Sunday, March 18, 2018

Searching for Emily Evans Livingston

When you visit Clermont, one of the first things you learn is that Alice Livingston was the matriarch of Clermont from 1906 to her death in 1964.  Some twenty years younger than her husband, Alice was actually John Henry Livingston's third wife.  See below in the Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, vol 29 (1909).


See?  There's Alice's name, all in capital letters.  And the name of John Henry's first wife Catherine is there too.  But the name that is conspicuously missing is that of his second wife, Emily Evans. If you look at the asterisk below, you can see that "information as to the second marriage of John Henry Livingston [is] omitted at his request."

Why?  

In fact, very little is known about Emily Evans.  Some years ago, I found this photo of her in Clermont's collections and put it on the blog as the only piece of evidence I had about her.  But no birth or death dates got recorded for non-Livingston spouses in the genealogy (affectionately known as "the big, red book") so for the longest time, I didn't even know those most basic statistics on her life.
Honestly, it's not at all unheard-of to have little information about historic women.  So often their function was as an auxiliary to their husband, mavens of the home and hearth who subverted even their own given names when they became wives--instead being known as "Mrs. John Henry Livingston," or whatever their husband's name was.  Some well-to-do women might appear in newspapers for their roles in committees, but most often, they were considered non-noteworthy unless they were "coming out," getting engaged, getting married, or dying. 

But for some reason, Emily was largely lost even to Livingston family history.  Possibly it had to do with tensions that arose between John Henry and his father Clermont Livingston when he married his Philadelphia bride.  Family stories suggest that this marriage played a role in John Henry being largely skipped over in his father's will.

It was while doing newspaper research for John Henry Livingston that I came across a few tantalizing tidbits of Emily's life.  First of all, there was the wedding announcement for John Henry and his new wife in the New York Times on November 3, 1880.


Then, a reference to "Mrs John Henry Livingston" assisting Katharine (her step daughter) at her society debut, just months after the family had returned from Europe in 1892.  

And here she is again in the New York Social Register for 1893.  You can see that they were dividing their time between Philadelphia and Clermont:


Finally, there is Emily's obituary in 1894:


Dead "very suddenly" at age 54.  No flowers.  She's not even buried in New York where her husband would eventually lie.  And then 15 years later her husband doesn't even permit her name to be listed in the public documents about his life.  What gives?

I may have found more information that I had previously, but it turns out that it just raised further questions.  Where is the step mother who raised Katharine?  They had an affectionate relationship, according to Katharine's great grandchildren.  What caused her sudden death?  And why was she largely erased from John Henry's history?

Perhaps one day something will turn up that helps to color in the story I've only just begun to put together.  But for now, we'll just have to wonder.

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