Louis Henry Mott – 1855-1904

Louis Mott was born in 1855.  While it seems that almost every record gives a different state of birth (Kentucky, Mississippi, Maryland, etc) he was probably born in Indiana, to Dr. Francis Asbury Mott and Fidelia C Browning.  The 1850 census lists Dr. F A Mott in New Harmony, Indiana while Fidelia Mott was with her Browning family in Kentucky.  Louis’s grandfather, Henry Hopkins Mott died in April 1855. Henry listed grandson Louis as an heir, but not his own son Francis, so it appears that Louis’ father died about the time Louis was born.  Louis and his mother Fidelia  Mott lived in 1860 in Ohio with the Mott family.  Fidelia died soon after this, leaving Louis an orphan. 

Louis was raised by his uncle, Lamoine Mott, who became a successful miller and businessman in Des Moines, Iowa.  Louis graduated from high school.  Against his family’s wishes, he moved west in about 1876, ending up in Oakland, CA, where he became a laundryman, the career he kept for the remainder of his life.  Louis was convicted of grand larceny, and spent 11 months in San Quentin.  Out of prison, Louis was back in the laundry business, elected secretary of the laundryman’s union, and a registered voter by 1882.  Louis later told people that he was implicated in a murder in California, but there was not enough evidence to convict him. 

However, he started living under an alias, Louis H Browning (his mother’s maiden name.)  In 1886, he went to Miles City MT to start a laundry, but a couple months later, a news story reported that he had to sell the business due to illness.  But in only a few months, Louis was soliciting for an investor to put up $2000 for the opening of a laundry at Gardner, near Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone National Park.  Louis worked there for a couple years.

Back to using “Mott”, Louis went to Washington, where he met Leah H (Smith) Strothman, a not quite divorced woman with two sons, Henry and Oscar.  A later newspaper article said that the meeting “almost appears to have been directed by the hand of fate.”  Mott and a friend were at Wallula Junction.  Mott wanted to go to Walla Walla, while the friend wanted to go a different direction.  They flipped a coin and as a result, went to Walla Walla.  On the street there, Mott was attracted by the face of a woman he saw in the crowd.  He turned to look at her just as she turned and looked at him.  He got an introduction and stayed in Walla Walla a few days. 

Louis and Leah went to Helena, MT, then to Fort Benton to start a laundry there.  Leah obtained her divorce on 14 November 1888 (decree issued in Helena) and she and Louis were married two days later in Seattle.

Louis and Leah moved frequently, living in Phillipsburg, Wickes, and Missoula MT, Wallace ID, and Spokane WA.  One night Louis arrived home in Phillipsburg with about $900 which he said he won in a poker game.  The next day, Leah learned that the Georgetown (MT) stage had been robbed, and she accused Louis of being involved.  He did not deny this accusation and it was later revealed that he was supposed to split the take with the stage driver, who was in on the robbery.

Louis and Leah eventually had two daughters, Alice and Ethel.  Louis’ stepson Henry said Louis was good to his girls, but not so nice to Leah even when sober, and Louis used alcohol a lot. He was described as having a nervous disorder which got worse when he drank and took drugs.  He attempted suicide by overdose at least once.  Louis sought treatment for his disorders, taking the Keeley Cure not once but twice.  The Keeley Institute had a branch at Boulder Hot Springs, MT.  The institute treated alcoholism as a disease, and combined injections, tonics, and home-like care.

Louis often left home, staying away longer and longer.  When he returned, he would act strangely.  Louis and Leah were running the Troy Steam Laundry on Missoula’s north side. Louis had a brush with the law when he fired a gun out a window to scare away some noisy revelers in the middle of the night, outside his home.  He was found not guilty of any crime but Leah got rid of the gun. Louis’s laundry staff went on strike, and Louis went to Butte, leaving Leah to manage the business.  Eventually, the business was put in Leah’s name. 

In December 1902, Louis again abandoned the family and business, going to Butte.  Leah took advantage of his absence, and sold the business. The new owners had moved into the apartments above the laundry, and Leah still lived there with her daughters.  When Louis returned, he was extremely angry about the sale. On 4 January, 1903, after the group had dinner, Leah was helping the new owners’ housekeeper clean up after the meal.  Louis came into the kitchen, and told the young daughters to go play in another room.  Attempting to avoid a confrontation with Louis, Leah started out of the building and down the stairs.  Louis pulled a gun and fired four times, hitting Leah in the back 3 times.  The housekeeper grabbed the gun away from Louis, probably preventing his suicide.

