Donna Darling Collection – Part 16

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

(Continued from Part 15)

Bathing Girl Is Kidnaped or Just Kidding

Police Join in a Search, But Press Agent Yarn Theory Advanced

newspaper clipping: Bathing Girl Is Kidnaped or Just KiddingAlthough 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.

Clipping "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

clipping: "Kidnapping" proves Just a MarriageThe 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.)

Apollo Theater

Photo of the Apollo Theater, Peoria, IL
Apollo Theater, Peoria, IL – Photo courtesy “Granola” via Cinema Treasurers.

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:

  • Betty Bryant – Miss America from Ziegfeld’s
  • Mildred O’Brian – From Sennett’s
  • Clarice Allyn – Christie Comedies
  • Alyce Louyse – Christie Comedies
  • Rose Lasgo – Acrobatic Dancing
  • Florence Rielliso – Spectacular Dancing
  • [Murray] Earle – Christie Comedies
  • [Al] Ross – Christie Comedies
  • Helen Dawn – Hollywood Society Girl

Ancestor Bio – Dora Effie Jane Chism

Rittenberry Project
By Don Taylor

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)

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at
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

Name [Married] Birth Death
Ethel Lee Rittenberry [Webb] 1904 1980
Evelyn Maybell Rittenberry [Stone] 1907 2001
Cecil Rose Rittenberry [Willoughby] 1909 1945
John D Rittenberry 1913 1979
T J Rittenberry 1917 1957
L B Rittenberry 1920 1976
William D Rittenberry, Jr. 1923 2005
Marguerite Lucile Rittenberry [Lindsey] 1925 2004

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

Photo of the marker of Effie Rittenberry Johnson
Marker – Effie Rittenberry Johnson (1889 – 1946) – Photo by imagal49 (#47223808) via Find-a-Grave

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

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Find Mike and Effie Johnson in the 1940 Census.






Ancestor Bio – Ezra Sanford (1792-1855)

52 Ancestors – Week 198
Brown-Sanford Line
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.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.

Roberts-Brown 2017 – Ancestor #100

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: Richard Earl Brown (1903-1990)
  • 1st Great-grandfather: Arthur Durwood Brown(1869-1928)
  • 2nd Great-grandmother: Marion Sanford (1846- c. 1895)
  • 3rd Great-grandfather: William M Sanford(1824-1915)
  • 4th Great-grandfather: Ezra Sanford (1792-1855)
  • 5th Great-grandfather: Ezra Clugston Sanford (1763-1813)
  • 6TH Great-grandfather: Amos Gilbert Sanford

Ezra Sanford (1792-1855)


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.

Ezra and Almira had nine children:

Child Born Married Death
Ezra Sanford 1820 (18??) Cornelia Merrill circa. 1900
William M Sanford 1823 (1845) Mary Electa Parsons 1915
Henry Sanford 1824 Unknown?[1]
Amos Sanford 1827 1849
Ann Maria Sanford 1829 (bef. 1880) Amzy George Crane 1898
John W Sanford 1831 1853
Orlo Sanford 1835 1862[2]
George Poindexter Sanford 1835[3] 1900
Charles A Sanford 1838 Unknown[4]


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.

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at

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.


Photo of Sanford Marker - Benton Cemetery
Sanford Marker – Benton Cemetery (Photo by  Michael Christiaens via Find a Grave)

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.


1800 Census (FS), Family Search, Ezra Sanford – Pownal, Bennington, Vermont.

1820 Census (FS), Family Search, 1820 – Ezra Sanford – Bergen, Genesee, New York.

1830 Census (FS), Family Search, Ezra Sanford – Clarendon, Orleans, New York.

1840 Census (FS), Family Search, 1840 Census – Ezra Sanford – Saline Township, Washtenaw, Michigan.

1850 Census (FS) (NARA), Family Search, 1850 Census – Ezra Sanford – Franklin, Lenawee, Michigan.

“Brown Genealogy” compiled by Dawn Melcher, (14 Dec 2015), Personal Files, Section: SANFORD, EZRA (2) AND ALMIRA CHAMBERLAIN.

Find a Grave, Find a Grave, Ezra Sanford (1792-1855) – Memorial# 54498603.

Michigan Death Certificates, William Sanford – Charlotte, Eaton, Michigan.

Michigan, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, Ancestry.Com, Ezra Sanford – 1845 State Census Index, Page 008.

“History of Washtenaw County Michigan” by Pioneer Society of Washtenaw County (Mich.), William Sanford – Pages 1408 and 1409.

