May 19, 2020
Chevy Chase, Maryland
I believe there were several reasons why Emmett and Pearl’s romance ended right after Emmett graduated from Stetson University in 1904:
- It was a long-distance relationship. Even today, with cars and technology such as Skype and ZOOM, it is hard to maintain a romantic relationship when you don’t see your beloved regularly. Emmett and Pearl were between six and eight hours apart — six, if you took a train (which stopped several times between Marianna and Daytona/Seabreeze), and eight if you were lucky to have a car that probably went no faster than 30 miles an hour. And with that,
- Emmett didn’t have a lot of spare time in his new job. Emmett was working for his brother Cephas, who was a busy lawyer-bank president-political up-and-comer. Information from the Jackson County, Florida docket for 1904 indicates Wilson & Wilson were busy with many ongoing cases and court sessions that year.
But even if there was some semblance of romance going on between Emmett and Pearl, there was a major hurdle to overcome.
It wasn’t that Pearl’s mother, Alice Spangler, would have thought Emmett not good enough for Pearl; in fact, Alice probably saw Emmett as the ideal husband for Pearl: He came from a well-respected, prominent Florida family, he was a lawyer, he had a solid career ahead of him.
But the problem was Alice Spangler. I believe Pearl knew it, too, which is why she worked hard to become a ‘new woman;’ someone who could stand on her own professionally and financially, without having to rely on a husband. Or two.
Read on, if you dare.
Pearl’s mother, Alice Goodwin Fairfield, was born in 1855 in Springfield, Massachusetts:
Alice probably had trouble making ends meet with private organ and piano lessons while living on her own, because the following year, we find Alice living at a brand new address, and working as a clerk in the Goodyear Rubber Store.
There is probably a divorce somewhere on the books between Alice and Humphrey Grout, but I was unable to find anything on public record. Perhaps, given the status of Alden Grout in the community, the marriage was quietly annulled.
Humphrey Grout strikes me as someone who was a nice guy who loved working with plants and wasn’t a good businessman; he also strikes me as someone whose heart might have been broken — and it strikes me that Alice probably saw Humphrey and his family as well-to-do, a step up from her home situation, whatever it was like. She was (probably an unthinking) teenager when she married a man almost a whole decade older that she was; a man with life experience and money (early on, anyway) with an important family, and who was prominent in the community. From what I’ve learned about Alice, those were things she strove for all her life, which tells us she didn’t have that growing up.
An aside: As I write this, I am not casting aspersions on Alice, nor do I judge her. I do, however, notice patterns in her life choices she made to survive in a tough world, and that’s what I’m sharing here. Of course, my interpretation of data may be wrong, and if so, I welcome corrections. For the record, I reached out to Pearl’s descendants several times for confirmation/additional information on her life, and have heard back only twice, and that was with minimal return information. Again, I’m not judging, but stating what I know from what I have. More information is always welcome, and appreciated!
I don’t know much about Alice’s parents, but it is interesting and poignant that they didn’t take her back into the family home when she separated from Humphrey Grout. I imagine they told her (when she let them know her marriage was ending) that she’d made a commitment — a lifetime vow, no less — and so breaking that vow had consequences that were now hers to own. She would have to fend for herself and deal with the fallout that came with being a ‘grass widow‘ in the 1880s. (That was the term used in the media for divorced women at that time). Alice’s community might have felt some pity for her and her situation, but she would be considered tainted as a divorcee. The fact the energetic and ambitious Alice felt trapped in a bad marriage for the rest of her life, for whatever reason, must have have been a terrible thing to face in her 20s — and to be honest, I don’t know if I were in the same position, during that same time period, if I would feel so bold as to decide to live my own life as she did.
So, I admire for a woman like Alice who would do whatever it took to make her own way during a time when women were expected to be subservient in society.
The next record I have on Alice is a second marriage license, to Wilbur C. Spaulding.
But in 1884, get this:
Less than six months later, Florence Pearl Spaulding is born in Springfield, Massachusetts (interesting that Alice lists her birthplace as Manchester, Connecticut). Was this about love? Convenience? Necessity? All of the above? Think about this — Alice was already a 27-year-old divorcee — and pregnant before the wedding. She was getting along in years. She had greater ambitions for herself than working in the rubber store. And now that she was pregnant, if she didn’t marry Wilbur Spaulding (or anyone else), she would be persona non grata, period. This wedding was happening, whether Wilbur had planned to ask her to marry him in the future or not. I wonder if Wilbur knew Alice had been married once before — something like that would be hard to hide in a small community. And I have to ask: Did Alice connive this pregnancy?
