...and their great love.
My great-grandfather Calvert Cotton McCandless (named after his grandmother's maiden names of Eliza Ruth Calvert and Nancy Cotton) met my great-grandmother Mary Ann Long in a one-room schoolhouse in Stafford County Kansas when they were just kids. Somewhere (I need to find it) I have a love letter, written by Cal, to his "Dear Molly," before they were even teenagers.
They were both first-generation Kansans. Cal's father had been born not more than 20 miles from where I now live, in Cass County, MO when his parents and 15 other people had moved from Ohio to start a saw mill after the Civil War. Life was very rough for them in Missouri and after losing several family members to illness they set out to the prairie where they founded Rose Valley Township (hence the name of my "ranch").
Molly's family came to Stafford County from Tennessee. Unfortunately I don't know a lot about why they chose to move there, but from what I can tell they escaped the south shortly after the Civil War, in which no one in their family fought, and they brought some "friends" with them--the first African Americans in Stafford County. Unfortunately nothing is known as this family died shortly after arriving and were buried somewhere on the old Long place, their grave markers long since lost to time.
Cal and Molly were married on August 5, 1914 in Albano Township, Stafford County, in Molly's parents' home. My great-grandma's dress is preserved and hangs in the St. John public library. It's still beautiful...and tiny!
They stayed in the area and raised their family--6 children total. My grandfather was the oldest and he was born in Greensburg, but shortly after his birth they apparently moved back to Stafford County. Needless to say anything that remained of their home in Greensburg I'm sure is lost.
They had 5 boys and 1 girl. My great-uncles Lloyd and George were even at my wedding, so the family remains close. Harold now lives in Washington. Of course my grandfather William is gone--he passed away from ALS in 1987, and I believe his sister and brother are both gone as well. However, they all lived long, successful lives and my great-grandparents grew old together. There are tales of Mollie running a restaurant out of their home, serving travelers and she was well known for her cooking. They had a lot with a garden and grew a lot of vegtables and gave most of it away to the needy.
This is how I remember my great-grandparents, Cal and Molly. When I was little my mom would take me to their house in St. John (which is still there--a beautiful arts and crafts house with gorgeous woodwork) and great-grandma would get us sugar cookies from the freezer and we'd eat them cold right there on her front porch and visit with her. Great-grandpa could hardly hear, so we mostly talked to great-grandma.
In 1985 at the age of 93 Cal just got too old for Molly to care for on her own, so he went to go live in the St. John nursing home. Molly would visit and didn't think they were taking good enough care of him, so she moved in there to be with him, although at the age of 91 she could still get by perfectly fine on her own.
Cal died a year later and Molly, although still in great health, followed shortly after. Their story reminds me of an inscription on a tomb in St. Bartholomew's Church in London:
Shee first deceased, Hee for a little Tryd
To live without her, likd it not and dyd.