For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at several photos from the Donna Darling Collection. First, Image 0174 is a photo of Donna Darlings Bathing Beauties in a “Beach Promenade.” In most of the advertisement billings, this show was called, “The California Bathing Beauties. The show probably began in July 1920 at Moss’ Broadway at 41st and appears to have played in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Coney Island, Baltimore, Albany, Alexandria (IN), Wilkes-Barre, Reading, New Haven (CT), and Bridgeport (CT).
I have not learned who the other five women are in the photograph, but it is clearly Donna in the top back.
Next, I looked at the Donna Darling Collection Item 194 – a set of seven photographs.
Two of the photos are of Donna holding Russell – one as a baby and one as a toddler with both Donna and Russell in swimming suits. Next are two photos of Russell. In one he is sitting in a walker of some sorts and the other he is standing behind a life ring aboard the SS Virginia out of New York. In 1930 Donna, Sammy, and Russell went to Panama for work. Russell would have been about three, which looks right for this photo. A Wikipedia article[i] indicates that the SS Virginia was built in 1928, was part of the American Line whose route was New York to Havana, to the Panama Canal, then on to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Next is a photo of Sammy Clark Amsterdam standing alongside a car. I don’t know cars well enough to identify what it is. [If anyone that can identify it I’d love to hear from you. – Please, use the comment form below.] The license plate indicates it was in Michigan in 1927.
The final photo is something of a mystery. This is clearly Donna holding a baby, but the baby doesn’t appear to be Russell. I believe the baby is Sylvia and I believe the man is Harvey Knight, Donna’s stepfather. If so, this would be from 1932. [Photo below.]
December (XX) 1924 – The Bathing Beauty Review featuring Donna Darling and Murry Earle played at the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Randy Seaver in his blog, Genea-Musings suggested that we look at where our ancestors were 100 years ago. I thought I’d take a stab at it more from a location perspective. In October 1917, my ancestors were in Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota. Just “I” and “M” states. My paternal side are the “I” states; the Roberts were in Illinois and the Scotts were in Indiana. My maternal side are the “M” states; the Browns were in Minnesota and the Montrans (Barbers) were in Michigan, except for my grandmother, Madonna (Donna) who lived in Massachusetts for a short time.
My paternal grandfather, Bert Allen Roberts, was 14 years old. His father had died in 1908 and he was living with his mother, step-father, brother and two sisters. It isn’t clear if they were living in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana (1910) or in Hutsonville, Crawford County, Illinois (1920), but I think they were still in Indiana.
Bert’s 71-year-old grandmother, Patience Ann (Marshall) (Dean) Roberts was living in Sesser, Barren Township, Franklin County, Illinois.
Bert’s 34-year-old mother, Clora Dell (Scott) (Roberts) Adams was married to Hosea Adams. It is unclear if they were still in Turman, Sullivan, Indiana, or if they had relocated to Hutsonville, Crawford County, Illinois in 1917.
Clora’s father, Samuel Vaden Scott, had remarried Lavina Allmend after the death of Amanda Jane Haley. The 57-year old was living in Goode Township, Franklin County, Illinois.
My paternal grandmother, Essie Pansy Barnes, was 14 years old. She was living on the farm near Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana.
Essie’s father, Joel Clinton Barnes, was 60 years old and living on a farm near Graysville, Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana.
Essie’s mother, Marada A. (Lister) Barnes, was 50 years old and living with Joen on the farm near Graysville, Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana.
My maternal grandfather, Clifford D Brown, later known as Richard Earl Durand and even later as Richard Earl Brown, (Grandpa Dick) was also 14 years-old. He lived with his family in Backus, Cass County, Minnesota.
Clifford/Richard’s father, Arthur Durwood Brown, was 48-years-old and living in Backus, Cass County, Minnesota.
Clifford/Richard’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown, was 39-years-old and living with her husband, Arthur, in Backus.
