Ralph Larkin and the Mystery of His Missing Sibling

Today’s blog post is about Ralph LARKIN. I’ll be going off the information I have available to me online (and not digging out my records or any additional information online) as well as going off stories from my Dad to create today’s blog post. Ralph LARKIN is my paternal great grandfather. He died on this date in 1963. I wasn’t born for another 6 years so I don’t have any personal stories about him to tell. Any stories I have come from others and from records.

I have tried to stick with Ralph’s childhood but a big part of childhood is siblings and Ralph has a sibling that’s a big mystery so today I’m going to talk a little about the siblings.

Ralph was born in 1898 in Barry County, Missouri to William and Minerva UNDERWOOD LARKIN. By 1900 (just two years later) the family was living in Aurora, Lawrence County, Missouri. Ralph had two siblings that I can name with certainty- Emily and William. (Alice is another child that some researchers assign to Minerva. We’ll talk about Alice in a minute.) In the 1900 census Ralph’s mom was 48 years old and she stated she gave birth to four children and all four were living. There are only 3 children living in the home, though- Emily (who later goes by Emma; 10 years old), William (who later went by Jess or Jesse; 8 years old), and Ralph (2 years old).

Ten years later in the 1910 census, Ralph’s mom says again that she gave birth to four children but in 1910 she says one child is deceased. The children listed in her household in 1910 are Emma, Jesse (spelled ‘Jessie’), and Ralph. I did a search of pre-1910 Missouri deaths at the Missouri archives database for a possible record of the baby that died but couldn’t find anything that seemed to fit with the information above.

Now let me throw another kink in things. Jess died in 1956. His obituary lists the following siblings: Mrs. Emma SPILLERS of Southwest City, Missouri; Mrs. Alice EDENS of Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Ralph LARKIN of Southwest City, Missouri. So, were there actually 5 children total and one died? Did they think Alice was going to die and told the census taker she was dead but then she pulled through? Was there a misunderstanding on either the census taker’s part or the part of the person giving answers to the census taker?

Let’s go ahead and talk about Alice now. Some researchers have Alice listed as Minerva’s sibling (Ralph’s aunt) and some have Alice listed as Minerva’s child (Ralph’s sibling). On the FindAGrave website Alice is listed as belonging to Minerva’s parents. I believe this is incorrect for a couple of reasons including Alice being listed as a granddaughter of Minerva’s mom on the 1880 census and the fact that Minerva’s mom would have been approaching 60 when Alice was born so biology would make it improbable that she gave birth to Alice.

On the records I’ve found for Alice, she had UNDERWOOD as her last name. So was Alice the illegitimate daughter of Minerva or one of Minerva’s sisters? Was she Minerva’s niece that Minerva ended up raising (a daughter of one of Minerva’s brothers)? Minerva’s brother just happened to get married the year Alice was born so maybe something happened to Alice’s mom and Minerva’s brother couldn’t care for the baby? Allow me to tell you what I think. I think we can safely rule out all of the brothers because in the 1880 census Alice’s father’s birthplace is not given but her mother’s is and her mother’s birthplace is North Carolina. If one of Minerva’s brothers had been the dad, the family would have been able to answer the question of Alice’s father’s birthplace so I think we can safely rule out all of the brothers (Ralph’s uncles). Minerva was approximately 19 when Alice was born so I think it’s most likely that Alice is either Minerva’s or one of the sisters’ illegitimate child. Minerva and Mary are the only ones I’m showing as being born in North Carolina so I think we can safely narrow it down to one of those two women. In looking at these two women, I notice that in 1874 (when Alice was born) Mary was married and going by the name BUTLER. So I think we can finally narrow it down to Minerva as being Alice’s mom. That equals four biological children for Minerva so you would think that would solve the problem, but it doesn’t because Minerva said one of her children was deceased by 1910 and yet Jess’s obituary shows there were four siblings and all were still alive in 1956.

I have yet to figure out this mystery. If you get it figured out- please let me know! It’s difficult for me to imagine that Alice and Ralph were ever very close. Alice had her first two children before Ralph was ever born and she had her third child the same year Ralph was born. We’re going to stop right here with Ralph’s childhood and move on but first, I want to show you some photographs of two of Minerva’s children.

This is Ralph:

This is Ralph’s sister, Emma LARKIN SPILLERS:

In 1918, at age 20, Ralph married Bessie LARKIN STEELEY.

Ralph and Bess

Bessie had been married already once at the age of 14 to Otis STEELEY and that marriage ended in divorce almost as soon as it began. I think for Ralph, this was his first marriage. Ralph’s mom signed the application for a marriage license and Bess’s mom signed the marriage certificate as a witness to the marriage.

Ralph and Bess had 10 children together that I know of. The stories of their children are interesting but I’ll get to those another day. Ralph worked as a mine laborer and then later as a miner in Miami, Oklahoma. He was also a farmer. He always lived close to his family as far as I can tell.

When my Dad talks about Ralph he often recalls that Ralph was very devout in his faith and was of the Pentecostal faith. Ralph loved to fish and was a hard worker.

food and memories blog post ralph bess larkin fishing.jpg
Ralph and Bess fishing.

Dad says Ralph died when my dad was only 19 so he doesn’t have a lot of memories, but as he recalls it Ralph died of miner’s lung disease from all his years working in the mines. He says Ralph wasn’t a coal miner. My thought on this is that given that Ralph mined in the Miami, Oklahoma area, Ralph would have worked in the zinc or lead mines. Dad said he always thought one contributing factor to Ralph’s death was lead poisoning. Dad says he’s never seen Ralph’s death certificate but basically Ralph suffocated to death. Ralph moved to Arizona on the doctor’s advice in hopes of restoring his health. He didn’t feel like the dry climate helped him so he moved back after a few years. Dad recalls that at the time, it seems the doctors thought Ralph might have asthma.

Ralph was also very strict. Dad says he loved and respected Ralph but always kept his mouth shut around him! Ralph was stern, but not mean. Dad says Bess was somewhat irreverent and opinionated and was a handful for the strict and devout Ralph.

Ralph died in January of 1963. Bess, whom my cousin has affectionately called ‘the serial bride’, remarried in August of the same year. She married James R. BRIGGS of Joplin, Missouri. I’m going to end Ralph’s story here since I’ve previously written about Ralph’s official cause of death. His birth date is in April so we’ll be visiting him again in April and hopefully we can flesh out his story a little more then. Until then, click on over to Becky’s blog. She’s posting a photo a day that is genealogy related.

Until tomorrow,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

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