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 Gertrude. 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 parents,  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 mother 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, whose 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 children, but 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 were 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 placed in 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.

Drusilla (Lanier) Cravens Drusilla (Lanier) Cravens The Lanier Home in Madison, Indiana Drusilla Cravens Hospital
Drusilla Lanier Cravens,
Margaret's "Aunt Doot"
Drusilla (Lanier) Cravens,
Margaret's Grandmother
The Lanier Home
in Madison, Indiana
The King's Daughter's Hospital,
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 was even more critical of her aunt, whom she described as a “dragon”:  “She’s terrible; an old maid and a personality.  She lives in the family home at Madison. There are white pillars, a fanlight, velvet lawns, and old trees.  My aunt is president of just about everything in Madison, and, of course, of the women’s club.”

 Another acquaintance said Margaret had a "nervous condition."  People 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 and daughters, Rose O'Neale Greenhow, Leila Greenhow Cravens and Margaret Cravens.

…Margaret's Aunt 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 Pound, the American poet who was befriended by Margaret,  she wrote,”…I feel the deepest sincerity for the good and pleasure you were to our Margaret the loss of whom takes out all light for me.”  In a later letter to Pound, Drusilla Cravens described her niece’s downward spiral and her resentment 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."

Margaret Cravens at various stages in her life


Sources:
"Authentic Sisters": H.D. and Margaret Cravens by Robert Spoo, which originally appeared in The H.D. Newsletter, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 35-43
“Miss Doot” The Matriarch of Madison.  A Biography of Miss Drusilla Lanier Cravens of Madison Indiana (1864-1956).  Written by Kirstie Kleopfer.  Published by The JeffersonCounty Historical Society, Madison, Indiana
"Ezra Pound and Margaret Cravens: A Tragic Friendship, 1910-1912", eds. Omar Pound and Robert Spoo (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1988)
Family History,
"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"