Ray history offers up poignant tales of love in time for Valentine’s Day

By Linda Emley

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I want to share a couple of Ray County love stories that prove we all love in different ways.
In 1841, 18-year-old Mary Elizabeth Ewing married 25-year-old Daniel Jackson Branstetter. They were both from Virginia families that moved to Missouri. I don’t have any old love letters to prove their love story, but sometimes actions speak louder than words.
Here’s an item from the Richmond Conservator, Feb. 2, 1888: “Another Old Settler Gone. Mrs. Mary E. Branstetter, one of the oldest and most highly respected Christian women of Richmond, died on Monday evening at 4 o’clock, being only confined to a bed of sickness a few days. Mrs. Branstetter was born in Virginia, on the 18th day of September, 1823, and moved with her parents to Missouri in 1834. In 1841, she was married to Daniel Branstetter and became a citizen of Richmond, where she has since resided. Her husband died many years ago leaving her with a large family of small children to raise and care for. It is needless for us to say how well she did her part, and how carefully she looked after their wants and made sacrifices for them whenever it became necessary.
Not only did she act the part of a true and devoted mother, but she took upon herself the responsibilities of managing the financial affairs of the family, showing extraordinary skill and prudence in all business transactions. Often have we heard those who had known her the longest and the best say that she was the most devoted mother and one of the most earnest Christian women they had ever met, and we doubt if there is another mother in Richmond to whom so many have looked for advice and comfort. Mrs. Branstetter connected herself with the M.E. church at the age of fifteen years, and for nearly a half century her walk was that of a true Christian. She leaves children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to mourn her loss, and who have the earnest sympathy of our entire community.”
Daniel Jackson Branstetter died on Oct. 11, 1849 when Mary was only 26 years old. Mary spent the next 39 years living in Richmond and never remarried. She owned some property around Richmond and devoted the rest of her life to taking care of their family.
Daniel was buried in the Richmond Pioneer Cemetery and a few years after he died, his father Daniel Branstetter was buried by his side. When Mary died in 1888, the Pioneer Cemetery was no longer being used so she was buried in the Richmond City Cemetery. Several of Mary and Daniel’s children are buried next to Mary.
When I was first researching this story, I thought it was sad that she never remarried and did not get to be buried next to her husband. But after thinking about it for a while, I find it touching that she never found another man to replace the love of her life, Daniel Jackson Branstetter.
On the other hand, there are some people that had more than one love in their lifetime. A good example of this was John Stone Davis, a farmer who lived in Knoxville. He is buried in the Thomson-Sandels Cemetery next to all three of his wives. He was born in 1860 and married his first wife, Alwilda Teegarden, in 1881. She died in 1882 at the age of 19 and he married her older sister, Cinderella Teegarden, one year later in 1883. Cinderella helped him raise her niece and they had five more daughters before Cinderella died in 1899. Their youngest daughter was named Alwilda after his first wife.
John Stone Davis was either a hopeless romantic or he needed someone to help raise his six daughters because in 1904, he walked down the aisle with his third wife, Laura Goe Zimmerman. They had one daughter before she died on Nov. 3, 1915 at the age of 42. John died in 1935 after spending the last 20 years of his life without a wife.
I’m glad that John Stone Davis shared his life with three good women because his second wife, Cinderella, was my son’s great-great-grandmother.
Every now and then I drive up north and put flowers on the graves of John, Alwilda, Cinderella and Laura. It does not matter to me which wife he loved first or which wife he loved the most because I like to think he loved them all enough to take care of their daughters and give all of his wives a final resting place next to him.
If we do the math, only two got to be by his side, but his third wife is just on the other side of one of his other wives. If you think that sounds confusing, I’m sure that was nothing compared to him walking through the pearly gates of Heaven if all three of his wives were waiting to greet him.
Let’s just say the moral of this story is there are many different kinds of love and Valentine’s day is a good time to tell your loved ones how much you really care.

You can write Linda at or see her in person at Ray County Museum during business hours.

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