The Tragic Story of the Loye Family: Part I

By Jessica Gorman

In the old section of the Minden Cemetery is the Loye family plot. In this plot, all in a row, are the marked graves of John C. Loye’s first wife, Susannah, and all seven of his children. The first-born, R. H. Parry Loye, lived longer than any of his siblings, dying at the age of eight. It is not known what caused the loss of all these childen, and while it was not unusual for families to lose children at a young age, it certainly was not common for all the children in a family to die. 

John C. Loye was a successful Minden businessman, founding member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, a member of the Knights of Pythias, served as alderman from 1861-1862 and again in 1865, and was one of the original investors in the Minden Railroad and Compress Company. In 1860, he was appointed to the town’s committee of vigilance and safety. 

Susannah Chaffe was the first wife of John C. Loye. She was born 3 March 1820 in Devonshire, England and said to be a sister to Christopher Chaffe. While the family claims that John and Susannah married in England, and then joined other members of the Chaffe family in Minden, their marriage is recorded in Claiborne Parish in May 1852.  Susannah bore three children, R. H. Parry in March 1853, Jane Penelope in December 1854, and a third child in September 1856. Sadly, Jane Penelope died in June 1856, followed by her mother and younger sibling in September. Loye was now a widower with a three year-old son.  

One year after the death of Susannah, in September 1857, John Loye married Mary Grace Chaffe, who was said to have been Susannah’s sister. John and Mary Grace had four children. John Chaffe was born in June 1858 and died in August of the following year. In July 1860, Charlie was born followed by John Cuming born in April 1861. Ten months later, in February of 1862, R. H. Parry, the only surviving child from Loye’s first marriage, died just before his ninth birthday. 

 A couple of months after the death of his oldest son, in April 1862, Loye is mentioned in the civil war diary of Edwin Fay, member of the Minden Rangers. According to Fay, by June, Loye had been allowed to hire a substitute for a month and on July 1st, Fay sends a letter to his wife in Minden by Loye. While not confirmed, it is assumed that he returned to the Minden Rangers. Then in September of the next year, Charlie dies at the age of three. 

The youngest of the Loye children, Walter, was born in April 1866. In November of the following year, tragedy strikes again when six year-old John Cuming dies. After his death, the family then consisting of John, Mary Grace, and Walter made a trip to England accompanied by an unidentified nephew. They are listed among departures from New York and among arrivals in Liverpool in June 1868. They are recorded on their return to the U.S in 1868 by way of New York. Only a year later, in September 1869, little Walter passed away and joined all of his siblings in the family plot in the Minden Cemetery. Within a span of fourteen years, all seven of John Loye’s children died, but this is not the end of the dramatic and tragic story of the Loye family. 

This column is intended to share snippets of Webster Parish history. Please direct any questions or suggestions to or visit us at the museum. 

(Jessica Gorman is the Assistant Director and Archivist for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden and is an avid genealogist.)