Wednesday, September 16, 2015



I first ran into Mrs. Biddle on her way to a funeral.  The newspaper report of young Rolland Humphrey Stevens' death in 1903 ended with the following:  "Mrs. Biddle of Carbondale, George Stephens of Ashton, OT, and A. H. Stephens of Kansas City arrived in the city yesterday to attend the funeral, which will be held today [Nov 1, 1903] at 3:30 o'clock from the family residence."

Roll, as he was called, was only 17 and had just started on his first job out of Business School - a "Train Butch" who walked through the cars while the train was chugging to its destination, selling travelers food or snacks, newspapers, books or whatever he carried that trip to make train travel a little more comfortable.  It was his first - and only trip - as there was an accident in Cimarron, Kansas, and he was one of the three people killed.

Roll's mom had died giving birth to a second son in 1899.  His dad's business necessitated his traveling a great deal between Oklahoma Territory and Kansas.  At various times unidentified pictures were taken by photographers in Purcell, Blackwell, Guthrie, (Oklahoma) and Hutchinson, Sterling, Carbondale and Wichita, Kansas and put in a big velvet album that was passed down in the family.  So we knew there were plenty of aunts and uncles to tend to Roll and his two younger sisters.

But there were no people with the surname of Biddle in his background.  It was a mystery: Why was Mrs. Biddle coming to Roll's funeral?

After several years of research on other family members, I came back to the Stevenses.  There were a few loose ends I wanted to wrap up.  One was getting to know Lillian Humphrey Stevens a little better.  Her children, Roll, Estelle and Helen, were my own grandma's cousins.  Grandma's mom was Nellie Stevens, a younger sister to Frank Dana Stevens.  My grandma would have played with these kids. I wanted to find out a little more about them.

In looking at some census records for Estelle Stevens, who was 9 years old in 1900 (shortly after her mother died) I found all three of these children living in Osage County, Kansas with Amos and Mary E. Biddle.  And Mary was listed as their grandmother.  I checked the cemetery and found that a John A. Humphrey had died in 1876 and his wife had later married Amos Biddle.  And I found that in 1880 Lillian May Humphrey was 17 and a school teacher.   My records showed that Lillian and Frank D. Stevens had married in 1885 and babies came fast -- and my grandma was born in 1885 and she and the girls probably played "dolls" together, like all little girls do.  Who would think that in a short period a few years down the road, Lillian, Frank D. Jr, and Roll would all be dead, way too soon.

(Estelle, Helen, and Rolland)

So when Roll died, of course his grandmother, Mrs. Biddle, came to the funeral.  One thing the obituary did not note and I found very interesting is that Lillian May Humphrey Stevens named her first child after her own brother - Rolland Humphrey.

Bits and pieces of this story have been in my mom's side of the family for years.  But we just didn't know how the pieces fit together.  Now we do.

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