Friday, October 23, 2009

Florence Littlefield - A Woman Ahead of Her Time


Florence Littlefield
Nov. 9, 1842
July 19, 1879
How desolate, bereft of thee

S. Littlefield
April 26, 1877
66 years
A man of usefulness

If Florence Littlefield had been born in the 20th century, she could have been the CEO of a large corporation or a banker. But Florence was born long before it was acceptable for women to be successful in business. Her world was confined to a small, river town where the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers merge.

She was born 9 November 1842 in Smithland, Kentucky to Solomon and Mary J. (Shaw) Littlefield. Of the four Littlefield children, only Florence is thought to have lived to adulthood. Details of her early life remain a mystery, but we know that she followed in the footsteps of her father in the financial affairs of Smithland. Solomon was also a steamboat captain, storekeeper, town marshal and loaned money to others. When she was barely 28 years old, Florence also began loaning money to local residents who needed money.

Her first financial transaction was as a partner with William H. Mantz in granting a mortgage to Mary A. and Mary E. Brownell. As collateral, the Brownells put up two brick storehouses on lot 17 on Water Street and lot 53 for the sum of $660. The next month, Florence Littlefield alone granted a mortgage to S.K. Green, who put up a mule, a horse and a crop of corn to guarantee payment of the loan.

Florence’s business career was short lived, though, as she passed away in 1879, at the age of 36 years. Her tombstone stands beside that of her father in Smithland Cemetery. It is likely her mother, Mary Jane, who died in late August or early September 1893, is buried there too. In her will (Will Book C, p 137), Mary Jane Littlefield left a house at the corner of Mill and Adair Streets to her friend, James Campbell Hodge, and bonds and household furniture to other friends. No mention is made of any children so it is likely they had all died before 1893. There is no tombstone for Mary Jane in Smithland Cemetery, but, in her will, she requested a friend to “keep in order and care for the lot in the cemetery wherein my loved ones repose and where I expect soon to rest.”

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