Policemen in the area heard the shots, came to the house, and arrested Louis.  Leah was taken to the hospital, but doctors knew they could not save her.  She gave a dying statement that Louis was drunk and shot her.  She died a few hours later.

The newspapers covered Mott’s incarceration and trial.  When first arrested, they reported that he only wanted whiskey, and had little concern for his wife or children.  He seemed unmoved when he learned Leah died, and could only say he didn’t know why he did it.  Reports said that drink made him the murderer. 

Louis stood trial and his attorneys attempted to use a defense of insanity.  Louis rebelled against this strategy, arguing with the attorneys and his own defense witnesses, saying he’d rather hang than be labelled an imbecile. He also said he’d rather hang than spend 20 years in prison.  One witness testified that Louis told him he went to Helena to buy the gun he used, making this a premeditated case.  The story garnered a lot of interest and the court room was usually filled with spectators.  Witnesses included young Alice Mott, the housekeeper, and physicians who treated Louis.  Leah’s pre-mortem statement was used.  Louis did not testify.  After the testimony and evidence were presented, the jury took 24 hours to convict Louis, and Judge Webster sentenced him to hang.  His original defense attorneys eventually resigned, and Judge Frank Woody was retained to handle much of the appeals process.  The defense requested a new trial based on juror misconduct, saying that two men had preconceived opinions that Louis was guilty, and another was drunk during the trial.  Both the trial judge and the Supreme Court denied the request.  One newspaper reported that Mott should have put as much effort into making a happy home as he was putting into getting a new trial.

When first arrested, Louis had reached out to his family in Iowa for help.  They refused to have anything to do with him, which seems to confirm that this was not his first scrape with the law.  But when the appeals were denied, his uncle Lamoine Mott came to Montana. Newspapers both locally and in Iowa reported that Mott would spend his fortunes to save his nephew.  The elder Mott met with Governor Toole twice, but the governor only delayed the execution long enough for the Supreme Court to respond to the appeal, and after that, Toole would not intervene.

Louis eventually shared his story about the stage coach robbery and the California murder, with the jailers who were on his death watch, just before his execution.  He was concerned that if made public earlier, the stories would negatively influence his attempts for a new trial or sentence reduction.  But in the end, it didn’t matter. 

The date of the execution was originally set for 17 March 1904, but Mott thought he shouldn’t die on St. Patrick’s Day, and the judge moved the event to the 18th.  Sheriff Harry Thompson erected a 14’ fence around the yard at the jail, and gallows were shipped in from Butte.  Although the usual invitations were sent out to witnesses (most often other sheriffs) I found no indication that any family members attended.  At Mott’s request, the hanging rope was burned afterwards, so that it couldn’t be used as a souvenir.  Louis had also requested to be buried next to Leah, but her son Henry refused this request, and Louis is buried near the main entrance to the cemetery.

Attorney Joseph Dixon had previously done some legal work for Louis, and Mott originally expected Dixon to be his defense attorney.  However, Dixon had been elected Senator, and moved to Washington DC before the murder trial.  Mott apparently still considered him a friend, and not long before he was hanged, Louis sent a letter to the senator reminding him of discussions they once had about the after-life.  Louis said he would appear to the senator 48 hours after his death.  Senator Dixon reported two days later from Washington that Mott did not keep his appointment. 

Louis’ daughters went to live with Leah’s sister Anne.  Ethel died in 1905 in Oklahoma, and Alice died in 1973 in Texas. 


Frederick William Vroom 1857 – 1942

Frederick Vroom was born 11 November 1857 in Clementsport, Nova Scotia. The Vroom name traces back to the earliest Dutch settlers who came to New Amsterdam.  During the American Revolutionary War, some Vroom families fought for independence, but Frederick’s great grandfather John was a Loyalist, and moved his family to Nova Scotia in about 1790.

