Connected Bloodlines

The Lowell-McCartney-Luker Women


Flora Georgia McCartney. College photograph.

Flora Georgia McCartney was born in the small town of Parker, Turner County, southeastern South Dakota, on September 24, 1889. Her father, George A. McCartney, was well-educated, one of three children born to Judge John McCartney, an affluent judge born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, who emigrated to Iowa, and, after retirement, headed to southern California. Judge McCartney became an early settler of National City and Chula Vista, south of San Diego.

Flora's mother was Minnie Lowell, one of two children born to John Fairfield Lowell and his wife, Wealthy Viola Furbush Lowell. John Fairfield and Viola had traveled westward from Maine to Wisconsin to Dakota Territory. Minnie was 19 when she arrived on their Dakota homestead, 12 miles west of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She married George A. McCartney on December 12, 1888.

Minnie had been married for only nine and a half months when Flora was born. Six months later, George M. tragically died. After her husband's death, Minnie, with baby Flora, returned to her parents' homestead. Eventually, she would live on her own farm near her parent's place. At the age of nine, upon the death of her paternal grandfather, Judge McCartney, Flora was the sole heir for her father’s share (one-sixth) of her grandfather's estate.

Flora would receive her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and her master’s degree from Columbia University. She would teach at schools across central United States, chaperoned by her grandmother, Viola Lowell.

While at Stanford, Flora met fellow student Benjamin F. Luker, Jr. They married in 1922 in Rockford, Illinois, when Ben was teaching at Ann Arbor, Michigan. The couple ended up living in Gainesville, Florida, where Ben was Professor of French at the University of Florida. After 7 years of marriage, Ben died.

Flora returned to South Dakota and lived the remaining decades of her life on the farm, along with her mother. Both women had lost their husbands early in their marriages; neither remarried, both became recluses after their husbands' deaths.

When Minnie died in 1951, she was buried next to her husband, who had died 61 years earlier, in the Rosehill Cemetery outside Parker, South Dakota. Flora inherited her mother's farm and lived for twenty more years by herself. She died on June 1, 1974 and was buried in the Lowell family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, next to her husband, Ben, who had died 45 years earlier.


(NOTE: The full name of any specific individual is used when that name first appears in the story. After having been used a first time, an abbreviated name, as listed in the first column below, is used. Clicking on any name in the first column will bring you to that person's Connected Bloodlines page.)

BenBenjamin Franklin Luker, II, husband of Flora Georgia McCartney
Charlie Charles Edward Lowell, youngest son of John Russell Lowell; husband of Gertrude Brockhouse Lowell
Dad G. James Lowell, son of George John Lowell; father of Gerald R. Lowell, author of the article
Flora Flora Georgia McCartney Luker, wife of Benjamin F. Luker; daughter of Minnie Lowell and George A. McCartney
Florence Florence Feyder Lowell, wife of John Franklin Lowell
George M. George A. McCartney, husband to Minnie Lowell; son of Judge John McCartney
Gert Gertrude Brockhouse Lowell, wife of Charles Edward Lowell
Grandma Hazel Miller Lowell, wife of George John Lowell
Grandpa George John Lowell, son of John Russell Lowell, husband of Hazel Miller Lowell, father of G. James Lowell
I (author) Gerald R. Lowell, son of G. James Lowell
Jack John Franklin Lowell, middle child of John Russell Lowell; husband to Florence Feyder Lowell. Also called "Johnnie" or "Jack."
John Fairfield John Fairfield Lowell, husband of Wealthy Viola Furbush Lowell; father of Minnie Lowell McCartney and John Russell Lowell
John Russell John Russell Lowell, son of John Fairfield and Viola Lowell; brother of Minnie Lowell McCartney; father of George, Jack, and Charlie Lowell.
Judge McCartney John McCartney, father of George A. McCartney, father-in-law to Minnie McCartney; Flora McCartney Luker's paternal grandfather
Minnie Minnie Lowell McCartney, daughter of John Fairfield and Viola Furbush Lowell; wife of George A. McCartney; mother of Flora Georgia McCartney Luker;
Viola Wealthy Viola Furbush, wife of John Fairfield; mother of Minnie Lowell McCartney and John Russell Lowell. First name "Wealthy" was never used by Viola.


This is a story about two women, Minnie Lowell McCartney and Flora McCartney Luker—mother and daughter—and the men they married. From the Lowell-McCartney-Luker connection would emerge a series of life events—at times joyous, at other times melancholic—that would lead to tragedies and mysteries that remain to this day. Both women were born into prosperous families and both women married well. Their marriages were cut short by illnesses that prematurely took the lives of their husbands. Neither woman remarried. Instead, after their husbands' deaths, they returned to their family farm, first the mother and then the daughter, and lived in increasing squalor, like hermits, for the remainder of their lives.