Vermont, Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999, Ancestry.Com, Probate – Ezra Sanford (1753-1813) – Page 17 (00404).

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[1] 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.

[2] “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.

[3] It is not clear if Orio and George were twins or if the birth years are incorrect. Further research is required regarding their lives.

[4] Again, additional research is needed into the life of Charles A. Sanford.


Donna Darling Collection – Part 15

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Donna Darling and Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Beauties at the Apollo, 1 Feb 1925 in Peoria, IL

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at clippings from the Donna Darling Collection relating to her playing at the Apollo Theatre in Peoria, IL, in 1925.

Newspaper clipping - Ad - Apollo Theater showing Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Beauties.Donna’s clippings from her time in Peoria are some of the most interesting clippings that I have. First, there is a list of her Bathing Beauties cast, a never seen before photo of Donna, and a good description of the show and what various individuals are doing. Second, there is something of a mystery for me to solve regarding the date she played in Peoria and the Apollo. Third, there is additional press about Donna and her troupe of beauties supporting the local American Legion. Finally, there is a mystery of the kidnapping of one of her cast members.

The Apollo advertisement provides the names of her entire cast and a claim to fame. They were:

  • Donna Darling – Mack Sennett’s Prize Winner
  • Betty Bryant – Miss America from Ziegfeld’s
  • Mildred O’Brian – From Sennett’s
  • Clarice Allyn – Christie Comedies
  • Alyce Louyse – Christie Comedies
  • Rose Lasgo – Acrobatic Dancing
  • Florence Rielliso – Spectacular Dancing
  • [Murray] Earle – Christie Comedies
  • [Al] Ross – Christie Comedies
  • Helen Dawn – Hollywood Society Girl

There is also an amazing clipping of Donna, leaning back showing a leg.

Hollywood Revue of
Bathing Beauties Is
Special at Apollo

Bathing beauties from various motion picture studios of California will appear in a special Hollywood revue at the Apollo theater for one week beginning Sunday, February 1. Miss Donna Darling, who features in this revue, is the well-known star from Sennett’s. She is the originator of the principal part of “Chin Chin,” the famous musical play. She has won beauty prizes in Boston, New. York and San Francisco. Her dancing is excellent and her lyrical songs are surpassed only by her clever and pleasing personality. She presents the bathing girls of 1860 and follows them to the present day when Betty Bryant in a crimson bathing suit represents “Miss America of Today.”

Bathers from various famous beaches appear in charming costumes. Clever Clarice Celynn [sic – s/b Allyn] represents the Chinese toe dancer. Allyce Louyse, the Hawaiian bather, and Mildred O’Brien from Christie, dance to snappy music preceding a spectacular balloo [sic] dance in the “Bathers from Mars.”

When Miss Darling left the coast she was followed by two life guards: Murray Earle, formerly a specialty dancer of “George White Scandals,” and Al Ross, late of Christie. These life guards are eccentric dancers who add comedy to the revue.

Special scenic and lighting effects elaborate this unusual attraction. The costumes are elaborate from the opening of the revue to its end, at which time Miss Darling appears in a rhinestone bathing suit.

“Fifth Avenue Models,” a picture completes the program.

Date Problem?

Second, I was a bit confused about the date of the show. Several clippings indicate the show began on February 1st, however, the movie that was playing with her show is identified in IMDb and Wikipedia has having been released on April 25, 1925, nearly three months after Donna’s playing.[i], [ii] It is unusual for a silent film to have been playing in a theater nine months after its release, so I was confused. I found that the British Film Institute indicates the film was released in 1924.  Finally, the December 3, 1924 issue of Los Angeles Times has a preview of the film released by Universal.[iii] I have also found it playing at several other theaters long before April 25th; so, I’m convinced that both IMDb and Wikipedia are incorrect in their release dates.

Beauties help American Legion

Third, there are two clippings relating to the ‘Bathing Beauties” helping the American Legion.

I just love photos and a photo of the girls from the revue in their bathing suits is fantastic.

“The above is a picture of Donna Darling, Mack Sennett’s prize winner, and eight other Hollywood bathing beauties who will auction tickets to “Buddies,” the American Legion comedy success, next Tuesday, beginning at 12 o’clock noon, in front of The Journal-Transcript building. “Buddies” will be staged by the Gifford Players at the Hippodrome theater all this week. The legion’s proceeds from all advance sale tickets will go toward a home for ex-service men. Donna Darling and her troupe of vamps are appearing at the Apollo theater this week in a song and dance revue.

Although it mentions Donna and eight others, sadly, there is only Donna and six others in the image.

