"March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?" - from The Accidental Genealogist
My great-grandmother's parents both lost their mothers at a young age. George Washington Wellons' mother, Sarah Elizabeth Hudson, died less than a week after her 45th birthday (8 Jan 1861 in Warren Co., Iowa) and around the time of George's 12th birthday. I do not know what Sarah died from but I'm sure her death deeply affected the family. George's father, John Chappel, remarried to a woman (in 1865) who was physical abusive to one of George's brothers (and probably more of the children, this brother is the only I know of for sure who was beaten by the stepmother).
This troubled home life led George to run away to Kansas but he got home sick and came back. Things were still bad though, so he tried to enlist in the Civil War when he was sixteen but was caught as underage and told to go home. George ran away again and this time, didn't have any contact with his family for 39 years. After cutting ties with his family, George settled in the Durango area of Colorado where he married Mary Anna Webb. They would later go to Oregon and then California.
As for the stepmother, things went from bad to worse for the Wellons family that stayed in Iowa after George left. The stepmother's daughter from her first marriage ended up having an illegitimate child that the stepmother killed. The stepmother was then arrested for infanticide and John Chappel subsequently divorced her and moved to the next town over.
As for Mary Anna, her mother died when she was only a year old. Priscilla Mason Webb was only 41. I don't know what Priscilla died on but I think the death of her eldest child in the Civil War a month before was a contributing factor.
As with George, enter an unwanted stepmother. Though this stepmother doesn't seem to have been mean to Mary Anna and her siblings, Priscilla's children resented her nonetheless. This first stepmother died not long after the family came to Colorado though. Andrew, Mary Anna's father, remarried again but nothing is known of this third wife.
I've always wondering in their similar childhoods (frequent moves from state to state, loss of their mothers at an early age, unwanted stepmothers, etc.) was something that brought George and Mary Anna together. I do think it is interesting that there are so many parallels between their early lives. I'm sure the deaths of their mothers was something that profoundly affected them and their outlooks on life.