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Dear Reader #177

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s sixteenth movie was Capital Punishment, produced in December 1924 and released on February 1, 1925. Clara Bow played Delia Tate, the witness to a murder.

The storyline for Capital Punishment was devised by Clara’s producer, B.P. Schulberg. It centred on a man condemned to die for a murder he did not commit. However, Clara saves the day and identifies the real murderer.

The New York Times published a scathing review of Capital Punishment. Nevertheless, the picture gave Clara her biggest break since her seventh movie, Black Oxen.

Over the past few days I’ve watched Clara Bow in It and Mary Pickford in Secrets. Mary wanted Clara to appear in Secrets, but it didn’t happen. At that time, Mary offered this insightful comment about Clara: “She is a very great actress and her only trouble has been that she hasn’t known enough about life to live it the way she wanted to live it.”

Betty Blythe (September 1, 1893 – April 7, 1972) appeared in 63 silent films and 56 talkies over the course of her career. She excelled in exotic roles – in The Queen of Sheba, 1921, she wore nothing above her waist except a string of beads.

In 1919 Betty married movie director Paul Scardon. The couple remained married until his death in 1954. Apparently, Betty made $3,500,000 when she sold a section of land that is now part of the Sunset Strip. However, she lost her fortune in the 1929 stock market crash.

This Week’s Family History Anniversaries

On 15 January 1842 my 3 x great grandmother Mary Hopkin gave birth to Thomas Reynolds, out of wedlock. Thomas’ father, also Thomas, died in 1845. He did not marry Mary.

On 24 August 1850 Mary married my 3 x great grandfather William Howe. The couple had four children. Thomas Reynolds lived with the family until adulthood when he found work on the local farms.

Later, William and Mary gave a home to Thomas’ son, Edward, after Thomas’ wife died. And they took in an orphan, Anne Price, after her parents, local shopkeepers, died. 

Mary used to walk fifteen miles to the local markets to sell bonnets. Her friend, Mary Francis, who walked with her to the markets, achieved great fame and attracted newspaper articles when she died at the remarkable age of 110.

My ancestor Mary Jones died on 19 January 1919. She died in an asylum. On 5 June 1879, Mary gave birth to her fourth daughter, Esther. On 19 May 1880, aged 29, Mary entered Angelton Asylum, pictured. Later, she was transferred to Parc Gwyllt. She never left that asylum. I have a full copy of Mary’s medical record. Victorian asylums were grim places. Her record makes for grim reading. 

Mary’s medical record states that, ‘She says she has committed a sin against the Almighty for which she will not be forgiven. And that she is eternally lost and that I (the doctor) have sold her to the Devil.’ In September 1880, she stated that she had ‘done something seriously wrong.’ 

A medical note dated 12 December 1883 is potentially revealing. ‘This woman is rather reserved. Her memory is deficient and her morals have apparently been loose.’ Could this imply that Thomas, her husband, was not Esther’s father?

On Christmas Eve 1886, Mary stated that she had been in Heaven and that it was a room with glass walls, which housed Jesus. 

In August 1908, Mary imagined that she was married to Samuel Butler, 4 December 1835 – 18 June 1902, author of the semi-autobiographical novel, The Way of All Flesh, a book that attacked Victorian hypocrisy. 

Was Mary’s sin real or imagined? I’m inclined to believe that it was real and that, after depression and poor physical health following the birth of Esther, it triggered a psychotic reaction.

And what of Esther? As a young adult she worked as a servant, caring for a young man who was mentally ill.

Died on 20 January 1866, my 4 x great grandfather William Stokes. William was a ‘corn meter’. Corn meters had the exclusive right of measuring all corn delivered within the city and port of London. They were the link between the cargo ships and the markets.

🖼 William’s workplace, the Customs House on the Thames.

William married Jane Esther Axe, an impressive lady who took an active interest in the family’s financial and legal affairs. William and Jane posted their marriage banns in April and May 1835. However, something cropped up because they cancelled the marriage and posted the banns again in August and September. They married on 20 September 1835 and produced four children.

***

Died on 21 January 1886, aged 27, my ancestor Mary Ann Howe. At the time, Mary Ann was with her brother, Hopkin, a Methodist minister. They were visiting a newly refurbished chapel.

Mary Ann’s first language was Welsh. However, I have a letter written by her in English. 

South Corneli, October 3, 1877

Dear Cousin,

I have taken the pleasure of writing these few lines to you in hopes to find you well as I am at present. Dear Cousin I could understand in Mary David’s letter the note you sent me that you was greatly offended to me and I don’t know the cause of you being so offended to me unless it is the cause of not sending your hat. The reason I did not send it because you told me you was coming to the tea party. You said that nothing would not keep you from not coming and I have not had no chance of sending it after unless I send it by train. Please write and let me know for what you are offended to me for. I am very uneasy ever since I did receive the note and I do think you don’t care much about me ever since you went away. I do only wish for you to write to me to tell me the reason by return.

So no more at present. From your cousin,

Mary Ann Howe

Pennsylvania 

I’m trying to make sense of my ancestors’ connection with Pennsylvania. Starting with my 9 x great grandparents John Bevan and Barbara Aubrey, here are the basic facts.

John Bevan 

Born 1646, Treferig, Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales

Parents: Evan ap John and Jane ferch Richard

Both descended from the nobility 

Married 1665 Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales 

Died 1726, Treferig, Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales

Barbara Catherine Aubrey 

Born 1637, Pencoed, Glamorgan, Wales 

Parents: William Richard Aubrey and Elizabeth Thomas 

Both descended from the nobility 

Married 1665 Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales 

Died 26 January 1710, Treferig, Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales

Children Jane Bevan married John Wood

Evan Bevan married Eleanor Wood (my 8 x great grandparents)

Ann Bevan married Owen Roberts

Elizabeth Bevan married Joseph Richardson 

Barbara Bevan

Ann Bevan (born and died 1666)

Katherine Bevan 1675-1683

I’m hoping to learn more about my ancestors’ lives before they travelled to Pennsylvania, their lives in Pennsylvania, and why they eventually returned to Wales.

More details as my research unfolds.

Clara Bow Quotes: “Don’t think for a moment I was ungrateful. I know full well what Hollywood has done for me. I appreciate this to the utmost. But, after all, I paid for everything. If not with money, which I earned myself, then with heartaches. I was brittle in the Hollywood sense of the word. I was not able to shake off that sensitiveness of my early childhood. I never shall be able to shake it off. And it ground deeply into my soul when hurt.”

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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