Friday, March 19, 2010

Snappin' Black Eyes: Warren E Kale and LaVina Row

I used to love this particular story as a girl, hoping that being lucky in love ran in families. I've heard it several times, and it seems like every time Grandma would tell me this story she would pull out a "pearl" necklace from her hope chest. But just in case my memory is failing me, I called Aunt Bonnie today to tell it to me again. The song, "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific always comes to mind.

(me-->Dad-->Grandma LaVonne-->Bess Kale Van De Riet-->Lavina Row Kale).

For starters, I think Grandma LaVonne was named after Lavina, but I don't think Lavina capitalized the "V". Grandma LaVonne did know her grandmother because Grandma Kale/Stephens came to stay near (with?) them after her hubby died in 1945.  [I later found out that LaVonne was named after an Indian woman who was a Mormon convert, named LaVonne, up in Browning.  But they probably liked the name because it sounds like Lavina.]

In 1879,When Lavina was 16, her family lived in Indiana. She was a pretty girl and became engaged to a wonderful man named John Stephens, three years her senior. Alas, the plans of teenagers are often thwarted. Lavina's parents decided to move three whole states away to Kansas, and the engagement was broken.

Kansas turned out to be not such a dreadful place after all. Now, here is where my imagination seems to take over the story, but I think Grandma told that Lavina was at a dance or a social function of some sort, and "across the crowded room" (just like in the song!!!) she saw this handsome man, who had "snappin' black eyes". I know that part is accurate and that my Grandma was quoting her Grandma. Aunt Bonnie said today, with a little emphatic sniff, "And you can just see from his picture, he did have snappin' black eyes!" He was a schoolteacher, nine years older than Lavina, named Warren Kale, born in Pennsylvania and raised in Ohio. And Lavina promptly forgot her heartache. (You can see from the pictures, that Lavina had beautiful, dreamy eyes herself, but I'm guessing they were light colored.)

Warren and Lavina were married on New Year's Day, 1883, when Lavina was almost twenty. The couple moved around Kansas a little and had three children, then after nine years an additional two, twins Jessie and Bessie. When the twins were about five years old, the family moved by train to Everson, Washington, in the extreme northwest part of the state, where Warren had accepted a teaching position. His brother C. Stewart Kale ran the Kale Cannery there, so they moved to be by family.

Around 1910, Lavina began a very difficult part of her life. Her daughter Jessie was suffering from some strange disease (the family now thinks it was probably leukemia) and doctors admonished the family to move to Montana for her health. It didn't help. Jessie died in 1913, and then Warren died only three years later. Lavina was a widow at 53.

Lavina still had Row cousins that were living in Indiana, and they had stayed in contact all those years. Someone blabbed, and John Stephens, now a widower, heard that Lavina was available. Now from a letter from Row relative Pearl Steiner. (Grandma had a copy...).

"My mother kept in touch with Lavina all these years. John Stephens ask[ed] my mother for her address and he wrote to Lavina and they decided to marry at this late day. Lavina went to her sister Cassie Devoes' home in Kansas and they were married there and came back to John's home south of Bowling Green Indiana."

It seems like Grandma would say that her "Grandpa" Stephens was oh so kind to her Grandma, and I think that he gave her a necklace that she would show me. Anyone else know for sure? When John died in 1945, Lavina moved back to Montana to live with Bess.

None of my kids have "snappin' black eyes", but my Grandma LaVonne sure did. I wonder where she got them?

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