Monday, 16 September 2013

What happened next - William Kerswell and Hannah Maria Rymes

So, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, William and Maria, reunited at last, headed off on the train to a happy new life together in Springville, Utah. But what actually happened next?
(By the way, Maria is pronounced to rhyme with "fire", as in the old song "They Called the Wind Maria")

They did live in Springville, but contrary to the newspaper report (probably based on William's information) it wasn't that simple. There was William and Maria, but there was also Sarah, William's second wife, who most certainly was not dead. Both women would have had a lot of adjusting to do. According to Owen Pearce, things did not go well:
"as time went by Maria began to exert her strength of character, which had carried her through many a tight and apparently untenable situation in the past. Slowly and surely she began to dominate in the home until she had completely taken over from the meeker and more placid Sarah. Furthermore she once again had her huband back after forty five years and had no intention of sharing him if it could possibly be avoided."1
For many years, Sarah's mother, Elizabeth Buck Garlick, had lived with Sarah and William and their children. Old Mrs Garlick died in 1888 and was buried in the Kerswell family plot in Springville Cemetery. By 3 November, 1904 her daughter had joined her, dying, according to Owen, of a broken heart2. Whether that was really the case, Sarah had lasted less than two months from the date of William and Maria's remarriage.

I am not sure what happened between 1904 and 15 April, 1910 when the Census was taken, but the fact is that William and Maria did not stay together. According to 1910 US Census returns, William was living with his and Sarah's daughter, Talitha, her husband, Stephen Hutchings, and their children in Spanish Fork, Utah, while Maria was in Springville with William Jnr and his two youngest daughters (the other two having left home as soon as they were able – William Jnr was a strict disciplinarian with a tendency to corporal punishment). I do wonder how William felt when he arrived in Utah, finally met his Dad and found that he had a younger half-brother also named William.

On 7 July 1910, Maria was admitted to the Utah County Infirmary, suffering from senile decay. She spent four years in the Infirmary, finally passing away on 4 February, 19153. She was buried in the Provo Cemetery. There is no headstone or marker.

Meanwhile, William had moved to Idaho in 1912, to a place called Moore, in Blaine County, with one of his and Sarah's sons. He died on 12 May 1916 at 7.30am, of Senile Decay and apoplexy4. He was buried in Lost River Cemetery, Custer County. His headstone reads:

William Kerswell
Aug 31 1827 May 8 1916
There is a triangle between the two dates5.

Not effusive, but more than Maria got.

With both parents dead, William Jnr returned to Australia in 1919, his daughters remaining in America where they married and had families. He was welcomed by his brother and sisters and their families, and by his two sons, and spent his years travelling amongst them all and overstaying his welcome.

Maria's obituary in the Salt Lake Tribune always annoys me:

Aged Woman Died
Special to The Tribune
PROVO Feb. 4. - Mrs. Maria Kerswell died here today from old age. She was 85 years of age, a native of England, and came to Utah from Australia in 1902, locating in Springville. She is survived by her husband, William Kerswell, and several children who live in Idaho, and one son, William Kerswell Jnr., residing in Provo.6

It's as if the family in Australia doesn't exist. But we do, and if I had the money I would put a headstone on Maria's grave, to read:

Maria Kerswell ni Rymes
born 1 Feb 1829
died 4 Feb 1915
From England to Australia and then USA
Never forgotten

1Pearce, Owen “Rabbit Hot, Rabbit Cold”, Popinjay Press, ACT, 1991, p.459
2Ibid., p.465
3 Utah State Board of Health, death certificate 56 (1915), Maria Kerswell; digital image, FamilySearch, "Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1956," FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 Jan 2012)
4 Idaho State Board of Health, death certificate 54 (1916), William Kerswell; digital image, FamilySearch, "Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1956," FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 Jan 2012)
5 John Tipton database, Find a Grave ( : accessed 16 Sep 2013), database entry for William Kerswell memorial #37774611.

6"Aged Woman Dies" Salt Lake Tribune, 5 February 1915, p. 7, col. 3; digital images, Utah Digital Newspapers ( : accessed 17 Aug 2013)

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