L. to R.: Flora McCartney Luker, Minnie Lowell McCartney, Viola Furbush Lowell, Freda Volsch Lowell, John H. Lowell. Taken about 1932 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


An article appearing in Parker's newspaper, The New Era on December 22, 1888, announced Minnie's marriage to George M.:

“Mr. George A. McCartney, of this city, and Miss Minnie Lowell, of Minnehaha county, were united in marriage at Sioux Falls on Monday, December 17th, 1888, Rev. F. M. Robertson [NOTE: Pastor of Methodist Episcopal Church, Sioux Falls, now First United Methodist Church] officiating. The bride, Miss Minnie Lowell, is the accomplished daughter of Mr. John Lowell, who resides near Sioux Falls. She is a young lady of rare graces of mind and person, who has won a large circle of warm true friends not only at her home but elsewhere where she is known. The groom, Mr. McCartney, has long been a resident of this city, where his sterling moral qualities and fine business ability have won for him the confidence and esteem of all. Mr. and Mrs. McCartney have settled down to housekeeping in their neat home in this city, and The New Era joins with their host of friends in wishing them all possible joy and prosperity.”

Minnie's parents were John Fairfield Lowell and Wealthy Viola Furbush. John Fairfield was born on May 17, 1837 in Chesterville, Maine; Viola was born in Rockland, Maine on Feb 8, 1844. The couple were married in Chesterville, Maine, on September 14, 1863, by John Fairfield's brother, W. F. Lowell, who was Justice of the Peace. John Fairfield was a highly skilled lumberman and competent farmer. Prior to the Civil War, he went to Illinois and then on to Wisconsin to work in the lumber camps. He returned to Maine and married Viola, after discovering that his original "intended" had married someone else. After their marriage, the couple departed for Wisconsin and settled in Waupaca County near the banks of the Little Wolf River about 5 miles from Royalton. The couple had two children: Minnie, born February 27, 1865, and John Russell, born April 16, 1869. Both children were born in Ostrander.

Two decades after their arrival in Wisconsin, the John Fairfield Lowell family continued their westward migration in 1884 and relocated to southeastern Dakota Territory. John Fairfield had already made seven trips to Dakota Territory and had established a claim near Salem. However, before the family permanently relocated, John Fairfield sold the Salem property, and on December 3, 1877, paid in full, through preemption, $200 for a 160-acre tract of land in southern Minnehaha County and, with his son, built the family home using lumber brought from Wisconsin. On December 15, 1879, the documents were made patent and were recorded in the Office of Register of Deeds, Minnehaha County, Territory of Dakota on October 4, 1888. Minnie was nineteen when she arrived in Dakota Territory.

At the time of George M.'s marriage, he was the Clerk of Courts for Turner County, whose county seat was Parker, South Dakota. George was the oldest son of Judge John McCartney, a highly respected and educated man, who had been born in the town of Indiana, Pennsylvania on April 18, 1823. In 1854, Judge McCartney earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from Indiana University, situated in Bloomington, Indiana. He would meet Cynthia Ann Dodds, his future bride, in Bloomington. In July 1854, they were married and moved to Vinton, Iowa, where Judge McCartney practiced law. John and Cynthia had three children while in Iowa: George (born 1855), Ella (born 1857), and Samuel (born 1860). Wife Cynthia died in December 1862 when she was 39 years old, leaving her husband faced with raising three small children. Sometime before 1869, John McCartney married Anna Burrell in Iowa. They had one child, Ada Leta McCartney (born in 1869.) With Ada's birth, John McCartney was now father to four children:

George McCartney was extraordinarily well educated. His formal education included studies at Notre Dame in 1868/1869; in 1874/1875 he attended Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois, studying Classics; and in the late 1870s, he traveled to Germany, where he studied at the University of Göttinghen and the University of Leipzig. He would eventually marry Minnie.

Ella McCartney married Martin Luther Ward in February 1881 in Vinton, Iowa. Martin Ward practiced law with his father-in-law (Ella's father) in Vinton. Martin and Ella moved to southern California in 1887. He was an extraordinarily successful lawyer, a former San Diego County District Attorney, a state senator, and an active participant in the development of San Diego. Ella was Flora's aunt. Martin and Ella's children attended Stanford University—the likely reason why Flora enrolled at Stanford for her undergraduate studies.

Samuel C. McCartney, John and Cynthia's third child, remains a mystery, with little information located about him. He was born May 21, 1860 in Iowa. At the time of his father's death in 1899, Samuel was living in Dawson, Northwest Territories, Canada; and according to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, he was unmarried, living in Shreveport, Louisiana, and selling dry goods. There appears to have been little or no interaction between Samuel McCartney, his sister-in-law Minnie McCartney, or his niece, Flora McCartney Luker.

