Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fannie Fern Crandall and Her Three-Timing Darling "Husband"

My mother-in-law's grandmother's sister Fannie Fern Crandall was not someone we heard much about, and we never thought to ask. The newly arrived (on line) March 2018 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly includes the results of my research that makes her almost as well-documented as her sister, who married a Seventh-Day Baptist minister. (It's available free to NGS members.)

Fannie's father Charles Welcome Crandall suffered an injury early in his Civil War service and later drew a pension. He was caught claiming more disability than he really had, and in his struggle to regain the pension he met up with a charismatic attorney in Chicago -- Frank Ira Darling -- where they were neighbors.

It turns out that Frank's work as an attorney brought him together with many a Civil War veteran, and many a daughter. He had six children with three of his clients' daughters, including the one to whom he was legally married.

Frank died unexpectedly in his 40s, and the story of two of the three came out in a blaze of sensational publicity in January 1898. Fannie was the third and she kept quiet, but evidence starting with Charles's pension file leaves no doubt that Frank was the father of her child, a daughter who grew up and married and left no descendants. (Those who follow NGSQ may recall the tale told by co-editor Thomas W. Jones about George Wellington Edison, an even more swashbuckling and disreputable character in Illinois, in 2012.)

What we will probably never know -- unless old correspondence surfaces -- is what Fannie knew and when she knew it, and what she thought about it all. After a few years in the early 1900s when she went by the surname "Brown" for no known reason, she used the Darling surname throughout the rest of her life. She earned a living and brought up her daughter by clerking and stenography in Washington, D.C., including in the patent office. In later years she had an artistic career in southern California, but she also had to have been a resilient and determined person.

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