Marvelous Multiples

by Linda Okazaki

According to family legend, multiples run on my mother’s side of the family. As the unofficial family historian, I love disproving such tales.

Diane Judith and Roger Neil Orchard were born 18 August 1937 in Fresno California. Their arrival was noted in the Fresno Bee with a photo and an article because their cesarean delivery was so unusual at that time. The article indicated that a great great-grandmother of Diane and Roger had delivered two sets of twins and one set of triplets. And that caught my interest. Which ancestor gave birth to multiple multiples? This was going to be a challenge.

Diane and Roger were the only children of Modeste Elthera Etheridge and Neil Eugene Orchard. Having done extensive research on the Orchard line over the past two years,  I could confidently declare that no multiples had been reported. That left the Etheridge side. Modeste Elthera was the second child of John Wesley Etheridge and Hattie Mae Lane. She was born in a tent cabin near Yosemite, California on 6 May 1908. None of her siblings were known to be multiples.

John Wesley Etheridge was born in rural Missouri, near Norwood in Wright County on 18 June 1885. His father, Willaby Etheridge, served in the Civil War, had at least three wives and 11 known children, including one set of twins with his third wife and John’s mother, Martha Matilda Wilson Wilson (no, that’s not a typo; maiden name Wilson, first husband also a Wilson). Willaby and Martha lived a difficult life and were rather poor following the war. Martha had five children with Willaby,  including twins Nellie Mae and Callaway born 5 March 1881 and died four days later. These are the only multiples I have found so far on the Etheridge side of the family.

Harriet “Hattie” Mae Lane was the daughter of Richard Oscar Lane and Sophronia Elthier Curtis, born 30 May 1885 in Joplin Missouri. I am still trying to prove the birth years of her nine siblings, and therefore do not know if any were multiples. The Curtis line is rather well documented with no  known multiples. But I was surprised to learn that Richard, Harriet’s father, was himself a twin! Maybe I was on to something. Richard’s twin brother was Anderson  and they were born December 1846 in Laclede, Missouri to Joseph C. Lane and Rebecca Devers Baldwin. Hmm? This would have been Modeste’s great-grandmother, Diane and Roger’s great great-grandmother. Perhaps there was a sliver of truth in the legend after all. And then I found out that Joseph and Rebecca had a second set of twins! James and Margaret were born about 1855, also in Missouri.  I don’t know if I can ever prove that Rebecca also delivered a set of triplets. Perhaps they died prematurely. Perhaps one of the sets of twins actually had been a set of triplets. I probably will never know if my ancestor had two sets of twins AND a set of triplets, but my findings certainly make me wonder about the possibility. At least I know that there is a shred of truth to the tale. In an interesting continuation of family legacy, Diane gave birth to her own set of twins, Sharon Louise and William Richard in 1961.

I haven’t focused much attention on my Lane research. Maybe when I return to Salt Lake City in April I’ll find that set of triplets.