The town of Clementsport was established by the Loyalists from New York, 40 or so years after the Acadian Expulsion.   Located on the Annapolis basin, many were involved in ship building and farming.  Frederick’s parents were Albert Douglas Vroom and Charlotte Maria Morse.  The family was counted in the 1861 and 1871 census in Clementsport, Annapolis County. Frederick was the oldest child, with siblings Otis, Mary, Lottie, and Edward Isaac.  Albert was a farmer, and the family was Wesleyan Methodist.

The Vroom family moved to Somerville near Boston in the early 1870’s.  Frederick and his brother Otis sailed from Bear River, near Clementsport, on the schooner “Alert.”   Passage at that time was usually a two-day trip, and the teenaged boys arrived April 20, 1872.  In Somerville, Frederick’s father worked as a carpenter, and his mother ran a boarding house on Temple street near Bond.  Frederick’s father died in 1874, and Frederick began working as a clerk for “John A Carr & Co”, a grocery store in Boston.

Frederick continued to be listed in the Boston city directories, but without an occupation.  He became a naturalized citizen on 9 October 1879 at the US Circuit Court in Boston.   I have not yet found Frederick in the 1880 census.  His mother with Otis and Lottie had moved to Pennsylvania.

Frederick married Georgianna F Wheeler on 17 September 1883 in Melrose.  The marriage was also recorded in Boston.  Georgianna was 31, the daughter of Gardner and Sarah Wheeler and a resident of Melrose. He was 25, a clerk, and a resident of Boston.  This was the first marriage for both.

Frederick became involved with the local theater community.  Edwin Booth had made his professional acting debut in Boston, and had strong links to the city, living on Beacon Hill in the mid 1880’s.  No doubt he influenced Frederick, who became a Shakespearian actor. Edward Vroom also became an actor and playwright.

In November 1886, Frederick was travelling with Lawrence Barrett’s theater company, playing Guildenstern to Barrett’s Hamlet.  Newspapers of the era publicized theater events.  Frederick’s name appeared in the supporting cast of many plays – never the headliner, but always in the upper part of the cast.  His roles included Gratiano in Othello, Antonio in Merchant of Venice, The Ghost in Hamlet, Savelli in Ganelon, King Claudius in Hamlet, and Trebonis in Julius Caesar.  Edwin Booth’s last stage appearance was as Hamlet in April 4, 1891.  Frederick Vroom played The Ghost, and his brother Edward had the role of Guildenstern in that production.

A newspaper reported a slightly different kind of story on 5 November 1887.  A young lady answered an advertisement to become an actress.  She contacted the alleged theatrical agent, and paid him a $10 security, went home to wait to hear from him.  “Mr. Frederick Vroom, of the Booth and Barrett Company, happened to be boarding at the house.  Vroom told her that she was a dupe, and went with her and made the phony agent give back the money.”  She filed charges, and the man was arrested.

During the summers, Frederick and Georgianna stayed at “Camp Viking” on Heart Bay of Lake George in New York.  They were still together in August 1892, as a society news item reported that they had been called back to Boston because of the death of Georgianna’s mother.  They did return together to Lake George.   The Vrooms enjoyed entertaining, and boating on the lake.  During one outing, a friend’s canoe filled with water during a squall.  Frederick took him aboard, and towed the sinking canoe to shore to be emptied so they could continue their outing.  Fred and Georgianna eventually divorced.  Georgianna lived in the Boston area, and never remarried.  She worked as a secretary, and died in Boston in 1932.

In 1894, Frederick appeared in “The Lady of Lyons”, and one of his co-stars was Grace Addison.  She had also been a touring actress for at least a dozen years.

On April 22, 1896, a Philadelphia newspaper reported activities planned to celebrate the birthday of Shakespeare.  Frederick was going to help present a scene from Hamlet.  The newspaper also mentioned that he was travelling with his wife.    There is a Frederick Vroom who married Carrie Lee in 1892 in Washington DC.  The marriage license says they were both “of South Carolina, but doesn’t name parents nor occupations, so I’m not sure if this is the same Vroom.  If it is, this marriage also didn’t last long.

In 1897, Frederick and Grace Addison were engaged to appear at the Meffert Stock Company in Louisville, Kentucky.  That business arrangement did not work out, and Grace and Frederick sued the company for breach of contract.  They won the suit, although the amount of the award was less than they asked for.  In 1898 in Louisville, Frederick and Grace married.

