Thursday, June 11, 2015

Unraveling Henry's Children: Mary Inez Muir (1922-2002)

I've written about my grand uncle, Henry Muir before. He has been an enigma wrapped inside a riddle for a long time. Slowly, much more than I would like, a bit more becomes revealed...a record discovered, a connection made, a grandchild reaches out on this blog or my Facebook page asking questions or providing a snippet of new information.

Henry Muir was my paternal grandmother's oldest brother. He was born in 1903 and died in 1986. I think she would have liked to have loved him more but she really didn't know him very well. My grandmother and Henry went to live with their paternal grandmother, Margaret (Semple) Muir, after their mother died in 1909. Henry was 6 and Grandma was 3 years old.

Margaret (Semple) Muir died in 1920, leaving Henry and my grandmother to make their own way in the world. Henry must have gone to his father in West Virginia, and Grandma bounced around between some of her Muir aunts and uncles before going to War, West Virginia. I believe it was not far from where her father and his second family lived as one of her half-sisters was born in Tralee, West Virginia, that same year. But where exactly the family was, or Henry, my grandmother's brother, in 1920, I have no idea. They remain resolutely hidden in the 1920 census.

On 29 June 1921 Henry Muir and Mary Canterbury received a marriage license, permitting them to marry. They were married on 3 July in Walls Creek, West Virginia, deep in the heart of coal mining country in McDowell County. He was 18 years old and she was 16; neither had been married before.

Their only known child, Mary Inez Muir was born on 8 November 1922 in Buchanan County, Virginia. Her parents divorced before 1926 as her mother had married or was living with Lee Collins in Sandy River, West Virginia. They had two daughters of their own, born in 1926 and 1930.

Mary Inez Muir as a child on the left and her mother holding
an infant named Bill. The photograph was shared by Ancestry
member IndianaJanne. I have no idea how Bill fits into the
family tree.

Henry, meanwhile, migrated or fled (depending one which family story you believe) to Louisiana where he married to Armitar Alleman in 1930 and lived in East Baton Rouge. Henry worked as an electrician.

So Mary Inez, while not abandoned by her parents, was perhaps made to feel a bit less important than her half siblings, who happened to be the children of the spouse, who turned out not to be a lasting wife either as Armitar and Henry divorced sometime after 1944.

When Mary Inez was 16 years old she and George Bruster or Brewster applied for a marriage license in McDowell County, West Virginia. I don't think we can really appreciate what this area was like back then. In 1940, it was a boomtown. Now it is a depressed, has-been sort of place with a population of less than 2,500 -- a one-industry town when coal isn't politically in favor with the current crop of politicians because it is a dirty kind of energy.

Welch, West Virginia on a Sunday afternoon in 1946; photograph courtesy
of Wikipedia

I do not believe Mary Inez and George actually married, however, as the minister's return portion of the form was not completed. Mary went on to marry Miles Henry Blankenship and had four sons. When she left him, she split up her children, taking the two oldest, leaving one with her mother, and the youngest with her husband. That child was raised by his paternal grandparents and an aunt. In 1947 Mary Inez applied for the Social Security insurance program and did not list the names of her parents on the form. Did she remember them? She also used the Muir surname. Had she already left Miles Blankenship just a year after their youngest child was born?

I have recently been in contact with a granddaughter who loved her very much...and may I say thank goodness someone did. Her granddaughter credits Mary Inez with helping her survive the death of her older brother at the age of 21...something you must admit is in no way a normal event and must have been very tragic.

Her granddaughter believed, Mary Inez Muir married as many as nine times...and that's taught me a couple of other lessons: 1) If she was married that many times, I may not be the one that finds all the records; someone in the future will sort it out as more records become available. 2) The number of marriages a person may enter into is in no way a reflection of their innate character; it may just be a comfortable escape mechanism and 3) Perhaps a new husband is just plain fun for some period of time!

I admit I might be a tad jealous. I'm not sure I could have ever convinced nine men to propose during my life time! So my hat is off to Mary Inez. But especially for earning the love of her granddaughter. Hearing and being able to share her stories made me proud to be a family historian.

However, I believe at this time Mary Inez Muir was married five times:
  1. Miles H. Blankenship, born 1914, married abt 1940; four children. Miles served in the U.S. Navy during World War II; never remarried; and died in 1983. 
  2. Hubert C. Lemaster, divorced in 1971. I have no information on his birth or death dates or anything about him other than a divorce index record.
  3. Eugene Guy Gribble, born 1914, married 1972, died 1993; served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army during World War II. At the time they married both said they had been married twice before.
  4. Coy Franklin Hicks, married in 1994. I have no information on his birth or death dates or anything about him other than a marriage index record.
  5. William Moore and Mary Inez were married in 1997; she died in 2002. Mary indicated she had been married four times previously.
I believe five marriages because of the marriage record to William T. Moore indicated four previous marriages. But a woman has been known to fib about her age, so it's possible there are another four marriages to chase. What do you think?

27 July 2015 Update: Thanks to the release of the US, Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, I have learned about two additional husbands:

  • In July 1966, a name change form was submitted to the Social Security Administration (SSA) changing her name to Mary Inez Stacy
  • In May 1967, a name change form was submitted to SSA changing her name to Mary Inez Carlisle
Name changes were also submitted for her marry Hubert Lemaster, Eugene Gribble, and Coy Hicks.

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