100 Years Ago
Donna Montran & Co.
By Don Taylor
“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting events relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.
The Donna Darling Collection (See Part 76) yielded two articles that put Donna at the Stroud Theater in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, for Thanksgiving 1921. A review of Newspapers.com, Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archives, and Chronicling America failed to reveal any newspapers from Stroudsburg for that period. Likewise, The Ancestor Hunt was unable to indicate any Stroudsburg papers online for 1921. As such, the only evidence I have that Donna played at the Stroud Theater in Pennsylvania is her clippings.
Great Thanksgiving Week Program
Today and Tomorrow 5—Big Vaudeville Acts—5
Special Thanksgiving Engagement – The Barry Jazzers Three Walceys – Acrobatic Novelty Whynot & Brady – Musical Act Phil Davis – Southern Songster Dona Montrim & Co – Singing and Dancing.
Another Clipping Donna had said
Holiday Week Program at Stroud is a Sure Fire Winner
The article goes on the say that:
“Dora Montrim & Co. have a dance and song revue with very special stage settings and costumes of Miss Montrim that are pleasing.”
We don’t know much about her show, but we know she was at the Stroud Theatre in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on November 24th and 25th, 1921 – One Hundred Years ago today.
“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting items relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.
From the Donna Darling Collection, I learned that Donna played at a Strand Theatre (location and date unknown but probably October or November (See: DDC-70). She also played at the Stroud Theatre in Stroudsburg, PA on November 24-25 (See: DDC-76).
The November 25th issue of Variety’s San Francisco Offices reported under NEW ACTS that: “Donna Montran (“Bathing Beauty Revue”) in song and dance act with Walter Davis and Murray Walker assisting.” It shows that Walter and Murray were with her in November. Walter Davis left Donna and her show by January 11, 1922. They were only mentioned rarely in advertisements.
I have not been successful in finding any additional venues for Donna during November 1921.
Today is a great day to remember Elizabeth Grace Darling, “Aunt Betty,” because today would be her 110th birthday if she were still living. Betty is my wife’s great-aunt; the sister of my wife’s grandfather. I have written about my wife’s grandfather several times, See:
Elizabeth Grace Darling was born on March 22, 1906, in Pittsburgh, PA. Her mother died in 1913 and she went to live with her grandmother, Margaret Lamb McAllister. In 1915 there was a family issue that required Margaret to return to her native England. So, in August, 1915, she took her two grandchildren, Elizabeth and Robert Harry, with her to England. Family oral history says she took the children to England so they could be “properly civilized.”
So, little Elizabeth would have spent her 10th birthday celebration in England, apparently in the Lakes Region, probably Appleby (Now Appleby-in-Westmorland), Cumbria, in North West England.
Elizabeth would have been hearing news about the war in Europe. The Russians were having success against the Germans in the north taking the Dneister Bridgehead and also defeating the Austrians in the south. She probably didn’t know that the US was fighting its own war. General Funston was asking for more troops to send into Mexico to assist General Pershing against Francisco Villa. This was really important because General Pershing telegraph communications had been cut off.
Elizabeth Grace Darling Gwyer c. 1939
Margaret and the two children remained in England until December of 1916 when they returned to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, then locating in the Mount Oliver area of Pittsburgh, PA. Their return was just in time. Betty’s father, Rufus Harry Darling died just two weeks later, on 5 January 1917.
Later in January, 1917, Germany invited Mexico to join them as an ally against the United States. Germany said they would finance Mexico’s war to recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Mexico declined, but America was not pleased about Germany trying to bring the Great War to American soil. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.
On 10 May 1927, Elizabeth married William Otis Gwyer. They would later divorce.
On 11 October 1947, Elizabeth married Frank Howell Kemon in the chapel of Mount Vernon Methodist Church, Washington, DC with Rev. John Rustin officiating.
Kemon – Glenwood Cemetery, Washington DC. Betty Darling – Frank Howell 1906-1987 – 1906-1973
Elizabeth’s husband Frank Kemon died in 1973. In the 1980s, Aunt Betty came to live with her niece and family in Bridgton, Maine.
Elizabeth died on 10 June 1987 at her niece’s home in Bridgton. She was buried at Glenwood Cemetery, Section K, Lot 69, Site 2585 in Washington, DC next to her husband Frank Howell Kemon.
 The Washington Post, Wednesday, March 22, 1916, Front Page via Newspapers.com
100 Years ago – Arthur Durwood Brown (1869-1928) & Mary
Elizabeth Manning (1876-1983)
Arthur Durwood & Mary Elizabeth Brown
One hundred years ago, Arthur Durwood Brown was renting a home with his wife, Mary Elizabeth Manning Brown in Merkel Township, Kidder County, North Dakota.
Their household contained six of their children; Victoria Cecelia, Cora Elsie, Clifford Durwood, Edward Lewis, Arthur Eugene, and the baby, Charles William, who had been born in July. Two of their boys, twenty-year-old Clyde Leroy and seventeen year old Clarence Arthur had already left home. Three of their children had already died. One child whose name is unknown was born and died before 1900. Two more children, Martin and Dorothy, died as infants from the measles sometime before 1910.
