I don’t know much about her early life but her maiden name was Ella B. Slocum and she was born in Rhode Island around 1847. Her father was a salesman and at some point in her young life they moved to Chicago.
The next event in her life of which we are certain occurred in 1867. She was 23 and an attractive woman with blond hair. She fell in love and married a Scottish man prominent in Chicago history. (I will not use his name.) He was 30 and a Civil War hero who fought both days at Shiloh.
The marriage did not go well because I have divorce papers dated September 20, 1880. The hearing was held in open court before the Honorable William H. Barnum. The husband did not attend but was represented by O. H. Norton, Esq. The charges were “extreme and repeated cruelty toward his said wife.”
The husband was given custody of the child until he was fourteen. The husband was also “charged with the full support, maintenance and education of said child, but said child shall not be removed by said defendant beyond the limits of the United States without the further order of this Court.” .
The child involved was twelve years of age and there is no explanation as to why the father was given custody except it was by mutual agreement. The mother was given full access to the child through visitation rights. No alimony was awarded to the wife but she was given “certain real estate and personal property.” The son later graduated from Notre Dame with an engineering degree.
By November of that same year (1880), Ella was married to Baron Ernst von Jeinsen, which may explain the divorce and the custody of the child. (The mother would later explain that they had been separated for more than a year.) The Baron’s estate was located about two miles from Hanover, Germany. They spent the winter (1880-1881) at the Commonwealth Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. He was 46 and Ella was 33.
In 1904, her first husband was sued by Charles Mackie for “alienation of affection.” It seems that he and Mrs. Mackie had made trips to Cuba, Philadelphia and Washington. The case was dismissed by the judge. This article dated January 12, 1904, states that his first wife divorced him for cause and married “an Italian nobleman.” We could find no other references to her life with the Baron. The next event occurred in 1892. Ella is now 45and perhaps the Baron has died.
Franklin Simmons, the sculptor, lived and worked in Italy and in 1892 married “...the beautiful and distinguished Baroness von Jeinsen, who was an accomplished musician, a critical lover of art and the most graceful and delightful of hostesses. Mrs. Simmons drew about her a very charming circle in Rome, and made their home in the Palazzo Tamagno, a notable center of foreign social life.” Ella also maintained a home in Chicago at 181 Park Avenue for more than 25 years.
She died at her home in Rome, December 21, 1905 of pneumonia and is buried in the Swan Point cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island. She was 58. Her sister was Mrs. Charles W. Clingman, 4748 Kenwood Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
The following is a letter Ella wrote to her son:
83 Via Agostino Depletes
June 26, 1902
My Dear Son:
In the past twenty years I have written more than twice that number of letters to be given to you in the event of my death. The first were documents defending myself, so that you might know from me (despite anyones version) that I had right on my side when I left your father, also that I did not live with him for nearly a year before the final parting.
The last letter also contained words I feel better unsaid (at this time) for I would not disturb any good feeling that may and I sincerely hope does exist between you. I will only say that I did the best in my power.
My last prayer dear is for you - that you may be led to know how to live up to the highest ideas of your highest moments. My heart goes out to you. I have never wavered in my affection for, and my trust in you, my Son.
May God bless you ever and ever.
Your loving Mother.
Enclosed in the letter was a lock of his mother’s hair. It has faded in color, in a circular shape and bound by a blue ribbon. You will find it in an envelope in the three ring binder of her first husband’s documents.
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
PS. My thanks to all of you for your interest and support during my recent illness. It has been a slow process recovering from heart surgery, but I am gradually regaining my strength. Your phone calls, emails, cards and letters were much appreciated.