Urilla Xerena Lampton

When I was about 11 years old, I decided I no longer liked the name Paige.

I had a whole list of reasons why this was a terrible name for my parents to have chosen:

  1. No one else had the name Paige … at least, no one I knew.
  2. All of my friends had nicknames. There was no nickname for Paige.
  3. Someone (maybe a teacher or another adult) once told me that the name Paige used to be a boy name spelled and was more commonly spelled PAGE. I asked my mother and this unfortunately turned out to be true.
  4. My mother said she decided to name me Paige because it was one syllable and sounded like a last name. She did this because my last name, Terry, was two syllables and sounded like a first name. People outside of my normal circle of acquaintances often switched around my names. It was annoying.
  5. And maybe the final nail in the coffin … my mom said she first saw the name Paige on the sign at a vet clinic. The vet was named Dr. Paige. It was absolutely mortifying to my 11- year-old ego.

Thus began an earnest attempt to get my mother to agree to legally change my name.

Now you must understand … my mother was not at all sympathetic. Apparently, as difficult as it was for me to understand, my parents both happened to like the name Paige quite a bit and were very fond of having a daughter named Paige.

However, I can be very persistent. I pled my case often. After several long months of asking, my mother finally agreed to allow me to change my name.

I was elated! After a short moment of celebration, I moved on to part two of my plan and gave my mother a short list of new names that were more suitable. At the top of the list was Diana. After all, I was a HUGE Princess Diana fan and followed the British Royal Family with enthusiasm. I thought Diana Elizabeth (after the beautiful princess and the reigning queen) would be a perfect and lovely name for me. It was certainly much better than plain old Paige.

My mother, however, told me (using her most no-nonsense, elementary school teacher voice), “I don’t need a list. I’ve already picked out your new name. I’m going to name you after your great-great-grandmother.”

Oh?” I tried to act like I wasn’t too disappointed I wouldn’t be named Diana after all. “What was her name?

“Urilla Xerena,” my mother said. She didn’t make eye contact with me. She just kept chopping vegetables for our salad.

Urilla Xerena? What an awful name! Surely my mom was joking!

Turns out, she was not joking. She was completely serious.

In fact, my mother said that since I needed my parents to to pay the fees to make my name change all legal, then they would be choosing my next name too. Furthermore, my parents were in total agreement about my new name. She ended the conversation saying that if I didn’t like this arrangement, then I would need to wait until such a time as I could afford to legally change my own name.

That night, three things suddenly became crystal clear to my 11-year-old brain:

  1. My mother wasn’t very good at naming people.
  2. She was getting worse, instead of better, at this skill as time went by.
  3. On second thought, Angela Paige really wasn’t such a bad name after all.

Naturally, by the time I was old enough and rich enough to legally change my name, I no longer felt nearly as strongly about the name Paige as I had during middle school.

I suppose that being threatened with a name like Urilla Xerena had an affect on me because all these years later and I still think of my poor great-great-grandmother, who was stuck for her entire life with an awful name. As soon as I started this project, I knew old Urilla would have to be one of my 52 ancestor stories.

Recently my mother and I talked about information she had on Urilla, and as it turns out, she happens to have an interesting life story.

Urilla Xerena Lampton Joyce with her husband Marion J. H. Joyce

Urilla was born March 2, 1857 to Edmund and Mary Jane (Neafus) Lampton. They lived in Hardin, Kentucky.

Interestingly, Urilla’s Lampton family was connected to the same Lamptons that Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) descended from. Not only is Urilla’s family and Twain’s family from the same area of Kentucky, but they share a lot of the same unusual names. As a side note, Mark Twain is known for stating that the L in his given name stood for Langhorne. However, Twain’s sister Permelia once quoted her mother (Jane Lampton Clemens) saying, “My son Sam was named Samuel Lampton Clemens after my uncle in Kentucky, one of the best men I ever knew.”

Back to Urilla and her life’s story …

Urilla married Marion J. H. Joyce, a doctor, in 1877. The two of them relocated to southern Arkansas. They were the parents of ten children, the first five of which were boys. Their fourth son, John Jefferson Joyce, was my great-grandfather. I never knew him as he died about three or four years before I was born. However, my dad loved his grandfather and told me some great stories about him. I’ll write a blog post about him soon.

While I still don’t find the name Urilla Xerena to be attractive, I am partial to the name Rilla. Of course, I became enchanted with this name after reading Anne from Green Gables when I was in high school. My beloved Anne, who does marry Gilbert, names one of her daughters Rilla in honor of Marilla Cuthbert, who adopted her from the orphanage. Ever since, I’ve thought the name Rilla would be a really sweet name.

I’ve never gotten to name a daughter Rilla, though I tried really hard to get it on a short list every time I was expecting a baby. At this point, I’m hoping one of my kids will fall in love with the name Rilla so that someday old Urilla Xerena will be a namesake yet!

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