Donna in Decatur, IL, at the Lincoln Square Theatre – Oct 30, 1919

Donna in Decatur, IL, at the Lincoln Square Theatre – Oct 30, 1919

Ad – Chin Chin Tonight
at the Lincoln Square Theatre
Decatur Review 10/30/1919 – pg 5
Via Newspapers.Com 
When Donna joined the “Chin Chin” company, the company had been on the road since August, 1818, sixty-five weeks.  The show had played from San Diego to San Francisco. It came to Decatur, Illinois, in October, 1919, and was the starting place to again cross the country, this time on a northern route to Seattle, Portland, and other cities in the Northwest.
After the Decatur performance many of chorus girls left the company to go home for a vacation. New girls joined the company there and rehearsed between shows and were to go on with the principals for the trip west once more. There was one new principle with them, the woman who sang the part of the “Goddess of the Lamp.” That new principal was Donna Montran. 
The Decatur Review had an interesting note about the demands that the show put on its company.  It said

NO SIX HOUR DAY HERE.

“Coal miners who think that six hours a day, five days a week, constitute a week’s work should travel with one of these transcontinental companies, which make long jumps to make one and two night stands.

“The company, which played here played at Hannibal, Mo. Wednesday, left that place Thursday morning at 5 o’clock, reached Decatur between 11 and 12 o’clock, played a matinee from 3 until 5:30 and another full performance that evening.”

According to the Decatur Review on October 31st, Chin Chin taxed the capacity of the Lincoln Square Theater. They also say:

PLEASE 2,600 PERSONS

“Donna Montran, who only recently joined the company as the leading soprano as the Goddess of the Lamp, lacked volume but the performance as a whole please the 2,600 people who saw it.

“The dancing was unusually good, the chorus well trained and the fifty-five people in the company were exceedingly well costumed.” 

Lincoln Square Theater

Lincoln Center Theatre – circa 1952
Courtesy: Haunted Decatur
In 1860, the Priest Hotel was built on the site, which some say was an ancient burial ground. The hotel’s name changed to the New Deming in 1880.  It again changed name in 1892 to the “Decatur and Arcade Hotel.”  The hotel burned in 1904. The hotel was rebuilt, but in 1915 it burned again.  Two people were confirmed to have died in the second fire and several other people were missing, their bodies having never been found. 
After the 1915 fire, the site was rebuilt, this time into the Lincoln Square Theater. It was built with a fireproof intent using steel, cement, and fireproof brick. The theater hosted many celebrities of the time including Houdini and Ethel Barrymore.  Jack Dempsey appeared there in the September before Donna and the Chin Chin company was there in October.
Since the 1930s the theater has been considered haunted. 
The theater had a difficult time during the heyday of motion pictures and closed after December 1980, except for an occasional music show. It closed completely in 1990.  
However, also in 1990, Lincoln Square Theater, Inc., was established to determine the viability of saving the structure. Studies of the building found it to be sound and activities were undertaken to renovate and restore the facility. Several donations helped stabilize the building in the 1990s and in 2004, a $1.75M grant for restoration was received. Restoration began in 2005 and is currently ongoing.
Despite the renovation and restoration the Lincoln Square Theater is still considered to be one of the most haunted theaters in the country.  Troy Taylor has a regular tour of haunted places in Decatur which includes the Lincoln Square Theater. See http://www.haunteddecatur.com/ for details of his tours. 

Lincoln Theater Today

The Lincoln Theatre (Most Terrifying Places in America)

Sources:

Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) · Sun, Nov 2, 1919 · Page 16 – via Newspapers.com
Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) Thur, Oct 30, 1919, page 5 Via Newspapers.com
Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) · Fri, Oct 31, 1919 · Page 10 – via Newspapers.com
Where The Ghosts Live – America’s Most Haunted Theater – The Lincoln – Decatur, IL 
YouTube

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More Findings about Donna though Newspapers.Com

More Findings about Donna 
In my search for Donna and her activities in show business, I went ahead and subscribed to Newspapers.Com.  They are one of the top newspaper subscription sites and well worth having a subscription.

A search on “Montran” found many new articles regarding Donna.  For example, I learned that Donna had joined the company of “Chin Chin” earlier than I had previously thought.  In an October 31th newspaper, Donna, “who only recently joined the company” was called out in an article about pleasing the audience of 2600 people at the Lincoln Square theater. They also mention she didn’t have enough volume but we’ll ignore that opinion.)

Interior of the Walker Theater, Winnipeg, Canada about 1990
Courtesy: Canada’s Historic Places

I was also able to find several other personal call-outs as well as several more showings of “Chin Chin” around the country, including a six-day showing in Winnipeg, Canada.

