Alice Mott and Ethel Mott

In September, 2011, I published the story of Leah Mott, a Missoula, Montana, business woman who was murdered by her second husband, leaving two adult sons from her first marriage: Henry and Oscar Strothman; and two young daughters by her second marriage,  Alice Fedelia (named for Louis’ mother) and Ethel Mott.  With the original post, I included information about Henry, who died as a young adult leaving a widow and small son.  I didn’t know what happened to the other three children.  But now, here are the stories of Leah’s two daughters.

Leah was killed on January 4, 1903.  Newspapers covering the story of the murder, and later the trial of Louis Mott, mention the children, and say that the two little girls went to live with an aunt.  The aunt was Leah’s sister Anne Elizabeth (Smith) Cardwell, wife of Marshal W Cardwell, a civil service Army clerk.  Alice returned to Missoula to testify at the trial, but Ethel seemed to have disappeared.  I suspected that she died young, as a relative bequeathed money to Alice but not Ethel, and I suspect he would have taken care of Ethel as well, if she was still alive.

After a long search, I recently located records for Ethel, in Oklahoma Probate Records at Ancestry, for 1906.  When I saw the name in the index, I almost didn’t look at the record.  Why would a seven-year-old have probate records?  But the first image of the record included the name Alice Mott, and the second showed Marshall W Cardwell was this Ethel’s uncle and guardian.  I had located the right Ethel Mott.  Her assets were listed as $331 dollars (minus some court costs).  I suspect that this might have been her share of her mother’s estate.  Alice was listed as the only heir, and living in Des Moines, Iowa. The probate records name Gertrude Mott (Louis Mott’s aunt) as Alice’s guardian.  Alice eventually received about $320 from Ethel’s estate.

The probate records say that Ethel Mott died intestate 21 December 1906, in Oklahoma City, but cause of death is not listed.  I have not yet found a matching death certificate or news item with that information.  The probate records do include receipts for payment of bills from doctors and druggists, so it appears that she died from an illness, as opposed to a sudden (untreated) death.  A receipt from the Fairlawn Cemetery Association indicates that her grave is on Lot 27, B5. 

While both girls initially lived with the Cardwells, after her father’s trial, Alice went to live with Lamoine Mott, her father’s uncle, who was a well-to-do business man in Des Moines, Iowa.  When Lamoine died in 1907, he left Alice an annuity of $600 on condition that she marry a man approved by the trustees of the estate.  Alice challenged this condition, and in 1908, the court ruled in her favor saying that because the trustees were heirs to the estate, they in theory could object to anyone in order that the annuity might revert to the estate.   It was an interesting condition, probably meant to protect Alice but also showed the control her guardian thought he had, even after his own death. 

Alice went to live with the Cardwells, and in 1910, age 16, was counted in the census with them and their 19-year-old son Marshall, living in Denver.  On 1 Jul 1911, in Golden, Alice married her cousin Marshall.  In 1920, they were living in San Antonio TX, and he worked as a chauffeur.  (His parents lived in the same town.)  By 1930, Alice had a son Norman, and daughter Peggy.  However, both Alice and her husband were in the state asylum for the insane.  It appears that the children were raised partly by their now-widowed grandmother, and spent time in youth homes.  Marshall died in the hospital in 1930.  Alice’s 1940 census shows her in the hospital, and lists that as her residence in 1935.  Alice died in a nursing home, age 78, in 1973.  Her son Norman, Soundman 2c, USNR, was killed in action on 19 August 1943, and is listed on a war memorial in Honolulu. Navy muster rolls list him on the destroyer USS Abner Read.  Two years after launch, while patrolling near Kiska Island, Alaska, the rear of the ship blew up, possibly from striking a mine, and Norman was among the 70 men lost or killed.  Peggy served her country during WWII as a WAVE (Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and died in 1999. 

Just as Leah came to a tragic end, her children Henry and Ethel died too soon, and Alice, on paper at least, had a hard life.   But what of Oscar?  I know he was alive in 1904, as he was mentioned in newspaper coverage of the hanging of his step-father.  But then what became of him?  Is he the same person as John Strothman listed in the 1904 city directory and working at the same place as his brother Henry?  I’m still looking for Oscar. 



Rose M Granfield-Keen Chick Keen Roberts 1885-1969

I have written about Charles Winfield Chick in the past – my very multi married (10 documented wives so far) distant cousin-in-law well removed.  I decided to try to find out where all the wives came from, and what happened to them afterwards.  This is the story of Charles’ first marriage – apparently the only legitimate marriage of the first seven (that he admitted to in court).

On 1 September 1907, in Revere, MA, Charles married Rosie M Keen.  Charles, 21, was a spindle straightener (probably for textile mill machines) living in Biddeford ME, born in Kittery, the son of Caleb W Chick and Almeda Eaton.  Rosie was 19, “at home”, in Revere, born in Amesbury MA, daughter of Nathaniel J Keen and Rosie Burchum.  Knowing Rose’s parents, and where she lived, it should have been easy to find more information.  I did find parents Nathaniel and Rose in the 1900 census, but the children had the last name Way.  In looking at how the children were listed, it appears that an older now-widowed daughter Lillian had been married to a Way, and the rest of the children should have been listed as Keene.  But the indexers listed all the children as Way.  They show up on several Ancestry trees in this manner, even though there are no records to support that Dora, Rosa, Robert, or Hiram (who is really Herman) have the last name Way.  Another issue is that according to the census, Nathaniel and Rosa have only been married two years, but she has five children, all still living.  So are the children Nathaniel’s from his previous wife Sarah F Morrill?  Are they Rosa’s from a previous marriage?

Massachusetts marriage records show that Lillian Burcham, daughter of Edward Kent and Rosa Burcham married Fred Henry Way in 1896.  She was in the 1900 census with Nathaniel and Rose, and that explains why the census taker, who was merely listing all the children in order, caused confusion about the last name of the younger children.

Still, accepting that all the children listed in that census are really Keen, and searching on the last name only, with the parents being Nathaniel J Keen and Rose Burchum, I was not able to find birth, marriage, or death records for any of those children, with the exception of Rose and her marriage to Charles Chick.  One on-line tree said that Nathaniel died in 1938 in Rockingham County, NH.  Ancestry has a good selection of newspapers from Portsmouth, in Rockingham County, and I found the death notice for Nathaniel.  It mentioned “survived by” family members, and one was his step-daughter Mrs. Charles W Keen.   I found a marriage record for Charles W Keen to Rosie May Granfield, daughter of Robert C Granfield and Rosie Burchum.  With that information, I was able to find birth records for several Granfield children with parents Rosie Burchum and Robert Granfield that matched the children in the 1900 census with Rosie and Nathaniel.

Young Rose had several brothers and sisters:  half-sister Lillian (Lily May) Kent born in 1880; Dora Granfield b 1885 (she also married a Keen – Arthur); Charles born in 1887, died in 1888; Rose in 1888; Robert b 1889; Herman b 1891; George b/d  1895; Unnamed b/d in 1898.

So Rosie Keen who married Charles W Chick was really Rosie Granfield, and then she confused me by marrying in 1911 to Charles W Keen (no relation at least two generations back, to her step-father Nathaniel Keen).   Rose and Charles lived in Salem and Lawrence MA, and they had a son Charles born about 1914.  Rose’s husband was a blacksmith in an iron factory.  In 1930 they lived in Lawrence MA, and Charles was a salesman at a mill.  In 1935, they lived in Methuen, but by 1938 had moved to North Salem NH, according to Rose’s step-father’s obituary.

The Portsmouth newspaper reported in December 1938 the divorce of Charles Keen of Salem NH and Rosie Keen, parts unknown.

I wasn’t able to find Rosie Keen in the 1940 census, or in death records. I decided to look for any Rosie with her date of birth, 8 July 1888, in the Social Security Death Index.  One that looked likely was Rose Roberts who died in 1969 in Methuen.  She had links to that town – her son lived there.  The Rose most likely to be that person was in the 1940 census, born in 1888, wife of Watkins W Roberts.  I was not able to find a marriage record that directly linked Watkins to Rose, but did find Watkins in an index as marrying in 1938 in Metheun MA.  Unfortunately, the index doesn’t list the spouse, but does list the volume and page number.  And by searching the index using the page numbers, I was able to find that Rose Granfield Keen had also married in 1938 in Metheun, and the index numbers matched.

