An American in Abyssinia, Guy Robert Love (1876-1913), Ancestor No. 20

This is a story about yet another second cousin of my great-grandmother Eva Davis Wright. Guy Robert Love came from my clan of Scots-Irish families – the Loves, McKees, Cochrans, etc. – who left Ireland in the 1820s and 1830s, settling in the area around Coshocton, Ohio.

Love was born on March 6, 1876. He grew up in Coshocton, but left to study dentistry at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, graduating in 1903.

Guy R Love BCDS 1903

It seems he had a plan to spend several years practicing dentistry “in the wilds of Africa”, and then return to the States to live comfortably on the money he had socked away.

He started in Gibraltar in 1908, practicing dentistry there for about a year before moving on to Tangier, Morocco. There Mr. Love met up with a Mr. Philips, U.S. Consul General with the American Legation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (then still called Abyssinia). They became friends, and Mr. Philips appointed Guy his deputy.

Guy R Love c1912

On January 10, 1913, Flora Jane (Darwin) Love received one of her weekly letters from her son in Abyssinia. Written five weeks earlier, the letter described his excellent health, other than some pain in his hands, and he mentioned his plans to return to Ohio before the end of the year.

A few hours after Mrs. Love received this letter, she received a telegram from Philander C. Knox in his capacity as head of the U.S. State Department, reporting that her son had died in Abyssinia the previous day, January 9, 1913. As was reported later, the pain in his hands was rheumatism, possibly aggravated by the climate and altitude at Addis Ababa. There was also a heart condition he may or may not have known about in advance.

Death-LOVE, Guy R 1913

That same evening, Mrs. Love cabled Addis Ababa, requesting that her son’s body be shipped the 12,000 miles back to Coshocton for final burial. Secretary Knox advised her of all the difficulties involved in the process:

  • Local law required a body to be buried for a full year before it could be exhumed and moved.
  • Since there was no local tradition of embalming, and no facilities for same, a metal shipping casket would have to be ordered from Europe.
  • At the time, the overland journey from Addis Ababa to the seaport near Djibouti took upwards of three weeks. The sea voyage was definitely the easy part.

In spite of the issues, Mrs. Love persevered. So after a prompt funeral and burial at the European cemetery on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, her wait began.

Flora Love finally received her son’s body on August 9, 1915, and he was buried in the South Lawn Cemetery.

The Rest of the Story

Sometimes research success stories come out of weeks and months of persistent, hard work. And sometimes the success drops out of the sky. This particular case presented a perfect storm of circumstances that contributed to the relatively huge amount of data I’ve found on Guy Robert Love.

First, Coshocton, Ohio had an incredible number of newspapers for a town its size. And it seems every issue of every paper ever printed there is available in one or another of the internet’s freebie databases.

Also, Love was a government official in a far-off, romantic locale. So his successes, his sudden death, and the drama surrounding his burial(s), made for great (and voluminous) small-town news copy.

And in a final flurry of research for this blog post, I discovered that archive.org happens to have the entire collection of yearbooks from the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (which was later folded into the University of Maryland system).

But the capper was my receipt of an email inquiry from Ulf J. Lindahl, a Swede from Connecticut who is an expert on the subject of (wait for it…) Ethiopian Philately.

Lindahl had purchased a stack of Guy Love’s correspondence at auction and was writing an essay, “American Legation Mail from Ethiopia in 1911-13,” ultimately published in Menelik’s Journal of the Ethiopian Philatelic Society, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Oct-Dec 2012).  I sent him the newspaper articles I had collected, and he sent me a copy of his journal article.

Honest. I mean you really can’t make this stuff up!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s