California and a New Life

Minnie and Charles Halderman

Emma Mary Halderman, was nineteen years old, unmarried, and pregnant. Charles and Minnie understood what an out-of-wedlock birth meant for their daughter and her child. Shocked by Emma’s news, Charles and Minnie may have denied it could be possible. They may have been angry with Emma but would turn their anger upon themselves for what they perceived as their failure as parents. Confronting the fact of the child’s birth demanded action. And action would alter the course of the family’s life.

The months leading up to the child’s birth gave Charles and Minnie time to consider its effect. Their conversations at night in the privacy of their bedroom may have focused on what best suited Emma’s and the family’s welfare.

Charles may have admitted he did not know what to do. Minnie may have insisted they could not stay in Bisbee, that they needed to go somewhere else to begin a new life. A business owner, Charles would have objected, saying he could not just up and leave. At 48, it would be difficult to start over again. As a mother, Minnie may have felt obligated to do everything in her power to protect her daughter. Maybe she urged seeking help from family or friends living far from Bisbee.

A long standing custom, recording a child’s birth in a family Bible is often recognized by governments in establishing citizenship. Recording the baby’s birth as their child in the Halderman family Bible set Charles and Minnie’s plan in motion. The Bible record provided legitimacy. It protected Emma from the shame of bearing a child out of wedlock. With no other birth record, the child’s birth father did not exist.

Within weeks of the birth, the Haldermans prepared to move from Bisbee to Tulare County, California. To finance the move, the family may have sold its belongings, including the truck that was the source of Charles’ livelihood. Or, hoping to begin a new business venture, they may have packed the truck with all they owned and drove it to California.

The seven hundred fifty miles between Bisbee, Arizona and Tulare, California gave the Haldermans time and distance to fill out this new chapter in the family narrative, a narrative invented to shield an unwed daughter with a child as well as to protect the family from social stigma and embarrassment. In the new narrative the child would grow up with Minnie as her mother, Charles her father, Fred, Ben, and Clarence her brothers, and Emma, her big sister. 

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