My maternal grandmother, Madonna Mae Montran, (later known as Donna) was married to Thomas Valentine Rooney (her second marriage). (It does not appear that she ever took his surname.) They were probably living in Wrentham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, although they may have located to New York City about that time. Madonna’s father died before 1900 and I have been unsuccessful in determining his parents.
Madonna’s (Donna’s) mother, Ida Mae (Barber) (Montran) (Fisher) (Holdsworth) Knight was living with her 4th husband, Harvey Knight in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.
Ida’s mother, Sarah H (Blackhurst) Barber was also living in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Her husband, Frank Barber, died earlier in 1917.
Thirteen of my direct ancestors were alive in September 1917. That is all four of my grandparents, six of my great-grandparents, and three of my 14 known great-great-grandparents.
Based upon their locations in 1917, I can say my father’s line came from Illinois and Indiana and my mother’s line came from Michigan and Minnesota. I have abirthplace chart that shows where my ancestors were born that tells a somewhat different story. Grandpa Dick was born in North Dakota but was in Minnesota in 1917. Similarly, my great-grandmother, Mary (Manning) Brown, was born in Kentucky but was in Minnesota in 1917.
My life locations provide some of greatest location distances of anyone I know. I was born in Portland, Oregon; I hail from Minnesota, having lived there during most of my youth and over 35 years total. Over the years, I have lived in Oregon, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Montana, California, Virginia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Georgia, and Maine. Now, I live about 3,200 miles away from my birth location of Portland, Oregon, in Portland, Maine.
Handy Genealogy Handbooks – “All You Need to Find Genealogy Resources FAST!”
Police Join in a Search, But Press Agent Yarn Theory Advanced
Although a number of stories including a press agent version were afloat concerning a reported kidnapng Sunday night of Helen Dawn, 16-year-old prize beauty of the “Bathing Beauties,” now playing at a Peoria theater, (see ads) police were trying to locate the girl and arrest her alleged kidnapers Monday.
According to reports made police Miss Dawn with Betty Bryant and Donna Darling, companions in the same troupe, came out of the rear of the theater shortly after 10 o’clock, Miss Dawn and Miss Bryant in the lead. As they turned the alley at Jefferson avenue a short stocky built man leaped from the side of a closed Oakland or Hudson car and seized Miss Dawn by the arm. Despite her screams he dragged her to the side of the car and another man inside helped him get the girl into the car. The man who grabbed her leaped into the car and the driver seated alone in the front seat drove away going out Jefferson avenue.
The screams of the girl attracted a large crowd, some of whom picked up several articles and some money which Miss Dawn dropped when she was seized by the man.
“Oh, they got the one with all the diamonds,” one of Miss Dawn’s companions is reported to have said during the “kidnaping,” according to an interested spectator. All press agents refuse to be interviewed about the incident.
Fitz Hugh, 224 North Jefferson avenue, who with a companion, was in a car nearby, started in pursuit of the “kidnaper’s” car but lost sight of it on Jefferson avenue. Police were scattered in riot cars in all directions and Detectives Boyser and Welty were dispatched out the Galena road in search of the girl.
According to Miss Byrant [sic] and Miss Darling, who were eye witnesses Miss Dawn had no time to struggle with her assailant.
“The man grabbed her and had her inside the car so quickly that neither of us could interfere,” Miss Bryant said. Both girls gave the same account of the “kidnaping” to police who quizzed them Monday.
The girls said the car in which Miss Dawn was taken away in was an Oakland or a Hudson car. They said Miss Dawn had joined the troupe at Los Angeles and that at none of the cities they had visited did Miss Dawn make any acquaintances who might injure her.
Annoyed at Decatur.
“The only place where anything happened was at Decatur, Ill., where Miss Dawn was persistently followed by some man who wanted to marry her,” Miss Darling. said. “This man followed her wherever she went and annoyed her frequently. I did not recognize him as the man responsible for the trouble which we met with in this city.”
Miss Dawn carried valuable jewelry and a quantity of costly diamonds on her person. She had these when seized on the street Sunday night. She was attired in a brown fur coat, black satin turbin [sic] hat, black dress and wore white cuffs.
