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.

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!