Holiday Break

Yes, I’m breaking a little earlier than usual; but who knows? I could be back earlier than usual!

Despite the longer holiday season, my schedule seems to be more packed than ever. However, I still enjoy it, especially since I take care to focus on the things that are most important to me.

One of my favorite activities before Christmas is attending Norwalk High School’s “Candlelight” concert. This is a tradition for the high school for over 75 years – since the mid-1930’s. There were only a couple of times during World War II that Candlelight was not held. Since then, it has been going strong.

Candlelight concert program.  Author's collection.

Candlelight concert program. Author’s collection.

Over the years, hundreds of students in the music department have performed instrumental and vocal music, along with humorous skits and sometimes even dancing. The music ranges from secular to sacred and spans the common December holidays. What I particularly love, however, is the quality of performance every year, and the spirit of the season that the concert embodies.

Does your community have any unique holiday traditions?

Great-Great Aunt Ida Elizabeth Atwell: On the Move

Ida Elizabeth Atwell was the second living daughter of William Armstrong Atwell and Altie May Williams. She was born on January 20, 1890 in Providence, Providence County, RI. Like her sister Winifred Margaret, she completed four years of high school, then entered the working world. The 1910 Census showed her as a bookkeeper at an “installment co.”. From 1911 until 1914, she worked as a cashier.

On February 11, 1914, Ida married James Garfield Dilworth, a manager from Worcester, Worcester County, MA. I’m not sure how they met; perhaps his business worked with hers? In any case, this was the beginning of their lives together, travelling across the country.

Ida and James remained in Worcester at first for the birth of their first child, Richard A., on January 10, 1915. By 1919, the family had moved to Colorado, first to Denver, then to Aurora, Adams County (which is right next to Denver) in 1920. Here is where their second child, James Garfield, Jr., was born on October 30, 1920.

1923 found the Dilworth family back in Denver, but by 1930, they moved to their final state, California. They lived in various locations in the Los Angeles area throughout the 1930s and in 1940, always in a cute little house. I have to wonder if Ida’s sister Margaret Armstrong was instrumental in getting them to move to this area. Perhaps the sisters had plenty of get-togethers.

Just three short months after the 1940 Census, James died on July 21. Eventually, Ida made her way to San Diego. There she remained until her death on December 3, 1970.

Having lived so recently, I don’t know whether Ida’s sons ever got married or had children. I do know that Richard died on May 7, 1991 in Prescott, Yavapai County, AZ. James, Jr. died August 7, 1990 in Pacific County, WA. He is buried at Fern Hill Cemetery in Menlo, WA.

So why did the Dilworths move around so much? It’s hard to tell, as James, Sr. held down a variety of jobs, such as manufacturing, sales, insurance and real estate. Perhaps he was simply taking opportunities as they presented themselves.

The Dilworth's moves spanned the continent!  Courtesy Google Earth.

The Dilworth’s moves spanned the continent! Courtesy Google Earth.

Honor Roll Project: Norwalk, CT – World War I (part 1)

In recognition of those who have served our country in the military, Heather Wilkinson Rojo of the Nutfield Genealogy blog started the Honor Roll Project. It’s an opportunity to publicly document the names on military memorials around the world, thus making them easily searchable on the internet for people who are looking for them!

This post is the beginning of several I’ll post over time regarding the World War I memorial on the green in Norwalk, CT. There are eight panels with hundreds of names on it. Here is a shot of the whole memorial:

WWI Memorial on the Norwalk Green. Author's collection.

WWI Memorial on the Norwalk Green. Author’s collection.

And below is the first panel and its transcription:

First panel of memorial. Author's collection.

First panel of memorial. Author’s collection.

THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED
AS A TRIBUTE OF HONOR TO THE
CITIZENS OF NORWALK, CONN.
WHO DEVOTED THEMSELVES TO THE CAUSE
OF FREEDOM IN THE SERVICE OF OUR COUNTRY
DURING THE GREAT WORLD WAR, 1917 – 1919
AND AS A MEMORIAL TO THE MEN
WHO MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE

ABBOTT FRED E GROTTY WILLIAM JAMES GEORGE L. PARADISO ANTONIO
AMUNDSEN FRED W. DAVENPORT CHARLES R. LEONARD JAMES P. RICCO GIOVANNI
BATES CHARLES FERRIS FRANK H. LARSEN ALBERT C. SCHULTZ GILBERT O.
BENNETT EDWARD GODFREY FRANK C. LOUDEN CLARENCE A. SHEEHAN FREDERICK
BIRDSALL CORTLAND V. GOLDSTEIN PETER LUEVINE SAMUEL SHEEHAN MARCUS
BLAKE MORTIMER G. GOODROW WILLIS MOORE FREDERICK SMITH RUSSELL I.
BLOOM CHARLES H. HALLWATER KENNETH MOSCARIELLO THOMAS SMITH WALTER J.
BURWELL JOHN C. HALL ROBERT S. MULVOY ANTHONY J. SNIFFEN CHARLES H.
CAFFREY THOMAS P. HAYES ARTHUR NICHOLS CLAYTON W. TARLOV AIME
CANTONI JAMES G. HOLSTON ANSLEY H. O’BRIEN JEREMIAH F. WEED DAVID JONATHAN
CIFATTE STEPHEN HUNT FREDERICK OWENS PATRICK ZOELLER WILLIAM
COLEMAN JAMES E.

 

THE CANNON THAT SURMOUNTS THIS MONUMENT WAS USED BY THE FRENCH
ARMY DURING THE WORLD WAR. IT WAS CAPTURED BY THE GERMAN ARMY AND LATER
RECAPTURED BY THE FRENCH AND PRESENTED TO THE
CITY OF NORWALK, CONN. JULY 16, 1921. BY THE REPUBLIC OF FRANCE

Great-Great Uncle William Gorton Atwell: Enigma

William Gorton Atwell is one of those family members who has just enough information to get me interested, but not enough to get a full picture of who he was.

Most sources say that William was born on July 18, 1888 in Providence, Providence County, RI. His World War I Draft Registration card stated the same date in 1887–but I believe he may have had a reason to state this (more on that later). He was the oldest living son of William Armstrong Atwell and Altie May Williams.

Being just a child, William doesn’t show up in records again until the 1900 Census — and this time it’s twice! On June 9, he is enumerated with his family in Providence; but on June 12, he is enumerated in nearby Cranston, Providence County, RI at Sockanosset School for Boys. I am certain both records are for William — all the census information is identical. Also, June 9 was a Saturday and William could very well have been home from school for the weekend.

My research revealed that Sockanosset was basically a school for juvenile delinquents. The greatest number of admissions were for theft, but there were many other reasons, including truancy and even “incorrigibility”! Why was William there? Did he do something wrong; was he a difficult child? I could find nothing in on-line newspapers about any possible crimes. In any case, Sockanosset was known for its work in rehabilitating these wayward boys, providing them with schooling, a chapel and a gymnasium. The boys were also taught various skills, such as carpentry, masonry, and printing. I highly suspect this is where William developed the skills for his future occupation in working in the printing industry.

William’s 1917 Draft Registration card indicated that he served four years in the Navy. The big question is: when did he serve? I suspect it must be sometime before 1910, when he next shows up in Providence. Maybe he was the one who lied about his age to join the Navy (rather than my great-grandfather), which may be why his birth date on the card isn’t the same as every other record. His time in Sockanosset indicates possible unrest at home and I cannot find him in the 1905 Rhode Island Census.

Despite me not being able to find him on the 1910 Census, William was living at 100 Sheldon Street in the 1910 and 1912 Providence City Directories. On June 28, 1913, he married Mary Cecelia Downey (who was about five months pregnant) in East Providence. After this point, he shows up consistently in various locations in East Providence and Providence, working as a paper cutter or printer. His World War I Draft Registration card gives even more information, saying that he worked as a bookbinder at C.H. Fryer & Co. at 11 Pine Street in Providence.

William and Mary’s children were:

  • Thomas Francis (was he named after my great-grandfather?), born November 7, 1913; married Edith Hill, then Beatrice ____; died Jan 3, 2002; buried at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Exeter, Washington County, RI.
  • Dorothy Mary, born Feb 10, 1915 in East Providence; married John Michael Cronin; died August 20, 1970 in Oxnard, Ventura County, CA; buried in Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard.
  • William J., born April 14, 1916; died March 1992; buried Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Providence.
  • female stillborn, born & died on May 8, 1917.
  • Richard J., born Aug 13, 1918; died Jun 19, 2003 in Bristol, Bristol County, RI; buried Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Exeter, Washington County, RI.
  • Virginia F, born Dec 1, 1920; married ____ Brightman; died November 1978; buried Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Providence.
  • Norma Cecelia, born 1923, died February 3, 1924.

