Sunday, June 8, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4g: More on George S. Foster

When we wrote a blog post on my great (or grand) uncle, George S. Foster, we briefly mentioned his daughter, Marguerite Foster Huff, whom I had known in my youth. She was the only descendant I had known. At some level I think I understood that Marguerite was divorced, but I couldn't have vouched for the fact. Well, the other day we happened across this bit of a confirming news item.

Sherman Daily Democrat (Sherman, Tex.), April 21, 1922
Marguerite is a hard lady to track down because of so many first name spelling variations. But now that we found her and know her ex husband's full name, as is so often the case in this kind of research, one discovery led to several others.

Perhaps more interesting and informative than the broken nose news snippet is this biography on Marguerite's father in law, published by the Texas State Historical Association. Her father in law fit neatly in the mold of the Foster family politicians. Huff, Sr., was a lawyer and banker, just like Aunt Marguerite's dad.

HUFF, ROBERT E. (1857–1939). Robert E. Huff, attorney, banker, and civic leader, was born to William E. and Martha E. (Johnson) Huff in Lebanon, Virginia, on January 31, 1857. The family moved to Tennessee in 1866, and Huff received a sporadic private school education at Bedford and Bell Buckle. He completed his studies at Bedford College in 1873, taught in a public school at Elmwood, Tennessee, farmed, and worked as a clerk in a general store. He read law in his spare time in hopes of some day becoming an attorney. He attended Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee, for several spring terms, graduated on April 1, 1881, and was admitted to the bar at Shelbyville, where he practiced for one year. He decided to establish a practice in the relatively undeveloped North Texas community of Vernon, but in May 1882, after arriving in Gainesville, the rail town nearest Vernon, he chose to settle in Wichita Falls. This decision was strongly influenced by a chance meeting with Joseph H. Barwise, the first permanent settler in Wichita Falls, who informed Huff that the town had no practicing attorneys and would likely provide considerable legal business since the movement to organize Wichita County was centered there.

Upon his arrival in Wichita Falls Huff was drawn into the county organization drive. His was among the 150 signatures, some given by transients, affixed to a petition calling for an election to organize the county. Because he was a lawyer he was one of two men chosen to carry the petition to the Clay County Commissioners Court; in fact, he presented the petition and managed to persuade four of the five commissioners to approve it. In the ensuing elections to choose Wichita County officials, Huff was voted county attorney, a position he held for two terms. He quickly established a successful civil law practice in Wichita Falls. He was appointed to the board of directors of the Panhandle National Bank (later the First National Bank) in 1888 and made president later that year. He maintained the bank's solvency during a period of economic stagnation caused by two years of drought and crop failure. Under his leadership the bank survived panics in 1893, 1907, 1914, and 1921. He also cofounded a bank in Frederick, Oklahoma, in 1907 and established the State Trust Company in Wichita Falls in 1914.

Huff served as a member of the first Wichita Falls board of aldermen and first school board, and he donated land for various purposes to the community. He was president of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce from 1909 through 1919. He served as chairman of five committees established to attract railroad companies to extend their lines to the community, and he personally led drives to raise required bonuses or sell required amounts of stock as dictated by various railroads. He invested his own funds not only in railroads but in local industries including the Times Publishing Company, which he helped organize and served as a director until his death. He was also a charter member of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls and served on that institution's board of trustees for many years.

As a staunch Democrat, Huff played a part in his party's activities at the local, state, and national levels. He was frequently chairman of the Wichita County Democratic convention and was a member of the state Democratic executive committee. In addition, he was a delegate to the Democratic national convention in 1912, 1916, 1920, and 1932. In 1912 he supported Woodrow Wilson on every ballot until his nomination. In May 1885 he married Elizabeth Burroughs of Wichita Falls. The couple raised seven children. Huff died at his home in Wichita Falls on November 20, 1939. 
Margarette's husband, Huff, Jr., was a dentist. She sued for divorce on the grounds that he had come home intoxicated and that he had struck and abused her. She was awarded custody of their minor child and $150 a month alimony.

Chicago Tribune, January 19, 1922
The next day, the Chicago Tribune realized that it had confused its Dr. Huffs. The real Dr. Huff lived not on Devon, but had skipped town, last seen headed for Denver.

Chicago Tribune, January 20, 1922

In better times, Aunt Marguerite and the future Dr. Huff had been lovebirds, preparing to appear together in a Shakespearean play.
Art is long, and cash is short, and time is fleeting and love will have its way. 
All of which sums up the incident of the Armenian Hamlet, the Gratuitous Ophelia and the Dentist who had to become a ghost in order to make good with his lady love.
Wichita Daily Times, October 26, 1915

