The Measure of a Woman

Mother of 5 widowed after husband dies from gunshot wounds suffered in a shoot-out.  If that was today we would hear an outpouring of outrage on social media and the possibly the news.  Fundraising pages on the internet would be created to help the widow of a farmer left with 5 children between the ages of 9 and 2 to be raised alone.

But this isn’t 2016, instead it is 1888.  How did a young widow survive back then?  For some they remarried and families blended,  for Alice G. Williams she did not.  What tenacity she possessed as she continued to run the family farm and raise her children. Where did she get this spirit of survival?

Sepia Tree

Alice G. Williams was the 4th child of Wheaton Williams and Francis Hicks.  Born in Choctaw, AL on September 3, 1855, Alice herself came from a blended family.  Her father married Francis Hicks in January of 1848, with 3 young children, five years after the passing of his first wife.  The family moved to Arkansas sometime between 1860 and 1870, settling in Crawford County.

Tragedy struck on January 23, 1872 with the sudden passing of Alice’s father, Wheaton at the age of 53.   Alice was just 16 at the time and her mother was 46 with 5 young children ranging from 13 to an infant.  Francis never remarried.

 

22 APR 1878 Marriage License. George H. Rudy & Alice G. Williams

22 APR 1878 Marriage License. George H. Rudy & Alice G. Williams

In April of 1878 Alice married George H. Rudy.  A widower with 5 children.  At 24,  Alice was now a mother, wife and soon the family would grow by 5 more children.

The Rudy’s worked the land and made their mark in the town that would be named after him, Rudy Arkansas.  On September 16, 1882 they deeded a strip of land to the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway Company for the railroad right-of-way for all land owned by him for the consideration of $1.00.  After all it had to be legal.

As the farmers and town prospered from the railroad, but tragedy was not far off.  The day after Alice’s 33rd birthday, on September 4, 1888, her husband George H. Rudy dies from complications of the gunshot wounds he suffered just a few days earlier.

Now Alice, like her mother, is widowed with 5 children.  Alice’s children range from 9 to 2 years of age.  She now has to manage a producing farm in order to have an income along with raising her children.

George Rudy Probate

A will has not surfaced, but the Probate regarding the claims of debt against the Estate were just another hurdle for Alice to overcome.

In early 1889 the debits of the Estate were settled, with $250.70 owed.  As if the farm and the kids were not enough to worry about, the $250.70 in outstanding debt must have felt enormous to her.  To put into perspective in 2016 that would equal $6,597.37.

Alice saw it through and for the next 46 years, until her death, she keep the farm afloat.  I may never have known Alice, my 2nd great-grandmother, however I can’t help but look back at the overview of her life and admire her spirit of survival.   It wasn’t until today I realized the synchronicity of my fascination with Alice and George, as I called my youngest daughter to wish her a Happy Birthday this 3rd of September and thought about my oldest daughter’s birthday tomorrow, the 4th of September.   That’s when it became crystal clear.  Alice’s birth and George’s death are not only a piece of my past, but a unique stamp on my heart today and in the future.

©2016 Sondra Bass Hawkins

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