Cora Stallman died on a farm, but she lived most of her life in the city.
In true 1800s melting-pot fashion, Cora was born to a Dutch immigrant (Nellie Siereveld) and a West Virginia striver (Granville Harrison Stallman).
I say “striver” because Granville appears to have been, frankly, a piece of work.
Records indicate that Granville (also called GH) was born in West Virginia around 1852. In March 1874, a man by that name married a Phebe Scullin there, but I can’t find anything else about their marriage, or a divorce record.1 I also haven’t been able to pin down when Nellie and Granville were married, or whether they ever divorced.
Cora was born to them in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the end of 1879. Her parents already had daughter Anna and son Max. By 1884, there would be six children.
Granville was at the least enterprising. He worked variously as clerk, a manager, a street sprinkler — spraying water on dirt streets to keep dust and manure down — and a traveling salesman.
He was also a man of inventions. From the 1880s to the 1920s Granville published multiple patents for hog-scrapers, sausage-stuffers, pistons, and even a sausage-linker. It’s unclear whether any of these actually provided a living for his growing family.
By the 1890s, the Stallman family had planted its roots on Lingo Street, in the Cumminsville suburb just north of Cincinnati.
Granville was not to be planted, however.
It’s unclear when the family fractured. In 1898, Granville married his third wife, Tillie Atwood, in Milwaukee — and the newspaper notice says he’s from Chicago.2 Two years later, Nellie told the 1900 census that she was a widow.3 (Nellie’s own death certificate lists her as divorced, so “widowed” may have been a less fraught way to explain his absence.4 Or maybe it was wishful thinking.)
By 1922, Tillie was also listing herself as widowed in her city directory, with Granville named as her unfortunate spouse.5
But he was (again!) not dead — he was back in Chicago, now with wife #4. Just from these entries, you can sense that Granville probably left a mess in his wake.
How Nellie coped with six children and no husband, we can’t know, but we can imagine. How this affected Cora also is lost to us. She never did marry. Instead, she opted for intellect and education, following her older brother Max at the University of Cincinnati.
The decade 1900 to 1910 brought still more changes. In the 1900 census, all six children are still at home with Nellie, and her mother Jacoba has moved in. The house on Lingo Street was full.
In 1901, Cora attended college, taught at Cincinnati’s Hughes High School, and led children’s storytimes for the Cincinnati Public Library. The Cumminsville branch, the one closest to their home, provided “hero stories” for the children. Other branches read things such as Beowulf.6
At the University of Cincinnati she embraced a co-ed’s life, studying math and Greek while on scholarship, and taking part in campus activities like glee club. In June 1904, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree.7
Cora was an urban, educated woman. And, going by her yearbook entry, a woman of some humor. (The two others in her “trio inseparable” were Lydia DeCourcy and Gertrude O’Donnell. They must have been very good friends.)
By 1910, only Nellie, Cora, and her sister Sarah were left in the house on Lingo. In the previous 10 years, Nellie lost both her mother and her youngest child, Willie. Anna moved to Illinois. Max and daughter Nellie Jane were also out of the house, getting married and starting families.
Perhaps because of all that empty space, in 1912 the three women moved to a smaller house on Gordon Street. It was only a quarter-mile from the Kirby Road Intermediate School, where Cora taught eighth grade. She worked in public schools for over a decade, until the mid-1910s.
At that point Cora took the route of many unmarried daughters. Nellie was suffering from cancer and heart disease; Sarah had tuberculosis. Cora quit work to care for them. Nellie died in 1919 and Sarah in 1920.8
By the summer of 1920, Cora was at a true crossroads. Everyone was gone, as was their home. She hadn’t worked as a teacher for years. She was now 40. Being modern and educated did not inoculate her from the fact that she was an aging spinster in the 1920s. Her options were few.
Whether by request or through mutual understanding, her oldest sister, Anna, offered a choice. She had recently married and was living on a large farm in Mattoon, IL. Would Cora come help run the place?
The big-city woman packed up her life and moved to a farm in central Illinois. Did she hesitate? Was she excited about the change? Did she know what she was getting into?
I wish we could ask her. ☗
Next time: The investigation continues.
 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Nov. 20, 1898; Page 12
 1900 US Federal Census. Cincinnati Ward 25, Hamilton, Ohio; Roll: 1279; Page: 5A
 Nellie Siereveld Death Certificate; State of Ohio, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
 Seattle, Washington, City Directory, 1922
 Annual Report of the Public Schools of Cincinnati, 1901. Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Public Library of Cincinnati, Ohio, 1901.
 The Cincinnati Enquirer; June 18, 1904
 Records of Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, OH
© 2019 Tori Brovet/All rights reserved