Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lorena Estelle Eley Norsworthy Dews Harlow Lenahan Collins::116th COG

Copyright 2012, CABS for Reflections From the Fence

It is time for the 116th Carnival of Genealogy, graciously hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene. The challenge this month:

Picture/Story for Women's History Month. March is Women's History Month and we will once again honor a woman from our family tree by featuring her in the COG. This time we will do so by starting with a photograph and telling either the story of the photo and/or a biography of the woman pictured.

So, here is my photo:

This is Lorena Estelle Eley Norsworthy Dews Harlow Lenahan Collins, this photo reportedly was taken about 1918.  It is believed she is standing on the steps of her home/boarding home which was located at Money Point, in the Norfolk Virginia area.

Lorena was my great-grandmother via my dad's side of the family.   Lorena was born July 4, 1866 near Zuni, Isle of Wight County, Virginia.  Her parents were Solomon B. Eley and Sarah Anne Darden (who always seemed to go by Sallie).

By the time this photo was taken she had been married at least 3 times, and possibly was a honeymooning bride, on marriage # 4. In total she married 5 men, she outlived 3 of the 5, she divorced one and we just are not certain what happened to the fifth.  My dad always said, in a joking manner, that she fed them all poisoned mushrooms.

Lorena has been the subject of several posts here on Reflections, one such post is 4th of July Wishes of a Different Sort, which features a photo of Lorena holding me in her lap just months before she died.

Lorena married Mills L. Norsworthy Apr 1, 1883 in Nansemond County, Virginia.  Sometime before December of 1888 Mills had died and Lorena was a young widow with one child (there may have been other children by this union, but only one survived).

On Oct 27, 1887, in Norfolk County, Virginia, Lorena married hubby # 2, my direct ancestor, William Henry Dews.  Lorena and William had 6 children, 2 of whom died as infants.  William himself would die a tragic death around the 1st of January 1907 in Kempsville, Princess Anne County, Virginia after a falling off a wagon cart just before Christmas.  No death certificate or record for William has been found, however a very short news article was found mentioning the accident.  No burial record has been found either, as the church where he reportedly was buried lost all records to a fire.  William's death in early 1907 left Lorena with 1 son and 3 daughters from that union, the youngest being my grandmother, Florence, who was barely 3 years of age.

Lorena needed to find a way to support herself and her children.  She chose to run a boarding house and was doing so by the time the 1910 US census was enumerated.

Lorena next married Apr 4, 1911 in Norfolk County, Virginia to a James Harlow.  She divorced him in 1915.

Her next hubby is our MIA, according to an old index I found years ago, she married Robert Lenahan/Linehan on Aug 20, 1918 in Norfolk County Virginia.  While writing this post I discovered indexing  at, that Lorena and Robert married on the same day (August 20, 1918) in Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County, North Carolina. Robert appears on the 1920 census with Lorena, she was still running her boarding house.  No further record of Robert has been found after the 1920 census.  Family tradition has is that Lorena had him declared dead after 7 years.  No records have been found to support or deny that tradition.

And, last, at the young age of 70 years 9 months and 6 days (give or take), Lorena took as her 5th and last hubby, one John/Jehu/Gehew C. Collins.  John died in October of 1944 and is buried in the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia.

Lorena eventually moved to 815 Freeman Avenue, in Norfolk (now Chesapeake) Virginia.  This address is quite close to Money Point, she did not move far.  She died in late February of 1949 and was laid to rest at the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia.  Several of her children are buried nearby.

The boarding house provided a home and an income for Lorena allowing her to support her children.  Two of her daughters would meet their husbands in that boarding home.  One of those couples were my grandparents.  In the 1930 census my grandparents and their young son, my father, are living with Lorena in that boarding house at Money Point.

I have been very lucky to have a few of Lorena's possessions from her boarding house, one is the boudoir chair found on this Reflection's post,  Treasure Chest Thursday, Lorena's Boarding House Boudoir Chair.

By looking at Google Maps, it becomes quite evident that few homes are still standing in the area known as Money Point.  We have no exact address for the boarding home, the 1920 census seems to indicate it might have been 19 Money Point, and the 1930 census has no addresses shown at all.  The boarding house is most likely long gone, as are so many of its boarders and occupants.  We have several poor photos of what we believe to be the boarding house, and stories shared with us by those who remember it.  All in all, that is rather sad, considering the huge role that boarding house played in the lives of 3 generations of my ancestors.

Lorena standing on her boarding house stairs, a bride 5 times, a widow 3 times, a woman who raised children who, according to all stories that I heard, loved her and each other.  A woman that did what she had to do to survive and provide.  Thank you Lorena for your strength.



Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

A really interesting story. I think there must have been certain women with more survival instinct than others. Some could be quite enterprising when they had to be.

Joan said...

For some reason, I couldn't view the picture, but I enjoyed the story very much. Lorena was an spunky and admirable woman --- very much worthy of your post.

TennLady said...

This is scary, but she looks like my dad!

Hummer said...

Love the story, picture, and feel so bad I am so far behind in my blogging.

Carol said...

Lisa, from what I know of Lorena, she did not depend on anyone except herself and her children.

Joan, I hope you came back later and had another look, sometimes Blogger just refuses to give up the photos. It is usually a temporary condition. Sometimes it helps to clear your temporary history cache.

TennLady, that is a scary thought! LOL

Hummer, thank you, we all have down times, busy times, making it hard to keep up a blog. I understand.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Totally loved this post! I actually see a resemblance between you and Lorena. As I was reading this I thought, I bet this woman could give my great-grandfather with the four wives and 24 children a run for his money. I bet Lorena would have put him is is place!

Anglers Rest said...

Great post. I wonder what happened to the missing husband?

Nancy said...

Your Lorena looks like a no-nonsense kind of woman. She probably had to be considering the times she lived in and the situations she lived through. Great post, Carol.

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

She sounds like a strong woman, and also very courageous- I can't imagine the pain of losing so many husbands.