Ada Leta was John McCartney's fourth and last child, and the only child that he had with his second wife, Anna Burrell McCartney. Ada married Walter Elbridge Brown, an extraordinarily successful and prominent real estate agent in Los Angeles, on November 10, 1892, gave birth to one child, John McCartney Brown on September 29, 1893, and lived in Los Angeles with her family for her entire adult life. She died on March 16, 1954 in Los Angeles. Flora clearly would have met and interacted with Ada McCartney, her husband, Walter, and their son John McCartney Brown.

John McCartney

While in Iowa, the McCartney family interlinked with one other important family: the Alfred Haines family. As mentioned above, Ella McCartney married Martin Ward on February 24, 1881. Martin Ward practiced law with Alfred Haines. The Martin Ward family and the Alfred Haines family would grow to become quite close with each other. In 1887, the Martin Ward family moved to San Diego, California. Ward would serve as District Attorney from 1892-1894 and a State Senator from 1903-1906. Alfred Haines, also a lawyer, was born in 1845 in Pennsylvania. He married Flora M. Conklin in Vinton, Iowa, in 1877. The five Haines children were close in age to the four children of Martin and Ella McCartney Ward. The Alfred Haines family also moved to San Diego in 1887. They lived next door to each other in California and the two men practiced law together. Prior to relocating to California, Alfred Haines moved from Iowa to Parker, Dakota Territory, where Alfred was active in the statehood activities leading to the formation of South Dakota in 1889.

The reasons behind George’s relocation to Parker in about 1885 are not yet known. Given that Alfred Haines came to Parker, Dakota Territory in about 1884, it is highly likely that his presence played an important role in George M.'s migration from Iowa to Dakota Territory. Nevertheless, in 1887, Alfred Haines and his family left Parker and headed to southern California. George remained in Parker.


On September 28, 1889, a newspaper notice appeared in The New Era: “There is joy in the home of Mr. and Mrs. George McCartney. A little girl came to bless their home on Tuesday. Mother and child are doing nicely and George is as proud as a peacock over the happy event." George and Minnie McCartney named their daughter Flora Georgia McCartney.

In 1888, Judge McCartney, along with his wife and youngest daughter, followed in the footsteps of his elder daughter, Ella McCartney Ward and moved to National City, California, just south of San Diego, joining the Martin Ward family and the Alfred Haines family. These families would continue to have close work and personal relationships.

The Indiana Progress, the newspaper for the town of Indiana, Pennsylvania, reported on September 11, 1889 that "John McCartney, brother of Samuel and James McCartney, of this place, is visiting his brother. He has resided for many years in Vinton, Iowa, but latterly in California."

Parker's newspaper,The New Era, on January 18, 1890, reported that: "George McCartney has had his office nicely papered and fixed up in comfortable shape."

Fifteen months after George and Minnie's marriage, George's office and almost all of its contents were destroyed by a tragic fire that consumed the Turner County Courthouse. While already in poor health suffering from diabetes, George worked valiantly to attempt to save precious county documents. His overexertion contributed to his demise the day after the fire, on March 25, 1890. George McCartney was buried in Rosehill Cemetery, outside Parker, South Dakota. He was 34 years old and left a widow 25 years of age and a 6-month old daughter, Flora Georgia McCartney.

Minnie never remarried; she returned to her father's family farm with her young daughter, Flora, joining her parents, John Fairfield and Viola, and younger brother, John Russell Lowell. John Fairfield served as Flora's legal guardian. Minnie apparently purchased property in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, given her grandfather's provision of money to pay off the mortgage on her "house and lot". After her father's death, Minnie and Flora lived with Viola in Viola's home in Sioux Falls. Minnie eventually purchased property from her father and by 1913 had relocated to a 160-acre farm diagonally across the gravel road from her parents’ home place about 12 miles west of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Minnie lived on this farm for the remainder of her life.

For a long period of time, Minnie employed a hired hand, Allen B. Jones, whom everyone called "Jones". The relationship that existed between Jones and Minnie is cause for speculation. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Minnie is listed twice. The first census record for Minnie records her on her farm. She is listed as "Head" with no occupation noted, and Allen B. Jones is listed as "Tenant" with an occupation of "Farmer". The second census record for Minnie in 1910 shows her as living in Sioux Falls, with her mother, Viola, and her daughter Flora, at 1024 9th St. In this record, everything is listed as would be expected: Viola is "Head"; Minnie is "Daughter"; Flora is "Granddaughter." In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, there is one record for Minnie who is now at the farm. "A. B. Jones" is listed as "single" and the "head of the household"; Minnie is listed as "widowed" and "housekeeper". The 1930 U.S. Federal Census again lists "A. B. Jones" as the head of the farm; Minnie's relationship to the head of household was listed as "servant" and Minnie's occupation was listed as "housekeeper." Minnie was again listed as "widowed". At some time during the 10-year period between 1930 and 1940, Flora left Gainesville and moved back onto the farm outside Sioux Falls, with her mother. Her arrival may have been part of the reason for the changes in roles that were listed in the 1940 census. The 1940 U.S. Federal Census lists the occupants of Minnie's farm as one would have expected for a woman who was the head of a household and owner of the property. Minnie is listed as "head" and "widowed." Allen Jones is listed as "farm manager" and "single." Another hired man, Fred Colwill, is also listed. Allen B. Jones died on March 8, 1942. While census data can be erroneous and misleading, it is quite possible that Jones and Minnie's relationship was more than simply that of hired man and employer, especially during the period of time when Flora was not living on the farm.

