Sister sister: Florence’s story

Born around 1876, my grandmother’s sister Florence, was the seventh child of John Duffy and Margaret McLaughlin Duffy.  Surrounded by siblings and cousins, Florence Duffy spent the first 23 years of her life on the Duffy farm in Black Hawk County, Iowa.  You can see her as a gawky young girl in the circa 1888 picture posted in Sister Sister:  Lizzie and Rose. By age 23, Florence had transformed into the woman pictured here.



Just before the turn of the century, the Duffy family established a Texas branch.  In 1899 John Duffy sold his farm in Black Hawk County Iowa and moved to Texas. Florence was 23 years old and unmarried.  She accompanied her father.

Also in 1899, Florence’s sister Alice with her new husband Alfred Foisy and six stepchildren moved from Jefferson, Union, South Dakota to El Campo Texas.  In the 1900 federal census, Florence and her father show up in or next door to the household of her eldest sister Alice Duffy Foisy in El Campo Texas.

In El Campo, Florence met Robert Koehl.  We don’t know the story of their meeting or their courtship.  At some point after they met, Florence went to Salem, Oregon.  We don’t know who was in Oregon or why Florence went but she did.  Robert Koehl followed her there.  Whatever Robert said or did worked because she and Robert applied for and received a marriage license on June 17, 1902 at the county courthouse in Salem Oregon. The newly married couple returned to Texas.  In 1905, Robert is appointed sheriff of Wharton County, Texas.

In the first decade of the 1900’s three Duffy family households — Foisy, Koehl, John Duffy — lived close to each other.  Florence’s sister Alice Foisy lives in El Campo, Texas with her husband Alfred and six stepchildren.  Florence’s father John Duffy is growing oranges in Palacios Texas.  Florence and Robert Koehl are living in Wharton, Texas.

Florence is on the right in the picture below.  I like to think the woman on the left is her sister Alice.


In 1903 and 1904, Florence gives birth to daughters — Katherine and Ada.  At some point in this period, Florence developed a goiter.  It was unsightly and the condition made her very nervous.  The family story is that Florence decided to undergo what was a new experimental surgery.  In 1907 she traveled to Dallas, had the surgery, and died during or shortly after the operation.

After Florence’s death, Robert Koehl turned his little girls over to his sister and brother-in-law.  Dr. Charles Schramm and his wife had no children of their own.  The girls were raised in Fayetteville,  Texas by their aunt and uncle.

Robert remained involved with his daughters, but probably felt that his sister and brother-in-law could provide a more stable home than his life as sheriff would allow.  He served for a number of years as sheriff of Wharton County, Texas and died in 1920 at the age of 54.

Circa 1916 my grandmother and grandfather took my mother and my Uncle Charles to visit John Duffy in Palacios, Texas.  We have a picture of Robert Koehl with the family group.

Florence named her daughter Ada after her younger sister Ada.  As they grew up, Florence’s daughters kept in touch with their Aunt Ada and other Duffy aunts, uncles, and cousins  who moved to California in the 1920s and 1930s.

I am most grateful to the descendants of Florence’s daughter Ada for sharing the above pictures and family stories.


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