Other new findings that I still need to research and blog about include:

Jan 19-24, 1920 – Winnipeg, Canada – Walker Theatre
Feb 12, 1920 – Eau Claire, WI – The Nelson – Callout!
Feb 15, 1920 – Logansport, IN – Nelson Theater.
Feb 19, 1920 – Fort Wayne, Majestic Theater. 
Feb 23, 1920 – Muskegon, MI – Regent
Feb 25, 1920 – Bay City, MI – Washington Theater
Feb 26, 1920 – Saginaw, MI – Auditorium
Feb 28, 1920 – Ann Arbor, MI – Whitney Theater
Mar 1, 1920 – Baltimore – Auditorium

(I can’t wait to write about the Walker Theater.  It has been renovated and is currently a Performing Arts Theater of renown.)

There were also many other findings for other shows after her “Chin Chin” performances that I will also need to research further.  Add to that a list of other engagements I received from Uncle Russ (Donna’s son) so, I have lots more research to do about each of these engagements. I should remain busy with the life of Madonna for a long time to come.

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Relationships key to finding the Stelmaszewski’s

Genealogy Tip

Relationships key to finding the Stelmaszewski’s 

A very good friend of mine has been doing genealogy for a while ran into something of a brick wall.  He found his family in the 1940 Census and even his great-grandparents in the 1930 Census, but he was not finding anything for them before that.  We were pretty sure that they arrived at Ellis Island on 20 Jun 1892, so they should have shown up in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses as well.
I did a quick look on Ancestry and on Family Search and wasn’t successful finding anything either. I know that if you asked several people how to spell Stelmaszewski you would receive several different spellings. Trying to figure out how the surname is spelled in a case like this can be daunting. So I took a surname unknown approach.  I used Ancestry.Com because both my friend and I have subscriptions there.
   
Next, I took stock of a few things we did know.  His grandmother’s name was Priscilla Helen Stelmaszewski and her parents were Frank (or Franz) and Katherine.  We knew Priscilla was born in 1907 in Minnesota.
On Ancestry.Com I went immediately to the 1920 Census records via the Card Catalog (Search | Card Catalog | 1920 United States Federal Census). 
First & Middle Names:  Priscilla Helen  

Last Name: (Left Blank)

Birth:  1907   Location: Minnesota
Then down to family members,
Father:  Frank
Then I added another 
Mother: Katherine
Search…
Bang.  Second entry:
A review of the record confirmed that was them, right age for mother, father, and daughter. Right places of birth.  And wow.  Not only them but eight siblings for Priscilla.  
Then I tried the same kind of search in the 1910 Census records.  Boo-hoo no luck.  
I tried several other combinations and didn’t hit on a combination that found them (remember, I’m not using a last name).  
I tried using Frank/Franz with a child named Victoria (usually quite readable and spell able). 
That gave me about 126 thousand responses and none on the first page that looked right.  I knew from the 1930 census that Priscilla’s older siblings were also born in Minnesota so I figured that they might have been in Minnesota in 1920 as well. Also Frank had been born in Poland about 1864 so I went with that too. 
Still too many records (I hate going down to a second or third page).  They lived in Pine County in 1930, maybe they did in 1920 also.  I added that as exact.
Again, there they were.
I used a similar technique to find them in the 1900 Census.
Because I know that Minnesota had an 1895 and a 1905 census I was able to search (leaving out the last name) and including either relationships to children or the location of Pine County to follow the family and see the spellings used for their surname.
1892 – Stelmaszewski (Ellis Island Passenger Record)
Stillmaziski (1895 Census) via Ancestry.Com
1895 – Stillmaziski (Minnesota Census)
1900 – Stetmaszewski (US Census)
1905 – Stelmazewki (Minnesota Census)
1910 – Stelinaszewski (US Census)
1920 – Stetenzki (US Census)
1930 – Stelmaszewski (US Census)
Stetenzki (1920 Census) – via Amazon.com
1940 – Scelmaszewski (US Census) (Living with daughter and son in law)

Although the name changed many times in the census schedules, we were able to fill in the entire census record of the family based upon relationships and locations without using last names at all.

© copyright 2014 – Don Taylor’s Genealogy

52 Ancestors: #2 – Henry Wolcott

Biography – Henry Wolcott (1611-1680)
The earliest immigrant I’ve been able to find in my family is my 10th great-grandfather, Henry Wolcott. Now, I  know that I have 512 10th great-grandfathers and that Henry is only one of them, but I can’t imagine an ancestor any more illustrious life than Henry.  

