This week’s challenge is “Musical”. I really had to struggle to come up with aThere’s just not a lot of known musical talent in my family’s history. Then I remembered stories about “Aunt Bess”.
Estelle Elizabeth Ferrel was born 17 August 1880 in Terre Haute, Indiana to William and Mollie Carpenter Ferrel. She was the youngest of four children and was known as "Bess". Bess was my great-grandmother’s sister.
It’s unclear if Bess graduated from St. Mary's of the Woods College, or attended there, but she taught piano and violin through-out her life. In the 1910 Terre Haute Census, Bess was listed as “Musician Church Work”. An article found in The Indianapolis News from May 29, 1915 stated that “Miss Bessie Ferrel, of Terre Haute, played several violin solos…” at the Brazil (Indiana) Ladies’ Literary Society of Brazil meeting that occurred that month.
When Bess was nineteen years old her older, and only, sister died (in 1899). Bess’ mother died in 1916, and Bess remained at home to care for her father until his death in March of 1924. Sadly one of Bess’ brothers died in November of 1924 in a tragic accident. This left Bess with only one other brother living.
In June of 1925, at the age of forty-four, Bess married widower Augustus Ballard. Augustus had a six year old daughter, Eleanor Mae, who Bess adopted.
Tragedy struck Bess again when her husband Augustus died in 1938 at the age of fifty-seven. She and daughter Eleanor were listed in the 1940 Terre Haute census, both with no income or occupations listed. Bess told her nephew that she had a small pension from her husband’s job as a street car conductor, so she must have been living on that, along with giving music lessons. She gave both piano and violin lessons to her great-niece, who remembers her as “eccentric to put it mildly.” She remembered that Bess was extremely protective of her hands and would cover her arms with at least one pair of socks for fear sunlight might touch her skin.
Bess’ daughter Eleanor married in 1948. Bess’ brother, Scott, was widowed in 1950. When he became ill, Bess took him into her home and cared for him until he died in 1954. When he died, Bess was almost in poverty. His will had not been changed after his wife's death and no money was left to Aunt Bess. Her great niece and great nephew went to an attorney and challenged the will and got some money for Bess.
Newspaper articles found show that Bess lived at 1923 Garfield in Terre Haute and as she aged a couple of accidents and robberies were listed under her name. She fell on ice in 1951 at the age of seventy, and was struck by a car in 1959 at the age of seventy-nine. The robberies reported were rather odd and make me wonder if she had some dementia (underwear stolen off her line, a four year old tree was stolen). Or perhaps the elderly widow was just taken advantage of by others. In a letter found that was written in 1961, she wrote of being robbed by family and no one believing her, even her attorney. A postcard was found that was sent to my aunt from Logansport State Hospital in Indiana stating that her Christmas gift to Elizabeth Ballard had been received.
Aunt Bess died in 1965. I assume that she died at the state hospital and I am trying to learn more about her death. She and her husband are buried in Terre Haute near her parents.