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Jun 20

Belle’s Box

My mother-in-law’s grandmother was a tiny woman named Belle Lamunion. She lived from 1864 to 1948: she was born in New York and died in Michigan. She and her first husband Henry H. Fellows were the parents of either eight or nine children, the records aren’t completely clear. The Lamunion family were apparently close, and had a reunion each year. Years ago when Papa was young and in his teens, the reunions of what was then called the “Fellows” family were an annual event. Stories still circulate about the reunions, and include one about ball games in which uncle Frank Fellows umpired from a lawn chair, glass eye and all.

The reunions ended sometime when my children were small and we saw many of the cousins infrequently. Then, a while back a cousin and his wife swept out their pole barn, called and mailed everyone they could find and revived the reunion. At that time, about 14 or 15 years ago, several of M-in-L’s generation either very elderly and ill or had already passed away. The reunion was held periodically for several years, and more of that generation left us.

For the past 3 years, M-in-L has held the reunion at her home. Now, there is an advantage to this. She and one of her brothers are all that remain of the grandchildren of Belle Lamunion and Henry Fellows. Many of the great-grandchildren and still living and either remember grandma, or have grown up hearing stories of “Grandma and Charley”. Charley Tinker was Grandma’s second husband.

In the course of my genealogical research I was able to locate the descendents of a “lost” branch of the descendents of Henry and Belle. This lady and her husband answered our letters, and even started coming to our annual gathering. We have been greatly enriched by meeting this “new” cousin.

In 2005, the year which marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Henry Fellows, an article was printed in the local paper which outlined the unconventional circumstances surrounding his death—which was apparently due to arsenic poisoning. Belle Fellows and one Charles Tinker, who was a hired man for the Fellows family, were charged with the murder. There is no record of any conviction, the case against Tinker was dismissed, and later on the one against Belle was also dismissed.

Oh yes, the box–. When the article was printed, M-in-L sent copies to several cousins, fueling the debate about the death, Henry’s character, and giving us a “real-life” mystery to ponder. One cousin received the article, sat down and read it, and immediately heard a knock on her door. At the door was a boy from the family who had purchased the cousin’s mother’s home after her death. Cousin was given a box, dusty and old, which was found in the attic of the home. Cousin said she had shivers run through her, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Inside were post cards, Christmas cards, birth announcements other written communications to Belle Fellows Tinker from many neighbors and family members.

Cousin brought the contents of the box to the reunion yesterday, in a newer, nicer box. We stood around the box in amazement as we read card after card. There was a birth announcement and a graduation announcement for the “lost cousin I mentioned above. We looked at cards, read them, and handed them to an appropriate descendent of the person who had written them. It was a treasure beyond any genealogist’s dream, and we felt blessed to have received “Belle’s box”.

Cousin gave the remaining contents to me, and I’ve got a new project. We will be scanning each item, storing it in archival sheets, and researching to find descendents of the writers. I’m excited at the prospects of reuniting these treasures with their rightful owners.

You can read about the characters whose names appear in the box in Cast of Characters .  If you are related to this family, please contact me.

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