Marshall Eugene DeWolfe

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Marshall Eugene DeWolfe (September 22, 1880 – January 1, 1915) was the only child of future First Lady Florence Kling and a man reputed to have been her first husband, Henry Athenton "Pete" DeWolfe (4 March 1859 - 8 March 1894). Born in Galion, Crawford County, Ohio, young DeWolfe was primarily raised by his mother; his father was a chronic alcoholic who was absent from the home for days at a time.

Those doing research on the Hardings, including John Dean and Robert Ferrell among others, have never been able to find concrete proof of Kling-DeWolfe marriage, leading to the conclusion that the future First Lady and DeWolfe likely established a common law marriage. However divorce papers on file in Marion County Ohio do grant a divorce for Florence from Henry "Pete" DeWolfe, which suggests that a formal marriage did take place at some undocumented time. According to the Marion Star, they were married in Columbus on January 22, 1880.[1] (No original copy of the marriage license has been found, but a record of the issuance of the license was printed in the Star.[2])

Following the divorce of his parents, young Marshall was raised by his grandparents, Amos Hall Kling and Louisa "Louise" Mabel (Bouton) Kling, while his mother lived independently and earned an income as a piano teacher in Marion, Ohio. As part of the agreement with her father, Florence would not have a role in her own son’s upbringing. Throughout his life, Marshall used either his Kling or DeWolfe surname.

Florence Kling DeWolfe married newspaper publisher Warren G. Harding in 1891, however Marshall remained under his grandfather's control and roof. While a room was set aside for him in the Harding home, Marshall never felt at home under his mother's roof, and never comfortable under his grandfather's strict control.

DeWolfe studied journalism at the University of Michigan from 1899 to 1903.[3] While attending Michigan, he played football as a quarterback on the Michigan Wolverines all-freshman football team in 1899.[4]

DeWolfe aspired to be a newspaperman like his stepfather Warren G. Harding. By all accounts, his relationship with Harding was closer than the relationship that he had with his mother. After his graduation from Marion High School, DeWolfe was given a job at the Marion Daily Star. DeWolfe eventually purchased a struggling newspaper in Colorado, moving there with his young family. The venture was unsuccessful, as was a later farming attempt, due in part to his problem with alcoholism.

Marshall Kling DeWolfe died of the effects of alcoholism and tuberculosis in Colorado on January 1, 1915, at the age of 34. His death, the return of his body to Marion and his funeral were events that were not known in the community. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the DeWolfe family plot in Marion Cemetery. When Warren G. Harding was elected President in 1920, the fact that the new First Lady had once been a mother (and that she was a grandmother) were items not discussed in the press, nor by the White House.

Marshall Eugene DeWolfe married Esther Naomi Neely. Their son, George Warren DeWolfe (1914-1968), and daughter, Eugenia DeWolfe (1911-1978),[5] were the principal heirs to the estate left by their grandmother, Florence Harding, following her death on November 21, 1924.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Marion Star, Tuesday, January 27, 1880, page 4
  2. ^ The Marion Star, Saturday, January 31, 1880, page 4
  3. ^ General catalogue of officers and students, 1837-1911, by University of Michigan, page 678.
  4. ^ "1899 Michigan Wolverines football roster". Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 
  5. ^ "First Lady Biography: Florence Harding". National First Ladies' Library. 2009. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  • Anthony, Carl S. (1998). Florence Harding: The First Lady, the Jazz Age, and the Death of America's Most Scandalous President. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-07794-3. 
  • Ferrell, Robert H. (1996). The Strange Deaths of President Harding. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0-8262-1202-6.