You know those family stories, the ones that tug at your heartstrings and haunt your thoughts for days? Well, this is one of those.
It is the story of my Great Grandfather, Ora Everett STEPHENS and his siblings. In January of 1898 they were all living in Gas City, Indiana. The family consisted of my Great Great Grandfather George Washington STEPHENS, my Great Great Grandmother Rebecca Jane BOLE and the children, Ottis (1878), Ida (1883), Inez (1885), Iva (1889), Ora (1891 - my Great Grandfather), Olen (1893), Ilan (1895) and baby Irene (1898). The oldest daughter Icy was a newlywed and brother Walter had died as an infant in 1880.
But in July of that year George died leaving Rebecca to support all the children on her own. In the 1900 census she is still living in Gas City and still has Ottis, Ida, Inez, Ilan and Irene with her. Also living in the household are daughter Icy and her husband Henry.
In 1902 Rebecca gets remarried to John STROUP and this is where the family story kicks in. It is said that John wanted to marry Rebecca but didn't want her children. So Rebecca, after keeping the family together for four year, begins giving the children away. One to an Aunt, a few went into an orphanage and baby Irene was given to the neighbors. It is further said that those neighbors moved away in the middle of the night and none of the siblings ever saw Irene again.
Rebecca goes on to live another 41 years spending 29 of those married to her second husband John. In one census it shows John's children living with them. But what about her own? Did she live with regrets? Did her heart panic at the thought of what may of happened to baby Irene? Or did she just move on with her life?
And what about Irene? The story is now 109 years old and I'm sure missing pieces of important information. But if what I've been told is partially true, could Irene have been given to one of the neighbors living by them in the 1900 census? Common sense tells me that at 4 years old her new parents may not have changed her first name but most likely changed her last. The 1900 census for Gas City, Indiana is only 37 pages long. If I search each and every family living in Gas City in 1900 and look for them in the 1910 census I just might find an Irene living with them. It would put me one step closer to discovering what happened to Irene.
It's a long shot. But I'm taking it.