Thursday, October 20, 2016

The 'Influence and Beneficial Effect' of Cousins

 If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that Sarah Eva Howe was devoted to her family, both immediate and extended. As I look through the scrapbooks, reading her essays, letters, and notes, the relative I see most often mentioned (other than her parents and her sister) is her first cousin, Jenne Winslow Howe.

Jenne (to this day remembered as "Cousin Jenne" by Howe descendants) was the daughter of William Ficklin Howe (Sarah's father's brother) and Louisiana "Lou" Winslow Howe. She was born in 1883, the same year as Sarah, so it's easy to imagine the two girls playing together, walking to school together, sharing secrets, giggling about boys. They were in the same grade in school and usually in the same class. In 1898, when they were about 15 years old, they traveled to Louisville together to visit friends. As my grandmother might have put it, the two girls were "thick as thieves."

To learn more about Jenne, I poked around in U.S. Census and birth/death records. Here's what I learned:

Jenne completed high school. Apparently, she never married. She lived with her parents on Fifth Street and later Sixth Street in Carrollton, Kentucky. Her brother John J. Howe, an attorney, and sister Lillie M. Howe, who taught across the river at a college for women in Oxford, Ohio, also lived there. Like Jenne, they never married – at least, I have found no stories or documentation of marriage. Their father died in 1916, when Jenne was 33. She and her two siblings continued to live with their mother.

Jenne's occupation was listed as "none" on the census forms until 1940, when her occupation is "teacher." By then she was 57 years old. I surmise that she was forced into the workplace when her brother died in 1939. He had probably earned a handsome income as an attorney, and Lille's income as a teacher was not enough to support the household.

In 1944, when Jenne was 61, her mother died. Two years after that, sister Lillie died. With her parents and her five siblings gone, Jenne was the last of the William F. Howe family. My husband, her first cousin twice removed, remembers visiting Cousin Jenne in Carrollton. He recalls that she was active in her church and community, that she always drove a late-model car, and that her home was nicely furnished. He remembers her being fun to visit. Being a typical little boy, he also appreciated that she liked candy and ice cream and had some on hand to share with him when he visited.

Jenne died in 1957.

I hope to find information and images of the adult Jenn Winslow Howe in later scrapbooks. If they are there, I'll post them, along with photos and profiles about her parents and siblings.

On the scrapbook page that launched this post, Sarah wrote this about the value of having cousins:
I just can't say enough tho I didn't realize it so much at the time, of the influence and beneficial effect on me of knowing and playing with the Howe cousins and their friends. Aunt Sallie Froman's [1] children were too young for me to really enjoy them so much – besides I saw them so seldom; and Mama's brothers [2] were great comrades, her sisters Lee and Naomi [3] too and made much of me when I visited there, but they again were not with me much, and besides treating me like a favorite doll or pet with never a brush [hush?] against opposition of my slightest wish when with them. Of course from Harry and Morris I learned the latest "music hall" songs and from Aunt Mamie [4] and Lee the first marvelous drafts of mythology stories from Tanglewood Tales . . .
Sarah's reference to her Howe cousins would include Jenne and her siblings, the children of her father's brother. Other Howe cousins were either too old or too young or lived too far away to be Sarah's companions. On her mother's Cost side were teen-aged aunts who treated her "like a favorite doll" and young uncles who were close enough to Sarah's age to seem more like cousins. (Read more about that in the post dated September 8, 2016.) So her first cousin Jenne Howe was Sarah's first and favorite playmates.

[1] Sarah Varena "Sallie" Howe (1862-1950), sister of Sarah's father; wife of Herman M. "Mack" Froman.

[2] Richard Henry Cost, Jr. (1876-1949) and Morris Elliott Cost (1879-1961)

[3] Mary Naomi Cost (circa 1869 – ??) and Ida Lenora Cost (1874-1921) 

[4] A nickname for Sarah's aunt Mary Naomi Cost

[5] Tanglewood Tales for Boys and Girls by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne (published 1853) was a re-writing of well-known Greek myths. Electronic versions of the book are sold on and offered free of charge by Project Gutenberg at

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