Hotel California

The extended Hawley family.

Early in my genealogical research, I noticed that one of my great-great-grandfathers, Cicero Hawley,[1] was enumerated in 1870 on the same page as the family of his future wife. That piqued my curiosity. Checking out the census form more carefully, I saw that he and his brother James were staying at a Marshalltown, Iowa, hotel run by Ephraim[2] and Emeline Shaw.[3] The Shaws had a 23-year-old daughter[4] (the same age as Cicero) who was an artist, but it was their 17-year-old daughter Belle[5] (a school teacher) who captured his heart.

Of course I couldn’t tell just by the census form whether the young couple had actually met at the hotel, or whether their families were already acquainted. Fortunately, I was contacted not long afterwards by a distant cousin offering me a scan of Ephraim and Emeline Shaw’s 1844 marriage certificate. He had several photographs of the family, and was able to confirm that the lovebirds had indeed met when Cicero and James Hawley were staying at the Shaws’ hotel.

He shared many other interesting details, too. The Shaws moved from Maine to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and then in the 1860s they set out for California. As they were traveling through Iowa, one of the children became ill, so they ended up staying put for several years. The extended family finally made it to Southern California by 1875. Considering their intended (and eventual) destination, the Shaws might have called their establishment the “Hotel California.” While my great-great-grandfather may have checked out, it appears that he could never leave – the family, anyway![6] Even his brother “Gray”[7] married one of Belle’s relatives.

In this circa 1905 photo, my great-grandmother, Agnes (Hawley) Whitaker, is standing in the “V” of the garden border next to her husband, Forrest Whitaker.[8] Her father, Cicero Hawley, is the distinguished gentleman standing in front of the door, with his wife, Belle (Shaw) Hawley, seated on the ground in front of him. Belle’s mother, Emeline (Wise) Shaw, is the elderly lady in black at the far right; she died a few years later at the age of 93.


[1] Cicero Stoner Hawley (1842–1917) was a printer born in Hanover, Ohio, to Caleb Hawley (1812–1903) and Hannah Ball (1816–1863).

[2] Ephraim Eastman Shaw (1812–1880), a native of Chelsea, Vermont, and son of Daniel Shaw (1761–1850) and Mary “Polly” Eastman (b. 1776).

[3] Emeline Rochelle Wise (1815–1909), a native of Dixmont, Maine, and daughter of Joseph Binney Wise (1779–1859) and Abigail Cleveland Edwards (1782–1865). Her father accompanied them to Wisconsin, but her mother remained in Maine.

[4] Caroline “Adele” Shaw (1845–1935) was born in Maine and died in Douglas, Arizona. Her namesake granddaughter, Adele Miles, was the only bridesmaid at my grandparents’ wedding. I was perplexed when I read newspaper accounts describing her as my grandmother’s cousin, because she didn’t have any first cousins by that name! It was a relief to track down her exact relationship: second cousin.

[5] Lyra “Belle” Shaw (1852–1938) was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and died in Douglas, Arizona.

[6] “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!” are the final words of “Hotel California,” title track of The Eagles’ 1977 album.

[7] James Graham “Gray” Hawley (1836–1913) married Louisa A. Farrar (1853–1881), a daughter of Allen B. Farrar (1829–1899) and Margaret Elvira Antoinette Wise (1835–1915), Emeline (Wise) Shaw’s younger sister … whose second husband, George Randolph Shaw, was Ephraim Shaw’s nephew!

[8] Forrest Marion Whitaker (1877–1972), a native of Edenton, Ohio, and son of Abraham Whitaker (1848–1934) and Mary “Melissa” Prickett (1848–1924).

About Pamela Athearn Filbert

Pamela Athearn Filbert was born in Berkeley, California, but considers herself a “native Oregonian born in exile,” since her maternal great-great-grandparents arrived via the Oregon Trail, and she herself moved to Oregon well before her second birthday. She met her husband (an actual native Oregonian whose parents lived two blocks from hers in Berkeley) in London, England. She holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon, and has worked as a newsletter and book editor in New York City and Salem, Oregon; she was most recently the college and career program coordinator at her local high school.

3 thoughts on “Hotel California

  1. This was very interesting to me as I had a grandmother who was brought to Traer, Iowa (not far from Marshalltown) about 1880 to live with an aunt who ran a hotel in Traer. Her father went on to South Dakota and the children joined him there in ca 1883. She eventually married and in 1929 she and her husband and daughter went to California.

  2. Pamela, what do you know of your Whitakers? It is a collateral name/line in my mother’s family, but with at least two marriages between families. Just curious.

    1. I had a lovely, long response for you, but when I went to post it last night, I discovered that the blog wasn’t working and so it all disappeared! Here is my best attempt to reconstruct it:

      I’m as certain as one can be that it goes at least back to Stephen Whitaker (1793-1882) and Huldah Skinner (1795-1876) who were both born in Pennsylvania and died in Clermont County, Ohio, where my great-grandfather Forrest Whitaker was born. A good case can be made that Stephen was a son of Jonathan Whitaker (1758-1840), who was born in Somerset County, New Jersey, and died in Butler County, Ohio. His father was also named Jonathan Whitaker (1725-1786), and he was a native of Long Island, New York, and died in New Jersey. Both of these Jonathans are Revolutionary patriots from New Jersey. The senior of these two men had a brother, the Rev. Nathaniel Whitaker (1730-1795), who was a Presbyterian minister; prior to the Revolution, he and a Native American preacher by the name of Samson Occum/Occom traveled to England to raise money for an Indian school that became Dartmouth College. The Rev. Nathaniel Whitaker was an ardent patriot and wrote several pamphlets promoting independence. A letter from George Washington dated 20 December 1777 from Valley Forge thanks him for dedicating one of the pamphlets to the general. The immigrant in this line is also named Jonathan Whitaker, born in England and died in 1763 in Somerset County, New Jersey.

      I hope this helps!

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