Watkins was an attorney and 1897 graduate of Harvard.  The Harvard 25th anniversary book for the class of 1897 gives his birth date as 14 October, 1875, at Lawrence, MA, son of Michael Roberts and Mary Elizabeth Crawford.  (His maternal grandmother was a Kean from Scotland – just a coincidence, I’m sure.) In his yearbook entry, he writes:  In 1898 I took a bicycle trip through France, southern Germany, Switzerland, the Austrian Tyrol, and Italy.  In 1900 I was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, and since that time I have been engaged in general practice at Lawrence, Mass.  I was secretary of the Board of Park Commissioners from 1907 to 1912; am assistant clerk of District Court of Lawrence, secretary of the Lawrence Bar Association, and a member of the Lawrence Press Club.  I have traveled on business and pleasure trips through Canada, and a large part of the United States.  Fishing and hunting are my principal recreations.  During the war I served in the Massachusetts Field Artillery, from 1907 to 1917; commanded C Battery, 1st Mass., F.A.N.G., on Mexican Border service, from June to November, 1916.  In April, 1917, was transferred to Mass. N.G. Reserve.  Offered services in World War, but was not accepted.  Since graduation I have worked some, studied some, acquired fair knowledge of two additional modern languages, played some, suffered some, had my fair share of the joys of life, am endowed with worldly goods, “not much, not little, but just between”; in short, during the last twenty-five years I have pulled just about an average oar, and am still on the course.  I have published several short stories, special articles, and verses, of no special importance.  Am now conducting, as a sort of indoor sport, two weekly newspaper columns for the Standard Company of Pittsburgh. 

Soon after submitting his autobiography for publishing in the yearbook, Watkins married Minerva V Holmes on 28 Apr 1923.  Watkins worked as an attorney and clerk in district court.  He apparently continued his love of travel.  In October of 1938, he sailed from Naples to New York on the SS Conte di Savoia.  He was listed as widowed.

Rose’s father, step-father, and second husband were all blacksmiths.  Marrying an attorney would probably be seen as a step up in society for her.  Rose’s marriage to Charles Chick was short, and since he joined the Navy and was away much of the time, it was probably a lonely time for her.  Her second marriage did not work out. I hope that Rose had a good life for the twenty years she was with Watkins.  Watkins died in 1958 and Rose died in 1969.






Ethel Leyshon 1895-1969

Ethel Leyshon was born 7 March, 1895, in Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Wales.  Her parents were Christopher Leyshon and Elizabeth Woodland.  She had older siblings, Annie Mary born in 1892 and John Henry born in 1894.  The 1901 census shows the family on Bartlett Street of Eglwysilan (parish of St. Martin’s).  Christopher was a coal miner.  Although Elizabeth was born in England, she (along with Christopher) spoke both English and Welsh.  The children spoke only English.

In 1911, the family lived at 52 Cardiff Road in Caerphilly in Wales. This was a six room house.   The census shows that Ethel’s older sister Annie died between 1901 and 1911, and there is an Anna Mary Leyshon who was buried in 1902 at Caerphilly St. Martin.  Ethel’s father and brother John were both coal mine hewers.  The hewer is the person responsible for actually digging the coal, loosening it from the coal bed.

Senghenydd Colliery Disaster of 14 October 1913 killed 439 miners and one rescuer, near Caerphilly.  I don’t know what mine Christopher and John worked in, but this explosion, the worst mining accident in the UK, must have killed friends and maybe even family members.  Perhaps this disaster helped Christopher and Elizabeth decide to move to the United States.  Or perhaps they hoped to avoid the Great War, which started in July 1914.

Ethel sailed with her parents on the SS Tuscania, leaving Liverpool on 16 October, 1915.  The Tuscania was a new ship, a luxury liner only a year old.  (On 5 February, 1918, the Tuscania was carrying 2000 American troops from New Jersey to Liverpool, England, across the North Atlantic.  The ship was torpedoed, and sank in about four hours, with a lost of 210 men.)

The ship’s manifest lists Christopher as a collier, and they could all read and write.  They arrived in New York on 26 October, 1915.  They were on their way to Youngstown, Ohio, with only $30, to meet up with their son John, who had emigrated in 1914 and was already working in the steel industry.  The passenger list indicates that Ethel was medically certified as having Rigg’s disease, or gum disease, resulting in loss of teeth.  This was recorded for several of the passengers on this same passenger sheet.  A person who was medically certified was at risk for not being allowed entry into the US.  I don’t know if this certification prevented Ethel’s entry at this time.

Christopher and Elizabeth did reach Youngstown, and were counted in the 1920 census there.  Christopher worked in the steel industry.  Ethel was not in that household and I have not yet found her in the 1920 census.  Christopher and Elizabeth were listed in the 1926 Youngstown city directory, living at 20 Edwards.  Both John and Christopher were employed by the Ohio Works – a steel company.  The 1927 directory includes Ethel, living with her parents.

On 7 May 1928, Ethel married Charles Winfield Chick, in Youngstown.  Charles was the son of Caleb and Augusta Chick, born in 1889 in Maine.  Charles was a sailor, sometimes in the Navy, sometimes in the Merchant Marine, sometimes working at the Navy Yard.  I’m not sure what brought him to Youngstown, but perhaps his experience working in the Navy Yard made him a candidate for a job in the steel industry.

Ethel’s father Christopher died on 28 September 1928 in Youngstown, of brocho pneumonia.  Ethel and Charles, and her mother Elizabeth, moved to Lynn, Massachusetts.  About a year into her marriage, Ethel discovered letters that made her suspicious that Charles had other wives.  She reported him to the police, and they were able to track him down to another woman’s residence, where he was in the process of proposing to yet another potential bride.

The investigation revealed that Charles had been married in 1907 to Rosie in Massachusetts,  in 1911 to Leona in Florida, in 1919 to Loretta in Maine, and in 1923 to Hilda, also in Maine, before marrying Ethel in 1928 in Ohio, and none of the prior wives were divorced from him, nor deceased.  Charles reportedly had a wife named Yvette in Paris, and perhaps even a wife in Cuba, and in the Panama Canal Zone.

Charles had apparently wooed the women with Biblical and other quotations to the effect that “If a man and a woman cannot agree after marriage he shall go to the farthest corner of the earth and find another woman and she shall do the same.” That was apparently the process that Charles followed, without bothering to get a divorce.

At the trial in 1929, five of the wives, including Ethel, testified against Charles, and he eventually admitted to having seven wives.  He was sentenced to a year in prison.  Afterwards, Charles married three more times, and he died in 1958 in Maine.

The 1930 census lists Ethel and her mother living at 60 Howard street in Lynn.  Ethel was a garment factory stitcher.  By 1935, they had moved to 14 Cleveland and the 1940 census lists Ethel as an inspector for a sewing project.  This was as a government employee in a Works Progress Administration job.  The projects taught women to use sewing machines, and they made clothing and bedding for hospitals and orphanages.

The last record I have for Ethel’s mother is a listing in the 1941 Lynn city directory.  After that, she may have died, or moved back to Youngstown, OH, to be near her son.  In 1945, Ethel lived at 49 Campbell Terrace, and her mother was not listed with her.

While still living in Caerphilly, Ethel had become friends with a young man named William Charles Carnell (or Carnall) who was working in the nearby mines in the Aber Valley. When the war of 1914 started, William went to France.  He was blinded at Loos in September of 1915.  Ethel’s family moved to the  US in October 1915.  William was released from the Army  and went to St. Dunstan’s, a facility developed to help train those blinded in the war.  William became a successful poultry farmer in Kiln Cottage, Bampton, Devon.  Over the years, Ethel made numerous attempts to locate him, and eventually was able to establish correspondence with William.  In about 1943, they agreed to marry, but because of the war-time restrictions, she was not able to travel back to England.  In October, 1946, she traveled on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth’s first peace-time voyage from the US to England, and Ethel and William were married 21 November 1946 at the Methodist Church in Bampton.

William died 6 Jan 1962 in Tiverton, Devonshire, England.  He left his estate valued at £2391 to his widow Ethel.  His death was reported in St. Dunstan’s Review, a sort of alumni newsletter from the facility for blind soldiers that he attended when released from the army:  Lance Corporal William Charles Carnall, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles.  It is with deep regret that we record the death of W. C. Carnall, of Bampton, Devon.  He was  69.  Enlisting in September, 1914, he left the Army in February, 1916, and came straight to St. Dunstan’s where he trained in boot repairing and poultry keeping.  He continued with this work and was still keeping poultry up to August, 1960.  He had intended to renew his stock but in the autumn of 1961 his health broke down and in October, he went to Pearson House.  He became seriously ill but returned home at his own wish on November 10th, where he died on January 6th.  Our deep sympathy  goes out to Mrs. Carnall, who was Billy’s second wife, but whose friendship with our St. Dunstaner went back some forty years before their marriage in 1946.  At the outbreak of war in 1914 he had gone to France and Miss Leyshon, as she was then, went to the United States. 

