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