Bessie Pearl Clymer was unlucky in love.
In some ways, hers is a sad story of a woman who married at least twice, possibly three times in her 48 years, but couldn’t make a relationship last a lifetime. I’m sure she carried the stigma of divorce in an era when that wasn’t talked about openly.
She was born May 12, 1885, the oldest daughter of James C. and Maggie Jane Vanderpool Clymer.
Her death certificate lists her birthplace as Scott County, Mo., which means she was likely born at the family’s home in Commerce.
The 1900 census indicates she was living at home in Commerce with her three brothers and two sisters.
She and Felix Duckworth had two children together: Amy Ruth in 1902 and Cecil in 1906. I’ve yet to find a document that says they were married. Bessie would have been 17 at the time her first child was born.
I believe she left her children to be raised by their grandparents, though I’m not entirely sure that Cecil didn’t live with her at some point.
Regardless, she did marry several times during her life, but they were all short-lived.
Missouri marriage records show that Miss Bessie Clymer and George W. Adams were married Dec. 15, 1912, in Scott County, Mo.
Clearly that relationship didn’t last because a little more than a year later the same database of records shows that she and John F. Gillett were married Feb. 20, 1913, in Wayne County, Mo.
Census records for 1920 show a Bessie Gillett, age 34, living in East St. Louis, Ill.
Her death certificate lists her husband as John Gillette, (with the extra e), however her son, Cecil, was the informant. Information on the 1930 census indicates that she was divorced but still living in East St. Louis at that time.
She did move back to Commerce sometime before her death in 1933, because she was seen by a doctor in town from July 22 to Sept. 22, the date of her death.
The cause of death is listed as pernicioius anemia with lues listed as a “contributory cause of importance.” All this is the politest way of saying that she had a deadly case of anemia and the underlying cause or contributing factor was likely syphilis. Some research indicates that the anemia, which is a vitamin B12 deficiency, can be related to alcoholism. I would only be speculating that Bessie was a drinker, but knowing that she had children early in life, left them to be raised by grandparents, and was living in East St. Louis, Ill., — a bustling community in the 1920s and 1930s — it might seem to fit that she had a bit of a wild streak in her.
Bessie Pearl Clymer is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Commerce, Mo.
Missouri marriage records database
death certificate, Missouri bureau of vital statistics
U.S. Census records, 1900, 1920, 1930