Ethel died in December, 1969, in Cardiff, Wales.



Charles S Clearn and Family

Charles was October 1863 in Lynn, Massachusetts.  His parents were James William McClearn from Nova Scotia, and Olive Parker from Maine, who had married in Salem on 11 Aug 1859.  James and Olive were counted in the 1860 census in Lynn, with their 1 month old daughter Ida. (Ida died at age 2 months.)  James was a cordwainer, a person who makes new shoes out of new leather (as opposed to a cobbler who repaired shoes.)  The 1860 census listed the value of James’ personal property at only $100, the least amount for any family on that census page.  The 1860 Lynn city directory lists James as a boarder at 60 South Common.  City directories at this time and place did not name the wives, unless they ran their own business, such as a boarding house, or unless they were listed as “widow of” or divorced and head of the household.  The 1863 directory lists William McClearn, shoemaker, living at 13 Prospect.  Since Charles was born in 1863, it is likely that he was born at this house. 

The 1865 directory lists William McClearn, shoemaker, house on Stickney near Commercial.  The 1865 state census shows a move to nearby Saugus.  The family includes Charles’ older brother William, born in 1861.  By 1869, the family was back in Lynn, as J. William McClearn, shoemaker, was listed on West Neptune.  Charles’ twin brothers Eugene and George were born 14 September 1869.  Eugene died at age one month of “canker”.  This is an eroding ulcer of the check and lip, generally seen in ill-fed children. 

The 1870 census shows Charles with his parents, and new younger siblings Ida (second of that name) and George. George died at age 11 months of cholera infantum, a common disease in the summer among the poor.  James is a worker in a shoe factory.  The next year, the family moved to the rear part of the house at 7 Mt. Vernon. 

By 1880, at age 16, Charles is working in a shoe factory, along with 18-year-old William, and their father. The family lived at 440 Western avenue.  A new addition to the family is his younger sister, Eliza Jane (later known as Jennie).   Although not technically an adult, because he is working, Charles is now listed in the city directories.   

After 1882 Charles’ father is not seen in the Lynn directories.  In 1883, Charles’ brother William died. 

On 25 Sep 1885, Charles (now as Clearn) married Minnie Blanche McKeown in Lynn.  He was listed as a shoemaker, and Minnie was an “operator”.  The record doesn’t indicate that she works for a telephone company, and it is more likely that she operates some kind of machinery in a factory.  Minnie’s parents were William McKeown and Rebecca Hodges of Middleton, Nova Scotia.  I found no record of children for Charles and Minnie.  It appears that the marriage ended about 1894, as the city directory shows Minnie Clearn living at a separate address.  In the 1901 Canada census, she was listed as divorced, living back in Nova Scotia.  During these years, Charles lived at 29 North Common, 112 North Common, 28 Blossom, 117 Jefferson, and 19 Olive.  The city directories listed Charles’ mother Olive, and sister Jennie at these same residences.  Part of the time his brother-in-law Charles Janvrin (Ida’s husband) was listed at the same home, so it can be inferred that all the surviving members of the McClearn/Clearn family lived together.  Because Charles’ mother was listed as “Mrs. Olive” rather than “widow of James”, it appears that James was out of the family group, rather than deceased.  Olive died in Lynn on 10 May 1896, of chronic bronchitis. 

The 1900 census shows Charles Clearn living in a boarding house at 18 Ireson, and he lived there at least seven years.  On 24 Nov 1908, in Lynn, Charles married Annie M Dalton, widow of Peter H Martin.  Anne had a daughter Anne from her previous marriage, and young Anne may have lived with Annie and Charles until her own marriage three years later.   

In the 1910 census Charles and Annie lived at 35 Rand and both worked in a shoe shop.  In 1914, Annie travelled to Ketchikan, Alaska, with her son-in-law.  Her daughter and grandchildren lived in Skagway.  This is the last record I currently have for Anne.  Charles was not with her on the boat.  The 1914 city directory lists Charles at 35 Rand. 

I have not yet found Charles in the 1920 census.  His sisters Jennie and Ida (now divorced) lived in Cambridge, but he was not with them. 

The 1930 census lists Charles as a boarder at the hospital of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.  He was a washerman in the hospital laundry.  Because there was a different section in the census for inmates (patients) it appears that he was an employee. He was listed as single. 

Charles died 15 Jan 1938 at this same hospital, of myocarditis and acute coronary thrombosis.  The informant for his death certificate was his sister Ida Janvrin from Dighton, MA.  Charles was buried at Belvue cemetery in Philadelphia.  In 1951, the bodies were reinterred at Philadelphia Memorial Park and Belvue became a shopping center parking lot. 

Charles’ sister Ida died in 1949, and Jennie died in 1955.

I attempted to find out what happened to Charles’ father James.  His marriage record to Olive listed him as son of John and Jemima.  IGI (International Genealogical Index) lists a James Caldwell McClearn, born Feb 1834, to John McClearn and Jemima Stewart.  The 1900 census lists a James C McClearn born Feb 1834 as an inmate at the alms house in Marblehead.  He is listed as married (no wife with him at the alms house). James C Mclearn lived in Salem in 1906, and did shoe repair and the 1907 directory lists him as deceased.   I found a death record for James C McClearn born 1834 in Nova Scotia.  This man died 9 Sep 1906 in Tewksbury at the state hospital.  His father was John, maiden name of mother was Stewart.  His occupation was cobbler.  Unfortunately, the hospital was the informant for the death certificate, which might have provided a link to another family member.  I’m not positive that this James is the same person, but there are some connections that make this likely to be Charles’ father.





Angie Newton Gillis

Angie Newton Gillis shares a headstone with William and Almeda (Waterhouse) Hall, the adoptive parents of my great grandmother Daisy. I didn’t know who she was, and decided to research her history to see if she might be a relative.  Here’s what I found.

Angie Augusta Newton was born 12 December 1865 in Lebanon, NH, daughter of Elias Baxter Newton and Clementine Paulina Pixley.  In 1870, the family lived in Hanover, where Elias had a small farm.  In 1880, still living in Hanover, Angie was listed as a student, along with her brother George. Elias was a day laborer.

On 30 April, 1890, Angie married Linwood C Gillis, in Manchester, NH.  He was the son of John and Martha Gillis, born July 1867 in Manchester.  Linwood was listed as proprietor of The Dartmouth Press, in the Dartmouth school yearbook in 1898 and 1900.

In the 1900 census, Angie was living with her husband in Manhattan.  Linwood was a newspaper reporter.  On 1 November 1907, Angie divorced Linwood in New Hampshire, citing abandonment as the cause.  Passenger records indicate that Linwood married someone named Margaret.  He later married Ethel Flummerfelt, and was a newspaper publisher in New Jersey.

Angie is listed in the 1907 Lebanon city directory, boarding at 69 Hanover.  (William Hall lived at 98 Hanover, about 200 feet away.)

I have not found a 1910 census record that is definitely Angie.  One likely match is for an Angie Gillis living in Fort Worth TX.  She is listed as divorced and no children, which appears to match.  The record says she was born in New Jersey, which doesn’t match, but does match where her ex-husband was living in 1905, when she was still married.  Her occupation was soap maker in a packing house.

In 1911, an Angie Newton Gillis applied for membership in DAR.  At that time, she was living in Asbury Park, NJ.  Her patriot ancestor was James Parker, who served in the Revolutionary War from Connecticut.

In 1914 and 1915, Mrs. Angie N Gillis lived on Stark road in Worcester, MA

The Milwaukee Wisconsin city directory lists Mrs. Angie N Gillis as a welfare worker, living at 256 Farwell avenue.  Her employer was the Palmolive Company.  This matches an entry in the 1920 census for Angie N “Gibbs”, welfare worker at a soap works, born in New Hampshire, same address as the city directory entry.

Angie moved to Mohawk, (now part of Minneola) in central Florida, and operated a filling station there.  On July 6, 1929, she and Levi N Allen, who lived nearby, were beaten to death.  H. W. Prescott and J. C. Pike were arrested about two weeks later and indicted for the murders. They were eventually tried. According to newspapers published at that time, Pike was acquitted of killing Allen but was convicted and sentenced to life for killing Angie.

