52 Ancestors’ Challenge – Wedding

Ed and Lena France Wedding Day_small

He was 29 and a bachelor who had moved to Kansas to take advantage of what was thought to be a better environment for his health.  She was 18, the third oldest daughter of a family of ten.  She had lost her mother in December of 1888 due to childbirth and now was taking in laundry and baking for bachelors in the neighborhood.  Her next oldest sister had been married just a year before while Mother was still living.  Belle was not so lucky.  She was not married until after her own mother’s death.  Thomas Edward France and Lena Belle Salmans were married on the 17th day of February 1889 most likely in Larned, KS.  The photo above was of their wedding day.

After living in Kansas for nine and a half years, Ed and Belle made their way back to Illinois to attend Ed’s mother’s funeral.  Lavina Clanin France had died at the age of 60 years.  Ed’s father, John, was still living in Fulton County, Illinois.  Ed and Belle had two living children by this time.  Lola was born in 1890 and Lee was born in 1892.  An infant daughter had died in 1895.  Ed, Belle, Lola and Lee supposedly took the train back to Illinois.  Once there, John France asked Ed and Belle to remain in Fulton County and set up housekeeping in his house.  He was 63 years old and didn’t want to keep house by himself.

It was well past six months before Belle could return to Kansas to bring back their things and say goodbye to her family.  The remaining nine Salmans siblings all lived in Kansas until their deaths.  Belle would never return to live there, but merely to visit her siblings.Two more children were born to Ed and Belle – two daughters – Essie in 1899 and Vera in 1902, but their son Lee died in 1906 of pneumonia breaking his parents’ hearts.

At the age of 51, Ed succumbed to pneumonia and died in 1910. It’s hard to say if abiding by his father’s request to move back to Illinois actually caused his demise.  Breathing issues are what had prompted his move west in the first place. Nevertheless, Belle was left with a farm, a father-in-law, and four children to care for.  Her daughter Vera often commented on Belle’s industrious nature and “farming” intelligence.  She was well known for the quality of her horses.  She managed the farm and put her share of physical labor into it with the help of a hired man, Milton Westlake.  Westlake was a widow also and worked for Belle for five years before they finally married in 1915.

Westlake, Milt & Lena Belle Salmans France

December 8, 1915 Milton A. Westlake and Lena Belle Salmans France married, both for the second time. Belle was 45 years old at the time of her second marriage; Milt was 47.  They were together for 31 years until Belle’s death.

She looks very proper in her first wedding photo.  She was only 19 at the time of her wedding and the world had no doubt weighed heavy on her shoulders.  She looks very happy in her second wedding picture.  Her children were grown, She had moved from Kansas to the France farm in Fulton County, IL and then moved again when the government bought her farm for an army camp.  Her life was ever-evolving.  She was a pioneer in more than one way during her life, yet she seemed to embrace the happiness of a new marriage and a new companion later in life.

it would be interesting to hear how different her thoughts were at her wedding at age 19 and her wedding at age 46.  What comparisons and contrasts could she provide.  What perspectives on life could she offer.  I hope to get to ask her someday in the Great Beyond.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge: Love

For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary.  It is all.  It is undying. And it is enough.

Diana Gabaldon

Salmans, Lena Belle Salmans France WestlakeLena Belle Salmans France Westlake 

She would see a lifetime of loving – more than many would experience.  Ten siblings who lived to adulthood; an infant brother who died at birth which led to her own mother’s untimely death within the year.  Two husbands, five children, step children, grandchildren and love and admiration from friends and neighbors filled her life.  Her love was romantic, self-sacrificing, heart-wrenching, late-blooming, but Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake, who was my great grandmother, wasn’t one to talk about her love, for as Diana Gabaldon says, “the speaking in unnecessary”.

She was born on a farm in Ohio in 1870, the third of 11 children.  How difficult for a farmer and his wife to have three daughters as their oldest children back in the late 1800s.  Boys were needed for labor on the farm.  The girls would have to learn to work like men to help with the farming.  They learned not only the physical labors of the farm, but the knowledge of running that farm as well and four boys, including twins, followed the three girls. Grandpa Levi and Grandma Rosa Jane Salmans had their labor.

Salmans, Levi Franklin Family adults

Levi Franklin and Rosa Jane (Brown) Salmans family

No doubt there was an overflowing bin of love on that farm.  Ten children and two parents in a small farmhouse in the late 1800’s led to intimacy not known by today’s modern families.  The yearning love of seeing wide open prairies without the hint of smoke from the neighbor’s chimney called to my 2nd great grandfather to keep moving his family west – eventually to the middle of Kansas.  The death of the eleventh sibling and her mother caused Lena to take jobs doing laundry and baking bread to help make ends meet.  It would also lead to her next love, my great grandfather, Thomas Edward France.

France, Thomas Edward

Thomas Edward France

Ed bought bread and brought wash for Lena to do since his bachelor skills were found wanting.  Love bloomed and two daughters and a son were born before fate took them back to Ed’s home farm in Illinois.  Ed’s mother had died and his father asked Ed and Lena to stay on and run the Illinois farm for him.  Lena’s love for Ed must have given her the strength to leave her close-knit family in Kansas and move back to Illinois.

Two more daughters followed in Illinois and the daily living of a marriage  kept the family going.  The death of her only son, Lee at age 14, wrenched her heart and she put her love into the remaining children she had left.

Lee France

Lee France

In four short years Ed would be gone to pneumonia, leaving Lena with the girls to run the farm.  A widower down the road, Milt Westlake, worked the farm with Lena. Her strong will, savvy farm business mind she had learned from her father and love helped her persevere through the troubled times.

Westlake, Milt & Lena Belle Salmans France

Milton A. and Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake 

Six years later, Milt and Lena married.  She had once again found love at age 46.  They ran the farm together.  She and Milt were able to make a few trips back to Kansas to see her family and nieces and nephews.  The love of her family never left her.   She and Milt would be married 32 years before his death.

Many years after having baked bread in Kansas, she was still known for her baking. Her grandchildren loved her cookies.  Grandma Westlake’s cookies were prized above all sweets. They loved her upstairs bathtub too!  Running hot water in the upstairs bathroom led to baths at Grandma’s house on Saturday nights.

Love letters didn’t survive her.  Most likely the love was hidden in the day-to-day details of life on the farm and family doings.  Admiration of her family, love of her grandchildren, love of the children and husband she had lost likely never left her, but love persevered and shown through.  It was undying and it was enough.