My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Friday, September 9, 2011

FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN - Little Odalie Fortier (1846-1849)

Odalie Fortier is the name of my great-great-Grandmother - Odalie Felice. She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 31, 1857, the seventh child of eleven born to my 3x-grandparents Jacques Omer Fortier (1813-1857) and Augustine Melanie Laperle DeGruy (1822-1872). Odalie married Charles Frederick Horst (1856-1912) and together they had five children, including my great-Grandmother Pearl Alphonsine Horst Flemming (1884-1961). But my great-great-Grandmother Odalie was not the first Odalie born to her parents!

The first Odalie Fortier came into the world eleven years earlier. On August 31, 1846, Laperle Fortier gave birth to her fourth child, and fourth daughter, Odalie. Omer and his wife were probably both thrilled and apprehensive at what her birth could mean. They had already had three little girls, and lost one of them.

Their first child was named Adele Augustine Philomene. She was born in June 1841, thirteen months after her parents were wed. Laperle was just 19 when her first child was born; Omer was 28. Adele lived two short months, dying on August 17, 1841. Their next child was Ida, born September 13, 1842. Their third child, another daughter, was named Alice. She was born on April 6, 1844.

So when their fourth daughter, Odalie, was born in 1846 her older sisters Ida, age 4, and Alice, 2, were probably thrilled to have a new little sister. But tragedy soon struck the family. On January 29, 1848, Ida, at just 5 years of age, died. Now the family once again had just two little girls, Alice, 4, and Odalie, 16 months, at home. It wasn't long before Laperle was soon expecting her next child. She no doubt could have any idea of what was about to happen in her young family.

With the passing of the years, the exact timeline of the day is unclear, but on January 2, 1849 the Fortier family was hit with circumstances that I can't begin to imagine. It was the day after the new year began. Laperle gave birth to the couple's fifth daughter who they named for their first child - Adele Augustine Philomene. (It was somewhat common in that time for babies to be named the same name as a sibling who had died earlier. Infant mortality was high and a child's name had greater meaning and purpose than today.]

But the day, so filled with happiness, also held great sorrow. Two-and-a-half year old Odalie died, on the same day as her baby sister was born! The announcement of her death appeared on page 1 of the New Orleans Bee (L'Abeille) newspaper the following day.

"DIED - Yesterday evening at six o'clock, ODALIE FORTIER, two years and a half old, daughter of Omer Fortier and Mdme. Laperle Degruys. The friends and acquaintances of the family are invited to attend without further invitation her funeral, which will take place this evening at 4 o'clock P.M. from Bayou street, between Treme and Marais."
New Orleans Bee (L'Abeille); January 3, 1849; page 1, column 5
Was little Odalie sick at the time, got worse and died that day, causing her mother to go into labor? Or was Laperle in labor, with all the natural chaos that must have brought; maybe their little 2-and-a-half year old got lost in the shuffle and got into some type of danger that cost her her life? Did she drown? Get out of the house and get run over by a cart or horse? It was tragic enough that the notice of her death appeared prominently on page 1 of the next day's newspaper. None of the family's other young children's deaths were ever reported in the paper.

I can't even imagine how as parents you go on after something like that. They had lost three of their four daughters by the day of their fifth child's birth. It was no doubt very difficult for Omer and Laperle, and they did not conceive another child for almost six years. Then their sixth child, and first son, Omer Auguste, was born on June 30, 1855.

Two more years passed before their seventh child, my great-great-Grandmother, was born on August 31, 1857. This was the exact same birth day as their little Odalie, who had died at age 2. The day would have been her 11th birthday. So it must have been a way for her parents to honor their little girl when they named this newest baby Odalie Felice.

Odalie grew up, married and moved to Birmingham with her husband Charles Horst and had 5 children. The couple passed on the name when they named their youngest child Odalie Felice Horst (1896-1990); she was called "Dolly". Dolly moved to Denver, Colorado, and married Kurt Amandus Wittges (1900-1950). They had three children and named their second child, and first daughter, Odalie Marie Wittges (1930-2005); she, too, was called "Dolly". Dolly married J. Corbett  and they had eight children.

Odalie and Charles' third child (my great-grandmother) Pearl and her husband Harry Clinton Flemming (1878-1955) named their third child Odalie Felice Flemming (1911-1994); she was called Dolly and "O.D." (or "Odee"). This Odalie married George Benedict Daly (1908-1967) and they had six children. They named their first child Odalie Kathleen Daly (1934-1995); she was called "Dolly". O.D. and George's fourth child, Jacqueline Rose "Jackie" Daly (1941-1995) had four children. The name was passed along again, as a middle name, when one of Jackie's granddaughter's was born in 1995.

The name "Odalie" came from the family's French background, but this appears to be the Americanized spelling. It is pronounced, with no accent on any syllable, 'Ah-da-lee'. In France it is spelled most often "Odille". The name's exact origin is unclear; it is a variant of the old German "Odile" or "Odilia", meaning "fortunate or prosperous in battle" or "wealthy". In Hebrew the name is the feminine form of "Odell", and means "I will praise God" or "Praise to God".

"Odile" is the name of the Black Swan in the classical ballet Swan Lake. It was also the name of a 1994 Tropical Cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere. "Odalie 'Lilli' D'Arceneaux" is the name of the character played by Maureen O'Hara in the 1947 adventure film The Foxes of Harrow, also starring Rex Harrison.

Fortier Family Prologue
After Odalie was born in 1857 the family would have four more children, and unfortunately, more untimely deaths. Eighth child Gaston James Fortier was born in September 1860. Only a few months later in December of 1860, the family's oldest child, Alice died. She was just 16-and-a-half at the time. The cause of her death was officially listed as "Cold". There were once again only four children living in the home. In September 1861, Laperle gave birth to twins - Lucian "Lucie" and his sister Luciana "Lucy".

It was no doubt a surprise when six years after the birth of twins Lucian and Lucy, Omer, 54, and Laperle, 45, found they were expecting baby #11. But on December 19, 1867, less than a week before Christmas, Omer died. Laperle was left at home to care for six children, ages 6-18, and pregnant with her eleventh. In May 1868, daughter Jeanette was born.

Laperle lived just four years more; she died at age 50 on November 1, 1872. Oldest child Adele had married by this time and would have three children before her death in 1886, at the age of 37.The six remaining Fortier children were sent after their mother's death to Mobile, Alabama, to live with their mother's sister Elodie DeGruy Gagnet Mendoza (1828-1914). [See Friday's Forgotten, August 5, 2011, for Elodie's full story]  Lucian died in 1884, unmarried, at the age of 23. Omer married and fathered six children, including one daughter he named Odille. A gambler, he died at age 41, in New Orleans in 1897. Gaston married and had four children; he died in 1917. Odalie, my great-great-Grandmother, died in 1920; she was 63 at the time of her death. Youngest child Jeanette married, had one son, and died at age 73, in 1941. Lucy married and had four children; she died in 1942 at the age of 80.

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