As Minnie's living situation deteriorated, her mother Viola would make periodic visits to her daughter's home to clean house. One of Viola's routine chores when she arrived was to get rid of the large number of cats that had moved into her daughter's house. Grandpa said that his grandmother Viola would throw the cats out the back door and Jones would shoot them as they were flying through the air.

Minnie Lowell McCartney

Minnie died on May 17, 1951, at Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She was 86. She was buried at Rosehill Cemetery, outside parker, South Dakota, next to her husband George M. Oddly, among Flora's papers, a Certificate of Baptism for "Mrs. Minnie Lowell McCartney" was found. This baptism occurred at Sioux Valley Hospital on May 3, 1951 by T. N. Tergen, Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church. The baptism was witnessed by Mrs. Flora G. Luker and Mrs. Ruth Dibley. It is not clear why Flora arranged for a baptism for her mother when her mother was 86. Was Minnie never formally baptized as a child? At the time of Minnie's marriage, did she change faiths, causing Flora to re-baptize her back to Minnie's original faith, when Minnie was on her deathbed in 1951? Or, did Flora want her baptized into a different Protestant faith from the one in which Minnie was originally baptized?

John Fairfield and Viola moved into Sioux Falls in the early 1900s. Flora lived with them in Sioux Falls while attending high school. John Fairfield died in March 1908 and was one of the first individuals to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. Shortly after her grandfather's death, Flora graduated high school in June 1908.

Flora's cousin, George J. Lowell, my grandpa, recalls attending Flora's high school graduation. Opera was sung at the graduation ceremony—the first time that Grandpa had ever heard opera. In 1968, Flora was one of nine individuals who attended the 60th Class Reunion celebrations for Washington High School. Forty-nine individuals had graduated high school in 1908. Her class was the first class to graduate from the newly constructed Washington High School.

Little is known about the details of Flora’s day-to-day life as a child. Her grandfather, John Fairfield, had become her guardian and oversaw Flora's financial affairs, after the death of her father. There was certainly ongoing contact between Minnie and her father-in-law John McCartney. Letters survive from Judge McCartney to Minnie after George's death; in one letter Judge McCartney sent $150 for Minnie to use to pay off her mortgage and interest on her house and lot. Another letter encloses money for Christmas presents for Minnie and Flora. In Judge McCartney's letters, he makes reference to letters that he has received from Minnie. To date, none of Minnie's letters to Judge McCartney have been located. If any still exist, they would most likely be found in various McCartney archives in southern California.

On January 28, 1899, Flora's grandfather, Judge McCartney, died. Flora was nine years old. As Judge McCartney’s estate was settled in San Diego, California, longstanding friend of the family, Alfred Haines, was appointed legal guardian over Flora’s financial affairs in California, since she was to inherit her deceased father’s one-sixth of the Judge's estate. Per usual legal custom, Minnie was not a beneficiary of her father-in-law's estate.

Flora joined her Ward cousins and attended Stanford University, a relatively new university south of San Francisco, opened in 1891. Flora's grandmother, Viola Lowell, would travel with her to Palo Alto, California, serving as her chaperone, companion, and housekeeper, a role that Viola would continue to play as Flora pursued her education and worked as a teacher before her marriage. The Ward family had a strong affiliation with Stanford. All of the Ward male children and grandchildren attended Stanford. Clearly, this affiliation with Stanford by the Ward family was the reason for Flora's attendance at Stanford University. During Flora's time at Stanford, she and her grandmother met the Ward family in San Diego and were most likely in frequent contact with the family.

While at Stanford, Flora met Benjamin F. Luker, the person whom she would marry a decade later. Obviously, Ben also met Viola in Palo Alto, California. Ben was at Stanford studying Romance Languages, working on his master's degree.

It appears that there was little interaction between Flora and her mother, Minnie, as Flora pursued her educational goals and lived her life. She and her grandmother, Viola, were clearly close and spent significant amounts of time with each other.

After graduation from Stanford in 1913, Flora traveled to New York City, accompanied by Viola, and enrolled in Columbia University's Masters program in the Arts. She received her Masters degree from Columbia's Department of Political Science, Philosophy, and Pure Science in 1915. Her Master's Thesis was titled: "The Life of the Industrial Revolution as Reflected in the Literature of the Nineteenth Century", submitted in 1915.

