Mabel Belle Bennett  was born April 30, 1892,  to Charles Frank Bennett and Sarah Elizabeth Smith. She had an older sister, Elsie, born in 1888, and four younger siblings - Clarence (1896), Ellis (1898), Forrest (1900) and Mildred (1902).
She was born in Canton, Missouri, a small town on the Mississippi River in northeastern Missouri. When she was four years old, her family moved just over the river, to the small town of Adams, Illinois. They lived there for at least six years, and then, eventually, the family moved back to the Canton area, to the town of Monticello. Mabel would spend much of her childhood and all of her adolescence in Monticello.
She completed eighth grade in the Monticello area, and later, when she was seventeen, she taught at a small country schoolhouse. Teaching, she found, was decidedly not for her. She later told her son that "she hated every minute of it."
Maybe because she disliked teaching so very much, she decided to train in an entirely different field. She attended Chillicothe Business College in north central Missouri, where she learned typing, shorthand, and other secretarial skills.
In 1914, when Mabel was twenty-two, she moved to Kansas City along with her parents and siblings. A year later, on November 6, 1915, she married Benjamin Foraker Mounts. Ben was twenty-seven, and she was twenty-three. They had no apparent reason to rush the wedding, but they chose an untraditional wedding day. The two of them went alone to Olathe, Kansas and were married by a justice of the peace.
The courthouse wedding marked the beginning of a happy marriage. Their son wrote, "I have never known a more devoted couple. Byie [Mabel] worshipped Daddy. I honestly cannot remember one violent argument or 'falling out' between them as I was growing up. They talked everything out together and did nothing of importance until both of them were in complete agreement." About thirty years after the wedding, Mabel kept a travel journal, and her words confirm her son's. She writes, casually, about making decisions together with her husband, who seems to be genuinely her friend and partner. On one day of their vacation, he wasn't feeling well, so Mabel went out exploring on her own, and she wrote, "To me there is so much of interest there to see and to do, and the things I saw alone were only half enjoyed."
Ben Carol Mounts was born a little over three years after their wedding, on February 10, 1918. Years later, Benjamin Foraker told his son, Ben, about what a difficult birth it had been, and that "he thought that they were going to lose both her and [the baby]". Ben never knew if that was the reason his parents never had any more children. At any rate, Ben would remain his parents' first and only child.
Shortly after her son's birth, Mabel stopped being known has Mabel and started being known as Byie. Her infant son gave her a new name. Or, really, her husband did, though he probably would have claimed it was all the baby. "As I understand it," her son wrote, "when, as a baby, I ceased crying and making gurgling sounds and began making noises that were half-way intelligible, I looked at my mother one day and said something like 'by.' It seems silly, but Daddy apparently thought that this was hilarious and began calling my mother 'Byie.'" The name stuck and soon nearly everyone who knew her - family and friends and acquaintances alike - were calling her Byie. The nickname even picked up a standard spelling - B-y-i-e.
Ben described his mother as patient and affectionate and, as he put it, "almost the big sister I always wanted". Reading between the lines, it's clear that Byie's patience occasionally ran out. Ben was sensitive and creative and particularly talented at getting himself into trouble, the more outlandish the better. Ben writes about parents who really wanted to be supportive but also really, really wished their son would settle down and stop getting into embarrassing scrapes. (He did settle eventually, but they would have to wait until he was well into his late twenties.)
Byie and Ben remained in Kansas City for about a decade after their marriage, and that kept them close their parents and siblings, both his and hers. They had frequent large family dinners and regular pinochle night with Ben's brother Harry and his wife Emma. But in the fall of 1927, Byie and Ben left Kansas City for the central Missouri town of Marshall, so Ben could take a job supervising the maintenance and construction at Missouri Valley College.
The family's first few months in Marshall were cold and lonely. It was an exceptionally harsh winter - Ben later said that "it was like moving to the North Pole" - and they missed their family back in Kansas City. They made the three hour drive back to Kansas City weekend after weekend.
Winter eventually ended, and the family soon settled into Marshall. Within a year after moving, Byie made use of her business school training and took a job with Bryant's Abstract Company. Later, she left that workplace for Swisher's Abstract and Insurance Company. She would continue to work there their for several decades, all the way through the late 1940s. The Mounts family and the Swisher family became good friends and remained close for the rest of their lives, long after Byie retired.
Thanks in large part to Byie's abstracting work, the Mounts family wasn't hit especially hard by the Depression. When funds ran low at the college, Ben was put on leave for several years from the college, and, for awhile, he took work repairing cars and doing construction jobs instead. Byie never had to look for employment anywhere else. She remained a Swisher's employee all through the years of Depression and beyond.
