Monday, 23 May 2016

Widow or Wife of a Criminal?

The county of Wayne can be seen on the far left of the state.
Let me introduce you to the Henry and Elizabeth (Farra) Noe family, some cousin offshoot of my family tree.  Unfortunately, since it's been sometime since I first discovered this family, I can't retell exactly how this family's mysteries unfolded (so please excuse the order of things).

In the county of Wayne, West Virginia, Henry Fisher Noe was born in 1885 and Elizabeth Josephine Farra was born in 1891.  On March 27, 1907 they married in Dunlow, Wayne, West Virginia, Henry at age 21 and Elizabeth at age 16.  They had their first son, Howard, early 1908.

There doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary with this family.  But take a look at the United States census for 1910 - 3 years into their marriage...

United States census, West Virginia, 1910

Elizabeth (Lizzie) is listed with her parents and younger sister under her maiden name, Farra, and her son, Howard, has the surname Noe.  We also learn that Howard is her only child because the last two columns list the total number of children the mother had and how many are still living.  And here's some sad news... she's a widow.

I don't believe Elizabeth was widowed though, and here's why: on the 1920 and 1930 census records, the same Henry Fisher Noe from the marriage record is listed with the family, sometimes under the name Howard.  I am confident these are the same person because the ages listed at first marriage match up to the ages on the marriage record.  (You can see this in the last column of the 1930 census record.)  It is also highly unlikely that she would find another Henry or Howard Noe to marry.

United States census, West Virginia, 1920
United States census, West Virginia, 1930
(Howard is listed on another record with his grandmother.)

Altogether they had a total of 11 children.  In addition to Howard, they had Bernard (1912/1913), Carlos Arlie (1913), Vivian (1916), Mildred Elaine (1917), Don Oswald (1919), Kenneth (1921), Darrell (1922), Keith (1924), Marvin (1926), and (the famous) Dale Emerson (1927).

So where was Henry?  And why did Elizabeth say she was a widow?

After some searching, I found the following census record also in 1910:

United States census, West Virginia, 1910
List of prisoners at West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville City.

Henry F Noe is listed as a prisoner!!!  How scandalous!


It's no wonder Elizabeth would rather pretend to be widowed.  Would you want to be known as the wife of a criminal?  Perhaps she even resorted to taking her maiden name to avoid the connection to her imprisoned husband.

This also explains the large gap between Howard and Bernard relative to the other children.  Based on Bernard's birth date, Henry may have been imprisoned until 1912.  

Census records always tell a story.  This one is different than most and now the imagination suggests oh so many possibilities as to what happened.  I haven't yet figured out how I could find the reason for Henry's imprisonment.  And, unless I'm mistaken, I found their son, Darrell, in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in the 1940 census at age 18.  Oh, the things I'd like to know now!

What would you do if your newlywed husband landed himself in jail after you had your first child?  Do you think Darrell's imprisonment may have been related to his father's influence?

Next week's topic: [What Happens When The Parents Leave Town]

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