Soap Opera Life: Lula Bell Louella Brunner Pinder Parrett, Mystery Ancestor

Faked marriage. Many marriages. Divorce. Adultry. Drugs and alcohol. Mental illness. Abandoned children. Orphanages. All this soap opera material adds up to our major mystery ancestor: Lula Bell/Louella Brunner Pinder West Moorhause/Morehouse Parrett.

Louella Brunner Pinder Parrett, mother of Howard West Sr., circa 1905. Photograph used with permission of the familyIt’s really tough when much of the information you have on an ancestor is hearsay, gossip, rumors, and terrible family stories. But that’s all we have right now. We’re looking for more and we need your help.

Louella Brunner was born March 10, 1883 in Canada, according to her death certificate. She died May 3, 1930, in Portland, Oregon. Her father was from England, and her mother, a Canadian. Father was a Brunner.

We have one photograph of “Louella Pinder and son, Howard” when he was a small baby, circa 1905. This is our only clue as to the mother of Howard West. So I’ve been searching for a Louella Pinder for decades with no luck.

We discovered her death certificate very recently, giving her maiden name as Brunner. Yet, we’re not even sure Brunner is her real maiden name. She also went by Lula and Lulu. She may have been married to a Pinder, and we believe she was also married to a Moorhause (sp). We have a record of a Richard (Dick) Pinder and assumed him to be the brother, or maybe the first husband of Louella. We have a dead end address for him in Chicago from the 1920s.

Louella’s son, Howard West, was born in Michigan, Canada, Washington, or Oregon, circa 1905. We’ve never found a birth certificate for Howard West Sr. His father was Walter West, though rumors are that they were never married. Family stories tell of Walter faking a marriage to Louella in a logging camp somewhere in Canada, Michigan, Washington, or Oregon, and putting her on a train, supposedly to Oregon, promising to follow, but never did. We also have no knowledge that he knew Louella was pregnant at the time. He eventually moved to California where he married a woman with a child and there is no record of him ever having any other children.

Louella had a second child from another man, possibly a Moorhause. Her daughter, Carmen, was born circa 1908 in Portland.

In December 1908, Howard and barely six month old Carmen were put into the St. Agnes Baby Home in Portland, Oregon, by the Juvenal Court System. The story is that their mother abandoned them and a neighbor turned them over after weeks of waiting for Louella to return. There are family rumors of her having been institutionalized for alcohol, mental illness, possibly drugs, or just running off with another man, in Portland, Oregon, though I cannot find any records.

A few years later, Carmen was retrieved from the baby home by her father, who could not prove parentage to Howard, so he remained there until 1913. With unbelievable luck and coincidences, we found his orphanage records in Portland. Census records have him living with Louella and Lewis S. Parrett in Portland in 1920, though we know for a fact that he joined the military by faking his age circa 1920.

The 1920 and 1930 Census for Portland shows Louella Parrett living with Lewis S. Parrett.

Louella Parrett died as Lula Parrett in May of 1930 at age 47 in Portland of heart disease. The death record states that she had been in the United States for 25 years.

Rumors from daughter Carmen, and grandson, Howard West Jr., claim Louella came from wealthy family in Canada but was disowned for being a “bad girl”.

We’d love to trace Louella Brunner Pinder Moorhause Parrett, our mystery ancestor. Any help would be appreciated.

Updated 2016

Research now has led us to Lula Bell Pinder born in Ontario, Canada. We’ve also discovered a first marriage with a much older man in Detroit, John G. Breithart, who then vanishes without a trace as far as my research has shown. They marry in 1902 in Detroit, then marries Clyde Morehouse in Washington State in 1907, and somewhere in between, meets Walter E. West and makes Howard W. West Sr., where, we’re not sure but Canada, Lansing, Michigan, or Washington State are the likely points of conception.

The more I learn about Louella/Lula Bell Pinder, the more the mystery. Currently, with her “second” husband, Clyde, dying of TB, it maybe that she abandoned her children in Portland, Oregon, because she had to go to a TB sanitarium, not the crazy farm as the family stories tell. Without money, many children were abandoned to the state and church to be cared for in case their parents didn’t recover from this highly contagious and terrible disease.

I keep looking. Thanks for the help and keeping those tips coming!

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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17 Responses to Soap Opera Life: Lula Bell Louella Brunner Pinder Parrett, Mystery Ancestor

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