The most mysterious thing to me about William is the fact that he died on July 9, 1923 in Providence at the age of 35. I have no idea why, but only have a feeling that it was very sad. This, coupled with their youngest child’s death only seven months later must have devastated Mary and the other children. Of course, Mary had the support of her mother and siblings who they lived with until Mary’s remarriage to Edward Joseph Berry between April 24, 1925 (where she is still widowed in the RI Census) and April 10, 1930 (where she is remarried).

The final mystery of William is where he is buried. Nor could I find Mary or Edward’s burial information anywhere.

Great-Great Aunt Winifred Margaret Atwell, aka Margaret Armstrong

Wedded bliss did not last long in the marriage of Arthur Vinton (formerly Arthur Holzel) and Margaret Armstrong (formerly Winifred Margaret Atwell). Later newspaper accounts alluded to Arthur not being very good with money (always a problem when there is a family to support). Perhaps this was Margaret’s incentive to continue to work in theater, for Arthur accused her of refusing “to give up theatricals and make a home for him” and stated that it was difficult for them to find work in the same town.

The Holzels separated in August 1922, with Margaret and Evelyn remaining in Long Island City, NY as Margaret continued acting in New York City. During the separation, Arthur wrote to Margaret that “The way to hold a man is to be his pal. Not to dance and raise hell, but to play the game with him.”

What was Arthur’s game? Margaret soon found out that he was living in Kansas City, Missouri with another woman, Mrs. Marie Pohl, née Marie Eugenia Welch, wife (or ex-wife; I haven’t found out yet) of August Pohl of San Diego, California. Margaret put her foot down during an August 1923 visit from Arthur, confronting him with her findings. Arthur seemed to waffle, asking for time to think things over and decide whether or not he wanted to reconcile or let Margaret pursue a divorce.

Margaret chose to file for divorce and did so in January 1924 (perhaps she gave him until the end of 1923 to make a decision, or perhaps she took the time to get her legal paperwork together). in the filing, she requested $125 per week for alimony toward child support for Evelyn. Meanwhile, Margaret continued her work on stage.

On January 9, 1925, the decree of divorce was granted. Margaret received $200 in legal fees and $40 per week for alimony. By the end of the decade, Arthur married Marie and got his wish for someone “making a home for him” in upstate New York, where he ran a side business of a cattle then a turkey farm. Apparently Arthur got to “play the game” with Marie, as he notoriously had numerous affairs and was often cruel to Marie.

As far as I know, Margaret never re-married. By 1930 she and Evelyn were living in Los Angeles, CA where Margaret launched a movie career as a character actress. Her film career can be found here. It seemed that the financial issues that Margaret experienced with Arthur were far behind her. She was able to provide Evelyn with a college education (Evelyn went to the University of California, Los Angeles) and trips abroad.

Margaret Armstrong in her role as Annie Oakley's mother.  Author's collection.

Margaret Armstrong in her role as Annie Oakley’s mother. Author’s collection.

Eventually Evelyn met and married Clinton A. White sometime before 1950 (I suspect during the late 1940’s). This marriage caused a permanent rift between Evelyn and her father, Arthur, for Clinton was African-American. (Indeed, in some states, such an inter-racial marriage was not even considered legal.) According to my grandmother, Arthur disowned Evelyn; online anecdotes seem to support this. Evelyn was not deterred; the couple raised a family, ran a family business, and spent the rest of their lives together.

Evelyn White in 1961.  Courtesy MyHeritage.com (Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards).

Evelyn White in 1961. Courtesy MyHeritage.com (Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards).

Sometime after Margaret’s movie career ended, it seems that she must have moved in with or close to Evelyn and her family, for she passed away in Alameda County, CA on December 15, 1961. I’m not sure where she is buried; with all the names she had taken on, it’s been difficult to find her final resting place.

