Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Arson or Tragedy?

Ada "Addie" Wells was a niece of one of my great great grandmothers, Clementine (Wells) Riggin Collins. Addie married Edward Grotz, who immigrated to the United States from what is now Baden, Germany. They had six children[1] before Addie died some time before the 1910 census was enumerated.

One of her daughters, Edna Grotz, was born on 4 June 1895 in Collinsville. Her mother died before she was 10 years old. When the 1910 census was enumerated, Edna lived with her father, who was a coal miner, and siblings. Her maternal grandmother, Sarah (Smith) Wells, also lived with the family.

Edna married Charles Griffith Neathery on 8 June 1916 in Greenville, Illinois. Charles was a widower with two small children. In 1917 Edna, her husband and his children lived with her father. Charles was a cook at the Bay Avenue restaurant in East St. Louis. In 1920 they had purchased a home on St. Francis Road in Caseyville and Charles owned a restaurant.

1876 map of Edwardsville, Illinois, courtesy of the Illinois Digital Archives

On 11 December 1923, the couple owned a restaurant in Edwardsville on Purcell Street opposite the courthouse. They lived in an apartment over the restaurant. About 4:30 in the morning a fire was discovered. The fire spread to a connected building and destroyed a general store named Schneider & Poole. Edna and Charles were thought to be asleep upstairs when a gas stove in their restaurant exploded. Their remains were found in the fire debris later that day. Charles' children were out of town visiting their grandparents.

Members of Charles' family reported he was active in the Ku Klux Klan, which had about 8,000 members in Madison County at the time. According to his family, he had received a threatening letter about his Klan activities and was considering selling the restaurant so he could leave town. "It was a case of sell out and go away or lose his life." In fact, Charles Neathery had sold his restaurant to Walter Loarts the day before the fire, according to an article in The Edwardsville Intelligencer.

The investigation into the fire lasted several months. State and local fire marshals were never able to determine the cause of the blaze. During the March 1924 term, the grand jury determined no murder had occurred. The foreman stated, "We have wasted a lot of time investigating this fire but there is absolutely nothing on which to base an indictment charging murder. Probably it is for the best that the fire was taken up and the public will be more satisfied."

[1] Ada "Addie" Wells and Edward Grotz married 22 September 1890 in St. Clair County, Illinois. Addie had one daughter Jessie Helms in 1883. After her marriage to Edward, Jessie used the Grotz surname. She later married a Mr. Thies.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Who's Your Daddy, Dorothy?

Dorothy Grotz was the granddaughter of my first cousin three times removed, Ada "Addie" (Wells) Grotz. Addie was the niece of my great great grandmother, Clementine (Wells) Riggin Collins. I learned about Dorothy while researching Addie's husband, Edward Grotz. He died in Collinsvile, Illinois, in 1940 after having been a widower for over three decades. He died intestate and his daughter, Augusta, administered the estate.

On 17 October 1953 a list of Edward's legal heirs was published in The Edwardsville Intelligencer.

List of Edward Grotz' heirs;
courtesy of Newspapers.com

How did Dorothy Beaman fit into the family group? Was Beaman a married name or her surname at birth? I've learned a lot about Dorothy yet still have many, many questions. If you know more about her, please leave a comment on this post.

Dorothy was born about 1914 in Illinois to Matilda "Tillie" Maria Kopp and one of Edward Grotz's sons -- either Fred, Frank or Donald. Tillie's marriage didn't to the Grotz son didn't last long. By 1917 she was married to Adlai Stephenson Dixon and had a son with him that year.

In the 1920 census Dorothy was listed as Dorothy Dixon and her relationship to Adlai was listed as daughter, but in 1930, she is listed as Dorothy Grotz and her relationship is step-daughter. Her step-father worked as an electrician at an aluminum ore company and the family lived on Summit Avenue in East St. Louis.

When the 1940 census was enumerated, Dorothy was married to Victor Delmus Beaman, a 30-year-old Kentuckian, who worked as a clerk in the sales department of a tin can company. We know from Victor's World War II draft card, that "tin can company" was Continental Can Co.

Victor and Dorothy remained married at least through 1950 when they were listed in an East St. Louis city directory. Victor was a salesman for John Morrell & Co. Some time after that, Victor married Julia Marvin Gill. He died in 1998 and was interred beside Julia at the Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

I have been unable to trace Dorothy after 1950. So much of her life remains a mystery.

I reviewed Fred, Frank and Donald's World War I draft cards to see if any of them claimed a child as an exemption for serving, but each of them stated they were single at the time they registered for the draft, which was true as the marriage with Tillie was over by then.

Fred Grotz was born on 6 February 1891 in Collinsville, Illinois and married Ida Louise Jackson some time after 1926. They lived in Maywood, Illinois, and Fred worked in Chicago for many years. They had one son, Glenn Forrest Grotz (1926-2017).

Frank Grotz was born on 15 November 1892 in Collinsville, and lived in California by 1914. He entered the Army Air Service on 18 Jun 1918 and was assigned to the Signal Corps in Vancouver, Washington. He married Myrtle Scott on 17 Apr 1919 in Los Angeles County. They had no children. Frank died in 1966.

Donald Grotz was born on 7 September 1896 in Collinsville. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on 23 June 1918. He was assigned to Company A, First Battalion, 13th Marine Regiment, which shipped out to Brest on 25 September 1918. The regiment was responsible for guarding supply depots throughout France. After the war, he moved to California, where he co-owned the Grotz Bros. Cafe, with his brother, Frank. He married Mary Roberta Ridout sometime before 1940. They had no known children. He died on 14 February 1959 in Los Angeles County.