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Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Soward

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Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Soward

Posted: 1213045358000
Classification: Query
I am hoping that someone can help me with a family mystery. In about 1893/4, my great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) SOWARD (daughter of J L Soward and Martha A Goodwin) returned to KS with an infant, my grandfather, Olaf Selby SOWARD. She told several stories about my grandfather's birth, but the only consistent information was that his father was John Selby, referred to as Prof. Selby in letters. Mollie had been with a theatre group in St. Louis and stumping for women's rights for a couple of years before returning to KS. Prof. Selby had been one of her teachers, we believe, when she trained for her teaching certificate in Fort Scott, KS.

Mollie also claimed that my grandfather was born in St. Louis County, MO and that his father named him Olaf. I can find no records of his birth.

John Selby supported them by sending money and gifts for about 10-15 years, until Mollie's mother died. He may have been in OK for part of that time.

The last letter I have that refers to him states that Prof. Selby was planning on studying law at Washington.

One story Mollie told was that she lived in the same boarding house with John Selby and his wife in St. Louis, that John's wife died in childbirth, and he gave the baby to Mollie to raise. My grandfather looked exactly like Mollie and she refused to talk about John Selby the rest of her life. My guess is that my grandfather was either born out of wedlock or that she and John Selby married and divorced. Mollie's brother, Frank Morton Soward, blackmailed Mollie for the rest of his life, threatening to tell everyone that my grandfather was illegitimate.

In the 1930s, my mother remembers a photograph in one of the Kansas City papers of a man named John Selby standing in front of some heavy equipment, blocking its passage into a Native American reservation, but she does not remember where the picture was taken. She remembers it because her parents had an unusual argument about whether or not my grandfather should contact him. That was when my grandfather made my grandmother and the children swear they would never try to trace his lineage. There was a lot of animosity on the parts of Olaf and Mollie regarding John. On the other hand, Olaf named his son Selby Soward at Mollie's request.

Mollie taught in Kansas for over 50 years and never married. She lived to be 97 years old. When I was a small child, we would visit her at a Rebekah Lodge Home in western Kansas. The last time I saw her, she grabbed me and said, “Never trust a man and never let a man tell you what to do!” It nearly scared me to death!

Does any of this ring a bell with anyone? ANY help will be greatly appreciated!

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