She is especially attractive (and that’s not from the press agent either) and is a decided brunette. She is 16 years old, five feet three inches in height, and weighs 130 pounds.
What happened to Helen? Was Donna part of a publicity stunt? Another article clipping explains what happened.
‘Kidnaping’ Proves Just a Marriage
The life of a bathing beauty is not all water and swimming suits. For Helen Dawn, erstwhile member of a bathing girl troupe playing a local theater life today is made up of orange blossoms and bridal, traveling suits.
Helen, it now develops, after theatrical authorities have carried out a quiet search and investigation on their own part, was kidnaped by her lover, known only as ”Harry,” last Sunday night, just, as she with other girls was leaving the theater. A publicity stunt was suspected at first, but the continued absence of the girl brought home the serious aspect of the event.
Last, night a telegram from Helen Dawn, from Chicago, explained that she had gone to Chicago, to marry “Harry,’ that she was happy, and that impetuous “Harry” had adopted the “kidnaping” stunt as a means of breaking her contract.
They were going east for their honeymoon, the telegram stated.
Donna’s week in Peoria was exciting. Great fun selling tickets for the Legion and an apparent kidnaping right in front of her. (Although, it is possible that she was in on the marriage.)
The Apollo opened in 1914 could seat over 800 in its auditorium, The theater closed in 1958. In 1988 the Apollo was purchased and lovingly restored to its original appearance. Since 2001, it has housed the Apollo International Film Group, which screens foreign, classic and independent movies in an early 20th century setting. Today it is known as the Apollo Fine Arts and Entertainment Center.
I learned that Donna played at the Apollo in Peoria, IL the week 1 February 1925, which is a new venue for Donna. I also learned the cast names for her Bathing Beauties Revue.
I’d like to learn more about the careers of the other cast members. What was Christie Comedies. Did any of the cast become big names in show business? The people for me to research include:
Today, I look at the Rittenberry family and the life of Dora Effie Jane Chism Rittenberry Johnson of Tennessee.
Rittenberry Project 2017 – Ancestor #5
List of Grandparents
Grandmother: Dora Effie Jane Chism [Rittenberry] [Johnson]
1st Great-grandfather: John Wesley Chism
Dora Effie Jane Chism Rittenberry Johnson (1888-1946)
Dora Effie Jane Chism was one of the ten children of John Wesley and Charlotte (Clark) Chism. She was born 12 May 1888 in Putnam County, Tennessee and was the youngest of the three children of Charlotte living in 1900. Her older known living siblings were Amey and John Chism. The 1900 census reported that Charlotte had ten children only 3 of which were alive in 1900. The Chism surname is spelled in many different ways, Chism, Chisam, Chisem, and Chisholm in various documents. We also know that one of her sisters married an (unknown) Kinnaird and had two children, Kilmer and Clarence. She died before 1900, and her children are the grandchildren living with John Wesley and Charlotte in the 1900 Census.
In 1902, when Effie, as she came to be known, was only 14 years old, she married 20-year-old, William Dee Rittenberry. They had eight children. All of their children have since passed.
William Dee and Effie (Chism) Rittenberry’s Eight Children
Ethel Lee Rittenberry [Webb]
Evelyn Maybell Rittenberry [Stone]
Cecil Rose Rittenberry [Willoughby]
John D Rittenberry
T J Rittenberry
L B Rittenberry
William D Rittenberry, Jr.
Marguerite Lucile Rittenberry [Lindsey]
Through the years, the Rittenberry’s show up together in various locations in the area. In 1910 they were in Cookeville, Putnam County, in 1920 in Crawford, Overton County (about 30 miles away) and in 1930, back to Cookeville. Sometime in the 1920s, they lived in Algood, TN (about 5 miles from Cookeville).
On 9 August 1931, Effie was shot by her husband in the abdomen with a 32-caliber handgun. A newspaper article indicated that she was in critical condition and might die from the wound. Effie shot Dee as well in the chest, just missing his heart. Dee ran but was captured by the sheriff shortly after the double shooting. The Sherriff’s department said it was a domestic disturbance base upon jealousy. Both of them lived through
I have been unable to find the divorce record between Dee and Effie, but the gunfire exchange was probably reasonable grounds. I presume the divorce occurred sometime between August 1931 and March of 1940 because on 17 March 1940, Effie married Mike Johnson.