Both continued to tour with theatrical companies.  In 1898, Frederick appeared in Helen Modjeska’s production of Macbeth.  One of his co-stars was Maud Morrell.  Grace was not in the cast list.  Later in the year, Frederick and Maud supported Ms. Modjeska in “As You Like It.”

Frederick and Grace formed the Vroom-Addison company, which toured the country presenting plays.   Grace and Frederick consistently received good reviews for their work, both in their earlier works, and later when they worked as a team.  A newspaper ad describes “Mr. Frederick Vroom & Miss Grace Addison and their company of 14 talented players” announcing that the company would be presenting a charming and picturesque comedy called “The Duke’s Pledge, plus “Pygmalion and Galatea” and “Love and Duty” admission 25, 50, and 75 cents.  “The Vroom Addison company presented the comedy of “Pygmalion and Gallatea” to a delighted audience at McKissick’s Opera House last evening.  Mr. Frederic Vroom gave immediate satisfaction in his portrayal of Pygmalion, the Athenian sculpter, and his grace, tone of voice, and precision of action made his character harmonize and blend with artistic taste.”  The Vroom Adison group also transitioned into vaudeville, starting about 1897.

While the professional partnership appeared successful, the personal relationship was not.  On 13 May, 1900, the newspaper San Francisco Call reported that Grace shot Frederick.  She had suspected him of being unfaithful with Maud Morrell, another actress in their company.  Frederick had also become interested in the Alaska gold rush, and was affiliated with a somewhat shady partner named W. H. Orr.  The two men kept an office which included a bedroom where Frederick claimed he stayed some nights.  Grace took her suspicions to Orr but he refused to get involved in their personal business.  Grace arranged the bedding at the office in such a way that she would know if the bed had been used.  She discovered it wasn’t, and she hired a detective to follow Fred.  They tracked him to an apartment, and when he left, Grace confronted Maud at gunpoint, collected her husband’s belongings from the apartment, and obtained a confession from Maud.  She then confronted husband at the mining company office with her proof.  He struck her, and when he turned away, she shot him.  Friends took Frederick to a doctor, and Grace went to her sister’s home.  The shooting was not reported to the police, but did get reported in the newspaper.  Grace turned herself in to the police, but she apparently gave a convincing performance as the Judge only ordered a $25 bail, and police provided transportation to her home to get the money.  The same newspapers that reported the shooting also had many articles relating to the Nome gold rush. Frederick apparently left on an already planned trip to Cape Nome by way of Seattle, and did not stay in San Francisco to swear a complaint.  Grace also blamed Frederick for losing about $3000 that she had put into the company, because his misconduct caused the company to disband and she lost her money.

The next day, Maud gave her statement to the newspaper, denying that illicit relations existed between her and “Actor Vroom”, saying she only confessed because she feared for her life.   Grace later denied even having a revolver with her when she confronted Maud Morell and extracted her confession.   Without Frederick to swear out a complaint, charges were dropped, and according to the newspaper, Grace sailed north to Nome to join a theatrical company.

A New York paper thought it strange that the two actresses should quarrel over the “exceedingly snarly and tooth-ridden” Frederick.  The anonymous reporter went on to say that “Those who have seen Mr. Vroom 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.”

I was not able to find Frederick in the 1900 census.  Perhaps he was on his way to Alaska and didn’t get counted.  I did find Mrs. Grace Vroom, born Oct 1856 in Ohio, no occupation listed, in Seattle at Arlington Docks.  There were no other family members with her.  This document showed mostly single people, many miners and prospectors perhaps waiting to go to Alaska.  The census was dated 18 June 1900, just a few weeks after the news report that she was headed north.

Frederick obtained a divorce from Grace in Sacramento, on 13 May, 1901, on the grounds of cruelty.  He reported that in 1899, she picked up a cuspidor and threw it at him.  “The cuspidor was of the hotel variety and it was loaded and Vroom received its contentsLater in the year, she stabbed him, and then in May 1900, shot him in the back and wrist, with two more shots aimed at him with the intention of killing him.”

Grace returned to New York where she continued to work in the theater and lecture for a professional women’s group.  Census records and city directories list her as a writer and scientist.  A newspaper item says Grace worked as a Christian Science healer.  Grace died in 1918.