Ben also entered Columbia in the fall of 1913 to begin working on his Ph.D.

Benjamin F. Luker, II. College photograph.

When Flora went to New York to school, Viola took Flora to Maine, in 1915, to visit relatives. They also met Viola's youngest full sibling, brother Frank Furbush, who lived in Graniteville, Massachusetts. Flora described him as being a "very stately, distinguished individual."

Upon graduation from Columbia, Flora would begin a period of time in her life where she taught high school and college, staying for an academic year or less and then moving to a different location, accompanied by Viola. Flora taught in a temporary high school position in Park City, Utah during Spring of 1918. For the academic year 1918-1919, Flora taught French and Latin at the Central High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 1919-1920, she was a history teacher at the Junior College in Fort Scott, Kansas. In what was perhaps her strangest appointment, she also taught at Hecla, South Dakota, an isolated, small town located only a few miles south of the North Dakota border in the northeastern part of the state, whose population in 1920 was 553 per the U.S. Federal Census. She was a teacher at Chisholm High School, Chisholm, Minnesota. From comments made in several newspapers about Flora's academic appointments in these various locations, her credentials were viewed impressively by the hiring authorities: an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a graduate degree from Columbia. After her death, Grandpa would express his curiosity as to why Flora moved around so much during this period of time. He wondered why she stayed for only a year or less at these places. Was this her choice? Had she only been hired for one year? Did difficulties arise with her conduct at these various schools, causing her contract not to be renewed? Did she have difficulty settling into specific places? Were positions difficult to find?

Flora McCartney Luker


Benjamin Franklin Luker, Jr. had an equally impressive academic background as that of George A. McCartney. Ben was born near Proctor, Texas, Sept. 5, 1886. He was the son of Benjamin Franklin Luker, Sr. (1848-1886) and Molly Charity Ewing (1848-1926). He never knew his biological father since he died a little over four months before Ben's birth. His mother remarried and her second husband, Rev. John O'Quinn Williams, was Ben's stepfather. Ben received his A.B. and A.M. degrees from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, in 1909 and 1910, respectively. While at Washington & Lee, he was also an accomplished athlete. During the year 1909-10 he was instructor in French in the same college. He spent the next three years (1910-1913) studying Romance Languages at Stanford. While there, he also was an assistant instructor in French. In 1913, he entered the School of Philosophy of Columbia University; his major was Romance Philology, and he earned two minors in the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures. While working on his Ph.D., Ben was instructor in French in Extension Teaching, Columbia University, 1913-14; instructor in French, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1914-15; and in 1915 was instructor in French at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia on June 7, 1916. His thesis, also published separately as a book, was "The Use of the Infinitive Instead of a Finite Verb in French." After the receipt of his Ph.D., Ben continued serving as Instructor in French at Lafayette College.

Ben served in World War I as a civilian clerk and translator in the Quartermaster Corps of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. He was honorably released from the Quartermaster Corps on July 7, 1919. After the war, Ben was hired as a faculty member at the University of Texas in Austin, but resigned to take an adjunct professor of Romance Languages position at the University of Michigan. Flora reunited with Ben at the University of Michigan. After their marriage in 1922, Flora no longer taught school. In 1923, Flora and Ben are still living in Ann Arbor; Ben was an Instructor at the University of Michigan. Ben was hired by the University of Florida to teach French language and literature. He and Flora arrived in Gainesville for the 1923-1924 academic year; Ben was Professor of French.

In addition to his service during the War, Ben traveled to Europe three times, in 1914 while at Vanderbilt, in 1920 while at Lafayette College and in 1925 while at the University of Florida.

Ben and Flora lived for seven years in Gainesville. Ben Luker's teaching career was cut short by illness. For his last four years at the University of Florida, he was the head of the department of French. He was forced to resign in 1926 on account of ill health. He died on 11 August 1929 after having been ill for three years. Flora and Viola returned to South Dakota at that time. Flora moved in with her mother on her farm. Viola moved in with her son, John Russell Lowell and his family at 1201 N. Lincoln Ave., Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the house in which I lived from the 3rd to the 12th grade.



