So often the men in Anneatta's life left her. Around the time of her birth, her father, John Kirkpatrick, a riverboat engineer, disappeared. It was 1865; the Civil War was ending, and John's family wondered if he had been a spy. Anneatta's mother, Louisa, had been born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When her first husband, John Dougherty, had died in Mexico, Louisa had come to the United States with their children, Matilda Francis and John William. In New Orleans she had met and married John Kirkpatrick; and their son, Joseph, had been born there. By 1860 the family had moved to Nashville, where Anneatta was born on February 8, 1865.
The Kirkpatricks lived near the river, in a bustling neighborhood of laborers and tradesmen. On November 12, 1879, two months before her fifteenth birthday, Anneatta married twenty-three year old Andrew Johnson Straughn, the son of a nearby shoemaker and a sometime shoemaker himself. (Later she would tell her daughters not to marry young because she felt that she had been married her entire life.) They lived with Louisa; and Andrew, who seemed unable to stick with a single occupation, worked as a carpenter. By 1885, Anneatta had given birth to three sons and a daughter, but only the youngest, Louis, lived to be more than a year old. The others succumbed to the infant scourges of the day--cholera, diarrhea, and the vague, all-purpose diagnosis of marasmus.
Between 1885 and 1887 Andrew left Anneatta and joined his family in Dyer County, Tennessee, where in 1891 he married Joella Fowlkes. Anneatta went to work for a manufacturing company and listed herself in the Nashville City Directory sometimes as Miss Anneatta Kirkpatrick and sometimes as Miss Anneatta Straughn. In 1890 Louisa Kirkpatrick died and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in an unmarked grave. There was no money for a marker. With Louisa dead, there was also no one to care for Louis; and in desperation, Anneatta placed him in St. Mary's Orphanage.
There is no record of a formal divorce for Andrew and Anneatta. No doubt, Anneatta, young, poor, and humiliated, found the legal process intimidating and embarrassing. However, in 1892 Anneatta married the thirty-seven-year old bachelor William Frederick Binkley, a carpenter from the country. Anneatta removed Louis from St. Mary's, and he found a father in William, whose kindness he would later recall. All of Anneatta's children by her second marriage survived: Louise Black born in 1894, William Joseph born in 1897, Etta Goldberg born in 1900, and Sarah Isabell born in 1903. Anneatta supplemented the family income by keeping dairy cows, which she loved. In the 1910 census, when most women listed themselves as keeping house, Anneatta listed herself as a self-employed dairywoman.
About 1914 William, Anneatta, and their children moved to the house where he had been born. The heart of the house was a log cabin built before 1800 to which rambling frame additions had been added. There William Binkley, long in poor health, died on May 11, 1917, in the room where he was born. Three months later, on August 22, seven-year-old Anneatta Straughn, Anneatta Binkley's beloved granddaughter, died of typhoid and was buried near her step-grandfather in the Binkley family graveyard. [Later Anneatta would have these graves moved to Spring Hill Cemetery in Madison, Tennessee.] Soon after, Louis moved his family to Kentucky and severed most of his ties with his mother. Then Joe, the beloved son of her second marriage, moved North to Chicago, seeking the work that he couldn't find at home.
In 1920, with Joe gone and Louise married, Anneatta sold the family home; and it passed out of the Binkley family for the first time in nearly a century. Anneatta would spend the rest of her life in the city, in Nashville, living with her married daughters. They did not like her to speak of her first marriage or of the babies she had lost. They were embarrassed, ashamed. But Anneatta's life was rich in virtues. Years after her death, her grandson recalled that he had never heard her speak a cross or unkind word.
Anneatta died suddenly on November 21, 1943. Even after her death, her family guarded her secrets. Her son Joe did not tell his wife the circumstances of his mother's first marriage; later a granddaughter would discover them. More than a hundred years later, it is not that failed marriage and the absence of formal divorce that impress. It is the initiative, the courage, the kindness that survive.
Sarah Isabell Binkley Rippy, oral history