Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor
Donna Montran – Ill and Injured
The Donna Darling Collection has a page that included four little clippings. None of the four were dated. Elsewhere on that scrapbook page are articles regarding Donna’s playing at the Cosmos Theater in Washington DC in March. (More about that in another post.)
ILL AND INJURED [Transcript]
“Dave Kramer (Kramer and Boyle dislocated his knee in stepping out of an automobile. The team were forced to cancel the last half of last week as a result. (April 21)”
“Bill Vidocq. Keith agent, has returned from Lakewood and is back on the fifth floor of the Keith Exchange.
“Illness beset the Donna Montra [sic] and Bathing Girls Revue last week twofold when Juva Marconi dislocated her hip while dancing, causing her confinement in the Lankanau Hospital, Philadelphia. Later in the week Miss Montran, the prima donna of the company, underwent a nose and throat operation in New York.
[Globe Theatre, Philadelphia, May 16]
“Donna Montran, who with her Bathing Beauties was forced to cancel some time through the necessity of an operation recently, has fully recovered and opens at the Globe theatre, Philadelphia, for a return engagement, May 16.”
“Ann Troy, dancer, has replaced Juva Marconi in the Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties act.”
[Donna Takes Summer Off]
“Donna Montran closed her Bathing Beauties act last week and will rest up for the summer. She will appear in production next season.”
In April 1920, Donna was still performing with “Chin-Chin” in Maryland.
In March 1921, Donna was performing “Donna Montran and her California Bathing Beauties.”
By April 1922, Donna had changed her stage name to “Donna Darling.”
So, we know that “ILL AND INJURED” must be referring to 1921.
April 21 was the last half of the week of April 17 to 23. That means that Juva Marconi must have dislocated her hip sometime around April 17 to 19 and that Donna must have gone to New York for her surgery about 20th or 21st.
In Clipping 2, we learn the Donna and her Bathing Beauties opened at the Globe Theatre, Philadelphia on May 16.
In Clipping 3, we learn that Ann Troy replaced Juva Marconi in the show.
In Clipping 4, we learn that the show closed for the summer. It is unclear when that occurred.
What I learned:
Donna and her Bathing Beauties, including Juva Marconi, must have been playing in Philadelphia or somewhere near Philadelphia the week of 17 April 1921. Possibly the Globe Theatre.
Donna went to New York for nose and throat surgery about 20 April 1920.
Donna and her Bathing Beauties “returned” to the Globe theatre on May 16.
Donna and her Bathing Beauties closed sometime after May 16 for the summer.
Consequent to the above, I have updated the Donna Montran Timeline to include the following:
April 17, 1921 – Unknown Theater near Philadelphia (Possibly the Globe Theatre).
May 16, 1921 – Globe Theatre, Philadelphia, PA – Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties.
Date unknown [May, June, or July 1921] – Donna Closed the Show for the Summer.
I was recently talking with a Civil War researcher and mentioned that Minnesota’s Civil War experience was quite a bit different than most of the rest of the country. Because of the War, many of the supplies promised to Native Americans by treaty were redirected to support the war effort, leaving the Native Americans to starve. Because of that, many Native Americans attacked the settlers in Minnesota in search of food, blankets, and other necessities. An uprising of the Santee Sioux in August 1862 caused the deaths of 490 settlers, including women and children. In retaliation, the United States hung thirty-eight Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota, in the largest mass hanging in American History. After the hanging Continue reading “Bio – Franklin C. Darling”
I never imagined I’d have an ancestor that there is just too much information available. Amazingly, I have more information about Chester Parsons and his life than I can keep up with. Ancestry, suggests there are 85 Ancestry Hints and 13 other public Ancestry Member Trees relating to Chester Parsons. Admittedly, five of those Ancestry Hints are from me because of one of those old trees, but still 80 Hints is more than I recall seeing elsewhere. I went through all of them, several weren’t clearly my Chester Parsons (1799-1887) and appeared to have been other Chesters. But still, there were a couple items I hadn’t seen before including a photo of Chester. I have several sources of information that I didn’t add to my tree because they didn’t add any new detail, instead confirmed information that I already had. But still, I ended up using 21 sources for information about Chester’s life.
