Evelyn Nesbit, who came to be so closely associated with New York society, was actually born in a tiny cottage in Pennsylvnia, which was valued around $2,000. I know it’s impossible to convert money to different time periods, but even at the time, this wasn’t much. Her family was poor is what I’m getting at, here. Her father rendered them nearly insolvent, but it helped that, from a very early age, Evelyn was super charismatic. In 1907, when the trial was running, The Valley Daily News (of Pennsylvania) recalled a church concert she sang at, stating:
The occasion was a memorial service which was held in the Methodist Episcopal church, of which her father and mother were members. The service was held in honor of the members, who had died during the year. The church was beautifully decorated for the occasion, an immense bank of evergreens completely covering the pulpit. In the midsts of the solemn hush of the service came the sweet voice of a child singing. It was little Florence Evelyn hidden behind the evergreens and in a voice which will never be forgotten and which could be distictly heard over the large auditorium, came the words, “We Are Going Down the Valley One by One.” Before the song was half finished nearly the entire audience was moved to tears. Softly, sweetly, but still distinctly, came the words of the song. It was a splendid triumph for a little child, and the memory of it still lingers in the hearts of the people here and to those who remember it so well, it helps them in the midsts of her present troubles to sympathize with and pity her.
The present troubles they’re referring to was the fact that her husband had just shot her former lover. But it’s cool because she sang once, in a church, as a child. Don’t let anyone tell you that Victorian Newspapers didn’t know how to traffic-bait.
When her father died when Evelyn was 11, and her mother tried to run a boarding house to support the family. However, she was too timid to collect rent, and turned the task over to Evelyn. Evelyn later recalled “Mamma was always worried about the rent…it was too hard a thing for her to actually ask for every week, and it never went smoothly.” So, at the age of 11, Evelyn was essentially in charge of running a boarding house, which, dude, when I was 11, all I did was play Crash Bandicoot.
The boarding house was not a success.
But Evelyn was soon to become her family’s breadwinner.