Whatever path Cora Stallman followed into Coles County, Illinois, it was her older sister Anna who had cleared the way.
Anna must have been formidable. I’ve only found one photo of her, and you can barely see her face. At Cora’s inquest in late August 1925, she told the news photographers not to take her picture — and they obeyed.1
Like Cora, Anna wasn’t trained for farm life. She had been a stenographer in Cincinnati, and a spinster like her sisters. All signs pointed to her staying that way.
But their mother had an uncle, Lane Bogart, a prosperous farmer in Coles County. He had lived there for decades and was popular and well-liked. They called him a pioneer. When he became one of the first farmers in the county to buy a car, it made the news.
But the pioneer now needed help. In 1900 Lane lost his first wife, followed quickly by an unwise six-month marriage, and then a public and embarrassing divorce.2
The papers never did detail what the salacious allegations were.
Anna came (or was sent) in 1904 to help the old man run things. She worked for a decade, taking care of both her uncle and his farm. She must have done well. By 1908, he deeded her some of his land, and when he died in 1915, he left her everything else.3
When some distant relatives tried to challenge Lane’s will, she beat them back. By 1918 Anna owned almost 400 acres. She was 41 years old.4, 5
* * * *
Unlike Anna, Thomas Seaman did come from a farming family. His father, JW Seaman, was one of the wealthiest men in Coles County. The Seaman family name appears across township maps and throughout newspaper archives. And there were many of them — Thomas was one of 12 children, and a twin.6
The Seaman family, in about 1909. Thomas is not actually pictured — the circled man is his twin brother, William.
Despite his presence in a large and well-known family, Thomas himself seems to have lived a very quiet life, rarely appearing in the papers. I will be honest: It’s hard for me to get a read on his years before 1925. I mostly have facts, but they are opaque, revealing little about his character.
I can tell you that he was born in 1876, and was not quite 21 when he married local girl Cora Hutton in February 1897. Their son Everett was born that July.7
Yes, July. And yes, his first wife was named Cora. I know.
Two more boys followed — Cecil, who lived only a few months, in 1900, and Elgin in 1904. It was probably a routine farm family life for the four of them until about 1911, when Cora contracted tuberculosis. She suffered for five years, and died in June 1916, leaving behind Thomas and their boys. She was — terribly, grievously — his third loss in barely a year. Thomas’ mother died in March 1915, his father in May 1916, and his wife in June 1916.8
I don’t know how he reacted to all that loss, but we can imagine. That sort of thing breaks a person.
* * * *
Anna and Thomas
As the township map above shows, Anna and Thomas lived on neighboring farms. Sometime around 1919, whether for love or expedience, they decided to bring it all together.
In August 1919, Anna and Thomas were married. All was as merry as a marriage bell… briefly.9 As discussed, Anna spent most of August 1925 insisting that her marriage was fine and untroubled. The practicalities of managing two large farms, she said, simply required maintaining two homes.
The truth was more complicated.
By Aug. 6, Anna and Thomas had to acknowledge that they lived together as a married couple for, at most, 18 months.10 In fact, they had been legally separated, and they had told no one. Their mutual understanding was that they would stay married, they would work on both farms, and Thomas would come for dinner at Anna’s. But they kept their own homes, their lives discrete, and their arrangement private.
This was the situation when Cora moved in. ☗
 Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette; Sept 1, 1925.
 Decatur Daily Review; 7 Nov 1901; Page 4
 Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999; Coles County; Wills, Book C-E, 1903-1925; Ancestry.com
 Coles County Farmers Directory
 Coles County Township Map
 Seaman family photo
 Mattoon Gazette; 12 Feb 1897; Page 2. 1900 United States Federal Census.
 Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette; June 5, 1916; Page 6.
 Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette; Aug. 18, 1919.
 Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette; Aug. 6, 1925.
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