5th Great-grandfather: 204. John Parsons (1764-1813)
6th Great-grandfather: 408. John Parsons Sr. (1737/38-1821)
Chester Parsons (1799-1887)
Chester Parsons was born on 1 December 1799, the fifth child of John Parsons, Jr. and Mary Wolcott, in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Chester’s siblings included:
Samuel – Born 5 Apr 1787
Polly – Born 17 Jan 1792
Orrin – Born 6 Mar 1794
John – Born 5 May 1796
Sometime shortly after his birth and before 1802, the family moved from Massachusetts to Windham, Greene County, New York. In April 1813, Chester’s father, John, died. It appears that older brothers Samuel and Orrin established their own households by the 1820 Census. I have not been successful determining where Chester, his sister Polly, his brother John or his mother, Mary, were during the 1820 Census. I suspect they were living with another family member whose surname was not Parsons.
Chester married Deborah Buel Maben on 26 November 1824 in Greene County, New York.
They had eight children
Lucinda Born 1825 in New York
James Born 1826 in Michigan
Mary Electa Born 1828 in Michigan
Alfred David Born 1830 in Michigan
Harriet Eliza Born 1832 in Michigan
E. W. Born 1833 in Michigan
Sarah Jane Born 1833 in Michigan
Melissa Born 1843 in Michigan
In May 1826, Chester and his brother, Orrin headed west to Michigan Territory. The two of them purchased 160 acres of land in Saline Township on 1 November 1826. They built the first mill in the area as well as the first frame house.
The 1830 Census found Chester as the head of the household consisting of two males and three females. On 1 August 1831, Chester purchased 78.24 acres of land, and in 1837 he bought another 80 acres.
The 1840 Census found Chester’s household consisting of four males and six females. There is one male, age 50 to 60 and one female age 20 to 30 that are unknown and do not appear to be Chester’s children.
The 1850 Census finds the Chester Parsons household consisting of Chester, his wife, five of his daughters, one son, and four unrelated farm hands, although Zebe Fuller would marry his daughter Harriet. Chester’s real property was valued at $7,800.
The 1860 Census finds a prosperous Chester Parsons living with his wife and two daughters. Also living in the household are two young females, ages 19 and 22 who are domestics as well as three farm laborers. Chester’s real property was valued at $12,500.
The 1870 Census finds Chester and his wife, Deborah, living alone. His real estate is valued at $21,000 and his personal property at $5,000.
Deborah died in 1874 at the age of 69. They had been married for nearly 50 years.
Chester remarried on 11 November 1875 to the Widow Wakefield. Chester’s second wife, Jennette Arnold Wakefield, was 24 years younger than Chester.
The 1880 Census finds Chester and Jennett living together in Saline, Chester was 80 and Jennett was 56 and keeping house.
Chester died on 7 June 1887. He was buried at Benton Cemetery, in Plot 30 next to his first wife.
Chester’s property went through probate. Many of his children and grandchildren were mentioned in the various probate documents. There were auctions of his property as well. At one auction, on November 28th, 1890, 52 acres wheat on the ground sold for $6.95 per acre. Also, and a large number of farm implements. Sixty acres of timberland was sold to Sturm and Reeves. Also sold at the auction were 12 cows, 16 head young cattle, and seven horses,
Because Chester was an early pioneer in Saline Township he is often mentioned in various historical books, such as The History of Washtenaw County, and newspaper articles long after his death. According to them Orrin and Chester built the first sawmill in town in 1827, two miles south of the village. There is another story where Chester and Orrin were concerned that someone else might purchase the land they wanted, so they walked by an old Indian trail through the night to Monroe to acquire the property. Chester became the postmaster for Benton in 1835 and cut a road from Saline to Tecumseh road. He kept a hotel before the railroad was completed to Ann Arbor.
Page 437 of The History of Washtenaw County provides a portrait of Chester Parsons. (See above.)
Likewise, page 105 of York, Saline, Ypsilanti, Lyndon, Sharon (Mich.) Township residences, ca. 1874, provides an image of Chester Parsons’ house in Saline. (See above.)
I’ve found a photo of Chester, a birth record, a death record, two marriage records, presumably him in the 1800 Census and through all the Census records in his adult life, 1830 through 1880. I’ve found photos of his home, Bureau of Land Management records of his land purchases, his probate records, and maps showing his property during various years. Finally, stories about his life and activities abound. His was a life well lived and I am proud to be descended from him.
Further Actions / Follow-up
The History of Washtenaw County, page 1406, indicates that Chester’s wife Deborah wrote a history of their move from New York to Michigan what recounted the “hardships and privations of their early pioneer life.” Apparently, she did not complete it, but I would love to find a copy of whatever might have survived from that writing.
I have so many sources for Chester Parsons, I’ve decided to abbreviate the sources so that the sources aren’t longer than the article. Additional detail is available; however, the information provided should be sufficient to find the record.