Twenty years ago today, on 17 Jan 1996 the Orlando Sentinel published a review of the event, written by Ormund Powers, as follows:  Questions Still Exist About Double Murder In Mohawk CommunityNearly three score and 10 years after the double murder in Mohawk, near Clermont and Minneola, there still is no satisfactory explanation for what happened in the early morning hours of July 6, 1929. Angela Gillis, who was about 70, and her friend and helper, Levi N. Allen, were killed.  Gillis ran a combined filling station and curio shop and was sometimes referred to as ”the alligator lady” because she sold purses and belts made from alligator hides.

She lived in the back of her shop, and Allen lived in a tiny cottage some 500 feet away. The two had known each other in Massachusetts, where he was a successful dairyman and she was editor of the Salvation Army newspaper, War Cry.

On the morning of the murders, a passing motorist noticed the door of her shop was standing open when it should have been closed. Sheriff Balton A. Cassady was called from Tavares.

He found Gillis dead from a savage beating about the head, and Allen was near death. Allen was rushed to Dr. A.L. Izlar’s office in Clermont but died en route.

Cassady determined that both victims had been attacked with a claw hammer found at the scene. Deputies found a butcher knife and later determined it had been used by Allen to try to fight off his attacker. The motive for the attack was robbery, Cassady said. The victims were thought to have had considerable cash hidden on the premises.

All Cassady had to go on was the fact that he knew Gillis occasionally bought alligator hides from local hunters and that nearby residents reported seeing two men driving up and down the road by the shop before the murders. They were in a large Buick with a knocking motor.

Inquiries took Cassady to Winter Garden and the home of a man named H.W. Prescott, who had knife wounds on his chest and who owned a Buick with a knocking engine.

He admitted he had been at the alligator lady’s shop but said the killing was done by a man named J.C. ”Joe” Pike, who lived on John’s Lake near Clermont. Prescott said he was stabbed by Gillis when he entered the shop and found Pike and Gillis fighting.

Both Pike and Prescott were indicted on first-degree murder charges by a grand jury in Lake County. On Nov. 14, 1929, Pike alone went on trial in Tavares before Circuit Judge J.C.B. Koonce. He was tried only for the murder of Gillis and was acquitted Nov. 16 by a 12-man jury that deliberated only one hour.

According to The Orlando Sentinel, ”Pike was freed after a trial in which testimony of defense witnesses was pitted against an alleged confession of H.W. Prescott, who stated that he was with Pike . . . when the aged couple was slain, and that he saw Pike kill Allen and Mrs. Gillis with a hammer.”

Pike’s second trial, this time for Allen’s killing, began in Tavares before Judge Koonce Jan. 14, 1930.

Pike continued to maintain his innocence, saying he was at home the night of the slayings. Prescott again testified for the state saying he and Pike stopped by Mrs. Gillis’ filling station after they had delivered a load of moonshine liquor in Groveland.

Prescott said the killings grew out of an argument that ensued. He said Mrs. Gillis was beaten to death by Pike, ”who then attacked Allen when he came to the aid of the woman.”

After deliberating six hours, the jury fund Pike guilty of the murder of Levi Allen and recommended mercy, which automatically required Judge Koonce to sentence Pike to life imprisonment.

State Attorney J.W. Hunter, assisted by Roger Giles of Umatilla, said Pike wouldn’t have been convicted without the testimony of H.W. Prescott and asked that the murder charge against Prescott be dropped.

On Jan. 4, 1932, Joe Pike escaped from the Florida State Prison at Raiford and was never heard from again.

My research didn’t result in any family connections to Angie Newton Gillis.  By 1929, William and Almeda were both deceased, as was their younger daughter Fannie Hall Taylor.  Perhaps Charlotte Hall Kenyon, who died afterwards, was a friend who gave permission for Angie to be buried in the family plot.  The Florida death index says she was buried in Orlando, so it is also possible that while her name is on the marker, she isn’t buried in New Hampshire, or she was moved there later.  I do not know what became of H W Prescott.

Douwe Ditmars – Senior and Junior – Loyalists

Douwe Ditmars Jr was born in 1750 in Jamaica, on Long Island, New York. He was the fourth in line with that name, after Douwe Senior born 1723, Douwe born 1697, and Douwe born 1662. His family tree shows he was part of the community of Dutch who settled in New Amsterdam, New Netherlands, or what we now call New York. Douwe’s mother was Catrytje (Catherine) Snedeker. The younger Douwe also married a woman named Catherine Snedeker, a cousin.

The Ditmars family remained loyal to the British Crown during the Revolutionary War. Sons Douwe, Isaac, John, and Garrit all signed a loyalty petition in Queens Co, NY, on 21 Oct 1776. Most Loyalists were ambivalent and hoped for peaceful reconciliation but were forced by the Patriots to choose sides.  Reasons for remaining conservative and loyal to the king were varied. Some families were well established and resisted change. Some were opposed to rebellion and the violence perpetrated by the Patriots. Many had business or family links to Britain. Whatever the reason, many of the tenant farmers in New York, especially of Dutch descent, were Loyalists. They gave aid to the British armies and joined forces help put down the rebellion. Douwe senior was designated to provide fuel and other articles for the hospital in Long Island, and was an ensign in the loyal forces. Where the Patriots were in control, Loyalists were subject to confiscation of property, tarring and feathering, or physical attack.

Douwe Senior’s first wife died about 1760, and his second wife, Sara Remsen, died in 1781 in Jamaica, New York. After the war, having lost everything, in September 1783, the extended Ditmars family moved to Nova Scotia. Besides Douwe’s own children, several of Sara Remsen’s children by her previous husbands had married into the Ditmars family. Sons Isaac and Garrit apparently died before the move, but I don’t know if they died because of the War. The rest all settled at Clements, a township laid out in 1784 to accommodate the Loyalists and disbanded regiments.

Most United Empire Loyalists in Canada were compensated with land or British cash after filing formal claims. Douwe filed for compensation. In his claim, he stated that he “joined his majesty’s troops on their landing on Long Island and provided every assistance in his power to suppress this Rebellion and Re-establish his Majesty’s Government in America.” Ditmars stated that he had been indicted under the laws of New York and his property confiscated. He valued his lost property at £2162 five shillings sterling money of Great Britain. Douwe described his property as a farm of about 200 acres with a good dwelling house, barn, and outhouses and orchard within about nine miles of the City of New York, and another farm in the same county of about 100 acres and a good dwelling house, all lost on account of his Loyalty to the Royal cause and the late “Desentions in America.” He stated that before the British evacuated New York, he moved his family to Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. Douwe Senior was given a 200-acre grant in Clements township.

A 1903 newspaper (The Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle) gives a different viewpoint of Ditmars’ loss of property, describing important real estate transactions taking place then, saying that a company bought the Wyckoff farm at Jamaica and Benedict Avenues. “From an historical standpoint the transaction was notable, for the Wyckoff farm has been in existence since the Revolutionary times. It one consisted of 400 acres lying north and south of what was formerly known as the Jamaica Turnpike.” After describing the development which would occur on the farmland, the newspaper story went on to say, “The Wyckoff farm, as it has been known in recent year, was owned by one Douwe Ditmars about the time of the Revolutionary War. Ditmars was a Tori and when it became evident that the American cause would be victorious and that his lands would be forfeited to the new government, Ditmars was anxious to find more congenial quarters.” The story continues that John Suydam, ancestor of Wyckoff, had hidden about $5000 on his property. “Hearing that Tory Ditmars was desirous of selling Suydam handed over the $5000 and took possession and Ditmars fled to Nova Scotia.  Land records seem to support this story, as there is a record of a land sale from Douwe Ditmars, Aug 8, 1783, to John Suydam.

Douwe Junior also filed a claim which included a report of his actions on behalf of the Crown. He stated that he distributed ammunition to the “Friends of Government” but because of “the Rebels getting intelligence I was obliged to leave my family.” He was employed by the Governor “as a spy to give intelligence of what the Rebels was doing on Long Island.” He later joined his Majesty’s forces and served on Staten Island, still as a spy and intelligence gatherer, where he had several narrow escapes. He served as a guide, until he moved with his family to Nova Scotia. Douwe Junior asked the Claims commission to take his “Services and Labors into consideration and order such compensation as you may think they merit.”

Another claim was made by Douwe Ditmars (but unknown if Junior or Senior) for damages by His Magesty’s troops: two horses and a wagon entered into service and never returned, nine cows, one heifer, and one young bull, for a total claim of £ 150. A separate claim was filed for £ 195 for timber trees cut for the Engineers department. These claims documents can be found at, but other than the land grant, I do not know if the financial losses were reimbursed.

