George William Rakestraw: The One with the Confusing Timeline (52 Ancestors #13)

George William Rakestraw was the brother of my great great grandmother, Zerilda Rakestraw Springer.  Unlike his sister, he is very well documented.  Even so, I’ve had a difficult time researching him.  He had an uncle who was also named George William, so he went by William or Willie, but he also had a son named William, who seemed to go by Willie as a child.  Willie also had a son, Charles Marion and a cousin, Charles Marion.  I understand wanting to honor family members, but at some point, it’s just too much.  After hours upon hours of searching, deciphering, and some math, I have Willie mostly figured out.

George William Rakestraw, circa 1900.

George William Rakestraw, circa 1900.

George William “Willie” Rakestraw was born on August 20, 1873 in New Albany, Indiana, to parents Francis Marion and Mary Elizabeth (Gilliland) Rakestraw.  He had dark hair and blue eyes.  He was the baby of the family, as his sister was five years older.

An article appeared in the New Albany Evening Tribune, saying that Willie had married a Mamie Haine on February 2, 1891.

New Albany Evening Tribune, Tuesday, 3 February 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Evening Tribune, Tuesday, 3 February 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

I could not find a marriage record for them in Floyd county, surrounding counties, or Illinois, where I though Mamie might be from.  Willie would’ve been seventeen at the time, so he also would’ve needed parental permission to marry.

I did find that Willie married Mamie Haney in Floyd County, Indiana on October 9, 1891.  It also appeared in the paper the following day.

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 55, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 55, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 10 October 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 10 October 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

It seems their honeymoon period was short-lived because the paper on October 24, 1891 reports that Mamie had filed suit against Willie for support.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 24 October 1891, p. 8, columns 2-3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 24 October 1891, p. 8, columns 2-3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

I couldn’t find what became of that suit, but I believe that Mamie went to Illinois without Willie and was pregnant at the time.  I’ve looked at several family trees that say Mamie gave birth to Otto William Rakestraw in Mound City, Illinois on December 25, 1891.  I have a copy of a photo of Otto Rakestraw that I got from my grandfather, but I have no proof of his relationship.  I’ve sent letters out to try and obtain a copy of a birth record and I hope to hear from someone soon.  Willie is listed as being in New Albany in both the 1890 and 1892 Caron’s City Directories, which is how I know he didn’t go with Mamie.

Here is where the timeline gets messy.  That’s right, it wasn’t messy before.  On October 8, 1893, William W. Rakestraw was born, the son of Willie by Lillian Margaret Bennett.  At least, according to both of William W.’s marriage records (1917 and 1933).  The 1900 Census and the transcription of the Rakestraw Family Bible both give October 8, 1894.  I’m inclined to believe the marriage records, as Census are often wrong and I don’t have access to the original Rakestraw Family Bible to know if there were any transcription errors.  There is no birth record on file for him, and his death record gives his birth date as October 8, 1898 (I’m thinking this was written by the informant as 1893 and misread by the clerk as 1898).  I’m still holding out hope for a primary source to prove one or the other.

In those same family trees that mention Otto’s birth, it is written that Willie and Mamie were granted a divorce from Mound City on October 23, 1893.  I have inquiries out on this as well, but it seems logical to me that infidelity would cause Mamie to file for divorce.

Willie married Lillie Bennett on April 14, 1894 in Floyd County, Indiana.

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 363, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 363, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

There are articles (I’ll get to them in a bit) that give marriage dates of January and April 1893, but since Willie and Mamie were still married that wouldn’t be possible, or at least not legal.  I also couldn’t find any marriage records for Willie and Lillie on those dates.

Charles Marion Rakestraw was born on January 22, 1896 in New Albany, Indiana.  He is the second son of Willie and Lillie.

Things go downhill for Willie and Lillie the following year.  On April 9, 1897, Lillie filed suit against Willie for maintenance.  The suit was dismissed on June 11, 1897.

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 9 April 1897, p. 7, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 9 April 1897, p. 7, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 11 June 1897, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 11 June 1897, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Lillie then filed for divorce on December 1, 1897.  This must have been a long process.  It was listed on the court docket on January 14, 1898 and then again on October 1, 1898 and still the divorce was not granted.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 1 December 1897, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 1 December 1897, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 3 December 1897, p. 5, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 3 December 1897, p. 5, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 14 January 1898, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 14 January 1898, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 1 October 1898, p. 4, column 5, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 1 October 1898, p. 4, column 5, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

On February 20, 1899, Louise Rakestraw was born.  Three weeks later, Lillie petitioned to dismiss the divorce case.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Tuesday, 14 March 1899, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Tuesday, 14 March 1899, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

On May 24, 1899, Willie filed for divorce and it was granted by the court on June 17, 1899.  He asked for and was granted custody of William and Charles.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 24 May 1899, p. 4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 24 May 1899, p. 4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Public Press, Wednesday, 31 May 1899, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Public Press, Wednesday, 31 May 1899, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 17 June 1899, p. 4, column 1, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 17 June 1899, p. 4, column 1, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Lillie and baby Louise went to live with Lillie’s mother.  Willie, William, and Charles moved in with Willie’s parents and his niece, Mildred Springer.