1800 Census – John Parsons Jr. – Sandisfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts (3rd from bottom).
1830 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan Territory/
1840 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1850 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1860 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1870 Census – Chester Parson – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1880 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
Daughters of the American Revolution, “Ancestor Search,” DAR, Buell, Grover – Patriot: A016639 – Member: Ruth Evelyn Hill Carr
Daughters of the American Revolution, “Ancestor Search,” DAR, Maben, John – Patriot: A072838 – Member: Ruth Evelyn Hill Carr
Chas. C. Chapman & Co. (2012). History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens: history of Michigan: embracing accounts of the pre-historic races, aborigines, French, English and American conquests, and a general review of its civil, political and military history – Pages 1370, 1371, 1373, & 1405.
Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620 – Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011 – Parsons.
Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950 Ancestry.com – Chester Parsons – Died: 7 Jun 1887.
By Don Taylor
Following ancestors through all the census records is often difficult, particularly in census records before 1850, when only the head of household was named. Tracing my 4th great-grandfather, Chester Parsons was straight-forward from the 1880 census back to the 1850 census, even on to the 1830 Census, while Chester was in Saline, Michigan. Before that, he was a young man in someone else’s household not in Michigan. The path to understanding is to take what you know, hypothesize what should be, then see if research fits.
What I think I know.
Chester was born on 1 December 1799 in Sandisfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts.
Chester married his first wife in Greene County, New York in 1824.
In May 1826, Chester and his young family moved from New York to Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan Territory.
He and his family appear in 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. The family seems to have been very stable living in Saline, Michigan, for over 60 years.
Chester’s father, John Parsons, died in 1813 in Greene County, New York.
In 1820 Chester would have been 20 years old.
Because Chester probably lived with his father when his father died in 1813 and Chester probably resided in Greene County when he married in 1824, I presume the 20-year-old Chester also was living in Greene County during the 1820 Census. If so, who was he living with?
Search & Results
A quick search on Family Search of all families with the Parsons surname living in Greene County, New York in 1820 yielded four candidates, Samuel, Orrin, Albert, and Stephen. I’m looking for any of those people that might have Chester living with him.
Samuel Parsons – This Windham household consists of 1 Male (Age 26-45) and no other males. Chester’s oldest brother was named Samuel and would have been 33-years-old. This Samual is possibly, even likely, Chester’s brother.
Orrin Parsons – This Windham household consists of two males (one 16 to 26 and one under 10. There is also a female 16 to 26 in the household. Chester’s 2nd oldest brother was named Orrin and was 25 at the time. It is likely this was him with his wife, and first, previously unknown, son.
Albert Parsons – This Windham household consisted of five individuals, apparently Albert age 16-26, male 10-16, and male under 10 and two females, one, an apparent wife 16 to 26 and another age 10 to 16. There is no known Albert Parsons in my research before this. I will probably need to do more research to determine this Albert’s place in the family or determine he isn’t related. In any event, Chester is not in that household either.
Chester’s father John died in 1814. It appears that Samuel and Orrin each married and established households of their own. Chester, his brother John, and their mother were probably either missed in the 1820 Census or were living in the household of someone without the surname Parsons in Greene County, New York.
It is possible that Chester and family lived with sister Mary/Polly in 1820. Research Mary/Polly Parsons’ life.
It is possible that Chester and family lived with a female sibling of John Parsons, Jr. Research the lives of the other Parsons of Sandisfield, Massachusetts that located to Windham, Greene County, New York between 1800 and 1820.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I looked at several clippings from the same page of the Donna Darling Collection. Two of them relate to the 23rd Street Theater, One to the 125th Street theater and three mini-clippings that seem unrelated.
DONNA DARLING and CO. (2) Songs and Dances 22 Mins.; Full Stage (Special Hanging) 23rd St.
Donna Darling is a blond miss of fair voice supported by two male dancers in a neatly devised offering enhanced by colorful hangings.
The opening in “one” before a gold and black drop includes “Tell Me Pretty Maiden” and Silver Lining,” followed by a Pat Rooney impersonation by one of the boys. The parting of the curtains discloses attractive full stage hangings following the gold and black color scheme, the featured member appearing in a crinoline gown, for bits of old-fashioned numbers, including piano playing.
The turn drags at the point, especially with the first old-time songs. The boys return in Colonial costumes for a minuet by the trio, followed by a soft shoe and jazz stepping by the male team. Miss Darling then offers a light operatic number followed by a solo stepping hit by one of the boys and a triple tin soldier and doll specialty. A wedding number with one of the chaps as the minister tops off the turn.
The act is a flash for the three-a-day. At times chances for the bigger houses are displayed. The male dancers display ability with Miss Darling, securing fair returns vocally. The turn is running over time at present. With some pruning should improve materially.