Henry was born on January 21, 1610/11.[1] When I learned the date, I wondered why the date seemed unsure. Was it 1610 or 1611. I had seen some other dates like that and had wondered, but with Henry, I had to understand.
I thought about it and recalled my American history and knew that something was weird with the calendar.  For example, I know that George Washington was born on Feb 11, 1731 but we celebrate his birthday as February 22, 1732.[2]
The reason why is that in 1752, England changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Because they hadn’t been doing leap years correctly the calendar jumped 11 days. So, the day after September 2nd, 1752 was September 14th, 1752.[3]  I’m sure the intent was to further confound genealogists today, the years were shifted as well. I’m not sure I get all the nuances in shifting the dates and years, but the bottom line is that when Henry Wolcott was born the Julian Calendar was in use and the year was 1610, looking back on his life, we users of the Gregorian Calendar would say his was born in 1611.
It is so awesome to find a book about an ancestor’s life. Chandler Wolcott, published a book about Henry’s life in 1875 which is available on Amazon.Com.  Much of the information I have about Henry’s life came from that book.
   
I haven’t had a chance to thoroughly research when Henry came to America, but it was before April, 1634. We know that because, on April 1st, 1634, Henry was “admitted a freeman” by the General Court at Boston (Suffolk County, Massachusetts).  A “freeman” at that time was a person who was given the right to vote because they were over 21, had property worth a certain amount, and fulfilled some other requirements including being adjudged such by the court. When Henry was adjudged a freeman, he was a member of the Dorchester Church. The family, didn’t stay in Dorchester long and in 1636 the family moved to Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut along with the Congregationalists to get away from the puritans. 
On 18 November 1641 Henry married Sarah Newberry. After 14 months, their first child, Henry, was born. Their third child, Samuel Wolcott, was born in 1647 and died only seven months later, on May 10th. 
In the spring of 1654, it appears that Henry returned to England for business.  
On 30 May, 1655, Henry’s father Henry (senior) died. His mother, Elizabeth Saunders Wolcott died 6 weeks later on 7 July, 1655.  Henry was the oldest living son and received the family land in England as well as Henry senior’s two “Books of Martyrs.”[4]  Henry was also the overseer of the will.
Following the sadness of 1655, my 9th great-grandfather, Samuel was born. Samuel was the first boy child born to the Wolcotts after the death of their other son Samuel and was given his name. Another son, Josiah, was born after that.
Henry entered politics. In 1660, Henry was elected to the House of Delegates. 
Courtesy: Bauman Rare Books
In 1662, Connecticut received a charter from His Majesty, King Charles, II. The document was more than a just charter, it was a constitution. It was the first constitution in the colonies and gave the colonists many rights including the right to hold popular elections.  It also provided for checks and balances of the government. Another action was forcing the New Haven colony to become part of the Connecticut colony.  Had that not occurred, who knows, there might be a state of New Haven today – Possibly three little states in a line, Connecticut, New Haven and Rhode Island.  In that original charter document Henry Wilcox is one of the nineteen people identified  as one of the appointed founders of the colony. 
The 1662 Charter of Connecticut is an extremely important document, so much so that Connecticut is know as the “Constitution State.” So, when ever I see a Connecticut license plate that says “Constitution State” I will think of my 10th Great-grandfather, Henry Wilcox and remember our family was a big part of Connecticut history.
Henry Wilcox served Connecticut in the House of Magistrates from its founding in 1662 until his death, 12 July, 1680.
I haven’t had time to check or verify other ancestors of the Wolcott family.  I have seen on the Internet that Sir. John Wolcott was mayor of London in 1403 is an ancestor and that another Sir John Wolcott, of Wales in the 11th century may be our earliest known ancestor.
Because of our family’s relationship to Henry Wilcox, there are several lineage societies that we may be eligible to join including:

Daughters of the American Colonists (Females only)
Order of First Families in Connecticut 
Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford (Probably not. I think this is for Hartford only and not Hartford County.)

I have much more research to do on Henry Wolcott and the Wolcott line. His life alone could be the subject of a complete book. 

Our Great Lineage:

Arthur Durwood Brown’s mother was
Marion Sanford, whose mother was
Mary E. Parsons, whose father was 
Chester Parsons, whose mother was 
Mary Wolcott, whose father was 
Samuel Wolcott, whose father was also
Samuel Wolcott, whose father was also
Samuel Wolcott, whose father was also 
Samuel Wolcott, (yup, four of them in a row) whose father was
Henry Wilcott 

Footnotes:

[1] The Family of HENRY WOLCOTT by Chandler Wolcott  is available on Amazon.
[2] Confirmed on the National Archives website, http://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/washington/
[4] The Book of Martyrs: A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Deaths of the Early Christian and Protestant Martyrs by John Foxe was an extremely important book in its day.  It is still a classic and highly recommended for Protestants who wish to know about early Christian and Protestant history. 

