Monday, August 19, 2013

Scandalous Ancestor: Alvin Jared Howe


Alvin Jared Howe

What family history would be complete without some scandal? In my Smith line, that notorious ancestor was Alvin Jared Howe, my first cousin, four times removed. He was a renowned and wealthy doctor, enough respected by his family that my ancestor Walter Samuel Smith named his son, Glenn Alvin Smith, for him. So, how did Alvin fall from grace?

Alvin Howe was the grandson of Samuel B. Smith and Mary Hall, the nephew of my ancestor Samuel G. Smith and cousin of my great-great-grandfather Walter Samuel Smith. He was born 21 January 1850 in Bennington, Vermont. His parents, Philip Howe and Mary Ann Smith, moved their family to Bunker Hill, Illinois during Alvin’s childhood, and he lived there for a time alongside his Smith cousins. In 1863, the family crossed the plains with a wagon train, settling first in Solano County, California, and later moving to Santa Ana, in Orange County.


Alvin became a noted physician in Santa Ana. He was a Mason and an Odd Fellow. He was prominent in local politics, even serving as the second mayor of Santa Ana. He married Willella Earhart on 23 December 1874, and they had two daughters, Lulu and Ethel. Alvin Howe’s comfortable life was shattered in 1890, when he was indicted on charges of performing an abortion on a local woman. This procedure was illegal at the time. Alvin was brought before a grand jury and eventually cleared of the charges, but his reputation had been ruined. His marriage became strained, and Alvin fled Santa Ana for San Francisco, leaving his family behind.

Willella Howe Waffle

Willella Earhart Howe filed for divorce in 1897. She remarried Edson Waffle in 1898. Willella remained in Santa Ana and practiced medicine there herself, becoming the town’s first female doctor and a very respected figure. The house where she lived, first with Alvin and later with her second husband is now a historical landmark in Santa Ana, the Howe-Waffle House. Originally located at the corner of Bush and Seventh Streets, it was moved to 120 Civic Center Drive in 1975 and restored. These days, it is open to tours and available for special events. Visit the
 Santa Ana History website for more details.

The Howe-Waffle House in Santa Ana, California


Alvin Howe died in San Francisco on 11 June 1904. He was buried in Los Angeles, closer to his family.


** A note about the photos in this post. These digital images were forwarded to me by family members some years ago.  I see the same photos posted on multiple websites devoted to Howe-Waffle history.  I do not know the original provenance of these pictures, and am sensitive to the fact that they may not have originated with my family members.  If you believe one of these photos belongs to you or is copyrighted to your website, please let me know.

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