Location of land patent for 120 acres.
Arthur received a land patent for 120 acres N1/2-NW1/4 & SW1/4-NW1/4 – Section 34, Township 144 North Rang 72 West of the 5th Principal Meridian. The 45-year-old Arthur and his 38-year-old wife, Mary, must have been working that land. It is unclear if he was working someone else’s land as a “farm laborer” as well.
The big news of the day was that President Wilson was preparing to visit the Panama Canal. The Canal officially opened in August, however, Wilson was going to go by ship, the steamship New York to Colon and then shift to the Oregon to traverse the Canal. In addition, the twelve Federal Reserve Banks opened their doors. The Federal Reserve Banks would change the way America banks.
Wrigley’s was advertising its new, launched in 1914, Doublemint Gum, which had double the flavor and was double wrapped.
The International news of the day related mostly to the War. Blizzards were sweeping over Belgium and Northern France paralyzing the war effort there. Meanwhile, on the Eastern front, Cracow in Galicia (today Poland) was burning.
Mary’s parents both died when she was a child. Arthur’s parents had come to North Dakota in the 1880s but nothing is seen from them after 1885, so it is presumed they had died long before 1914.
Arthur’s siblings were:
Nettie May – Life and location unknown.
Charles D – Life unknown. Charles moved to Montana before 1891.
Mary – Life unknown. Mary had married a Clark and their location is unknown.
Almond (Ahmond) – Life unknown.
Clifford Gerome – Living in Tappen Township, Kidder County, North Dakota
William Henry – Life and location unknown.
Clyde Hewett – Died in a train accident.
Frederick – Dead – Unknown cause.
Ada –Ada married Benjamin Mayers (or Meyers) their life and location is unknown.
Edward Warberton was married to Dertha Merkel and lived in Merkel Township, Kidder County, North Dakota, USA.
Mary’s sister Phoebe Jane’s first husband Clyde Hewett Brown (Arthur’s brother) died and Phoebe had remarried. She and her new husband, William Richmond, lived in Sylvan Township, Cass County, Minnesota. Arthur and Mary would locate to Sylvan Township a few years later. Mary’s half brother’s (Robert Manning) location is unknown.
The Browns were Methodists and probably attended church in Robinson, about eight miles away. Likewise, the children most likely attended school there.
The 1910 Census indicates that nearby Arthur and Mary Brown lived the Merkels. I wonder if Merkel Township was named after John Merkel. John Merkel was the head of the household and had seven of his children living with him. One of those seven was Dertha whose husband, Edd Brown (Arthur’s youngest brother) was a “hired hand.” Also living with them were five of Edd and Dertha’s children making for a 15 person household.
Life was certainly tough out on the plains and with winter coming on preparations for the winter must have been completed.
In writing about Arthur and Mary’s life 100 years ago I realized how little I know about their siblings. Tracing their will be an important next step in understanding the life of Arthur & Mary.
daily tribune. (Bismarck, Dakota [N.D.]), 17 Nov. 1914. Chronicling America:
Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
Arthur Durwood Brown Family abt 1912 Clifford (Dick) is 3rd from left in suspenders. Source: Personal Photo Collection
In 1914, 11-year-old Clifford was living with his parents, Arthur Durwood and Mary Elizabeth Manning Brown in Merkel Township, Kidder County, North Dakota. It was a large family of 10 children (at that time). (An 11th child, whose name and sex we do not know, had been born and died before 1900.) His father worked as a laborer on a farm and the family rented their home. His youngest brother, Charles William Brown was born the previous July.
Neighbors to the Browns included a Russian family headed by John Merkel. Living with John was his wife and six kids plus Edd and Dertha Merkel Brown. Dertha was John Merkel’s daughter and Edd was Arthur Durwood Brown’s youngest brother. Near them was another John Merkel, presumably a son of John. The 1910 Census indicated 111 families in the township, many more than exist today. The 2010 Census indicated only 21 housing units in the township and a steady decline in population over the previous several censuses. It is clear though that the Brown family lived in a tight community of family.
Photo by by JBTHEMILKER Source: Panoramio | Google Maps
The 1910 Census also indicates that Clifford was attending school. It is unclear where the three Brown children, Victoria, Cora, & Clifford, went to school. It was more than 30 miles to Fessenden or to Steele so the children must have gone somewhere closer. The published by Geo. A. Ogle and Co. in 1912 shows that there was “School Land” about three miles south of the land the Browns were working. I’ve looked for evidence that a school was ever built there and I have been unable to find any. I think it likely that the children attended the school in Robinson about 8 miles away. The public school building from 1916 is still standing and it is likely that the tree attended that school.
Historically, October, 1914, was a very important time. Although the Brown family was isolated in the
North Dakota plains, they most assuredly knew the great war was beginning. Archduke
Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28th. Those
two shots sent the world into the chaos known as The Great War (World War I). In July, Austria-Hungary declared war on
Serbia. In October of 1914 the perpetrators of the attempted bombing
assassination and the successful shooting assassination of the Archduke were sentenced.