Evidence suggests that Aunt Lydie eloped with a young man from Weston. What may have started out as a romantic adventure ended in tragedy.
As we saw last time, Aunt Lydie was living an unremarkable perhaps boring life in the small town of Weston, Nebraska with her widowed mother Johanna Nilsdotter Pearson. By the way, I found a photo of the house. It’s obvious to me now that the house still standing on Main Street was not Johanna’s house; I believe the house is gone. Someday I’ll look up deeds in the courthouse in Wahoo and sort this all out.
That’s a pretty massive garden and a substantial fence to keep out pests! And I wonder if those are fruit trees…
The 1910 census for Weston shows Johanna and Lydie living together, and in another nearby home lives Anton and Teresa Novak and two daughters (some older daughters had moved out on their own). Anton was the local butcher. A son, Joseph, was serving in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Minnesota, a battleship associated at that time with the Atlantic fleet. Depending on when he joined the navy, he may have seen the world during the ship’s deployment as part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet“.
Here’s a photo of Joe in his younger days1, maybe as a young teenager? The boy with the tough nickname and grown-up hat had to be quite a contrast to the stereotypical Swedish boys that Lydie knew.
Upon his return from military service, he was probably even more worldly and a life with Joe may have offered everything that Lydie’s might have lacked.
I can only imagine the angst that resulted to Joe’s parents and to Johanna. Immigrant parents risked everything to make a life for their family in the new world, but they surely envisioned that life to be a continuation, not a rejection, of the faith and culture that they brought with them from the old country.
Joe and Lydie rejected their parents’ heritage and headed north on what is today Highway 77 all the way to Sioux City, Iowa. On April 18, 1913, they were married in front of a Justice of the Peace and, as near as I can tell, the witnesses were strangers. The marriage record is truthful in all respects to their home and parents; I believe Joe was actually two or three years older than Lydie.
I wonder what happened on their return to Weston? Where did they live? Who accepted them – and who did not?
Johanna died in November of that year. It’s possible that Joe and Lydie moved into her house – again, a check of deeds in Wahoo might clear that up.
The star-crossed couple had only two short years together before tragedy struck. Let’s let the newspaper article tell the story (warning, graphic details!)
Note that his occupation was listed as saloonkeeper – this would have really been at odds with Lydie’s conservative Swedish roots.
The article says the coroner did not conduct an inquest but actually hie did. The report shows that Shandera was the driver, and the car was traveling at a high rate of speed. However, I don’t think any charges were brought against him.
Looking on a map, I think the accident occurred about 3/4 mile west of the Starlite where a small creek passes underneath the road.
His obituary in the September 23, 1915 edition of the Wahoo Wasp reads:
The funeral of Joseph A. Novak was held last Thursday from the home of his parents with interment in the Weston cemetery. The funeral was largely attended by his many friends. The deceased was about 26 years of age. He leaves to mourn his loss a widow, father and mother and six sisters.
CARD OF THANKS
We desire to extend our thanks to our friends and neighbors for their kindness and help during the death and burial of our beloved husband, son and brother, also for the floral offerings.
The funeral being held at home suggests that a church funeral may not have been an option. The “Card of Thanks” appears to suggest a unified expression from Lydie and Joe’s family,.
His grave in the Weston Cemetery has a large and elaborate tombstone, a testament to the loss his family felt upon his passing. A photograph is embedded into the stone (see findagrave page for close-up).
After Joe’s death, Lydie remained in the area, perhaps continuing to live in her mother’s house in Weston.
By 1920, she was ready for a new life and new adventures.
1Shout-out to Jeff Woita‘s Ancestry.com family tree which include Lydie, Joe and all of the Novak family. The photo of Joe, the coroner’s inquest, and the obituary were all gleaned from his research.