I was only two years old when Minnie died, so I do not have any memories of her. The extended Lowell family didn't talk much about her. Grandpa talked about riding his bike out to his aunt's farm. The experiences that he had while working on Minnie's farm made him never want to become a farmer. One time when we passed Flora's farm, Grandpa said that he thought that he could find his initials in the barn; he carved them into a beam when the barn was being built. Family members often described Minnie as being the "black sheep" of the family. Apparently, she elected to have very little interaction with relatives. I found only a few items directly related to Minnie among Flora's things that Grandpa had in his possession after Flora's death. There was the deed and receipts for the burial plots in Rosehill Cemetery outside Parker that Minnie had purchased after her husband's death. There were several letters from her father-in-law, Judge McCartney, written to Minnie after her husband's death. One of the more fascinating items was a birthday book sent by her father-in-law to her for Christmas, 1894. It listed al of the various McCartney and Ward family members and their birthdates. It was an extraordinary discovery from a genealogical perspective. I don't believe that Flora was especially close to her mother. She did make periodic visits to South Dakota but it is not clear whether the impetus to visit was to see her mother or to see her grandmother. In many ways, it appears that it was Viola who met Flora's maternal needs.

I have many memories of Flora, from when I was a child and continuing through until her death in 1974, when I was 25.

Flora´s farm was located about a mile northeast from the land owned by Grandpa and farmed by Dad. And even though we drove on the country road by her place every time we went to our farm, we never stopped. Flora's farm sat off the road, surrounded by trees, an eerie place to me, cloaked in mystery. We often stopped to visit Grandpa's brother, John Franklin (called "Johnnie by his wife--we called him "Jack") and his wife, Florence. Their farm was directly north of Flora's. If Grandma was with us, we occasionally stopped to see Grandma's brother, Cliff Miller and his wife, Nell, whose farm was the original Lowell home place across the road from Jack's and Flora's farms. Nell sold eggs so we'd also stop to buy eggs if Mom needed them. But, we just never stopped at Flora's.

Grandma would stop at Flora's if she needed to deliver or pick up something. Grandma was the relative who was actually the closest to Flora, most likely because Flora's farm was directly across the road from the farm where Grandma was raised. When I was with Grandma and we stopped at Flora's, I had to stay in the car (no explanations were provided as to why I couldn’t go in.) Grandma Lowell would honk the horn and Flora would come out of the house to tie up the dog. Flora always had a large dog running around, each one more ornery and unpredictable than the previous one, even with adults, so anyone visiting would wait in the car until Flora had chained the dog. Only then would it be safe to emerge from the car. You also had to be careful when walking near the house to avoid a gaggle of large geese that wandered around the house and out buildings. They were nasty and could deliver an evil bite. On occasion, one of them would become the Lowell family's Christmas goose.

As I grew older, I discovered that the dog and the geese weren’t the primary reasons behind Grandma’s instructions to remain in the car. The major problem was that the interior of Flora's house was such a disgusting, sickening mess deemed unsuitable for children's eyes.

I was inside Flora's house only one time. I was in my late teens and had driven Grandma out to the country for some reason or another. I got only as far as the kitchen and the dining room, which were the first rooms you entered using the side door. Flora’s kitchen was appalling. Dirty dishes were stacked to overflowing in the sink, spilling onto the kitchen counter. Pots and pans caked with dried food, remnants that appeared to have been cooked weeks earlier, covered all the burners of the stove. From the kitchen, I walked into the dining room, where Flora sat, surrounded by stacks of 5-gallon buckets. In the top bucket of each stack were various live baby chicks whose color markings fascinated Flora.

What a contrast Flora's current living conditions were to the life she must have led as a child to young adult to a youthful married woman. Grandma always said that as a child, she was afraid of Flora because Flora was so elegant and always so well dressed. Grandma would describe occasions when she, as a child, would be in Minnie's home when Flora would be visiting. Flora would come down the stairs off the parlor, dressed elegantly and, from my Grandma's perspective, looking like a princess.

As children, we would see Flora on the "big" holidays: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday celebrations or on other special occasions when the entire Lowell family would gather together in Sioux Falls. We always called her "Aunt Flora," even though she was my grandpa's first cousin. Dad was Flora's 1st cousin, once removed, making me Flora’s first cousin, twice removed, but “Aunt” just seemed to be an easier label to use. On these family get-togethers, Flora would usually ride the twelve miles into town with Jack and Florence, even though Florence never liked Flora much. Florence thought that Flora was "uppity" and resented the fact that Flora would contact Jack for assistance on Flora's farm, even though Flora had a capable hired man in her employ. Clearly there were other issues at play that happened over the years, that soured their relationship. It may also be the case that given Flora's societal and educational background, Flora felt superior to her South Dakota relatives.

When Flora arrived at these special occasions in town, she always look the same: slightly stooped, grey hair pulled back in a bun, with wisps of hair at the bottom wild and loose; a black old-fashioned silk dress; dark stockings, and old-fashioned black shoes. She always wore a dark sweater over her dress because the dress was usually on backwards. Flora had gained some weight and no longer fit into her elegant dresses of yesteryear. By putting them on backwards, she could then hook them closed with safety pins and put her sweater on over the dress and button up the sweater. She usually sat quietly on a chair in the living room, not much engaged in any conversation. She would be escorted into the dining room and usually ate her meal in silence. She did speak when spoken to, and appeared to welcome the mandated hugs and kisses given to her by the kids. At the end of the day, she would get back in the car and be returned to her pigsty in the country. She never drove a car.

