Monday, July 23, 2012

Elizabeth Lois Whitley

My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Lois Whitley, was born on 15 March 1901 in Elk Springs, Warren County, Kentucky. Grandma Lois passed away on 24 November 1988 in Martinsville, Morgan County, Indiana. In her last year she lived with me, my sister and parents near Martinsville, before moving into assisted living in town. I was in my freshman year of high school at the time, and didn't take the time to talk and ask questions of her when I had the opportunity. I didn't learn about her life, and the hurdles that she overcame, until much later.
Elizabeth Lois Whitley
The photo above is not dated, but I suspect is from 1946 or 1947 in Indianapolis, Indiana. My Granny, Lydia Campuzano Reid, is standing inside the house looking out at Grandma Lois, who is standing behind my Uncle Wayne Reid.
Elk Springs, Warren County, KY

Grandma Lois appears in the 1910 US Census in Rocky Hill, Barren County, Kentucky as "Lizzie L Whitley". She was living in the household of her parents, Thomas Whitley and Elizabeth Hayden Matthews.
Elizabeth Hayden Matthews died of breast cancer on 14 August 1915, leaving Lois without her mother when she was 14 years old.

At the age of 17, Lois left Kentucky for Indianapolis, Indiana, where some of her family, such as her sister Minnie and her mother's brother Felix Matthews had moved for better opportunities. She married fellow Barren County resident Alvin Read in Marion County on 8 February 1919. My grandfather, Leo Morris Read, was born on 10 June 1920 in Indianapolis. I'm not certain, but I think this may be a photo of Alvin and Lois from the early 1920s:

In the 1920 US Census, Lois and Alvin were living as boarders in the house of Oren and Minnie Whitley Sheeks, located at 1138 Belmont Avenue in Indianapolis. Minnie was Lois' older sister.
The couple returned to Barren County later in 1921. On 9 November 1921, Lois' second child, Charles Clifton Read, died at 7 days old. This must have been incredibly difficult for her. I suspect this led to the end of the marriage between Alvin and Lois.

By 1930, Lois had placed her 9-year old son Leo in the household of her oldest sister Mattie Whitley Goff and husband Clifton Goff in Glasgow, Kentucky. Alvin later moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan, while Lois moved into the household of her uncle Felix Matthews, working as a servant in his boarding house located at 1341 Kentucky Avenue in Indianapolis (today this land is located on the Eli Lilly campus south of Downtown).
Lois married Edward Turner before 1937 (Edward and Lois are listed in the Indianapolis City Directory in 1937 at 1341 Kentucky Avenue). In the 1940 US Census, Lois had taken over the boarding house at 1341 Kentucky Avenue from her uncle Felix. Lois and Edward Turner were operating a restaurant at the house. William Turner, Edward's son from his previous marriage, and my Grandpa Leo, were listed as living in the house.

Lois ran the restaurant called Turner's Lunch at the same location until she retired in 1963.

According to my Dad, Edward Turner was murdered (possibly following a card game) in the early 1950s, and as he could recall the case went unsolved. I'll have to look this up in the Indianapolis Star archives in Indianapolis. This would have been another hardship that Lois faced during her life.

I remember her being a stern woman, but looking back, she dealt with a lot, losing her mother at an early age, moving away from home and having two children before the age of 19, separating from her first husband, later dealing with her second husband's murder. She left behind the hills of Barren County, Kentucky and rose from being a servant in her uncle's house to operating a restaurant there for 30 years.

She outlived my Grandpa Leo, who died in 1985. Grandma Lois moved into my parents house in 1987. I don't recall that being an easy time for my parents, but it could not have been easy for her as well.

Grandma Lois' obituary noted that she was a member of the White Cross Guild, which was a non-profit organization founded in the 1930s to provide volunteer services to Methodist Hospital. The Guild published a cookbook titled Select Recipes and Health Charts in 1937 (a copy is available on the IUPUI website). I cannot confirm that some of Grandma Lois' recipes made it into this book, but I'd like to think that they did.
Source: IUPUI Collection, see link above
Right now I don't have much more to add. I had neglected telling her story. I know my parents and aunts have more stories on Grandma Lois to provide when they are ready, but for the time being this will have to do.

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