Saturday, February 18, 2012

18 February 1890: Not Every "Romantic Marriage" Has a Storybook Ending

On this day in 1890, the Weekly Banner told this story of a local wedding ceremony held in town the previous week:

Mr. Albert Henley Weds Miss Lula Crawford.
       Wednesday witnessed one of the happiest, as well as one of the most romantic weddings that Athens has seen for some time.
       Sudden in its ceremony and romantic in its nature, it caused no little interest to be aroused all over the city.
       Mr. Albert P. Henley, a prominent attorney of this city wedded Miss Lula Crawford, one of the pretiest [sic] and most estimable young ladies in Classic Athens.
       The wedding took place at 12 o'clock at the house of Mr. C. D. McKie, on Hancock avenue, Rev. W. D. Anderson performing the ceremonies. It was conducted in haste, as it is said that the Wedding had not met with general favor from relatives of the happy couple. Immediately after the marriage the couople were driven to the C. & M. train and left on a trip to Florida and the tropic lands, by orange trees shaded.
       Both parties are too well known to enter into narrations of their lives. They were popular and much beloved by those who knew them intimately. The congratulations and good wishes of hosts of friends attend through life.  
--Weekly Banner, 18 February 1890, p. 7, col. 3.

The day the announcement appeared in the newspaper, the couple's marriage license was recorded in the Clarke County Ordinary Court:

(click to enlarge image)

Sadly, when looking in the 1900 U.S. Census to see how the couple was faring a decade after they wed, Mrs. Henley was listed as a widow, living with her two daughters, 9-year-old Frances and 4-year-old Hiram (who was named for her uncle).  

By checking the Heritage Room's Guide to Microfilmed Records and the Digital Library of Georgia's Athens Historic Newspaper Archive, the fate of Albert Henley was revealed to be suicide by pistol on or about 3 February 1896. The account in the Weekly Banner paints a sad story of a promising life cut short:

       Then came the tempter to the young man in the shape of the wine cup and he yielded to its blandishments. The thirst for strong drink got the advantage of him and he went from bad to worse, despite his own efforts and those of friends to save him. His wife and two little girls were compelled to separate from him on account of his habits.
--Weekly Banner, 7 February 1896, p. 1, col. 7.

In a note he left for his law partner, former Athens Mayor and Clarke County Representative Henry C. Tuck, Albert Henley asked that his clothes be given to his servant, his pocket watch to his brother in Greene County, and that he be buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery. He also "wrote in the tenderest manner of his wife, and ended up by writing, 'God bless my children.'"

Mary Lou, or "Lula" Henley took over her brother's part in the wholesale grocery business Webb & Crawford after his death, and lived on Cobb Street until a fire destroyed her home there in August, 1902. She remarried in December, 1902, to William D. Beecham, and in 1903, after selling her part in the grocery business, joined the Athens Women's Club. 

With her new husband, Mary Lou had two sons, William D. Beecham, Jr. in 1904 and Jack G. Beecham in 1906. Her daughter Frances had a lively time as a student at Lucy Cobb Institute, often appearing on the Athens newspapers' society pages until her marriage to Harry Woodruff of Columbus, Georgia, in 1913. 

To trace the family over time, it was important to look for Mary Lou in the 1900 Census when Albert could not be found. In later years, tracing with the children's names became useful, when William was listed simply as "W.D." and "Beecham" often spelled as "Beacham." 

The 1910 U.S. Census gives the Henley daughters' last name as "Beacham," even though they are listed as step-daughters to William, but a quick scan of the Athens newspapers from that time indicates this was a mistake by the census taker, not that William had adopted the girls. In 1920 and 1930 Censuses, Hiram is properly listed as "Hiram Henley," still living with her mother and step-brothers. Hiram would never marry. 

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