The elder Douwe Ditmars donated land for St. Edward’s Church at Clements. He died in 1796 and is buried there, along with many of his descendants. The younger Douwe had at least seven children with the first five born in New York, and the last two born in Nova Scotia. Douwe died as an infant. Daughter Phoebe was born in September 1783, which was when the family moved to Nova Scotia – she would have been a newborn, or perhaps even born at sea.

In 1800, Douwe Junior served as Commissioner of Roads in Annapolis county, and was contractor for the bridge over the Allain River, and a few years later, over Moose River. Douwe apparently had trouble collecting payment for his work on the first project. Legislative papers from 1806 say that while £300 had been approved for the project, only £240 was collected. Commissioner Winniett gave contractor Douwe Ditmars a bill of exchange for the remainder. However, the Bill was refused by the treasurer, and since “Ditmars is desirous to obtain payment of the said balance, and if not shortly paid, may be induced to use measures unpleasant as well as injurious” to Winniett, he asked for relief (payment) so that he could finish paying Ditmars. (I did not find the outcome of this case.)

Douwe died in 1831, and his wife Catherine in 1833, and both are buried at Old St. Edwards cemetery. There are many men who were given the name Douwe Ditmars or Ditmars in honor of the original Douwe – and carry the name with different surnames, such as Williamson, Purdy, Rapelje, Devries, Dibona, Van Dine, Jones, Burns. Douwe Ditmars Senior is my 6th great grandfather, and I descend from his sons Douwe Jr and John. The Ditmars name was passed down in my family, and found as recently as my great grandfather’s middle name.

The United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada exists to promote knowledge about the history of the Loyalists and their contribution to the development of Canada. Similar to Daughters of the American Revolution, UELAC invites descendants to join the Association, and use genealogical proof to establish their family link to a Loyalist ancestor.

Joseph Orlando Morse and the Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad. What part, if any, did Joseph Orlando Morse have? His entire family, his father, Parker (Jr) and his three uncles, Mark, Levi, and Joseph (for whom we think he was named), along his grandfather, Parker (Sr), were main players of the Underground Railroad in Woodford County, Illinois.

The family’s involvement is well documented. But why did they get involved? It starts with Joseph’s grandfather, Parker Sr. The family moved from Vermont and in 1835, settled in what would become Woodford County in 1841. According to the book, Records of Olden Times, “About 1839 a poor negro slave, who had been captured by his master, chained by wrists and legs was driven past his place, on his way back to bondage. The sight made his blood boil, and Mr. [Parker Sr] Morse resolved from that time forward to be an active worker in the cause for freedom.”

His views, his morals, were also passed on to and shared by his sons. His son Joseph T. Morse was jailed for a time in the Tazewell County jail (there was no jail in Woodford County at the time) for aiding and abetting a fugitive (runaway slave). We’ve never found if someone turned him into the authorities or what might have caused his apprehension but we do know he was acquitted by trial . And this seems to be the only time one of the Morse men were pursued by authorities.

Even the method of transportation of the human contraband  has been recorded. History of Lake County, describes method of transportation attributed to Levi Morse but we think all the family used the same. It reads, “Deacon Levi Morse, of Woodford County, near Metamora, had a route towards Magnolia, Putnam County; and his favorite “car” was a farm wagon in which there was a double bottom. The passengers were snugly placed below, and grain sacks, filled with bran or other light material, were laid over, so that the whole presented the appearance of an ordinary load of grain on its way to market.”

This family, related to us by marriage, continues to amaze us.   Joseph is my third great uncle by marriage. He married my third great aunt, Amelia (Frink) Morse in 1855. They were married in Vermont even though both families were at the time living in Illinois. We feel the families may have known each other at an earlier time.

Not only were the Morse family members staunch advocates of disregarding the Fugitive Slavery Act, they also believed in religious equality and educational equality. Joseph’s own father and Uncle Mark were church deacons. Joseph’s Aunt, Love Morse, was the first teacher at the school. This school was the first free school in Woodford County and some say the first free school in the state of Illinois.

At one time we wondered why our great-great grandfather, S. William Frink (Amelia’s brother) did not serve in the Civil War. And we know for a fact he was a firm believer in the United States, so much so that later on he was a Justice of the Peace. But why did he not serve? Then it dawned on us. How could he pledge his allegiance to the government when he was well aware of what his sisters- in-law were actually doing? They were breaking the law.

Our family, our ancestors, are just amazing. But the families they married into are equally so.

[Story contributed by Distant Cousin Sue F]

Hampton Bynum Tilly d 1843

When I first started researching John C Tilly (1837-1864), I believed that his parents were Edmond and Sarah (Ferguson) Tilly from Ashe County NC. John Tilly was in the 1850 census, right age, adjacent to the county to where he later married, had children, and died. But I’ve taken another look, and now feel I had the wrong parents attached to John. I now believe that the parents of John Tilly (who married Elizabeth Johnson and then Fannie Speer) are Hampton Bynum Tilly and Cynthia C Moore.

The 1850 census shows a John Tilly, age 12, in Johnson County, TN (JCT). Also counted in this household is Smith M Tilly, age 17. They are in the household of Green Moore, and that is the name of Cynthia Moore’s brother. Also in the household is Phillip M Kiser, son of Camilla Moore, Cynthia’s sister. Smith Moore Tilly died in 1917, and his death record names his mother as Cynthia Moore. Living in JCT but in a different household in 1850 is Samuel Tilly. His death record shows parents as JH Tilley and Cynthia Moore. Also in JCT in 1850 is William C Tilly, and his Find-A-Grave page lists his parents as Hampton Bynum and Cynthia Moore Tilley. Because Cynthia and her 5 sons and 1 daughter were all in JCT in 1850, I believe that the John Tilly who was living in that county (not Ashe Co NC) was her son. In fact, all the Tillys living in JCT in 1850 were her children.

On 10 Jun, 1849, in JCT, Cynthia C Tilly married Abraham Lowe, and had three more children with him. The marriage document doesn’t identify the parents of either party, but it does place Cynthia Tilly in JCT prior to 1850. Her daughter Mary Tilly was with Cynthia and Abraham Lowe in the 1850 census, along with his children from his previous marriage (his wife had died in 1849.)

So where was Cynthia’s first husband, Hampton Bynum Tilly? I found Hampton B Tilly in the 1840 census, living in Tyrrell County, NC. The 1840 census does not list the each family member, but the genders and ages match Cynthia and the first four sons – with the last two children being born after the 1840 census.

On 9 Sept 1842, the Rasp (a newspaper from Raleigh NC) printed the following: [Terminology and spelling copied from the original paper.] DEATH BY VIOLENCE – On Friday, the 9th instant, Mr. William Martin was deprived of life by his overseer, a Mr. Tilly, near his plantation in the northern part of this county. The reported circumstances of the murder may be briefly summed up as follows: Tilly was engaged, with Martin’s slaves, in procuring some timber, and Martin having gone out to examine the operation, some misunderstanding or altercation took place between them, which resulted in Tilly’s knocking Martin’s brains out with the butt of a gun. No other person was present, except the negroes alluded to. Tilly has been committed for trial, but says he acted in self-defence. We, however, learn from a gentleman who arrived at the fatal spot before Mr. Martin’s body was removed, that the appearance of the implement of destruction, leave a strong impression against the perpetrator of the deed. Salem Gazette

The trial was held in April 1843 in Greensborough NC, and the news story identified the prisoner as Hampton B Tilly. Many witnesses testified that Tilly, employed by Martin as overseer, held ill will toward Martin, and had carried a dirk and handguns in anticipation of encountering Martin. They testified that Tilly had complained of being poorly treated by Martin, but also that Martin had made threats against Tilly. Tilly did admit to the killing, but said it was self-defense, pointing out that he didn’t try to escape, and in fact, reported the incident to neighbors. However, so many witnesses spoke of Tilly’s animosity towards Martin that the jury in only an hour agreed upon the verdict of guilty. The defense attorney, J. T. Morehead, asked for a new trial, but it was denied.

The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court. There is a note in the documents that the prisoner was insolvent, and he was allowed to appeal without posting security. The defense argued that Tilly should have been able to use his own statements, right after the event (apparently when reporting this to neighbors) as support for his claim of self-defense – this was denied. The trial judge did correctly instruct for murder (rather than manslaughter or self-defense) if the jury believed that the defendant has malice against the deceased. The fact that the deceased was a “man of high temper” was not to be considered – only whether he was a violent and dangerous man. The appeal was denied.