Flora McCartney Luker at a Lowell Christmas Dinner at 1201 N. Lincoln Ave., Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

My two sisters and I often received birthday and Christmas presents from Flora. Her gifts were always different from the other gifts that we received. They were usually subscriptions to educational magazines: Boy's Life, Highlights, Jack and Jill, and other titles filled with puzzles and fun stories that we enjoyed.

In the late 1960s, Flora finally left the farm and moved into the city. Like many older farmers, she had already sold the land surrounding her home to cover her financial needs. Grandma and Gert Lowell (Charlie Lowell's wife) offered to drive her around Sioux Falls to look at various apartments. During this rather lengthy search for an apartment, Grandma had to be away for a week or so. Gert volunteered to drive Flora around during Grandma's absence. When Grandma returned, Gert vented her frustration about how difficult Flora had been while looking for apartments and how dissatisfied Flora was with the possibilities that Gert had found for her. At that time, out of frustration, Gert told Grandma that she "washed her hands" of the task at hand and wasn't going to spend any more time with Flora trying to find an appropriate housing situation for her. So Grandma took sole responsibility for assisting in the hunt for an apartment. It was during a visit to a possible housing situation that Grandma discovered that Flora was almost blind. While looking at the living room in one apartment, Flora pointed to the baseboard woodwork around the room with her cane and asked Grandma what that dark stuff was. Grandma told her that it was the woodwork and told Flora that if she was unable to see the woodwork, there was no way that she would be able to live on her own. After hastily scheduled visit to the eye doctor, cataract surgery was required for both eyes. Surgery was scheduled immediately and Flora’s sight was restored. I had the privilege to be able to pick up Flora from the eye doctor after she received her new glasses, because Grandma Lowell had a scheduling conflict that day and was unable to meet Flora after her appointment. As I was driving down Eighth Street in Sioux Falls, heading back to her apartment, a tear fell from Flora's eye as she exclaimed to me that she could see the leaves on the trees again. It was a touching moment.

Eventually, Flora was moved to a nursing home. As her health failed, she asked Grandpa to be the executor of her estate. Grandpa indicated that he would certainly be willing to do this, but only on the condition that Flora meet with a lawyer and draw up a will, because as Grandpa said, "Flora had all those cousins in California." Flora agreed with this request, but said that she didn't have a lawyer. Grandpa suggested that Flora use Gert and Charlie's lawyer. Flora didn't want to do this. Grandpa then suggested that Flora talk with Rex Leubecher (Grandma Lowell's cousin) for a recommendation. Flora didn't want to do this. Finally, Flora asked Grandpa about his lawyer. After telling Flora about him, Flora said that she wanted to use him. Flora met privately with the lawyer and prepared her will.

Flora died on Saturday, June 1, 1974. Her obituary appeared in the Monday, June 3, 1974 edition of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

"Funeral services will be at 1-30 p.m. Wednesday at the Miller Funeral Home for Mrs. Flora G. Luker, 84, of 401 W. 2nd St., who died Saturday at a local nursing home. Flora McCartney was born Sept. 24, 1889, at Parker. She was married to Benjamin F. Luker July 11, 1922, at Rockford, Ill. He died in 1929 and Mrs. Luker moved to Sioux Falls. She was employed as a school-teacher before her retirement. She is survived by cousins."

This six sentence summary was all that was written to cover the fascinating and mysterious life of Flora Georgia McCartney Luker.

Flora was buried in the Lowell plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, next to her husband, Benjamin Luker; her uncle and aunt, John Russell and Freda Volsch Lowell; and her beloved Grandmother Viola Furbush Lowell and Grandfather John Fairfield Lowell. With her burial, the Lowell plot in Woodlawn Cemetery was now full. George and Minnie McCartney were the only family members who occupied the burial plots purchased by Minnie.


After Flora's funeral, the three Lowell brothers (all first cousins to Flora) and their spouses met at the lawyer's office in downtown Sioux Falls. Florence read the will. The three brothers inherited Flora's personal and real estate holdings as follows: George inherited one-half and Jack and Charlie one-fourth each. While reading, Florence inadvertently skipped a paragraph as she read the Will. The lawyer had to then point out this specific paragraph so that she could read it. In this paragraph, Flora gave to Grandma five lots in Waldo, Florida that Flora and Ben had purchased when they lived in Gainseville, Florida. Waldo was about 10 miles northeast of Gainesville. Five lots in Florida sounded like a gold mine for those people in the room as the will was read.

