Saturday, April 9, 2011

LOUISE C. HALL - 1863-1919


Louise was always considered a beauty. This photograph comes from a small picture that was printed on a memorial card from her funeral service. She was my mother's paternal grandma, and when I look at this picture I can see reflections of both my Aunt Marie and Aunt Margie in her. I do not see my mother, but it was my mother who was given her name, Louise, as a middle name. That name is carried down in my sister, Virginia Louise and my granddaughter, Olivia Louise.

Louise came from a well-to-do family. She was born in Warrensburg, Missouri to John A. and Martha Jeffries Hall, the fifth of six children and the youngest girl. John moved the family to Sumner County, Kansas in the mid-1870s. And it was there that the Hall family became acquainted with James A. Ryland, who had been recently widowed and left with two little boys, one a baby. Although John Hall had two daughters, it was the youngest daughter, "Lou" who caught the widower's attention, and ultimately the two married, he at 31 years of age and she at 14. A year after the marriage their only child, son Byrd, was born.

Both John Hall and James Ryland were what we would call "gentlemen farmers" and James was able to provide Louise with the kind of life she had been used to. Family recollections are that there was some rancor between her and her stepsons as they got older, but who after this length of time knows for sure what it was all about. At least all three brothers grew up friendly with each other.

After the boys were raised, Louise did lots of china painting as well as oil painting. She also fancied herself a writer, and another family story is that she was the ghost writer of a book on Caldwell, Kansas.

This book, originally published in 1890, was reprinted in 1984. In this later edition Richard L. Lane, a professor of English at the University of Nebraska tears the book apart, speaking of the poor quality of the writing, calling it "purple prose," but indicates that factually it is true. He makes a case that it was J. A. Ryland who wrote the book, not Lou. However, we have a copy of a letter written by James Ryland to his brother Charles in Mississippi which says, "My wife was a very rapid writer, but in her writing her Caldwell "Midnight and Noonday" book she would get stuck and I could talk it out for her."

I have always laughed to think that my draw toward writing came from the purple prose lady - my great-grandma Louise.

About 1916 Louise began ailing and in 1919 she died of cancer.
Her grandchildren were quite young when she died and as adults they had little recollection of her. But they all knew from the stories that Grandma Louise was smart and she was beautiful and she wrote a book! She is buried next to her husband in the Caldwell, Kansas Cemetery.

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