52 Ancestors: #1 – Elizabeth Jane Swayze Wisemen Darling

Ancestor Sketch

Elizabeth Jane Swayze Wisemen Darling

The Challenge: 

Thanks to Caroline Porter’s blog, 4yourfamilystory.com, (A blog I subscribe to and read daily.) I learned of a blogging challenge issued by Amy Johnson Crow on her blog www.nostorytoosmall.com to post each week – that is 52 ancestors in 50 weeks. It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, or an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on a specific ancestor. I thought that I’ve been kind of trying to do that but I haven’t been as successful in keeping up that schedule.  So, I decided to take the challenge.  I thought I’m probably good for now, I just blogged about my grandmother. I looked back at my blog and realized that I wrote Donna back on the 31st.  Closing out the year with Donna’s vaudeville activities was a great ending to the years.  I still have literally hundreds of documents and artifacts and gazillions of research activities I need to do to write her story, but, I didn’t want to ignore the other stories.  So, with the Donna blog last year and it already the 7th of January, I need to get busy.  Who to blog about was the next question.
To help me with that I’ve decided to continue my past practice and write about someone whose birthday is within the following week. I also believe I have enough known direct ancestors that I can keep to direct ancestors and not need to do uncles and aunts. So, I opened up each of my research trees and printed a calendar for the next three months identifying the birth dates for direct ancestors only.  On weeks that I don’t have an ancestor whose birthday I know I’ll blog about the challenges in researching someone in particular.  This week, week 1, I start with:

Elizabeth Jane Swayze Wiseman Darling

Elizabeth Jane Swayze with born on 13 January 1818 in Rushville, Ohio.  She was the oldest of eight children born to David and Catherine Swayze. Her paternal grandfather, David Swayze (senior) fought for the revolution serving as a private in New Jersey.  Her parents had moved from New Jersey to Virginia and on to Ohio, where she was born.  In 1818, Ohio had been a state for about 15 years and had a growing population of about a half a million in the entire state. Rushville wasn’t yet a true village, but, it’s the first church, Methodist, had been built as a log cabin eight years earlier and it was growing.  Actually, we aren’t really sure if she was born in Rushville or if that is where later documents indicate she was born because it was the closest town.  She may have been born in New Salem, Ohio, about eight miles away.
In any event, in 1820, the Swayze’s lived in what is now New Salem, Ohio. Sometime before 1841 the Swayze’s moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1841 Elizabeth married Isaac Wiseman. By 1841, the Swayze’s were prominent in Kalamazoo. By 1846, Elizabeth’s father had been the treasurer for the Kalamazoo County Bible Society, on the Board of Directors for the First Methodist Episcopal Church, a member of the Kalamazoo Clay Club (a political party named after Henry Clay), a village trustee, and an “Overseer of the Poor” for the Village of Kalamazoo.
Isaac married into a prominent family and things were looking great for the couple. Their daughter, Mary Catherine Wiseman (Kate) was born to them in late 1841.  Isaac died in 1845.
Elizabeth quickly remarried. On August 27th,  1846, she married Rufus Holton Darling.
Rufus was an up and coming young man from Rome, New York.  In the couple years Rufus had been in Kalamazoo, he built and opened the first store in Kalamazoo, the “Darling and Goss General Store.” Also, in 1945, Rufus had received a contract from the Michigan Central Railway to build the railway from Michigan City through to Grass Lake.
Their first child, Abner C. Darling, was named after Rufus’s father and was born shortly after the marriage. In September 1847, a daughter was born (I’m sure to just confuse genealogists) that they named Elizabeth J Darling. In 1850, Elizabeth’s father, David, died.
Picture adapted from a screen shot of a map available for sale from
In 1852, the couple experienced the joy of having twins.  Eva and Emily were born on the 24th of July. Only a year later, in 1853 tragedy struck; the twins got sick — deathly sick. I believe that it was tuberculosis. Eva died and Emily never fully recovered. Emily was frequently sick and bedridden; she lived with her mother for the rest of Elizabeth’s life.  Although Rufus fathered a son, Rufus Harry Darling on June 20th, 1857, Rufus’s (senior) remaining life was that of a sick man. Rufus senior died two months after Rufus junior’s birth of consumption.
Elizabeth’s mother died in 1868.
In 1869 Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth married Melville James Bigelow, a former grocer, windmill manufacturer, and then founder and vice-president of Kalamazoo National Bank.
Sometime before 1880, Elizabeth’s older daughter, Kate, moved home to help take care of Elizabeth and Emily.
In 1881, Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth, died.
(Photo thanks to Find-a-Grave)
Elizabeth, the mother, lived at the northwest corner of Rose and Cedar from before the Civil War until her death, March 25th, 1896.  She, along with Rufus Holton, Emily, Eva, Elizabeth (the daughter) and Rufus Harry are all buried at Mountain Home Cemetery, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
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Sources: 
Because I upgraded from FTM Mac 2 to FTM Mac 3, my sources for this article are jumbled and corrupted.  (See my blog article.) It will take quite a while to correct the files, or else I will need to go back to FTM Mac 2 and lose any work I’ve done over the past few weeks on this tree.