The next clipping is an encapsulation of the entire show. There were seven vaudeville acts
The first hall bill….
… Donna Darling and Co. (New Acts) were the proper kind of a flash for the closing position, holding the audience and securing applause returns.
There was nothing in either article that suggested where the 23RD St. theater is nor when the show played. At the bottom of the scrapbook page was a small ad for F.F.Proctor’s. It shows that the 23rd St. theater is near 6th Ave. It also shows that Donna Darling & Co. was at the 125th St. Theater between Park and Lexington.
I was a bit confused, because of the differences between the 23rd St. and 125th St. theaters, but from the ads I knew they were New York. Also, Donna Darling & Co. was a 1922 production.
I began searching Newspapers.Com and quickly found the identical ad, in “The Evening World” (New York, New York) · Fri, May 26, 1922 · Page 26, which showed her playing at the 125th St Theater. This ad is really significant. Family oral history says that once upon a time, Donna was proposed to by Bert Lahr, later famous for his role as the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” This ad, suggests that Donna and Bert Lahr at least knew each other as they played at the same theater at the same time.
Then, using Elephind, I found, on the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection (UIUC), The New York Clipper which on May 24, 1922, page 21, reported that Dona [sic] Darling Co. played at 23rd St, the first half of the week of May 22nd . The Clipper also reported that Donna played at B. F. Keith Vaudeville in Jersey City the first half of the following week (May 29th thru 31st).
The New York Clipper, on May 31, 1922, page 11, reported that Donna Darling and Company played at 125th Street theater the last half of the week (June 1, 2, & 3) at Proctor’s 125th Street. That issue had a nice write-up saying:
Donna Darling and Company had a neat offering. Miss Darling is dainty in looks, manners and voice and in her routine of songs showed herself thoroughly conversant. In the “My Hero” number she evidently lacked confidence but regained her composure in short order for the rest of the act. In old fashioned crinoline costume, she sang portions of old song favorites and finished with a brief session at the piano. The company, consisting of two clever young men dancers and singers were dressed appropriate to the period. Miss Darling looked best in pink, and in the wedding ceremony showed clever footwork in eccentric dancing, also in the mechanical toy dance, in which Miss Darling was a lively doll.
The June 7th Clipper adds a lot to the story. It includes a picture of Donna, Murray Walker, and Jack Finney and a caption that they closed Proctor’s 58th Street and are taking a 5-week vacation. The newspaper copy image isn’t very good, but it is something. It suggests that Donna Darling & Company played Proctor’s 58th Street from June 4th to June 6th.
Finally, there were three little clippings in Donna’s scrapbook. They too came from the June 7th, Clipper. One said:
Donna Darling left for Detroit, her home town, this week, where she will undergo an operation for the removal of tonsils.
The second clip says
Murray Walker is leaving for Canada this week for a month’s rest.
And the third,
Jack Finney is going to Philadelphia this week to visit his folks for a month before reopening with Donna Darling.
When I was young, I was often plagued with tonsillitis. Removal or keeping tonsils seems to have undergone sweeps each way. Some years they were kept if at all possible, other years they yanked them out. I recall talking with Donna and my mother about my tonsils and I remember Donna saying hers had been removed and it was no big thing. But we were poor and had no health insurance, so I kept mine. But back in 1922, Donna was 29 years old, and doing well. So, even though she was older than typical, she had her tonsils removed — maybe they were affecting her singing.
Discovering four more venues for Donna’s career is a good week for research. Being reminded of her tonsillectomy and learning that she actually did take vacations during her vaudeville years was good to find out. And finally, confirming that she actually would have known Bert Lahr, and the story of his proposal to Donna might be true, is priceless.
May 22-24, 1922 – F.F. Proctor’s 23rd Street Theater (at 6th Avenue) New York, NY – Donna Darling & Co.
May 29-31, 1922 – B.F. Keith’s Vaudeville, Jersey City, NJ – Donna & Co.
June 1-3, 1922 – F. F. Proctor’s 125th Street (Park & Lex) New York, NY – Donna Darling & Company.
June 4-6, 1922 – F.F. Proctor’s 58th Street Theater, New York – Donna Darling & Company.
June 7 until about July 10, 1922 – Vacation. Donna has tonsils removed.
Oh, and while searching I found one more venue for Donna’s show. From March 30th to April 5th, 1922 – she played in Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
I’ll bet, when I have a chance to research more, I’ll find that Donna played at the 5th Avenue Theater. Probably May 25th thru the 27th. Just guessing, but it would fit the pattern.