Mystery Monday is a daily blogging theme used by many genealogy bloggers to help them post content on their sites. Mystery Monday is where you can post about mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in your genealogy and family history research which is currently unsolved. This is a great way to get your fellow genealogy bloggers to lend their eyes to what you’ve found so far and possibly help solve the mystery. Here is my story today.
Bailey Bright Reese and Lillian Vianna Conner are my direct descendants through their son, Wilford William Reese. But they also had a daughter named Mabel Tobiatha Reese. This story is about her.
Mabel Tobiatha Reese was born 4/21/1919 in Madison County, NC to Bailey Bright Reese (DOB: 1/26/1878 in Madison County, NC; DOD: 12/10/1949 in Marion, McDowell County, NC) and Lillian Vianna Conner (DOB: 1/9/1887 in Madison County, NC; DOD: 1/15/1984 in Marion, McDowell County, NC). Mabel was the 7th child out of 9 children.
According to the NC Birth Index 1800 to 2000, she was named "Mabel Kelith Reese", DOB 4/21/1919 in Transylvania County, NC, Parent1: Bailey B. Reese, Roll #B_C093_66001, Vol 5, Pg 77. But according to her father's family Bible she was named "Mabel Tobiatha Reese".
This is the only photo we have of her. It's possible it was made about the time she married the first time. Notice her signature in the corner. The handwriting is nice and controlled.
She married Walter Baird Phillips on 6/22/1941 in Marion, McDowell County, NC at the age of 22 yrs old. They had a son named David Larry Phillips who was born on 7/19/1942 in Marion, McDowell County, NC. She left her husband and son for unknown reasons. They divorced in 1947 in Volusia County, FL. It was after she left Walter that the family began to lose touch with her. She only visited a few times after that. We think she may have remarried once, maybe twice? There is also a vague family rumor that she may have gone to Australia (to visit or to live)?
One time she visited my grandparents (her brother, Wilford) when they lived in Winston-Salem, Forsythe County, NC. My grandparents lived there from 1953-1957. My Uncle James (her nephew) has vague memories of her coming with a man she claimed was her husband and that he was a baseball player. He thought they were living in Chicago. But he was a little boy, so...
The last time she visited the family, she came to Asheville, Buncombe County, NC to visit her mother and her sister, Margaret Alice Reese Young. She was by herself and had become a severe alcoholic. She had to be hospitalized while she was in Asheville due to drinking anything alcoholic she could find in the medicine cabinets and kitchen. When she returned to where she was living, she mailed an illegible letter back home dated 2/17/1970. It was in a bank's stationary envelope. The original return address on the envelope was "Union Bank, Box 2278 Terminal Annex, Los Angeles, CA". Written over the bank's return address was "Maurice El Family, 921 So. Grand Ave, LA. Calif". It's difficult to read her handwriting, it's possible that it says, "Maurice A. Family". The letter was addressed to "Mrs. B.B. Reese (her mother), C/O Mr. Joe Young, Home Se. Co., Asheville, NC" (Joe Young was married to her sister, Margaret Alice Reese) It had been damaged by the post office and had been taped back together.
Here is a transcript as much as I'm able to read it and the spelling will remain as the original, parenthesis are mine:
Just got back from Astarlig & in the bush co (Is this Australia? which would mean it was visit and she's back now.), Me Just Couemd I write. Darling loves you so much & is so glad to be home. Hope your feeling O.K.
Hi Paul & Willford (my grandfather and his older brother) - Mom says say Hello to Alice & Grace (her older and younger sisters)
Woford (my grandfather) Please write your Big sis.
She misses you peoplee.
This is where it ends. Looks to me like there may have been another page + that are missing possibly when the post office ripped the envelope open. You will obviously see the difference in her handwriting on this letter and envelope. It's so very different from her signature on her photograph. It's oversized and hurried. She's writing in cursive in her letter and as the return address on the envelope but she wrote in print for the addressee on the envelope. The "e" in the printed on the envelope looks like "g". It's made from a "c" with a line dashed through it beyond the letter itself. Is it possible that the letter was written by one person and the envelope was written by another. Were they, either one, really written by her? Does your handwriting change that much even with alcoholism? She also asks my Grandfather, Wilford Reese, to "Please Write Your Big Sis" and she was actually next to the youngest of the 9 children. Wilford was the 3rd oldest so he would be her big brother (the first child died as a 2 yr old so he would be her 2nd oldest of the living children).
This is the last time she was heard from. My Grandfather and her son, at different times, tried to find her.
Her first husband, Walter Baird Phillips (DOB: 4/1/1917 in Madison County, NC) died in 4/18/2004 in Asheville, Buncombe County, NC. Their son, David, died on 7/5/1979 in Miami, Dade County, FL. He was married to Dorothy Faith Christian and they had a son and daughter.
We would love to know what happened to Mabel. We can only pray that she was able to get herself together at some point before she died. As it is, we just don't know and it's a terrible thing not to know what happened to a loved one. Was she murdered and buried in an empty lot somewhere? Or her body was unidentified? Did she die homeless and buried as a Jane Doe? If she was OK, why didn't she keep in contact with her family in NC/SC? Why weren't family notified of her death? Did she move somewhere else? Did she have a better life and die at hearth and home somewhere? It's possible she's still alive (she'd be 91 yrs old) but where would she be? Did she lose her memory at some point and didn't/doesn't know her family? Her parents and all her siblings and their spouses have passed away now. Her ex-husband and her son have both passed away too. But we would still like to know what happened to Mabel Reese.