Clinton White died on April 6, 1988 in Berkeley, Alameda County, CA, so Evelyn went to live closer to her family in Brookings, Curry County, OR. There she died on September 19, 2000.

Because of the very separate lives and physical distance between my great-grandfather and Margaret, I never personally knew that side of the family. It’s my hope that a curious cousin might see this and reach out!

Great-Great Aunt Winifred Margaret Atwell: Rising Star

Winifred Margaret Atwell was born October 7, 1885 in Providence, Providence County, RI.  She was the oldest daughter of William Atwell and Altie May Williams and the oldest of their children that lived to adulthood.

Winifred completed four years of high school, and it seems that she had a musical education as well. Perhaps William took it upon himself to teach her. I found at least two articles from 1902 and 1904 where Winifred accompanied her father to performances. At both she performed dramatic reading and at one even played a piano solo. Later in 1908 and 1909, she taught music alongside her father at the Atwell Music Studios.

Eventually, music seemed to fade away for Winifred as her performance expanded into acting; in the 1910 Census, she listed her occupation as “actress” in a “theatre”. It was hard to find her in the following years; however, I knew that she had taken a stage name: Margaret Armstrong. Although I think it’s a great sounding name, its so much more common than “Winifred Atwell”! The January 1917 edition of Providence Magazine stated that Margaret Armstrong was “an actress of exceptional ability”. It seems that her career was starting to take off. On January 2, 1917 she was in Manhattan, marrying Arthur Holzel. Perhaps she was beginning some work in New York’s theaters. Regardless, this was the last time that I saw her referred to as “Winifred M. Atwell”. Since she went by “Margaret” for the rest of her life, I will refer to her as such from now on.

Winifred Margaret Atwell on her wedding day, January 2, 1917.  Author's collection.

Winifred Margaret Atwell on her wedding day, January 2, 1917. Author’s collection.

The Holzels seemed to find themselves in Lynn, Essex County, MA, where their daughter Evelyn Atwell Holzel said she was born on March 27, 1918. (Although I have found no primary sources to support this yet.)

Now, if the name Arthur Holzel might sound vaguely familiar, it was because he was later known as Arthur Vinton, an actor on stage (in the 1920s), screen and radio (in the 1930s and 1940s). As Arthur’s and Margaret’s careers began to ramp up, their relationship started to break down. More on all of this in the next post!

The Little-Known Atwell Siblings

Some of my great-grandfather’s siblings have quite a bit of information available, but three have barely anything. Even so, I feel that they deserve their own post.

Richard Williams

According to the book Randall and Allied Families… , Richard was born on May 11, 1883 and died on August 18, 1884. I assume his short life was entirely in Providence. According to his father William’s sister, Victoria Eugenia (who called herself “Genie” in a 1932 letter), Richard was named after William’s father and after the Williams family from whom Altie descended. She also confirmed that Richard was the first-born child; his death must have been so devastating to his parents.

“Little Altie Bernise”

I recently noticed that on the 1900 census, Altie May Atwell is listed as having seven children born, five children living. Prior to writing this post, I could only account for six of the children. As I was re-reading Aunt Genie’s typed account of Richard, she wrote this: “He was the one who died as a baby”, then in her own hand (which I’d totally overlooked!): “as did Little Altie Bernise”. (I have to say, I’m not 100% that this is little Altie’s middle name, but it’s the best that I can tell.) Little Altie, you are found and remembered!

Aunt Genie's notation about little Altie.  Author's collection.

Aunt Genie’s notation about little Altie. Author’s collection.

Augusta Eugenia

Augusta Eugenia was born on January 13, 1894 in Providence. She was the youngest of William and Altie’s children that lived to adulthood. I found her listed as a child in the 1900 Census and the 1905 Rhode Island Census. In the 1910 Census, she was sixteen and working as a clerk at a shoe store. Finally, in the 1912 City Directory, she is listed as “a clerk at B&S” (which I assume is Brown & Sharpe, a large manufacturer in Providence at the time). At that point, she was living at 45 Wilson Street, away from the family. After this record, I have no idea what happened to Augusta. She may have died, gotten married or moved away. (I tried checking her 1912 address in the 1913 City Directory, but the house was listed as vacant – just my luck!) Even my grandmother, who at least knew if one of her relatives was married or not, never said if Augusta married.