I hope not; there would be innocent people involved in such a decision, not to mention painful consequences for all involved.
According to the Springfield, Massachusetts city directories, from 1884 until 1887, Wilbur works as a merchant and a clerk in different businesses; in 1888 onward, he is listed as a commercial traveler — a salesman — and is probably away from home more often than not.
In 1891, the Spaulding family has moved to 317 Main Street; in 1892 to 427 State Street. He’s still a commercial traveler, but finances may be tough for the family, given the frequent moving about in the same town. In 1893, the entry for Spaulding is telling:
There is no record in either the 1895 or 1896 Boston City Directory for Wilbur or Alice. No record of their whereabouts for 1896, but by then, the Spaulding marriage has been over for at least a year. How do I know?
Evidence of a third marriage license for Alice in 1896:
Adam Stem Spangler married Alice Goodwin Fairfield Grout Spaulding on June 2, 1896. Adam Spangler was a widower; he lost his wife Margaret “Maggie” Sweetwood Spangler after a 31-year marriage less than two years earlier, in 1894.
Opportunity for Alice; rebound for Adam? Who knows. I’m not sure how they met. But the Spanglers moved to Daytona Beach/Seabreeze around 1897 or 1898 and managed a series of hotels. Adam Spangler had family in the area; there was at least one nephew, Charles S. Smith, who was a salesman in the Daytona Beach area. (There aren’t any city directories for Daytona Beach during the late 1890s — at least those in a digital format that I can access during the current quarantine).
In Daytona Beach, Alice came close to the prominence she wanted in life — she certainly became a sort-of local, small-town celebrity, as she formed her own orchestra, and played for concerts, casinos, dances, and a host of local events in the Daytona Beach/Seabreeze area, and to be sure, whenever she was playing, there was an announcement in the local paper. Occasionally, she would enlist her daughters, Pearl and Ruby Spaulding, to either play a piano, sing, or dance for the events. I suppose Adam Spangler was good with all of this; it did serve as an attraction and promotion of the hotels he managed, which was good for business.
But the contemporary papers report Adam wasn’t just at home taking care of the hotels they lived in; he was also involved in local politics, serving as the community treasurer at one point, assisting with local elections, and so forth. Alice and Adam are staying busy, doing their own thing…
…except Alice seems to not want to be around Adam on her own. We know that when Pearl (and now, Pearl’s younger sister Ruby) head off to Stetson University, Alice moves in with them.
And on November 23, 1907, there’s this:
Alice and her daughters have permanently moved to New York City. The U.S. Census for 1910 shows they were living in a boarding house; Alice is listed as a professional musician and Pearl is listed as a ‘professional dancer.’ The Spangler marriage is basically over; but, we know what happened in the end with this union.
Adam Spangler was eventually diagnosed with head and neck cancer, and 1909, moved to Pennsylvania, where he was cared for at the American Oncology Hospital. He died there in 1911.
Alice had nothing to do with her husband’s funeral; it was all arranged by Claude S. Smith, Spangler’s nephew, who lived in Daytona, Florida.
Alice lived with Pearl and Ruby in New York City mostly supported by her daughters (Pearl wrote articles for a variety of newspapers; Alice had Adam Spangler’s military pension from his service during the U.S. Civil War, and still did occasional work as a musician in an orchestra), but she never really achieved the prominence or the wealth she seemed to be chasing all her life.
Alice died in NY in 1916.
This was a really long post, and I’m sorry about that, but pedigree was (for better or worse) a big issue for someone like Emmett, and more so, for Emmett’s family. It didn’t matter what Emmett or Emmett’s family thought about Pearl, who was, in all likelihood, a great girl, and definitely someone I would have liked to have as a friend. I don’t like thinking this way, Alice’s background would have tainted whatever chances Emmett and Pearl had as a couple, and if Emmett didn’t cut the relationship off before it got too serious, Emmett’s family (especially his politically and socially important brother Cephas) would have done it.
Here’s the other thing: I believe Pearl knew that her chances with Emmett would be slim, no matter what they may have felt for each other; and I also believe Alice’s background was a huge reason why Pearl worked as hard as she did to stand on her own two feet in life, without having to rely on a husband for security. It must have been tough for Pearl, who probably understood what her mother was trying to do (carve out a life of emotional and financial independence for herself and her daughters) while working the system that was available to women at the time.
I get that about Pearl. And I get Alice. I don’t condemn her or sit in judgement; no way. She made some tough choices with her family in mind, first and foremost.
And I thank God times are different for women.
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
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