Dora Effie Jane Chism Rittenberry Johnson died on 14 June 1946 in Nashville, TN. She was buried in Shipley Cemetery in Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee
The Tennessean (Nashville, TN, ), Newspapers.com, 1931-08-10 Tennessean (Nashville, TN) Page 1. “Putnam Wife May Die; Husband Shot In Jealous Quarrel.”
Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963, Family Search, Cecil Rose Rittenberry. “Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963,” database with images, FamilySearch; citing Cemetery, Cookeville, Putnam, Tennessee, State Library and Archives, Nashville; FHL microfilm 2,137,360. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NS7C-X5B.
52 Ancestors – Week 198
By Don Taylor
Ezra Sanford was an American pioneer. Born in Vermont, after he received an inheritance from his father’s death, he headed west to settle in western New York. After a few years there, he headed west again and was one of the early settlers in Saline Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan.
Ezra Sanford was born on 19 August 1792 in Pownal, Bennington County, Vermont, the second child of Ezra and Mercy (Gay) Sanford. His older sister, Electa, was born in 1790 and his two younger sisters, Sally and Lucy were born in 1796 and 1799 respectively.
There is evidence of Ezra in the 1800 Census as the apparent male under 10 in the household of Ezra Sanford in Pownal, Bennington County, Vermont. Ezra’s father died in 1813 and Ezra received more than $1,100 in the settlement of the estate.
At the age of 27, in 1819, Ezra married Almira Chamberlin and located to Bergen, Genesee County New York. Marriage.
Sometime during the 1820s, Ezra and family located in Clarendon, Orleans County, New York, where they appear in the 1830 Census with Ezra as the head of a household consisting of five males, and two females.
The family emigrated from New York to Michigan in 1836. They stopped in Calhoun County for a short while then moved down to Noble County, Indiana. The next spring Ezra returned to Washtenaw County, Michigan and purchased 200 acres. He went back to New York and returned with his family to Washtenaw County.
The 1840 Census finds Ezra in Saline Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan, as the head of a household consisting of 8 Males and 2 Females.
In 1845, Ezra’s wife, Almira, died and Ezra moved back to Noble County, Indiana. He lived there for two years, met and married a woman named Sarah (LNU) about 1847. Ezra returned to Michigan, settling in Tecumseh, Lenawee County about 18 miles from Saline.
The 1850 Census finds just Ezra and Sarah living in Lenawee County, just the two of them in the household.
Sarah died 12 December 1854 and was buried in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan.
Ezra Sanford died on 1 August 1855 in Tecumseh. He was buried with both his wives at Benton Cemetery, Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan. It would be good to visit Benton Cemetery and learn exactly where Ezra, Almira, and Sarah are buried. In particular, learn if Ezra is nearer one or the other.
Further Actions / Follow-up
Try finding Ezra Sanford in the 1810 Census using FAN principles.
Research Orlo Sanford’s military experience.
Determine if Orlo and George were twins by determining their exact birthdates
Research Charles A. Sanford’s life, particularly his death.
Research Henry Sanford’s life. Did he die in 1834? If so, who was in the Ezra Sanford in 1840.
 Some researchers indicate that Henry died in 1834. I have been unable to find the source for that information. Additionally, there is evidence that Henry was included in the 1840 Census as one of the males 15-20 in the Ezra Sanford household.
 “The History of Washtenaw County” indicates that Orlo served in the Union army during Civil War and he was wounded at the second battle of Bull Run. Supposedly, he laid on the battlefield for four days; he was taken to a hospital at Washington, where he died, 34 days after the battle, from his wounds. I’d like to research his military experience further.
 It is not clear if Orio and George were twins or if the birth years are incorrect. Further research is required regarding their lives.
 Again, additional research is needed into the life of Charles A. Sanford.