Gert was especially angered with the terms of the will, the fact that George had been made executor and the fact that Flora had used George's lawyer to draw up her will. She believed that Grandpa had used undue influence on Flora and that he had guided Flora in making the decisions that she made regarding the distribution of her estate. Charlie already had had a number of disagreements over the years with inheritance issues associated with the properties owned by his father, John Russell Lowell. John Russell had already had preliminary discussions with his sons regarding his plans for distribution of his estate. Simply put, George would get cash, Jack would inherit the farms, and Charlie would inherit the houses in West Sioux Falls. However, after the "announcement" of these initial plans, John Russell changed his mind and began to give items to his son before he died that did not conform to the original understanding. Charlie had already felt that Grandpa was getting better treatment by their father, especially when John Russell gave Grandpa a house in West Sioux Falls that Charlie had been led to believe that he would get. To add salt to the wound, it was also the house that was in the best shape as a structure, among all of the houses owned by John Russell. Apparently, Grandma's receipt of the five lots was the final action that so angered Gert and Charlie that they stopped speaking to Grandma and Grandpa for the rest of their lives. Cards that Grandma sent to Charlie and/or Gert were returned, marked "deceased" or "undeliverable." Gert told Grandma and Grandpa to their faces that they were "non-people."

Ironically, the lots that Grandma inherited in Waldo, Florida were of little or no value. They abutted railroad tracks and the money received from their sale barely covered the back taxes that were owed on the five properties.

Flora’s death occurred about twenty years before I began to pursue family history and genealogy in earnest. Therefore, I was unable to look through Flora's papers and letters prior to their disposal, as Grandpa began to go through Flora's papers and belongings. There were a number of letters from Ben to Flora that Grandpa felt were too personal so he threw those away. There were undoubtedly a large number of pictures that Grandpa would have discarded. Grandma and Grandpa presented Ben's World War I uniform to the Pettigrew Museum in Sioux Falls. There were a few pieces of furniture that Grandpa saved and refinished, later realizing that by refinishing the pieces they lost their value as antiques. There was a legal four-shelf bookshelf that had been in Grandma and Grandpa's upstairs bedroom area at 707 S. Menlo Ave. We had it shipped to us after Grandma's death. When we started downsizing, it was transported to Ryan Geraets, our nephew who now has it in his home office in Sioux Falls. There was a beautiful secretary that Grandpa also refinished. The secretary remained with Mom & Dad at 707 S. Menlo. After Mom's death, we also had the secretary shipped to our home. It is now at the home of my sister, Linda Geraets. Flora also had a small wooden mantel clock that was in quite bad shape. George McCartney's parents had it when they lived in Vinton, Iowa. When they headed west to California, they no longer wanted it so it was left with Minnie. After Flora's death, Grandpa refurbished the clock and it is now owned by Roger Lowell, Grandpa's youngest son. Flora had an extensive library of books. Many of them were originally owned by George McCartney and bore his signature on the title page. Others were originally owned by Ben or Flora Luker. A few of these were family heirlooms, but we gave away the vast majority of the titles.

One issue will always remain unsettled. Did Minnie Lowell McCartney and Flora McCartney Luker suffer nervous breakdowns or serious bouts of depression after the deaths of their husbands? Were they of sound mind and good mental health as they lived on their farm? We will never know the extent of the mental anguish that faced these two women. Obviously they both were deeply affected by the deaths of their husbands. Did they find a way to continue to live purposeful and happy lives? I don't think that they did.

The events that occurred during Flora’s life and the educational achievements that she earned occurred at a time when women struggled so much to find their own place while existing in a paternalistic, chauvinist society. I wished that I had started my genealogical quest much earlier. I could have learned so many things from Flora. Sadly, that opportunity no longer exists.

Gerald R. Lowell
February 1, 2016

P.S. In December 2003, I was working on Benjamin F. Luker's family and discovered a website called "A Sturkie Family",, managed by Mary L. Ward. Ben's sister, Mattie Lou Luker, had married William Dudley Sturkie in December 1902 in Comanche County, Texas. William and Mattie's youngest child was Kathleen Sturkie. Kathleen's oldest child, upon marriage, became Mary L. Ward, resulting in Ben being Mary Ward's great uncle. Via email, I introduced myself and shared what I knew about Ben. At the time of my email, Mary's mother was still living. Both women were ecstatic to learn what happened to Ben. They knew that Ben had married a woman named "Flora" but had lost track of the couple. I sent Mary all of Ben's athletic medals from Washington and Lee University, his diplomas, and a long letter that he had written to Flora while he was in the War. I also sent his will, and photos of Flora. It was heartwarming to have Flora and Ben reintroduced in this manner.

L. to R.: Hazel Miller Lowell, Flora McCartney Luker, Minnie Lowell McCartney, Freda Volsch Lowell, John Harvey Lowell, Florence Feyder Lowell, Gertude Brockhouse Lowell. Taken about 1935.