mother is. I'm still working on that one.
Andrew, however, by all indications was a strict disciplinarian with the children who came after Mary Ellen; however, the war would take him away the following year, and he would not return to Somerset until the Civil War was over. By that time, his one and only child, Mary Ellen, would have been five years old. From that point on, family lore has it that Mary Ellen was demonstrably spoiled.
Mary Ellen was married a first time to a man from New Jersey, an apparent travelling salesman. This was a shotgun wedding, but I have not been able to document what exactly happened to her son. I do believe that Andrew and Susan reared him but as yet cannot prove it. The family is also not sure what happened to her husband. She left the state for awhile, but she came back and married again. That marriage ended in divorce.
Mary Ellen married my great-grandfather, Richard Goff, in 1891. She gave birth to Andrew Montgomery on June 28, 1892 and Icy May in 1984. I remember my grandfather talking about his mother. His father, Richard, died on November 23, 1906, when he was 14. Mary Ellen moved back in with Andrew and Susan. Andrew played the fiddle, and he's the one who taught my grandfather to play. They were very poor, and that was their only form of entertainment.
At some point, Mary Ellen started taking her children to church at Pittman Creek Baptist Church. The lived in a little patch of dirt called Strawberry, Kentucky. When Andrew turned 16, he got work on the barges moving on the Cumberland River. Icy married Colonel Heath in 1910. Andrew married Nellie Hughes on April 29, 1913. I know from my father's recollection that Mary Ellen became ill in the fall of 1917 and died on January 3, 1918.
I have only superficial documentation of her death, at this point, but she is interred in Love's Cemetery next to her mother and father. However, this is a detail that puzzles me. The only reason I can think of why she isn't buried along side of her husband is that he is buried along side of his first wife. This would be reasonable if we knew that Richard's first wife, Dicey, had died and was buried in Rushbranch Cemetery. This throws a wrench into the idea that Dicey divorced Richard and moved to Iowa. Regardless, Mary Ellen is interred in Love's, and the name on her tombstone says, Stephens, not Goff. I can only suppose that since her mother outlived her, Susan put her name on the stone, not thinking it should have said Goff. I can't really be sure until I find more documentation. The last time I visited Love's Cemetery, however, Mary Ellen's tombstone had been damaged by a falling tree. Sadly, I'm certain it has not been repaired.
Mary Ellen, by all indications, was a head strong woman with a mind of her own. Andrew and Susan spoiled her, and she probably spent more time that most building her Christian testimony. Legend has it that she was musical like her father and son, and she could also read and write. I can also see that Mary Ellen is where Dad got his square jaw and ears that stick out at the top. I can't wait to meet her someday soon.