On 20 Oct 1843, Hampton Tilly was ordered executed by hanging. On 4 Nov 1843, the Greensborough Patriot printed the story of the public execution, almost more as an editorial rather than a strictly factual description: By 12 o’clock a great throng had gathered at the spot—in vehicles of various descriptions, on horseback, but far most on foot. All conditions, and ages, and colors were there. Conspicuous on many a bony old carryall and shaggy mule, or tiptoeing in the crowd, were the negroes, manifesting that unsophisticated and unrestrained interest which such a scene naturally inspires in such minds. Women—“delicate and tender women!” were there: but what business or what enjoyment they had, is probably best known to that potent being who visited Eden in his wrath and instilled his spirit into the bosom of mother Eve, and who must also have put it into the tender hearts of her daughters to come and see a fellow creature hung! But most painful was it to see the little boys—and some little girls too—led up by their tiny hands to “learn a lesson” – to learn a lesson!—and, merciful heaven! To learn at the gallows!

Now the tap of the drum is heard, and the “Guards,” with their arms and uniform glittering in the sunshine, file slowly through the swaying crowd, and form a hollow square at the door of the prison. The door opens, and between two officers appears the condemned man, in a long white shroud-like robe, the cap upon his head, his arms pinioned, and a rope with the hangman’s rugged knot about his neck. The silence and the stillness are profound,–every pulse bounds quicker, and every heart swells with strange emotion, as he steps into the cart and takes his seat upon the black coffin. With measured tread the Guards march away to the knell-like tap of the muffled drum, and the crowd breaks and rushes along like a swollen stream, to the lonely spot where the gallows is erected, far from the sight and the busy haunts of men. There the tide is stayed, and the throng cluster around the criminal to catch his last accents, expecting words of fearful import at that honest hour of the murderer’s life.

The rope is tied to the gallows-tree, the cap is drawn over his eyes, the cart driven away, and he swings heavily into the air—a thousand up-turned faces pale at the sight—the whole throng shivers for a moment, as though one vast heart sent a chill through every artery—and again does stillness dwell for a time over the multitude.

The reporter went on to say that Tilly’s spirit was unsubdued, that he seemed callous and lacking feelings. He talked about 45 minutes, describing his quarrels with Martin and alleging that trial witnesses had lied. The reporter said that his manner of speaking had a tendency to convince the bystanders that the verdict of the jury was correct.

Now widowed, with five little boys under the age of 11, and pregnant with Mary, Cynthia move to Tennessee and lived near other Moore family members.   In 1849, she married Abraham Lowe. Tragedy struck the family again in about 1864, when Cynthia’s son John was shot and killed by marauders at his home. The rest of her Tilly and Lowe children lived long lives. Abraham Lowe died in 1873, and Cynthia in 1887.

A book written in 1992 by Bill Cecil-Fronsman, called Common Whites: Class and Culture in Antebellum North Carolina, p 62, says the following about the Tilly Case: [Original terms and spellings] In 1842 when an overseer, Hamton B. Tilly of Stokes County, was convicted of murdering his employer, William G. Martin, the community rallied to his aid. Not only did the petitions to the governor claim Tilly had acted in self-defense, they also implied that Martin deserved whatever fate he received. Martin apparently had an “over baring disposition”. If that were not enough, they noted “the supposition is that William G. Martin plases his overseers on a level with the negros.” Southern society may not have been a democracy in which all whites were each other’s social equals, but common whites thought it ought to be. The community had considerable power to enforce its code. If it approved of an individual’s response it might refuse to convict him for crimes he had committed (which was presumably why Martin’s family had Tilly tried in a different county). It might urge that he receive executive clemency. The community was defending its own version of the moral economy. When a planter violated some accepted right, the community would rally to restore it. Martin apparently violated Tilly’s right to be treated with the respect accorded white men. The community was prepared to support Tilly’s response, even when a life was taken. (76)   [76. GP 105, 10-183]

The newspaper clippings did not mention Tilly’s family, although his wife was mentioned in passing by at least one witness. Nothing in the paperwork proves that Hampton was John’s father. I did do an on-line search a will, but didn’t find one. Perhaps his status as “insolvent” precluded the need for a will. The stories did identify Hampton’s father as David.

Hampton and Cynthia can be found in on-line trees at Ancestry – his birthdate is often given as 12 Nov 1805 in Stokes County NC. Sadly, for all the trees – nearly 100, none have documentation such as a birth, marriage, or death record, and just a couple have the 1840 census attached.

Hampton Tilly’s father’s will was written in 1859. While most of the elder David’s sons and daughters were recognized to greater or lesser extent, some receiving land and livestock, David only provided for (now deceased son) Hampton’s second son, David G, giving him a horse, bridle, and saddle worth $50, but Hampton’s other heirs got “one dollar and no more.”   Perhaps Hampton’s family was being punished for pro-Union sympathies – as it appears that only David G Tilly served in CSA. But however the family might have been divided during the Civil War, Hampton’s sons Smith Moore Tilly and David Green Tilly both moved to Clay, Illinois, dying there in 1917 and 1918. Sons Samuel and William stayed in Johnson County TN, dying in 1926 and 1918. Daughter Mary Tilly Garland also died in JCT in 1926.


The Mysterious Miss Grace Addison

Grace Addison joined my family tree in 1898, when she married my distant cousin, actor Frederick (or Frederic) Vroom. At the time I wrote his biography for this blog, I was unaware of Grace’s history. This is her story, and updates his story as well, where they intersect.

I have not yet found Grace’s birth record. Later records from the census, passenger records, and her death certificate give years varying from 1856 to as late as 1872. Her death record names her parents as Edward Addison and what appears to be Gwennie Davis but just says that she was born in the US. Her places of birth are variously recorded as United States, Ohio (with parents born in Indiana), Pennsylvania (with parents born in Wales), and New York City. I have not been able to find any early records for Grace or her family, until she is mentioned in newspapers in 1882.

Grace was an actress for about twenty years.  In 1884, Grace was part a dramatic company appearing with W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) in “The Prairie Waife”, a play written for Cody by John A Stevens. This was a year before Annie Oakley joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. While the newspapers through the years named her roles and parts, I have not been able to find scripts or descriptions on line for these shows. Even when the plays were less than highly regarded, her reviews were consistently good, with phrases like: gave the play what life it had; pleased the audience with song and dance; the costumes were dreams. During her performance years, she survived and recovered from loss of her voice, and typhoid fever.

It appears that Grace was politically active as she was often mentioned as a member, speaker, or officer of NYC’s Professional Woman’s League.  Many of the women in this group were from the theater.  A story from 6 Aug 1893 – Daily Picayune – Green Room – Gossip of Plays and the Players – “Genius and the Stage Management of To-Day, with Hints to Actresses” was the subject of a paper read by Grace Addison at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Professional Woman’s League, says the New York Dramatic Mirror…. Owing to the inability of a member to be present and read a paper for which she had been assigned, Miss Addison prepared her paper on short notice, and it was necessarily brief, but it furnished a good theme for debate. Miss Addison maintained that modern managers, by casting talented young women for parts unsuited to them, checked budding genius and originality and conspired to make actresses mere machines and puppets. This assertion was the cause of considerable talk, in which the older members told some things about old-time managers and their methods that were new to their younger sisters of the stage.

In 1894, the Victoria Daily Colonist published a story about the Professional Women’s League, describing Grace Addison, a young and favorably known actress, who has interesting ideas on the revival of the Shakespearean drama. At a PWL meeting later that year, she gave a paper which asserted that she was “a lineal descendant of the gentleman who gave us Sir Roger de Coverley, declared the genius of her ancestry in discussing the merits of Moliere”. The article did not explain how Grace was descended from Moliere.

While in NYC, Grace often lived with her sister Marie. In 1895, Grace played Nerissa in Merchant of Venice. Frederic Vroom was Antonio. This is the first record I have where Grace and Frederic worked together. Grace sailed several times between NY and Paris, often travelling with Marie.

On 22 February, 1897, the Brooklyn Standard Union reported: A strong company of vaudeville favorites, including Grace Addison and Frederick Vroom, will delight the patrols of the Criterion Theater this week. Another item reported: There was a good-sized audience at the Criterio Theatre last night, and they were well entertained, judging by the way they applauded the performers. Grace Addison made her first appearance in vaudeville last night, and met with a hearty reception in the comediatta entitled, “The Courtship of Master Modus. She was assisted by Frederick Vroom, who is a popular comedian. A review said “she played Helen – enacted with vivacity and impression, the graceful art of love-making.”

