This exercise has made me appreciate once again the importance looking at each individual in their own right. Eliza wasn't just a mother of four, a farmer's daughter, or anything else the census records and birth certificates might tell us. I was surprised at the "facts" I'd thought I'd known that had to be wiped clean. My reward was discovering a whole new, more real person.
So read on if you're up for the story of Eliza Dunaway.
Eliza was born on January 5th - let's just say 1884. She was the 2nd oldest child of George W. Butts and Sarah Clementine Taylor Butts. I was surprised to realize that I didn't know where in Texas she was born. Her family lived in Fort Worth for most of the census records I have her in, but no documentation will back up that she was born there. So for now, it's just Texas. Being born in the mid 1880's means the first census we meet her in is the 1900 census. She was 16 years old and listed as Annie. Another surprise, was this really her or a sister? I'd never known her to go by Annie but that doesn't mean she didn't.
In 1900 the Butts family lived in Tarrant county, Texas (county where Fort Worth is.) Annie was 16, Palo was 13 (would give him a 1887 birthdate), Lillian was 8 and Valeria was not yet 1. Mom Sarah was said to have 5 living children, so someone's left home. All the children were born somewhere in Texas. Father George was a farmer. George and Sarah, by the way, were married in Tennessee. What brought them to Texas? A question for another time.
The next clue in Elizabeth "Annie's" trail is the birth certificate of their first child George Alton Dunaway. He was born in Fort Worth, Arlington Heights in October of 1907. I've found no record of the Dunaway/Butts marriage, but can piece together from birth certificates of children and censuses recording length of marriage that Eliza Butts married George Washington Dunaway in either late 1906 or early 1907. Probably in Tarrant county given that's where she lived and where their children were born. Eliza would have been 22 or 23 at the time of her marriage. In 1900 Mr. Dunaway lived several hours away in Eastland county where he was a 22 year old school teacher. He may have come to Fort Worth for work.
Sarah Taylor Butts never remarried. She lived in Fort Worth for the rest of her days and worked as a seamstress quite independently until her death in 1947 - 41 years after her husband had died. She is buried in Fort Worth.
For Eliza, once married there was a quick trail of birth certificates after George: 2/25/1909 James Howard Dunaway (my grandfather), 9/12/1910 Anna Katherine Dunaway, and 5/4/1913 Lillian Dunaway - all in Fort Worth. The 1910 census shows George and Eliza with little George, Howard and Jack Dunaway, a brother of George's. George worked as a railway mail clerk.
Before rushing on to the next census to see what we can find, which is a logical next step, I like to consider what her life must have been like. I know from experience that raising children in those early year is challenging - to put it mildly. Eliza had 4 children in 5 years. She was not yet 30 when her last was born. The proximity to her remaining family was probably extremely important. Mother Sarah and the younger sisters all lived close by in 1910 and 1920. Lillian would marry and move to Virginia before 1930; she never had children to my knowledge. Valeria, the youngest girl, also married before 1930 and had at least 2 children. She lived and died in Fort Worth. Eliza too lived in Fort Worth almost her whole life. My great-grandfather George W. Dunaway got a law degree and would eventually (before 1930) move to Midland, Texas to practice. I wonder if Eliza missed being near from the family she'd lived so close too.
My mom and grandparents would talk of her "fragile mental health." She apparently took weeks and sometimes months at a facility to "get her strength back". This was in Fort Worth. Maybe a way to be near her mother?
Eliza's husband George Washington Dunaway died in 1934 of coronary thrombosis. He was 56 years old. I don't know where Eliza lived after he died. Did she stay in Midland? Did she go back to Fort Worth with her mother and a sister were still living? She's missing in the 1940 census - but I know where she was. She lived with her son and his wife, my grandfather and grandmother. None of them have been found in the 1940 census because my grandparents moved about 8 times that year all within Texas. They were one step ahead of the census taker! I do have several photos (including the one at the top) of Eliza during the time she lived with my grandparents - my grandmother was pregnant in 1940 with my uncle.
Elizabeth died on Halloween of 1945. She is buried with her husband George in Fairview Cemetery in Midland, Texas. She was 61, relatively young. Her mother Sarah was still living, and would be for 2 more years before her own death in Fort Worth.
I wish I knew more about her, as always...
Copyright (c) 2013, Family at Your Fingertips, Jodi Bash