The family wasn't poor, but they were frugal. They liked to travel, and they did it as economically as they could. They stayed in tourist camps where they rented inexpensive cabins with few amenities. Byie would pack a box of food and supplies, and then she would make breakfast and dinner at the camps, rather than buying meals at restaurants on the road. Eventually, about thirty years after their wedding, Byie and Ben went on their much delayed "honeymoon", a tour of much of southern United States. The trip involved a few more restaurant meals than their early travels. But they still stayed mostly in tourist camps when they could. She proclaimed the hotels too "snazzy." 
Probably because of all those road trips - and also, of course, because of Ben's work as a mechanic - the family had strong thoughts on models and makes of vehicles. In her travel journal that she wrote on their belated honeymoon, she kept up a running commentary on the good and not-so-good cars that she and Ben encountered. And she affectionately referred to their own car as "Little Ponty". Little Pony was a "he". She wrote, among other references to Little Ponty's adventures, "We almost 'dunked' Little Ponty, for the water came up over the run boards, but he waded bravely through." 
|Ben and Little Ponty's predecessor, Ponty II|
The family also banded together in their love of pets. She had a black cat named Dusty who, theoretically, belonged to her son.
But Dusty remained a much-loved member of the family long after her son had left home. She once mailed him a photo in which she and Ben posed with their cat, which she captioned, "Daddy and me and Dusty makes three." 
There is a photo of Byie's mother sleeping in a chair with a cat sleeping on her lap. So it's very possible she grew up in a family of cat lovers.
The Mounts family was one of the first on their block to own a radio, and they enjoyed sitting together in the evenings to listen. Byie's favorite program was Amos and Andy. (Unfortunately, the show's humor, which was often built on offensive racial stereotypes, probably appealed to her. She was very much a woman of her times, and in her travel journal, she included many observations that would be considered emphatically racist today.)
Byie tried her hand at gardening, but that may have been motivated more by frugality than entertainment. Her garden, unfortunately, met a sad end. The summer that she worked her hardest to grow food for canning was also the summer that Marshall was hit by unrelenting drought. She lost it all and was devastated.
She would have made good use of the food in the garden if she could have. She was a good cook. Either she preferred to make dessert, or her son preferred to eat dessert. He wrote about her excellent homemade ice cream, and about the little pecan pies she sent in a shoebox when he was overseas with the war.
She also, probably, liked to write. I don't have proof of this. I only have the single travel journal she kept on her second honeymoon. But it's not a journal of a woman who is unpracticed at writing. Her journal is vivid and witty, and it feels a bit like sitting down with her for a chat about her vacation. It turns out that conversation might have been a little snarky.
A few excerpts, both snarky and otherwise:
Her son confirmed the impression given by the journal. He wrote, "My mother had a wry sense of humor, and could be down right funny - when she wanted to be! Many people thought that she was very prim and proper - but Daddy and I knew better!" The prim and proper part is probably what most of the world saw. She was introverted, and large, boisterous crowds wore her out. Sometimes, her siblings would come from Kansas City to stay in Marshall, and after a entire weekend of socializing, Byie would be exhausted. She usually went straight to bed as soon as her guests were gone. Her tendency to withdraw may have been more than simple introversion. Her grandchildren believe it's possible that, at least at times, she suffered from clinical depression.
Byie's father was staunchly Baptist, and she likely grew up attending a Baptist church, but she didn't attend church regularly when her son was young. She sometimes asked Ben to pray the traditional "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer before bed, and she took him to Sunday school and church every once in a while. But, generally, in those years, her faith wasn't a part of her every day life. It's likely that she became more involved with the church once she had fewer responsibilities at home. In 1957, when Byie was in her sixties, she and her husband were two of the founding members of Gill Memorial Baptist Church, and she became an "active [church] worker", according to her obituary.
That same church was filled when it was time for her funeral. Byie died on November 4, 1973, at the age of eighty-one, after a series of physical and mental problems. She was buried in Ridge Park Cemetery in Marshall, and two names are inscribed on her tombstone - her given name - Mabel - and the name given to her by her infant son - Byie.
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Mabel is 26 degrees from Sidney Poitier, 43 degrees from Jean-Paul Belmondo, 21 degrees from Sean Connery, 19 degrees from Cary Grant, 21 degrees from Rock Hudson, 24 degrees from Marcello Mastroianni, 19 degrees from Steve McQueen, 19 degrees from Paul Newman, 30 degrees from Anthony Quinn, 24 degrees from Aristotelis Savalas, 19 degrees from John Wayne and 20 degrees from Gina Jarvi on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.