Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Margaret St. Clair-Part 1

Margaret St. Clair
Née Eva Margaret Neeley
Author
Born February 17, 1911, Hutchinson, Kansas
Died November 22, 1995, Santa Rosa, California

Margaret St. Clair is a well-known author of science fiction and one of few women writers in the genre during the 1940s. I thought her biography would have been worked out by now, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I guess I'll just go step by step and try to clear up the misinformation or the lack of information on her life.

First, Margaret St. Clair was born Eva Margaret Neeley on February 17, 1911, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Her father was George Arthur Neeley, a Kansas lawyer and farmer. Neeley was born on August 1, 1879, in Detroit, Pike County, Illinois. His father, George W. Neeley, was a twice-wounded veteran of the Confederate army and at various times a merchant, U.S. marshal, judge, sheriff, deacon, and a farmer on 160 acres in the Cherokee Strip. George A. Neeley's mother was Mary Elizabeth Stephens.

The Neeley family was descended from Irish settlers of colonial North Carolina and a soldier in the Continental Army. The son, George A. Neeley, was educated in Joplin, Missouri, and Wellston, Oklahoma. He graduated from Southwestern Baptist University in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1902, and received his law degree from the University of Kansas in 1904. In 1908, he moved to Hutchinson, Kansas, and opened a law office. He also became active in business and acquired a large farm of 480 acres in western Kansas. (That's large at least for my home state. In western Kansas, that might be a pretty small spread.) Neeley ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1910 but lost. He won a special election shortly thereafter and served in the Sixty-Second and Sixty-Third Congresses, in session from 1911 to 1915.

On October 31, 1904, George A. Neeley married Elvira "Eva" Margaret Hostetter (or Hostetler), a teacher, in Mulvane, Kansas. She was the daughter of Jonathan Hostetter (or Hostetler), a Civil War veteran on the Union side and a merchant and farmer from Indiana. Her mother was Martha Fish Hostetter (or Hostetler). Eva was born on September 19, 1875, in Bedford, Indiana. Her sister, Estella "Stella" Hostetter (or Hostetler) married another Kansas politician, future governor Walter Roscoe Stubbs (1858-1929), who was, incidentally, also a Hoosier.

George E. and Eva M. Neeley had two children, George Newland Neeley, born August 5, 1905, and Eva Margaret Neeley, born February 17, 1911. The younger George died on December 21, 1907, before his sister was born. Margaret St. Clair grew up an only child. On the first day of January 1919, she became an orphan when George Arthur Neeley died in Hutchinson, Kansas. By the time of the 1920 census, Eva Neeley and her daughter, called Margaret E. Neeley, were living in Lawrence, Kansas. By 1930 they were in Santa Ana, California.

I have gone into all this detail because no one else has. In my genealogical research, I find that when something seems a little amiss, it probably is (or was) amiss. Margaret St. Clair shed her identity like her mother before her: Eva Margaret Neeley became Margaret St. Clair, just as Elvira Margaret Hostetter (or Hostetler) became Eva Neeley. (Eva Neeley seemed to have named her daughter after her own new identity.) After 1919, the two seem to have cut themselves adrift. Eva Neeley may very well have been independently wealthy upon the death of her husband. As she moved from place to place, she did not give any occupation. She and her daughter seem to have been two alone. Who now knows what their lives were like over those many years.

Nowhere that I have found does anyone point out that Margaret St. Clair was the daughter of a U.S. Representative. Eva Margaret Neeley became Margaret Eva Neeley and then Margaret St. Clair upon marrying in 1932. Her mother, Eva Neeley, died on July 12, 1958, in Alameda County, California, at the age of eighty-two. By then Margaret St. Clair had become a successful writer of science fiction tales. Yet she remained elusive.

To be continued . . .

Text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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