Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part story documenting a local woman's discovery of her own family history.
About six weeks ago, Ruth Creech answered her telephone and received a surprise unlike any she'd ever experienced.
Admittedly skeptical, Ruth, whose maiden name is Taylor, listened to a voice on the other line give details about the Taylor family few could know. Creech and the woman on the phone, who identified herself as Becky Anderson from Tulsa, Okla., spoke for about 30 minutes. When the call was over, Ruth Creech needed some time to collect herself.
The woman on the line had claimed to be Ruth's niece, a family member she'd never met nor had the slightest inkling ever existed in the first place. A few days later, Creech returned the woman's call and set in motion a family reunion no one on either side might have anticipated just a few weeks earlier.
Family has always been something Ruth Creech could never take for granted.
In the early days of the Great Depression, many Americans lost everything they had. Banks closed their doors for good and many foreclosed on the homes of people suddenly unable to afford them. The stock market had fallen and had taken with it the hopes and already shaky stability of a significant portion of the population.
Indiana was no different, with some cities and towns (especially in the southern part of the state) experiencing unemployment rates of up to 50 percent. Like many of the resources out west, the job market had simply "dried up;" the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression an unfortunately co-morbid pair of tragedies.
As a result of the nation and the state's economic troubles, a young Ruth Taylor of about three and a half years of age, the daughter of George and Nola Taylor, found herself and her three siblings living with their parents in what she still refers to as a "poor farm," a group home of sorts for displaced workers and the indigent of every kind.
In 1930 she was taken from the farm by James Shively. He and his wife, Alice, would formally adopt Ruth two years later.
Left behind were Ruth's sister, Mary, and her two older brothers, John and Joseph. Ruth's biological father, George Taylor, took his own life a short time later.
Ruth recalls the day she was taken from the poor farm, especially the tears of her brother John.
Reunions, in the coming years, would prove to be all too brief and impersonal.
John visited the Shively's home on at least two occasions, trying to establish a relationship with his sister. Each time, he was asked to leave by James Shively. Ruth last saw her brother in 1945, when she was a high school senior.
James Shively had instilled in young Ruth Taylor the thought that her biological family would harm her, a falsehood that all these years later still persists in Ruth Creech today.
"I was convinced they would harm me," she said.
Ruth was never able to gain a relationship with her brother, Joseph, or her sister, Mary, either. Joseph passed away at the age of 13. To this day, no one in the Creech family knows what happened to Mary. John moved south, married and began a family of his own. Ruth remained in Indiana and wed Lee Creech in 1946. It would be many years before she would come to know her own mother again.
After George Taylor's death, Nola Taylor had married a man named Walter Kennett.
An unlikely event would bring Ruth and her biological mother together.
A fellow church member and friend of the Creeches had a dream one evening in 1971. She dreamt of Ruth Creech's mother, though the woman had never met Nola Taylor. In the dream, Nola was crying and saying "I miss my baby."
A short time later, Ruth's father-in-law was admitted to the hospital. Shockingly, the man Ruth's father-in-law shared his hospital room with had been a friend of Walter and Nola for many years.
Reunited at last, Ruth and her mother were finally able to establish a relationship. It would be short-lived, however, as Nola died only two years later. Ruth's stepfather Walter would be her only remaining link to her biological family. The Creech's built a relationship with Walter Kennett that they describe today as "wonderful." Walter lived until 1997, passing away at 101 years of age. During his time with Creeches, Walter was able to fill in some of the blanks.
When pressed with questions, however, Walter would usually respond with a terse and typical "We don't talk about that," to Ruth's many queries. Walter's silence would result in much of Ruth's family history being lost to time.
14 years and several hundred miles would separate Ruth from a family she never knew existed. They would hold the key to unlocking some of Ruth's past and they would help shine a light through her foggy memories.