The Turbulent Life of Mamie Menning Feldkamp Cain Decker

Mamie was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in April of 1878 to Joseph Menning and Mary Meyer. The 1880 census tells us that Mamie’s parent’s were Prussian immigrants and that her father worked as a Bricklayer. She had two older brothers, Harry and Benjamin and at least four younger siblings: Lillian, Christina, William, and Rudolph.

Mamie Menning Feldkamp

On January 22, 1896, Mamie married Henry Feldkamp. Henry was born in Ohio in 1872. The 1900 census shows that the family lived on Walnut Place in Cincinnati. Henry worked as a Car Cleaner for one of the rail lines and Mary kept house and cared for their daughter Clara who was born in 1897. The couple welcomed two more daughters, Florence in 1901 and Marie in 1905.

On April 14, 1907, Henry was crossing the B. O. S. W. railroad tracks at sixth street at about 8 o clock and was struck by a northbound passenger train. He was run over which crushed his right leg and caused internal injuries. He was taken to Betts Street Hospital where the leg was amputated. There is a record for a Henry Feldkamp who died at Betts Street Hospital on April 16, 1907.

This is where his, and Mamie’s, story gets tricky. We’ll circle back to this in our next section

Mamie Menning Feldkamp Cain

Mamie remarried in October of 1908. Her new husband, John Cain (incidentally my second great grand uncle) was born in Cincinnati in 1883 to John Cain and Elizabeth Deegan. Alright, here’s where we circle back to the trickiness in the story. The 1910 census shows that Mamie, her daughters and Henry were all living with Mamie’s father Joseph on Quebec Avenue. A few things stand out here. I would have expected Mamie’s last name to change to Cain but it’s shown as Feldkamp. I also wouldn’t have expected her dead husband to be living with her. Here’s the possibilities I could think of:

  • Henry was disabled but not killed by the accident. There is record of a Henry Feldkamp living at the Hamilton County Infirmary but it’s unclear if this is the same person. According to the city directory there were multiple Henry Feldkamp’s in the area.
  • Whoever filled in the census forgot that Henry had died and put the wrong name down.
  • A very dramatic zombie husband situation that drove John to drinking and depression.

It’s clear from several newspaper articles that John and Mamie had a tumultous relationship and in the two censuses taken while they are married they were not living together at either one. The couple came together long enough to have a son, John Jr. in 1912. Also in 1912, Mamie’s father Joseph died from a 2-3 year bout with Pulmonary Tuberculosis. At the time she was still living with him and was the informant on his death certificate. Her last name is listed as Cain.

Death Certificate of Joseph Menning

Mamie’s second daughter with Henry, Florence did not live to adulthood and likely died in Aug of 1915.

In June of 1918, a story ran in the Enquirer stating that Mamie Cain was seeking a divorce from John charging neglect and willful absence since June of 1914. She claimed that he’d been sentenced to the workhouse three times for failure to provide. She sought alimony and custody of John Jr. In May of 1919, there is another article stating that John, who was in the workhouse for failure to provide, had been served divorce papers again. Mamie was charging neglect, cruelty, and willful absence

Cincinnati Enquirer, 22 Jun 1918

John’s 1917 World War 2 draft card lists his mother as his nearest relative indicating that he and Mamie had not reconciled. It also tells us he was a driver living on Barnard Street. Draft cards also give a glimpse into a person’s physical appearance. John was tall, dark, and stout. (Two out of three ain’t bad, as they say) His eyes were blue and he had all his arms, legs, hands, and eyes.

The 1920 census shows that the couple was still living apart. John is listed as a widow living in a rented room on Barnard Street. Mamie lived in her own household on Maynard Street with her son John and daughter Marie. She worked as a Milling Machinist in a Valve Factory.

The next we hear of John is the newspaper’s report of his death on August 17, 1926. The article hints at the cause of death being suicide and states that his wife found him at home. It was initially unclear is if that wife was Mamie.

Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug 17, 1926

A few newspaper articles shed additional light on the situation. John’s obituary states that he left behind his beloved wife Mamie Cain and one son. It appears that the divorces had not stuck and the couple was in enough contact that Mamie was the one to find his body. We need to flash forward several months to get more detail on how John died. John’s brother Michael was killed when he was hit by train in January of 1927. (Anecdotal evidence shows that 60% of my ancestors were hit by a train at one point or another) He was at work as a yard conductor and had his back to a train which rolled forward and crushed him, but that’s a story for another post. The important part is, at the end of the article, they note that Michael’s brother John had killed himself at home by cutting his throat and both wrists with a razor. An incredibly gruesome scene for Mamie to stumble into.

Mamie Menning Feldkamp Cain Decker

Mamie married for the third time at age 53 to a mechanic named Frank Decker. They married in May of 1930 by a Justice of the Peace. An article from the Cincinnati Post says that Nellie Decker, Frank’s previous wife, divorced him for “habitual drunkness, extreme cruelty, and gross neglect of duty”. It’s unclear what kind of marriage Frank and Mamie had. The 1940 census showed the couple lived together on Mayhew road in Delhi township. Frank died in May of 1943. There is no evidence that it was particularly gruesome death so hopefully Mamie was spared that in her third husband.

Mamie’s eldest daughter, Clara died in 1947 at the age of 50. The cause of death is unclear.

Mamie died in 1958 at the age of 80 having outlived 3 husbands and at least 2 children. She is buried next to Frank Decker in St Joseph’s cemetery in Price Hill.

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