Rose's daughter, Leila Greenhow
Leila was born in 1840, the third daughter to Robert Greenhow and Rose
O'Neale Greenhow. The
first five years of her life were probably as idyllic as the remainder
of her life was tragic. Death was to become the course of her short
life. When Leila was born she had 2 older sisters, Florence and
When she was two years old Alice Rose was born and when she was 5 she
welcomed her first brother, Robert Jr. into the family. This must have
been a wonderful time for a young child in the
formulative stages of childhood. To have two loving, prosperous
four siblings closely associated in age, and Grandparents, Aunts
& Uncles close by must have made for a verry happy time
for young Leila. But that was about to change.........
In the mid 1800's child mortality was quite high and living in the
unsanitary conditions of the primitive city of Washington, DC may have
contributed to the problems. Epidemics were frequent in the young city
built amid the swampy marshlands of the Potomac. The first tragedy
struck in 1846 when Alice Rose died at 4 years of
age, followed in 1847, a year later by her young brother Robert,
Jr. In 1848 a new brother Morgan Lewis would be born only to
die within a year. Then, in 1849 another daughter, Rose
Greenhow would be born and alas, not live out the year. By 1850
the Greenhows had bore 7 children and only 4 remained.
In 1850 when Leila was ten years old, she lost her grandmother who was
living with her & her parents at the time. And then the
unthinkable happened. When Leila was 14 in 1854 her father died in an
accident in California and was buried there.
In 1861 Leila lost her sister, Gertrude and in 1864 her
drowned off the Port of Cape Fear. How she managed to cope is an
enigma. By the time Leila was 24 years old she had lost five siblings,
both parents and her grandparents. Now she found herself, a southern
bred young girl living in a northern state during the height of the
Civil War; But somehow, amidst all the tragedy, Leila did cope.
The next fifteen years of her life are a mystery to us. We know
that Rose sent Leila to live with her sister Florence during the war
years on the condition that Leila be provided a quality education.
Florence had married Seymour Treadwell Moore, a military man,
family were prosperous bankers from Ohio. Perhaps through the Moore's
Leila met Alexander Cravens, who was also from a wealthy banking
family, but in Indiana.
At some point in time Leila and Alexander married and began bearing
tragedy was about to rear it's ugly head again. Over the course of nine
years, Leila and Alexander bore five children, three of who died in
infancy, and one who lived five years. Margaret, their fourth child was
the only child who would outlive her parents.
In 1887 when Margaret was only 4 years old, her mother Leila Greenhow
Cravens died of pelvic peritonitis at the age of 35.
This should end our story, but fate is not always that kind. As if it
not bad enough that Leila had lost both parents to accidental deaths;
As if it were not bad enough that she lost her siblings and her own
children to infant mortality; As if it were not bad enough that she
lost her own life to disease, fate would shortly lead the rest of her
family down the path to oblivion.
Rose's granddaughter, Margaret Cravens
When Leila died her
husband was heartbroken. Her death combined with
the premature deaths of his children was more than Alexander could
bear. Incapable of caring for his remaining daughter, Margaret was
the care of his mother, Mrs. Drusilla (Lanier) Cravens, where she
remained until Margaret was about 20 (1903) when her grandmother died.
For whatever reason, Margaret was placed in the care of her Aunt, Miss
Drusilla Cravens, Alexander's sister. Margaret was of age
and resented the
fact that she was in the custody of her aunt. She was an independant
woman and despised the thought that she needed a caregiver.
Margaret's "Aunt Doot"
in Madison, Indiana
donated by Mrs. Drusilla Cravens
Between the years
of 1900 and 1907 Margaret travelled between
Cincinnati, Boston and Florence studying music under some of the best
teachers. By 1905 she had left her birthplace of Madison, Indiana,
never to return. She embarked for Paris, where she felt she could rid
herself of the stigmas attached to "home," and receive a good
education in the arts.
She met Alice Woods, a novelist and fellow
hoosier in Paris and developed a friendship with her.Woods would later
write that Margaret described Madison
as having “stifled
her intellectual curiosity and artistic inclinations. Margaret
more critical of her aunt, whom she described as a “dragon”:
terrible; an old maid and a personality. She lives in the family
white pillars, a fanlight, velvet lawns, and old trees. My aunt
president of just about everything in Madison,
and, of course, of the women’s club.”
Another acquaintance said Margaret had a "nervous
talked of her weakness and frailty and her faraway gaze, as if she were
peering into a crystal ball. In 1911 her father committed suicide.
On June 1st, 1912, Margaret wrote a suicide note, arranged it on her
piano, went to her bedroom, placed a gun to her heart and pulled the
trigger, thus ending the tragic lives of three generations of mothers
daughters, Rose O'Neale Greenhow, Leila Greenhow Cravens and Margaret
Drusilla and her sister,
Elizabeth Gardner Davidson,
traveled to Paris
to claim the ashes of their niece, which are now interred in Fairmount
Cemetery, in Indiana. In a letter to Ezra
the American poet who was befriended by Margaret, she wrote,”…I feel
the deepest sincerity for the good and pleasure you were to our
loss of whom takes out all light for me.” In a later
Pound, Drusilla Cravens described her niece’s downward spiral and her
of her family by saying that she “felt
that her own people, however
devoted and indulgent—failed to grasp her—her intellect and
aspirations: in short she came to wander 'in diverse ways'—and
to the end which she precipitated."
Cravens at various stages in her life
"Authentic Sisters": H.D. and Margaret Cravens by Robert
Spoo, which originally appeared in The H.D.
vol. 3, no. 1, p. 35-43
“Miss Doot” The
Matriarch of Madison.
Biography of Miss Drusilla Lanier Cravens of Madison Indiana
(1864-1956). Written by Kirstie Kleopfer. Published by The
JeffersonCounty Historical Society, Madison,
"Ezra Pound and Margaret Cravens: A Tragic Friendship, 1910-1912",
eds. Omar Pound and Robert Spoo (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press,
"The O'Neal Genealogy Association" John W. O'Neal, II & Bev Crowe
"The O'Neal Genealogy Association Website"
"The Official Rebel Rose O'Neale Website"