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A 'troublesome son' relates story of his mother's first love

She was shy of 15, he was 20, when the handsome young man from Russell County and she, the beauty from Acree Road across the line in Adair, slipped off to that day's Gretna Green: Clarksville, Indiana, where their ages needed less adjusting to meet the lower marrying age across the Ohio. A touching story which only the adoring son of a sainted mother could write. And only now, after so many years have passed

By Ella's Son

The recent mention of young couples slipping off to "Gretna Green" to be joined in the bonds of matrimony brought to mind that someone very dear to my heart made that same journey 85 years ago this September.

My sainted Mama, Ella, drew her first breath on a crisp October morning in Adair County in the year of our Lord 1910, very nearly within whispering distance of the Russell County line. She attended and was awarded an eighth grade diploma from the nearby (for the times) Blair Schoolhouse, and around 1920, Mother professed faith in her Savior and became a member of Providence Church at the Stapp Springs.

In 1926, she met and fell in love with Carl Helm, a handsome young Russell Countian who lived on the outskirts of Montpelier. (Most likely, they first encountered each other at the Montpelier general store or at Liberty Church). The romance quickly blossomed and a few weeks short of her sixteenth birthday, Mother and Carl, who had turned 20 just three days earlier, took a trip to mystical Gretna Green (otherwise known, at least in this instance, as Clarksville, Indiana).

In those olden times, Kentucky's age of consent for marriage was twenty-one both for males and females. It was somewhat lower for females in Indiana but not quite as low as fifteen. Mother and Carl went to New Albany, where Mama enhanced her age by twenty percent; she suddenly and quite temporarily became an elderly eighteen. Before God and man they solemnly promised to love, cherish, and obey until death did them part, and two young hearts were made as one.

The newlyweds returned home and set up housekeeping near Carl's parents just outside Montpelier and not much farther removed from Mama's family on modern-day Acree road; they were happy, content, and very much in love. Sadly, however, their idyllic days numbered but tragic few. In August, 1927, Carl contracted typhoid fever and died from complications thereof in early September, two days before their first wedding anniversary. Mother was heavy with child when Carl passed, and my dear old Brother made his appearance in Adair County on a late November day in 1927.

She never talked much about her life with Carl or the hard years afterward, but one thought is never far from my mind: Mother, widowed and the mother of an almost-two-year-old son, turned nineteen on October 29, 1929 -- Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed and the Great Depression slouched towards Main Street.

How much perseverance and faith it took Mama to survive is farther beyond my ken than is physics to a posthole, but survive she did, and admirably so, by working in Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville, wherever employment was to be found. She later remarried, eventually birthing three more children, the youngest, a son, being a most troublesome child, or so I'm told by most who've ever met him.

Requiescat in pace.

This story was posted on 2011-07-24 10:40:25
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