Where my Ancestors were 100 years ago.

Mappy Monday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.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.

Map of my Ancestor locations in 1917.
My Ancestor Locations in 1917.

Paternal Side:

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.

 

Maternal side

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.

Thoughts

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 a birthplace 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.


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Donna Darling Collection – Part 12

Family Photos #1 – Russell, Donna, & Sammy

Treasure Chest Thursday

by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.This week I took a look at ten photos from the Donna Darling Collection. Unfortunately, three of the photos were blurry or otherwise unusable. Of the remaining seven photos, five included uncle Russ as a child. One showed Russell and Donna and one showed Russ with Sammy.  One photo showed all three. There were also two additional photos of Donna but both were family type photos and not part of her vaudeville life.

Some of the photos were badly damaged but I was able to clean them up significantly. For each of the photos, I have:

  • Original scanned image.
  • Original cropped image.
  • Edited PSD (Adobe Photoshop Elements) image
  • Edited JPG image

With each edited version of the photo, I added a caption.  I am certain about the individuals shown, however, the dates are by guess and by golly.

Names:

Sammy, Russell, & Donna at the Beach, circa 1928.
Sammy, Russell, & Donna at the Beach, circa 1928.

Donna was born Madonna Montran. She used Donna Montran in her early vaudeville days. She then used Donna Darling as her stage name. I don’t believe that she ever used the surname Amsterdam.  Sometime after 1935, Donna lived with a man named Russell Kees. Although I don’t believe that Donna and Russell were ever married, Donna and her two children, Russell and Sylvia began using the Kees surname.  Sammy was born Samson Amsterdam. He used the stage name of Sammy Clark for many years. If the names aren’t confusing to you, you are good.

I have uploaded the seven photos to Google Photos. The downloads from Google Photos are generally of sufficient quality to work for most situations.  However, if you need a higher quality image of any of the photos let me know and I’ll send you one.

 

Donna at the Bijou – New Haven, CT

Donna Darling Collection – Part 8

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

This week’s Treasure Chest Thursday is clipping regarding Donna and her Bathing Beauties playing at the Bijou. The accompanying clipping indicates that the article was in “THE NEW HAVEN JOU,” so it appears to be the Bijou of New Haven, Connecticut. A quick check of Cinema Treasures indicated that there was a Bijou Theater in New Haven at that time.[1]

The next question is when did she play there.  There is no date with the clipping. A search of the newspapers available online did not provide any help.  However, IMDb to the rescue. They indicate the movie was released on 7 November 1920.  Consequently, I would expect that this showing would have occurred sometime within two months of the release date. We also know that Donna played in Bridgeport, CT on December 29th & 30th and possibly on December 20th.  With that in mind, it fits that Donna and her Bathing Beauties played the Bijou in New Haven, CT sometime in November or December, 1920.

All attendance records were broken at the Bijou theater yesterday during the initial appearance of that bib combined all star vaudeville and moving picture bill, which is headed by Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties, and George Walsh in “The Plunger.” There isn’t a dull moment on the bill and yesterday’s audiences showed their appreciation by prolonged applause throughout the entire performance.

Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties lived up to all the good things that had been said about them and presented a production that was a delight to the eye.

Also on the bill:

  • Katheyn Arnold and George L. Cohan.
  • Henry Sykes
  • Billy Bowman
  • The Carpas Bros.

New Engagement Added:

Unknown Date: [Nov-Dec] 1920 – New Haven, CT – Bijou – Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties.


References:

  1. Cinema Treasurers – Bijou Theater – 28 Church Street, New Haven, CT 06510
  2. IMDb – The Plunger Release Date: 7 November 1920.

Donna Darling and the Boys

Donna Darling Collection – Part 7

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Donna Darling with Murray Walker & Jack Finney, circa 1922
Donna Darling with Murray Walker & Jack Finney – 1922

The searching, the hunt to understand a page, a photo from the Donna Darling Collection is always fun. Item #7 of the collection is a photograph of Donna with two men. Accompanying newspaper clippings suggest that the photo is of her with Murray Walker and Jack Finney. Donna did a show with Walker and Finney in 1922 called, “As You Like It” although I have also seen it referred to as “Donna Darling and The Boys.”

With just a little touching up, it provided a great photo of Donna and one showing Murray Walker and Jack Finney. Also, with it is a clipping of an ad showing them as the headliner at the Majestic. Sadly, the ad doesn’t show which Majestic theater it was – and there are several.

So, I searched for shows where Donna where and when this Majestic show might have taken place. I quickly found where Donna and the Boys played the Majestic in Harrisburg, PA on April 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1822. Then I realized the accompanying acts weren’t the same as the clipping from the Donna Collection.  I continued searching but still haven’t found the Majestic and show from Donna’s scrapbook.