In August, 1897, the Temple Theatre (Louisville KY) engaged Frederick Vroom as leading man and Grace Addison as leading lady. (Twenty years later, this theater was one of the first to show moving pictures.) Grace married the previously divorced Frederick Vroom on 7 April, 1898 in Louisville. The marriage record index does not name the parents of either, although Frederick’s parents are known from other records as Albert Douglas Vroom and Charlotte Maria Morse.

Grace continued to tour, visiting British Columbia, England, and the southern and middle states of the US. In 1899 the Vroom-Addison company reached California. “It is announced that Miss Grace Addison, the handsome and talented emotional actress of the Vroom-Addison Company, who has been recognized for her ideal and passionate interpretation of Shakespeare’s heroines …will be seen this season on this coast.” Grace was apparently fluent in the French language, as she was credited with translating a French play into English. The newspapers continued to compliment Grace’s appearance and talents, calling her “an actress of rare emotional ability.”

Even after she committed attempted homicide against her husband, the papers seemed sympathetic to her. The following quotes and information are taken from The San Francisco Call on 13 May 1900, and the days following.

ACTRESS GRACE ADDISON SHOOTS FAITHLESS SPOUSE Actor Frederic Vroom is nursing a gunshot wound received at the hands of Grace Addison Vroom, actress. It is not a stage wound, nor is the bullet that crashed against his rib a stage ball, although the state of affairs that led to the shooting is dramatic in the extreme.  

The Vroom-Addison Dramatic Company had been working in the San Francisco area. Frederick had become interested in the gold rush at Cape Nome (Alaska) and had been neglecting the Company. He also became neglectful of his home and began spending time at his office. Grace became suspicious, and set up the bed in the office in such a way that she would know if it had been used. When it wasn’t, she hired a detective who traced Fredrick to the home of another actress named Maude Morrell. Grace confronted Maude at home, and depending on which woman is telling the story, either did or did not threaten Maude with a gun, getting a full confession from her. She also claimed to have found her husband’s night-shirt there, and discovered that Frederick was visiting the boarding house under an assumed name. Grace then confronted her husband at his office, showing the night-shirt and accusing him of treachery. Vroom struck his wife, knocking her down, and she shot at him. Vroom was taken to a doctor, and Grace went to her sister’s house. The shooting was not reported to the police, and at the time of this first story, no arrests had been made.
The day after this story was published, Grace turned herself in at police headquarters, saying, “My name is Grace Addison Vroom, and I have come to surrender myself for shooting my husband last Tuesday. You can do anything you like with me, put me in jail and keep me there forever, as my heart is broken, and I wish I were dead.” Grace claimed to have bruises from her husband’s assault on her. Although she was charged with “Assault to Murder”, her bail was set at only $25 and officers escorted her home to get the money. By this time, Frederick had gone to Seattle, probably on his way to Cape Nome, and since he wasn’t there to file a complaint, it was expected that the case would be dismissed. Maude Morrell had also disappeared. The police seemed most angry at Dr. Charles J. Schmelz who attended Vroom after he was shot, for not reporting the affair, saying if the law could reach him action would be taken against him.

The newspaper reported that Mrs. Vroom had saved about $3000, which she put into the Addison-Vroom Company, but through her husband’s misconduct with the Morrell woman the company disbanded and she lost her money. She had been playing an engagement at the Dewey Theater, Oakland.  Speaking of that she said: “All week I played while my heart was breaking. I wanted to give myself up, but they would not let me, as it would have spoiled the play, so I struggled on, but little did the audiences know how much it cost me.”

The following day, Maude Morrell gave her story to the papers. She was apparently held in high regard in the community, which felt outraged at the incident, believing that no illicit relations what ever existed between her and Actor Vroom. While she was in the Vroom-Addison Company, she developed a friendship with Vroom, who would visit her from time to time. Maude said she only signed the confession because Grace threatened her with a gun. Friends of Maude described Grace as insanely jealous and a fuss maker.

Grace did appear in court on the charges, turning the weapon over to a detective. She denied that she threatened Maude with a weapon in order to get the confession, saying she didn’t even have it with her at the time. She also stated that when she searched Maude’s room, she found things that her husband had stolen from her and gave to Maude. The court case seems to have ended there. Ten days later, the papers reported that Grace had sailed on the “Charles D Lane”, going to Nome to join a theatrical group. I don’t know if Grace and Frederick met up with each other in Alaska. The population in 1900 was over 12,000, but it would seem plausible for one to find the other with a minimum of effort.

A New York paper commented on the shooting, said, “Mrs. Frederick Vroom, at the point of a pistol, compelled Miss Maud Morrell, an actress, to acknowledge her fondness for Mr. Vroom. Armed with Miss Morrell’s confession and the same pistol, the spirited wife went gunning for her husband and shot him, but alas! not fatally. Those who have seen Mr. Vroom busily at work acting out on the stage in Mme. Modjeska’s farewell company must feel inclined to chide Mrs. Vroom bitterly for her careless inaccuracy in the use of firearms. The Glorious Climate – There must be something conducive to emotional eccentricity about the glorious climate of California. Little Mrs. Vroom as Miss Grace Addison was the meekest kind of an actress before she took up her residence in Frisco and became a shooting star.”

On 18 June 1900, Mrs. Grace Vroom was counted in the federal census in Seattle at Arlington Docks. She was probably on her way to Alaska, as many of the people around her were listed as prospectors or miners. Cape Nome is on the Bering Sea, Alaska and was an area of placer mining after a claim in June 1899. Her stay in Alaska was short. By early 1901 Grace was performing in NYC – Grace Addison is in a part well suited to her line of work.

A news item 1902 “Grace Addison received word last week that her claim on Solomon Creek at Cape Nome will prove quite valuable next year.” Over the next few years papers reported Grace’s appearances in Maine and Philadelphia as well as New York. She worked with the Women’s Professional League running a rummage sale of costumes distinguishing herself in the role of auctioneer. A 1903 items says Grace Addison sold her residence at Cairo, Ill., and went to Southern California, where she intended to purchase a homestead.  The PWL presented Euripides’s tragedy “Alkestis” with Grace Addison managing the production and playing Alkestis. In fact, all but two players were women, and the managing, directing, and staging was all done by PWL. In October 1903, a news item says Grace Addison was convalescing from a serious illness but didn’t identify the illness.

In 1905, Grace was counted in the New York State Census living in Manhattan with her sister Marie, and Marie’s husband Waldemar Doerschel. He was a musician.

The April 1906 issue of The Christian Science Journal published a testimony written by Grace: “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” was first placed in my hands about twelve years ago. I remember saying, after having read several pages, that it had an uplifting influence which was remarkable. However, I continued my pursuit of Eastern philosophy and the sophistry of the would-be sciences of the day, trying to find the solution to the problem of life, and little dreaming that I had laid down the precious key that would unlock its seeming mystery. The years thus drifted by, then sorrow and affliction came, and with them despair, — the darkness of night without a star. At this time my attention was again turned to Christian Science, and I received treatment, but a collapse seemed inevitable, and I was unable to resist the suggestion I must have a physician. The struggle lasted three months. According to materia medica it was a serious complication of symptoms, and unusual in the extreme. I was fed on mineral waters and liquids for many weeks, with the prospect of a year without any solid food. The physician’s last warning was that if I had a relapse he could give me no hope. I again took up Science and Health, and read it faithfully until the morbidness of not wanting to live had gradually disappeared. Life had a new meaning but the physician’s warning kept ringing in my ears, and the relapse came. I was playing at the time (being in the dramatic profession) when the pain and the swelling over my heart commenced, but I knew enough from the study of the precious book to hold on to the omnipresence of God, good. Fortunately we were playing in the city, so that I could go to a practitioner. In one treatment the swelling was removed; in two treatments I was able to eat anything, and in two weeks my condition was completely normal. In the mean time I played every night, and scarcely a member of the company knew of the battle for life that was going on. To say that I am thankful and grateful for this remarkable experience of divine healing does not express it; my life must testify its gratitude. I praise and thank God, and His Messenger, Mrs. Eddy, for this understanding of Life, Truth, and Love that leads the weary traveler to the promised land. — Grace Addison, New York, NY

A 1907 news item says that Grace was playing at the Columbia, in the burlesque and olio. This is the last record I have of Grace connecting herself to the entertainment business. The 1910 US census lists a Grace Addison in Manhattan. Her occupation is listed as teacher/ scientist. She continued travelling between NYC and France. The 1912 Christian Science Journal listed Miss Grace Addison as a Christian Science Practitioner. The 1913 city directory lists her there, occupation writer.