On June 5, 1902, Willie married Lorena Bender in Louisville, Kentucky.  By 1910, Willie and Lorena were living in Madison County, Illinois, but William and Charles were still living with Willie’s parents.  Charles did spend some time in Illinois with his dad, as this letter, dated December 15th, indicates.

Willie and Lorena moved to Louisville at some point after 1918 (Willie’s draft registration shows he was still in Illinois).  Willie and William ran a music store in Louisville until Willie’s death in 1935.

Tombstone, Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, George William Rakestraw, 1874-1935, photo courtesy of Rob M, Findagrave.com

Tombstone, Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, George William Rakestraw, 1874-1935, photo courtesy of Rob M, Findagrave.com

I still have to wonder about Otto and Louise.  Why did Willie not seek custody for either of them?  Why didn’t he even acknowledge them?  With all of my grandfather’s stories that had been passed down through the Rakestraw family, I had never heard of either one until I started researching Willie.  William’s obituary said that he was survived by a sister, Louise, so I suppose he must have had some contact with her.  I guess these are questions to which I may never know the answers.

6 thoughts on “George William Rakestraw: The One with the Confusing Timeline (52 Ancestors #13)

  1. Lillie’s mom lived in New Albany. Where did you hear they went to Chicago? She is on the 1900 Floyd Co. Census.

    Just yesterday (2/7/2017) I was wishing I had your dad to talk to because this family must have had more secrets than we’ve found over the years. Today I found your page and think Sanford led me here to find you.

    William’s son lives not far from you in KY. However, his DNA test does not match up with any Rakestraws. It suggests he is a Perkins. I’m trying to figure out why Willie and Lillie would name a son William William/s Rakestraw. Did your grandfather share the letter Lillie sent to Mildred? So many questions, once in a while a bit more trickles out.

    Oh, I noticed you said William said his mother was Lillian Bennett on two of his 3 marriage records – he stated Lorena Bender was his mother in the marriage to “Dixie”.

    • I must have confused my records when I was initially writing. I do see that is says New Albany on that census and a later census has Louise in Chicago by herself. I’ll correct that.

      I have yet to see a letter from Lillie to Mildred. Grandpa never showed it to me. I may come across it as I go through his boxes of paperwork, though.

      I also wondered about William Williams. At first I thought it might have been his mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name, but I couldn’t find a connection.

      • I first heard about Otto from your grandfather. I don’t know where he found the information. I might have it in a file here, somewhere. Your grandfather wrote me quite a few letters over the years. I’ll read through them soon to see if there are any clues. I’ll also see how big the pile is to see if it is feasible to copy them all and send on copies.

        I’m hoping you can find a photo that has my grandparents and their children (along with Sanford’s family and even Willie is in it). At the time Sanford made a copy of it for me, New Albany didn’t have a good laser printer so he copied it at church. It would be nice to have a crisp copy.

        I recently noticed a Perkins signed some paperwork in a marriage or some other event of the family. I’m wondering if this is the family that cousin George in KY might descend from? I first learned about Otto from Sanford. He gave me the article with the photo. He said he asked Charlie if he’d like to meet his brother but Grandpa declined. Aunt Louise had been a great disappointment. He told Sanford he’d had enough relatives.

        I found the copy of the letter that Lillie sent. I’ll re-read the other pages for questions you had and let you know if I have anything that might answer them.
        Mary Ann

  2. I found the letter your grandfather wrote to me about meeting Otto. He said he’d never heard of Otto until around 1940 when he came by trying to trace his family.
    Here is a transcription of the letter Lillie sent to Ella.
    Correspondence dated 10 Nov 1893 from Lillie Bennett to Ella Rakestraw. (original in possession of Sanford Wiseheart)
    Mifs Ella Rakestraw Kind Friend Though personally unknown I though(t) I would take the liberty of writting you a short note which I trust will be exceptable. If it is agreeable with I would like for you to come down to my house before Sunday if you possibly can as I would like to you on particular business. I will ask of you as a favor to keep this a secret from Willie and your Mamma as I dont want them to know any thing about this. Hoping that my favor will be granted I will close. Yours Truely. Lillie Bennett #208 West Main St. between 7th & 8th

      • Dug out my Rakestraw notes, including all the letters I received from your grandfather. I’m going to start entering any missing facts he shared on my ancestry.com page to make sure the info is out there. Once I’m done, I’ll send you the originals.

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