Doctor, doctor, gimme the news…*Feb 14th, 2009 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: History's Mysteries, Missing Persons
Leonard historian Jennie Leonard Hutchinson described her last visit to the family’s old two-story log cabin in a letter dated 1932. In it, she mentioned that “Dr. Shaffer (sic) was overcome with emotion as he looked about. His mother, Lydia Shaffer, was my father’s sister.” (Making Lydia the sister of Edmund, Isaac, William & co.) Several of us descendants had the same thought… “I wonder if he took pictures?”
Just when you think it’s hopeless, a letter turns up that not only answers the question, but opens new vistas for exploration. Take the case of “Dr. Shafer.”
Trouble was, Jennie never mentioned “Dr. Shafer’s” first name and Lydia (Leonard) Shafer had five grown sons. To make matters worse, Lydia and her entire family disappeared from the record after spending 20+ years in Cherokee County, Kansas. I even had a Kansas researcher walk every cemetery in the area (very rural, not many cemeteries) to see if they were there.
We found not a trace of Lydia, husband Charles, or sons Franklin, William, Charles, Jesse, or John.
Fast forward three-quarters of century or so. Our good buddy Sean returned to his grandmother’s Florida home this week and dug through a few boxes. I got an email. “What was that doctor’s name again?” I told him. “I think I have a letter from him to my grandparents Eleanor (Leonard) and Lester Burke.”
Can you imagine? In a letter written in 1945, on a letterhead bearing the name “Dr. W. T. Shafer, chiropractor,” the long-lost and by then 85-year-old Dr. Shafer had surfaced at last… in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He even mentioned his visit with “Mrs. Hutchinson” in 1927. He recalled her being a librarian, but hadn’t heard from her in a long time.
Sean quickly found the good doctor and his wife, Ida, in the 1920 census (she was also a chiropractor) and I found them in a 1925 city directory. We’re still tracking down the wheres and whens of their arrival, dates of death, etc…. and hoping the rest of the family will turn up as part of the investigation. But here’s the part that intrigues me most… I found a reference to a Wm. Shafer in the records of the Oklahoma Land Rush!
Still too early to know if it’s the right guy, but wouldn’t it be cool if the Leonards once again crossed paths with some hugely significant historical event? The Land Rush happened in 1889, precisely four years after the Shafer family disappeared from the Kansas record. Kansas is obviously right next door to Oklahoma. And the reference to “Wm. Shafer” in Logan County, Oklahoma, turns up in 1890, when William would’ve been 30 years old. No idea yet whether he has descendants.
All of that comes from a couple of letters, written to and from people I never had occasion to meet, discovered by someone who, a year ago, wouldn’t have recognized the letters as significant in the least. Thanks. Again. Sean!
Isn’t family history fun?
* the title of this post comes from an old Robert Palmer song recorded in 1979, “Bad Case of Loving You.” Here’s hoping it gives you an earworm, making you as old as me.