First of all, Clinton Claude McCracken was stationed at Camp Funston from July 1918 until February 1919 according to his World War I service record. I obtained information about World War I from another genealogist, which gave me dates, and where Clinton served. Later, I found a newspaper article stating he was called to the colors at that same time.
I have no idea how they met, but I did discover that Ina attended Morningside College, from probably 1906 to 1909, as well as at least two of her sisters. Vera and Ethel McCracken also were there at the same time as Ina’s sister, Flossie. I was able to find a couple of group photos of Ina in the Crescent Society in college, and a family photo on Ancestry. A newspaper article talked about a play she was in at that college in 1907. George Barrett and Charles Phenis were also at Morningside College, in the Hawkeye Literary Club. I found that Ina did work as a teacher, although I do not know where, so I assumed she graduated with a teaching certificate. She also worked at the Sioux City Gas and Electric Company as a stenographer. I visited Peiro, which is just a cemetery now.
Morningside had a streetcar system in 1912. That book about getting rich was a best seller then. Clinton’s draft registration stated he had dark blue eyes.
By tracking census and city directory data, I found that her family moved from the farm in Peiro, where she was born. Her father appeared in the newspaper several times, which gave me some family background. Clinton’s job history was gleaned from the city directories in Sioux City and Sioux Falls.
I could not find a wedding photo, but her dress and flowers were described in the newspaper. She visited a friend who had a cabin in Riverside, and the roller coaster was there in the early 1900’s.
A lot of the information about news going on around them, such as the temperance movement or the first world war, was taken from local newspapers at that time.
The first child was a son, and he died the day after he was born. I found this information in newspaper records, and from the cemetery. The county death records in Sioux Falls showed the second baby died five days before Ina did, but I was unable to find a reference to gender, which is why I assumed the baby was taken before it was a viable birth. C.C. refers to the baby as a girl, but that is unknown. The cemetery has a record of both babies and Ina being buried in the Hall plots, not with the McCrackens. Actually, the online information I found to date, does not show Ina at all, listing Inez McCracken instead, but I have visited Graceland Park Cemetery and have seen her marker next to her father’s. I did request that the Find-A-Grave correct their information. A newspaper article provided information about her death, but the pregnancy was not mentioned. The newspaper stated that her mother was with her when she died, which to me implied that her husband was not. The same article said that he was a traveling agent for Avery.
Dr. Mason and Emma are fictional, as were Emma’s brother and daughter, and the other friends and neighbors. Dr. Clark advertised in the Sioux Falls newspaper.
Ellen McCracken was a midwife according to family records. Toxemia and maternal pneumonia were common causes of maternal and infant deaths. The newspaper stated her cause of death was pneumonia.
The background information about the Great War later called World War I in the story because it helped paint a picture of why they did the elaborate draft in 1917. The war dominated the news stories that year.
J. Clayton McCracken was accidently shot as a teen, and recovered. That whole episode is based on newspaper coverage.
Grover’s death was fabricated. I could tell from census data that he was with the family in 1900, but not in 1905. It is possible he moved elsewhere during that time, as he would have been 19 by 1905, but he was never mentioned in any newspaper article I could find online, nor was he in the 1909 family portrait. I even went to two counties near the Garfield Township farm to try to find his death records, to no avail. His marker in Graceland Park states he died in 1925, but I believe that is just when the marker was erected, probably after the McCrackens bought plots there. Clifford’s marker also lists his death as 1925, but we know he died in 1910, from family history and newspaper accounts. (I requested a correction to that at the cemetery, so it could be updated now.) Baby Fay has a marker as well, but she died in 1899. The law did not require that deaths be reported to the County Recorder at that time.
Clifford died of infantile paralysis and the family was quarantined. I do not know if Sylvia was afflicted, but since she did have a spine abnormality, it seems plausible.
The family compositions were taken from censuses and ancestry trees.
The demographic information about Ina and C.C.’s families is as accurate as I could find. Agnes did return for an extended visit in 1918. Even their Christmas dinner was taken from family history.
C.C. advertised his Ford Roadster for sale in June of 1918, so I assumed he bought it sometime before that.
He went into business with his brother-in-law, Clifford Miller, in Omaha initially, and lived with them when the 1920 census was taken.
I made Ina somewhat political because she was college educated, and I liked juxtaposing the information about the war and women’s suffrage, which were both very prominent issues of the time. The specifics were gleaned from newspaper articles. It was kind of a “Forest Gump” effect, putting them in a moment of history.
Ellen McCracken suffered from some ailment that had her hospitalized around Thanksgiving 1917. The folksy sayings were something that my mother told me about her father, so I assumed they came from his family growing up.
C.C. joined the Elks shortly before Ina’s death, and that was described in the newspaper. Ina did host the Kro-tat-em meetings, but I was unable to determine exactly what that club did.
The photo album at the end was real, but it was actually one that belonged to Agnes, and it ended up in C.C’s daughter’s house, I am guessing because Agnes did not have children. The Letter itself was pure fabrication, and was a vehicle to try to describe what seemed like overwhelming heartache to overcome and start life over. When I started trying to uncover the enigma of my grandfather’s first wife, all I had was a piece of paper with her name and the dates their babies died. In doing this research, she became real to me. Even though Ina Hall was not directly related to my heritage, it appears that due to her untimely death, my grandfather went on to create our family. For that, I wanted to appreciate, honor and memorialize her.