Later in 1901, Frederick married Maud Morrell in Portland, OR.  Against the wishes of her family, Maud had been an amateur actress in the Oakland area.  She eventually worked with professional groups, and crossed paths with Frederick a few years earlier while touring.

Frederick continued visiting the Lake George area, and in 1903, participated in a benefit for the Defiance hose company, which had been formed 30 years earlier (now part of Ticonderoga Volunteer Fire Company.)  Through 1904, they divided their time between Lake George and New York City.

The Ticonderoga Sentinel reported in 1906:  Some time ago the friends of Frederick Vroom were deeply concerned over an article that appeared in the New York American stating that he had been drowned in Alaska and giving a picture and rather lengthy history of the well-known actor.  These fears, however, were set to rest a few days ago when a letter was received from Mr. Vroom saying “I wasn’t drowned and have never been drowned.”  He is living on a raisin ranch in California. I have not yet found the news item that reported this death.

Matrimony with Maud did not work out.  After a few years, Maud left Fred and ran off with a French language teacher.  I have not yet located Frederick in the 1910 census.  However, his brother Otis died in 1910 in Pennsylvania, and that obituary says that brothers Frederick and Edward were living in New York. Maud Vroom was living in California as the “widow” of Fred Vroom.

In 1912, Frederick Vroom got his divorce from Maud.  The newspaper coverage described him as a mining engineer, and perhaps he was still involved in Alaska mining.  In a letter that was part of the record, Maud told him that if he consulted a scientist, he would be consoled to her absence.  This may also be a reference to Christian Science.  Maud died in 1955.

Back in California, Frederick began working as a film director, with The Tie That Binds in 1914.  He also acted in motion pictures.  The newspapers began advertising his films, rather than plays.  Frederick was functioning as stage manager for the Thanhouser film company, later heading the company’s West Coast troupe from 1913 to 1914. Vroom’s screen-acting career began around 1912 with “The Forest Rose” and continued to 1939 with an uncredited role in the James Stewart movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.   (A more complete list of his films is available at IMDB.com, and Thanhouser is now a film preservation organization specializing in the early silent film era.)

In 1914, Frederick married Florence Estelle Peck, widow of Rodney Newton Parks.  She was a musician and music teacher.  Voter registrations list Frederick living in the Malibu precinct on Sycamore road, working in motion pictures.  He was a Republican.  Frederick worked for several different studios.

In 1921, Frederick was to be the director general of a new enterprise that would make short films about Bible subjects.  I do not know if the films were ever made.

In 1924, Frederick was in the Buster Keaton film The Navigator, playing “the girl’s father.”  In 1927, he was again with Buster Keaton in “The General” playing a southern civil war general, and not the title role, which was actually a locomotive.  These are probably his two most well-known movie roles, and can be seen on television from time to time.

The 1930 census shows that Frederick and Florence lived at 1210 Flores, in Beverly Hills, in a house valued at $18,000, the most expensive on this page.  His occupation was actor in pictures while she was a teacher of music and reading.  Florence died 15 April 1932 in Los Angeles.

The 5 April 1935 Oakland Tribune has a grainy photo of Vroom and other dignitaries in a beer-testing event.  They voted that Brown Derby Beer was most like pre-prohibition Pilsner.  Apparently it was more advertisement than news, as the story was repeated several times, although the photos varied.

On 5 February 1938, Frederic W. Vroom, 80, married Geraldine Baker, 69, widow of Leighton Baker, another Shakespearean actor who died in 1931.   The 1940 census lists the couple at 842 Hudson, with his occupation as “character actor” in motion pictures.  Geraldine was from Boston, and a later interview with her son said Bakers and Vroom had been friends for 60 years prior to the marriage.  A society news item reporting their honeymoon trip said she was his sweetheart from 51 years ago.

Frederick died of a heart attack on 24 June 1942 in Beverly Hills.  His obituary described him as a Shakespearean actor who toured with Edwin Booth 60 years ago, and an organizer of one of the first motion-picture companies here, located in the Hollenbeck district.  Later he was with D.W. Griffith and the old Essanay Co, and had been a character actor.   He is buried at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood.

Geraldine Vroom died 11 February 1955 in California.

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 Ancestry.com, 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.


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