On Nellie, Part 2

The more I look into the life of my great-great grandmother, the sadder I feel it must have been. As I wrote last time, I don’t yet know what became of her after 1886. Much less what precipitated her “insanity,” as the courts deemed it.

NelliesgraveMy great-aunt, before I decided I shouldn’t ask more about it, told me “Nellie” was a nickname and that she was buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery with her mother. She told me her mother (Nellie’s daughter) would not speak of her mother, but her father told her this, and also that she died around the age of 36, the speculation being suicide.

I believe this may be her grave. It is adjacent to Nellie’s mother’s, I know that, and it’s the final resting place of a 34 year-old woman named “Ellen.” Her birthdate does not match that of the woman in the article, however, who in 1886 was reported to be 27. The woman interred here would have been 20. One or the other could be wrong. Or perhaps this isn’t her grave.

The Topeka State Hospital where she was likely sent did keep records of those who perished there during the late 19th century. There is no Ellen or Nellie Farrell recorded in cemetery records. The closest match is a woman listed as “Nellie Fennell,” who died on this day, inĀ  fact, in 1937. Perhaps this is her. But I think the grave in Atchison is more likely.JohnFarrell

If so, what is saddest is that just to the right of Ellen’s grave is this one–that of a 6 month old boy, John E. Farrell. It lists him as passing away on June 28, 1886. Just two weeks before Nellie was “adjudged insane.” Could it be she was simply grieving for her son? The article reports her symptoms developing “about a month ago,” which would be a couple weeks before John’s death. Maybe he was sick? It also reports that she would not let her mother or husband touch her children. Could it be he was sick and she felt they were worsening his condition? Maybe they were? Or, perhaps something entirely different happened. Maybe she suffered from post-partum depression and actually had something to do with John’s demise.

Ultimately, I am writing a fictional character in the Second Song, so whatever I uncover in history will only point me in directions, and I will choose what seems best for the novel. But I’m also now utterly intrigued, and will continue trying to figure out what happened to Nellie Farrell.