New York Passenger Lists show Grace arriving from France on 15 October 1912. This record lists a specific birth date of 17 Jun 1862, and specific birth place of Summit Hill, Pennsylvania. Summit Hill was an early coal mining town in Carbon County. Another passenger record shows Grace arriving back in New York on 24 August 1914, and she used that same date of birth. She was travelling with her sister, Marie Doerschel. This document has the most precise information about her birth place and date, but I cannot confirm this information with any other records.

The 1917 NYC city directory lists Grace living at 55 W 126th, occupation writer. This is a multi-home family built in 1909, now in Harlem. Grace also wrote a 4 act play, called “Just Miss Elaine” and obtained a copyright for her work on 18 April 1917. I was not able to find a copy of this play on line. The 1918 city directory lists Grace still living at 55 W 126th, occupation writer.

Grace died 4 May 1918 at the Flower Hospital. The death certificate says the cause of death was “unable to be stated”, but that her last illness was malignant degradation of uterine fibroid, contributing factor hysterectomy. Her death certificate doesn’t list her birth date or place but indicates she has been a life resident of New York City. Her home address matches that in the 1918 city directory, but her occupation appears to be “house work”. Grace is listed on Find-A-Grave at Fresh Pond Crematory and Columbarium in Middle Village, Queens County, New York.

Mysteries about Grace still exist. One of the news items about the shooting refers to Grace Addison as her stage name. It was her name before and after her marriage to Vroom. But is it her birth name? In spite of having her parents’ names listed on the death certificate, I have not yet found Grace as a child. Are her date and place of birth as recorded on the passenger lists accurate?

Grace’s sister Marie J Doerschel reported in the 1920 census that she was born in Illinois, and that her parents were born in Wales. Marie died in 1955, and she and her husband are also interred at Fresh Pond.

Frederick Vroom recovered from his wound, and soon returned from Alaska to California. I wonder if the property on Solomon Creek owned by Grace was originally owned by Vroom, perhaps part of a divorce property settlement. Vroom continued acting, appearing in silent films with Buster Keaton, probably most famously in “The General.” He married twice more, outliving both of the women. He died in 1942 in Beverly Hills.

Research Request: Harold Anderson’s Family

As a member of my local genealogy society, one of my favorite things to do is respond to requests for assistance in researching a family member in our area. Harold Anderson is not my family member, but was a fun project and demonstrates the wealth of information available on line.

Gary from Minnesota contacted WMGS and requested help finding his grandfather’s brother, Harold Anderson. Three brothers had come from Norway, two settled in Minnesota, but Harold ended up in Missoula, then disappeared. Gary had found an entry in a death index that matched Harold’s approximate age, and had a family photo labeled Harold and family (no names, date, or place). Gary had three elderly aunts who wondered if Harold’s two sons (their cousins) were still living, or if their children were. There was also family lore that Harold’s wife was part Native American.

Using the death date provided, I did find Harold Anderson on Find-A-Grave, at the Missoula Cemetery. The birth and death dates were legible in the photo. The birth date matched a WW1 draft card for Harold Anderson living at the Hamil Block in Great Falls, rancher in Chouteau County. His contact person was Theodor Anderson of Boyd, MN. I checked with Gary, and he confirmed that Theodor was one of the three brothers who came from Norway.

Since Harold was listed as a rancher, I checked the BLM General Land Office for homestead records. There was one match, on the Chouteau/Liberty county line. I let Gary know how to order the full homestead packet, if he chooses to do that.

I found Harold Anderson in Ancestry’s collection of city directories, first in Sand Coulee, then Great Falls, then in Missoula. He was a bartender, working and living at the Hammill Hotel in Great Falls, and then as proprietor of the Scandia, in Missoula at 118 West Front. When Gary shared this information with one of the aunts, she then remembered that Uncle Harold was, in fact, a bartender – extra confirmation that we were tracking the right person. He also ran a billiards establishment. His 1927 city directory entry refers to his occupation as “soft drinks” – after all, it was Prohibition.

Cascade County has a great collection of records at Not all are indexed. However, at the beginning of many sets of records are images of the indexes for that book. I did locate Harold’s naturalization and citizenship records. We discovered that Harold came from Norway to Quebec, then west on the railroad, before crossing into the USA in Michigan. Since he arrived in 1903, I didn’t need to look for him in the 1900 census, nor did I have to look through Ellis Island records. As much as I searched, however, I could not find his marriage record, nor records for the births of his sons.
I found Harold in the 1910 census, but not the 1920.

At Missoula Public Library, I located Harold’s death notice and obit. He was survived by sons Harold and Theodore – no ages listed, no wife listed. His brother Theodore came from Minnesota for the funeral. The newspaper vital statistics index also listed a divorce for a Harold and Julia Anderson. That news items named the sons – Harold and Theodore, so we could confirm that Julia was the wife of Harold Sr. The divorce was quick, apparently uncontested, and Harold got custody of the boys.

At the Missoula County Records Center, I was able to learn that there were two divorce cases (Julia vs Harold, and Harold vs Julia) as well as guardianship, and probate. The actual records were at the courthouse. I discovered that early in 1927, Julia filed for divorce, saying that Harold drank excessively and was verbally and physically violent. It appears that the case was dropped as there were no entries after Harold was served with the summons. Later in the year Harold sued Julia for divorce, saying that she stayed out late, and wouldn’t get up to cook their meals. The actual record did confirm the news item that the divorce was granted in less than a month, and Harold got custody. The divorce papers also said they were married by “oral agreement” which accounts for the lack of a marriage record.
The guardianship papers indicate that after Harold died, Julia was granted guardianship of the boys and their estate. She was also appointed administrator of her ex-husband’s estate. While there was no will, Harold did have a fair amount of property relating to his business, plus the grazing land (homestead) in Chouteau County.

Since Harold died in 1928, I expected to find the boys back with their mother, in 1930, or perhaps living with one of the uncles back in Minnesota. Instead, they were living with a couple in Butte, listed as step-sons. The woman wasn’t Julia, and the man was never married to Julia. Best guess is that they were friends of Julia who were caring for the boys at the time of the census. Since the boys were in Butte, I looked for Julia Anderson there, and found a Julia Anderson who married John Holm in 1929 in Butte. The marriage record identified her parents as Dan Hart and Delamar Richard.
I found Julia Holm in the 1940 census in Klamath Falls, OR, with son Harold Anderson. Julia died in 1970. I found her entry on Find-A-Grave, which mentioned her other living children from other marriages, including son Harold of San Francisco. Theodore was not in the 1940 census, nor listed in the FAG entry.

A private tree on Ancestry appeared to include this family. I contacted the owner, who said that Theodore died in 1939 in a car/train crash in northern California. A newspaper (from Ancestry) carried a story of four teens killed, and the date matched a Find-A-Grave entry for a Theodore Anderson in Oregon. The tree owner said Harold Jr did not have a family, and had also passed several years back. The answer wasn’t specific enough for me to identify the dozens of Harold Andersons in the Social Security Death Index.

Because of the family lore that Harold Sr. had married a Native American woman, I looked at Julia’s parents. Their marriage record says that Daniel was ½ Indian, and his bride was ¼ Indian. Using old newspapers from Chronicling America, I discovered that Daniel Hart had some run-ins with the law, but later was a church bishop in the Shaker Indian Movement on the reservation at Klamath Falls. Using Google, I found an on-line photo of Dan Hart with other church officials.

Using the theory of “cluster genealogy” – looking for family members beyond just the direct line – paid off in this case. I identified Julia’s other daughters, and found one on Find-A-Grave. She died in 1982, and this entry listed her brother Harold Anderson of San Francisco. I identified the youngest of Julia’s daughters but couldn’t find a death record for her. I used modern social media and found a person with the same not-very-common name who formerly lived in the Oregon town where Julia died, now living in Virginia. Her age was consistent with the age of the daughter in the 1940 census. Using an on-line directory, I found her address, and shared that with Gary. He contacted her, she confirmed she was the last surviving sibling, and in fact, Harold Jr had lived with her until he died 10 years ago. She seemed glad to connect with her half-brother Harold’s cousins and has shared photos and stories with them. She provided Harold’s birth date, and I was able to find Harold Jr in the SSDI, and also find an obituary for him at NewsBank.

Using a time line was important to keeping this information organized, and I was able to electronically share the timeline and all the records with Gary. The aunts were excited to learn what had happened to Uncle Harold who disappeared in Montana. The information will be shared with the cousins still in Norway.

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