There is also a simple, follow-up article which states:

Bathing Beauties
Sell 224 Tickets
For Legion’s Show

Pedestrians who passed by The Journal office today noon failed to resist the beauty and smiles of the “Bathing Beauties” who are now playing at a Peoria theater, and who proved themselves good saleswomen. During their brief selling campaign today, they sold 224 tickets for “Buddies,” the show now playing at the Hippodrome theater for the benefit of Peoria Post No. 2, American Legion. The position left vacant by Helen Dawn, who is missing from the cast, is being taken by Mildred O’Brien. No trace of the Dawn girl has been found, according to members of the troupe.

The last sentence of the above article brings me to the kidnapping of Helen Dawn. I’ll post about that next week in Part 16 of the Donna Darling Collection.


[i] Internet: IMDb – Fifth Avenue Models (1925)

[ii] Internet: Wikipedia – Fifth Avenue Models

[iii] The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) · Wed, Dec 3, 1924 · Page 58 (Pre-view section page 11) – Accessed via –

Probate Record – Ezra Sanford – Sales Paper – Part 2 of 2

Transcription Tuesday
Transcription by Don Taylor

(See Part 1 of 2 here)

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.

This week, for “Transcription Tuesday,” I continue looking at the Probate Record for Ezra Sanford of Bennington County, Vermont[i], who died in 1813. The “Sales Papers” consisted of a cover page and two handwritten pages. The cover page indicated that this was the “Division of Ezra Sanford Estate. Recorded Book 5th Page 234 to 237 by Jona E Robinson, Register.” It also indicates that it was received, examined, allowed and ordered to be recorded on October 4th, 1813.

Page 2 of the Sales Papers:

There up ?? brook to the foot of the Ridge, there over the ridge
on her Mama;s East line to Timothy Barbers land, thence East
ward on ?? Barber & Isaac Henshals Line to Road at the foot
of the Ridge, thence up the North line of the Road to the Road
that leads Northward to Isaac Heshels & thence Northward
on the West Line of ?? Road to the ??? began at.

We also set to Lucy Sanford the following piece of Land, beginning
at a stake on the south side of the road in the East Line
of the old Williams Lot so called, thence on the East Line of
?? Lot southword to Josiah Wentwout Northward corner
& so in southward on ?? Wistcounts line to Benjamin Bakers Land
Thence on ?? Barber Land westward to the Road thence North
aly on the Road to Timothy Barber Land thence Eastward
by an ?? Timothy Line to the Mill Brook thence down
the mill brook to the Mill, thence on the Mill lane to
the road, then easterly on the south side of the road to the
first bound, also we set to Lucy thirty acres of wood
land lying on the south side of the wood lot & east
of the line that leads by Elis Dunhams lying in a regular
form __ __ __ __

Ezra Sanford had received one thousand
one hundred and thirty three dollars and ninety in credits
Electa Sanford had received sixty five dollars & forty seven
cents in advance.
Sally Sanford had received seventy nine dollars and thirty three cents
& Lucy Sanford had received sixty-one dollars and eighty three cents —

??? 20th September 1813 we have attended to the business
of our appointment and decided the landed estate of Ezra
Sanford late of Pownal deceased as above described & have also
dre?? the personal estate amongst the widow and lawful

We the undersigned ??? { Jos?? Blackinton }
our ratification to this division by { Jebadiah Faunhan }
countersigning the same { Isaac Kimbell }

Mercy Sanford
Sally Sanford
Lucy Sanford
Ezra Sanford



Paragraphs above are mine for my clarity, not the original writer.

  • —————

Facts I learned

  • Ezra Sanford left a large estate, many parcels of land and over $1000 in cash.
  • Lucy Sanford inherited two pieces of land.
  • Ezra, Electa, Sally, and Lucy all received money.
  • I noted: Electa did not sign the division agreement.
  • Mercy, Sally, Lucy, and Ezra were all living on 20 Sep 1813.


NOTE:  The Cambridge Dictionary defines “transcribe” as to “make a complete written record of spoken or written words.” My transcriptions are seldom perfect but I do my best to convert handwritten documents into typed words for my genealogical purposes.  If you see anything that I have incorrect or can interpret the words I have ??ed, please let me know your thoughts via the Contact Form at the bottom of the page.


[i] Vermont, Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Vermont, Bennington County, Bennington District, Probate Records; Author: Vermont. Probate Court (Bennington District); Probate Place: Bennington, Vermont – Entry for Ezra Sanford Probate – Page 16 (00404).