Some 52 Ancestors prompts have immediately reminded me of a family story: “Frightening” sparked the memory of my grandmother telling us kids her favorite ghost story, and the obvious choice for “Independence” was my Revolutionary War ancestor’s journey to clear his name a year before his passing. Some prompts have been more difficult to write about: after a few drafts, “Ten” became a post about my Marczynski cousins’ lives, while “Unusual Source” featured a mundane diary I inherited years ago. This week’s prompt is “Next to Last,” and it’s undoubtedly the toughest one yet. My solution? I picked one of my great-great-grandparents’ names out of a hat, and I’ve decided to write about their next-to-last sibling.
My great-great-grandfather, Milton Marion Cook, had five sisters–Martha Louise (b. 1874), Ella Rosina (b. 1879), Fannie Lucina (b. 1882), Florence Ellen (b. 1884) and Hattie Ethel (b. 1887)–and Florence Ellen was the next-to-last sibling in the family. She was born on October 16, 1884 in Almena, Kansas to James Milton and Emily Cornelia (Damon) Cook. Reverend James Cook was a circuit rider–a Methodist clergyman who traveled on horseback from church to church–and the family lived in Kansas, Nebraska and Montana over the years. Florence and her sisters were heavily involved in the church, and her brother became a circuit rider one day, as well.
Florence married Leonard Delmar Monette, the son of George and Rachel (Scott) Monette, on December 24, 1910 in Kalispell, Montana. The pair were united in marriage by Reverend George Teel Klein–Florence’s brother-in-law–in the presence of Florence’s sisters, Hattie and Ella. I can only imagine how beautiful a church wedding on Christmas Eve in Montana would have been, but I’m certain it would have been freezing outside, complete with a blanket of snow. After traveling throughout the country as a child, Florence and Leonard remained in Montana, and Leonard started a grain and hay farm in Kalispell.
Leonard & Florence (Cook) Monette’s Marriage License, 1910
Leonard and Florence had two children–Arvilla Florence (b. 1913) and LaVerne James (b. 1917)–before tragedy struck. Florence passed away on May 28, 1922 at the young age of 37 years old, leaving Leonard a widower with an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. He had recently returned from fighting in the trenches during World War I and, soon after his wife’s death, he picked up and moved with Arvilla and LaVerne to Spokane, Washington to begin anew. Tragedy struck again, though, with the death of LaVerne on June 4, 1926; he was only 9 years old.
Leonard Monette’s World War I Draft Registration Card, 1917
Leonard was determined, though, to provide his daughter with a happy childhood. He married Inis Boyes, the daughter of William and Jennie (Sloan) Boyes, on February 24, 1927 in Spokane, and the couple started a farm together and raised Florence’s daughter together. Arvilla was always close to her father, and she remained in Washington–in either Moran, Spokane or Tacoma–all of her life. She passed away on July 26, 1967 in Tacoma at the age of 53, one month after her father’s passing. Arvilla never married; instead, she devoted her life to the memory of her mother and younger brother, as well as to spending time with her father.
This week’s 52 ancestors prompt–“Next to Last”–was the most difficult prompt yet, but it has allowed me to delve into the past of an ancestor that I previously knew very little about. The story I found, though, is mired in loss and tragedy. Florence (Cook) Monette had a happy–albeit strict and structured–childhood, but her marriage and time with her own children ended much too soon. Leonard’s determination to start anew and to keep his wife’s memory alive is inspiring, and although this isn’t the story I expected to uncover, it is a story that deserves to be shared.