Monday, September 30, 2013

Francis Ida Smith-Bridwell

Francis Ida Smith
June 16, 1876 - February 17, 1947

Francis Ida Smith was one of twelve children of John Leonard Smith (August 16, 1849 - January 14, 1917). She was the fourth child by his first marriage to Irena Gribble (About 1849 - September 9, 1880). Of all the children of John and Irena, and John and his second wife Martha Lane, only the girls, most of them, survived into adulthood. All the boys died young, as did one daughter. 

Francis Ida was born in McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee on June 16, 1876. Her full siblings were Lucy, John B. (died young), Mary (aka Mollie), Euphemia, and Herman (died young). Her half siblings, by her father's marriage to Martha Lane after the death of his first wife, were: Olive, Octavia, Eunice Irene (died young), Loveless (died young), Osie (my grandmother), and Clara (I guess they ran out of O names).

Sometime in the 1890s, John Leonard and Martha, along with their children/step-children, moved to Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee where Ida met John Wesley Bridwell. They married on December 7, 1898 in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. They had one son, Leonard Herman Bridwell, who was born October 24, 1899 in Nashville, Ward 2, Davidson County, Tennessee. He died November 29, 1976.

In 1900, Ida and her son were listed on the Census Record with her father, step-mother, and half siblings Olive, Octa, Osie, and Clara. Her husband is not listed on the Census Record. In 1910, she and Leonard Herman are living by themselves. Again, no husband.  In 1930, Ida is living with her son Leonard Herman, his wife Ruth, and their children Ruth and Leonard. 

Francis Ida Smith-Bridwell, a widow by this time, died on February 17, 1947 at the home of her sister Molly Smith-Clark in Forest, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana.

But, her story doesn't end there with a peaceful death in her sleep. This is dancing with the ancestors after all, which is often a quite complicated dance with dips and spins and, sometimes, a fall or two.

Francis Ida's life doesn't end with a graceful pirouette and bow, but rather a stunning fall brought about by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On February 17, 1947 - about 5:15 or so in the evening, at Mollie's farm, an intruder broke into the home of Mollie Smith-Clark. She was alone. Her sister Francis Ida Smith-Bridwell had come for a vist from Yeadon, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, for a visit. At approximately 5:20 PM, the intruder struck Francis Ida in the head with a heavy piece of timber and fractured her skull. She died ten minutes later at 5:30 PM.   

Thus, at almost 71 years of age, the life of Francis Ida Smith-Bridwell ended because she happened to go visit her sister Mollie. She was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The family story about Aunt Ida's death was a little bit different, and varied on the telling. The story I remember is my aunt telling me that two, if not three, of the half-sisters lived together in Louisiana. I swear she told me New Orleans, but . . . and that one night someone broke into their house and attacked them, killing one of the sisters. A few years later, the other sister, still living in Louisiana was murdered as well.

Aunt Mollie died eight years later of a heart attack.

The different version I had heard from a cousin was similar except . . . the sisters ran a boarding house in Louisiana. An intruder broke in one evening, attacked them, and killed Aunt Ida. Aunt Mollie survived, crawled out of the house and under the front porch where she . . . lived, and lived, and lived, and lived. 

The actual order of events is how I imagined them happening based on information found on the death certificate which provided the following information: time of death, how it happened, how long Ida had been in Louisiana, and her normal place of residence. So, from that, I learned she was just visiting Mollie, and she still lived in Pennsylvania. I also figured out - could be right, could be wrong - that Mollie might or might not have been as severely injured as the one version of the story claims since . . .

. . . on February 18, 1947 she was the informant for the death certificate and signed the appropriate section. I don't think, if she was severely injured, she would have been able to provide so much information or sign the death certificate. I think, as time went by, the story gained some fiction. 

But, here and now, the best version of the truth is set down in writing, on this blog, to remember Aunt Ida!

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