Majestic (Keith Vaudeville) ad - Unknown date or locationThe two new venues I did find for Donna and the Boys are:

March 27, 28, 29, 1922 – Pittsburgh, PA – Sheridan Square – Donna Darling assisted by Murray Walker & Jack Finney in “As You Like It.”[i]

April 6, 7, 8, 1922 – Harrisburg, PA – Majestic ([ii]Keith Vaudeville) with Murray Walker & Jack Finney in “As You Like It.”

Also, I found a brief note in the New York Clipper about Donna playing

July 1, 2, 1923- Keokuk, IA – Regent – Donna Darling & Co.[iii]

So, three new venues for Donna and a great photo touched up.  It is a great day.

FOLLOWUP

Search further for the Donna and the Boys show at another Majestic Theater that included the accompanying acts above.

Research the show in March 1922, in Pittsburgh, PA and research the Sheridan Square theater

Research the show in April 1922 in Harrisburg, PA and the Majestic Theater.

Research the show in July 1923 in Keokuk, IA and the Regent Theater.


ENDNOTES

[i] 1922-03-26 – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA) Page 44 “Sheridan Square.”

[ii] 1922-04-07 – The Evening News (Harrisburg, PA) – Page 22 “Best Show at Majestic.”

[iii] 1923-06-27 – New York Clipper – Page 21 – “Vaudeville Bills Next Week.”

Donna in a Roland West sketch at Keeney’s

February, March, and April, 1919.

Records about Donna’s early vaudeville years are sparse. For example, I know that the January 31,, 1919, issue of Variety, under New Acts mentions, “Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler in a new sketch by Roland West.”[i] We also see an ad for them in the same issue of “Variety.” From that issue of Variety, we have no idea what the show was about, where it played, nor who Trixie Bressler and Roland West are.

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Weekly, Jan 31, 1919, Page 59

In the February 28th issue, we learn that Donna and Trixie are “Two Girls with a Single Thought: TO ENTERTAIN YOU. [ii]

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Magazine, Feb 28, 1919, Page 67

Two weeks later, we learn that Trixie appears to have been replaced. Donna Montran and Jessie Kennison are now the “Two Girls with a Single Thought: To ENTERTAIN YOU.” We also learn the show is playing at Keeney’s, Newark, and Keeney’s Brooklyn for the week beginning March 17th.[iii]

Crop of Montran and Kennison ad
Variety Magazine, March 14, 1919

A month later, things seem confusing because Trixie is back. They are still playing at Keeney’s Newark but only doing four shows.[iv]  Was Trixie gone for a couple weeks or was the ad showing Jessie Kennison a mistake.

Crop of ad Montran and Bressler
Variety Magazine, April 14, 1919

Finally, a week later, on April 21, Variety runs one final ad for Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler that doesn’t have any dates or places for the two.

Roland West

Roland West became known as a Hollywood director. Born in 1885, he began acting in vaudeville productions as a teenager. In his early 20s, he was writing and directing Vaudeville productions. He went to California and in 1925 he directed the classic silent film, The Monster, with Lon Chaney, Sr.[v] He also directed the 1929 film Alibi which was nominated for three Academy Awards.[vi]

Trixie Bressler

I know very little about Trixie. I do know that she was a young dancer. In May 1918, she presented a dance revue at the Ithaca Star[vii]. Trixie was probably either 19 or 20 years old. Omaha Marriages indicates that Trixie Bressler married George D. Schwartz on 20 Jul 1919. [viii] and that Trixie was 20 when they married. Trixie’s vaudeville career appears to end with her marriage.

Jessie Kennison

I have been unsuccessful learning anything about Jessie Kennison.

Further Research

Find Trixie Bressler Schwartz’s descendants and see if they have any memorabilia from Trixie’s vaudeville days.

Find advertisements and write-ups about the shows at Keeney’s Newark and Keeney’s Brooklyn and determine if I can learn more about the “Roland West” show with Donna and Trixie.

Learn more about Jessie Kennison.


Endnotes

[i] 1919-01-31 – Variety Weekly, New York, NY, Vol 53-Page 20.jpg

[ii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, March 14, 1919.

[iii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, 1919, March 14, 1919.

[iv] 1919-04-14 – Variety Magazine (New York, NY) Page 75.

[v] Wikipedia – Roland West entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_West

[vi] Wikipedia – Alibi (1929 Film) entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alibi_(1929_film)

[vii] Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY) 4 May 1918, Page Six, Advertising Bottom right of page – via Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/254416940

[viii] Omaha Area Marriages – Schm-Sci – https://omahamarriages.wordpress.com/schm-sci/ – SCHWARTZ, George D.