To begin with, we have Mr. Shakespeare's authority for the fact that the Play is the Thing. But Alexander Light, the Armenian Hamlet, was confronted by the following problem, brought about by extraneous financial circumstances over which we had no control.
"To Play or not to Play, that is the Question."
Mr. Light had ambitions to put on a production of Hamlet at the Central Music Hall on October 27th. Unfortunately that was about all he had because Louise Chase, his Ophelia (who designed all her own gowns), did a quick disappearance act and left Mr. Light quite Ophelialess. 
Also funds were light. Then Mr. Light saw a light.
Through her father, an attorney, he became acquainted with Miss Marguerite Foster, 4635 Winthrop avenue. Miss Foster is very pretty, 19, and obsessed with a desire to tread the boards in interpretation of the works of the Immortal Bard.
With a quality of liberality quite unusual in a Thespian, Mr. Light offered to let Miss Foster plan Ophelia, and furthermore promised not to charge her a cent for the privilege, provided she furnished her own costume. Marguerite saw visions of applauding throngs and an ultimate autobiography and testimonials of perfume bearing her endorsement, and she accepted the job.
At this point enters Robert Huff, Jr., student of dentistry at the Northwestern University, and engaged to be married to Miss Foster at such time as Mr. Huff builds up a practice in pulling teeth that will net him at least $2 a pull.
A week or two of rehearsal demonstrated to Miss Foster that she had a soul that was above molar pursuits. Her previous enthusiasm in bicuspids and gums had given away to more lofty worship.
"I'm afraid we can never get along unless you adopt a more interesting and artistic career," she told the dismayed Mr. Huff.
"I'm pretty good at carving," said Mr. Huff tentatively.
Miss Foster had an inspiration.
Central Hall, Chicago 
At the next rehearsal she told Mr. Ligtht she had a young man whom she wanted made into an actor. He was a very nice young man she explained to Mr. Light. She HAD been engaged to him.
"But the cast is full," remonstrated Hamlet. 
"I don't care," pouted Ophelia, "If you don't put him in to the cast I won't play."
"But what can he play?" asked the desperate Mr. Light.
"He can play the Ghost," was the triumphant response. "Anybody can play the part of a ghost."
So it was decided that Mr. Huff was to play the ghost, and since then he has been practicing diligently the art of appearing ghastly and sepulchral.
"I'm getting to like it first rate," he confided yesterday. "And Mr. Light hasn't charged me a cent."
As for the answer to the play's ultimate question, the play was not to be because Aunt Marguerite would have no part in placing her body in a product placement. 

Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1915
Miss Foster Refuses to Be Tucked Away in Casket with "Ad" Label on it,
Miss Marguerite Foster last night revealed one modern improvement which Mr. Alexander Light tried to invoke in his interpretation of "Hamlet." As carried out in rehearsals, Miss Foster as "Ophelia" was buried in a $200 gray broadcloth casket trimmed with silver knobs and handles and bearing the silver place.
Miss Foster uncovered the innovation when she made public her resignation from the production which for the second time failed to appear on the boards at the Central Music hall. Mrs. Harriet Martin Snow, manager of the theater, literally "put the Light out." 
"My respect for Mr. Light's talent," said Miss Foster, "suffered a distinct shock when I found that I, as Ophelia, was to buried in a $200 modern up to date casket furnished by a casket company that was paying for the advertisement." 
"I realized that Mr. Light had not retained me entirely for my ability to interpret Ophelia, but rather to furnish a public demonstration for one of his advertisers."
"Can you imagine Ophelia being buried in a beautiful gray casket with silver knobs and handles and 'At Rest' on the top. It was jarring. It was most unfitting." 
"I have resigned. It is not true, as stated, that I was forced out of the cast to make room for Mrs. Light to play Ophelia. Mrs. Light was to play the part of Osric, a page who brings a message to Hamlet in the last act."
"Of course, the page is a boy's part and would have necessitated tights. Mrs. Light weighs 200."
In a report on the court case against Dr. Huff for failing to pay alimony, we learn that Aunt Marguerite once was a member of the polar bear club.
Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1922.
Judge Joseph Rabath yesterday issued an order for Dr. Robert Eugene Huff, wealthy dentist, to appear May 8 and show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court. He has failed to pay temporary alimony to Mrs. Margaret Huff, 902 Montrose avenue.
The temporary order was entered Jan. 19 and allowed Mrs. Huff $150 monthly alimony and $150 solicitor's fees pending disposition of her suit for divorce. According to her statement yesterday, Dr. Huff, son of a bank president in Wichita Falls, Tex., possessing property valued at over $50,000, has made no effort to comply with the order. 
In her bill, Mrs. Huff, who won local fame as a result of her daily winter plunges in the lake, accused her husband of drunkeness and cruelty, asserting that on one occasion he broke her nose. They were married in July 1916, and separated in September, 1920. Mrs. Huff seeks the custody of their child, Robert E. Huff III, now 4 years old.
In connection with the divorce suit, the Chicago Tribune published a photo of Aunt Marguerite in repose, apparently from her days as a thespian. 

Chicago Tribune, May 9, 1922
Her face is more visible in an earlier newspaper photo. She is in the second row below, far left.

Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1914
This was a "group of pretty young women" who came together sell flowers at the Press club's third annual "scoop," to be given at the Palace music hall. It will be recalled that her father, George S., was chairman of the speakers committee of the Press Club of Chicago.

Early the next year, aunt Marguerite made a polar bear appearance before the Press club.

The Fourth Estate, January 9, 1915, p. 20.

Indeed. Aunt Marguerite, God rest her soul, was drama queen to the core.

To shift in a different direction, in consequence of blog publishing we have heard from quite a few distant (and some not so distant) relatives, and learned of many relatives that we did not even know that we had. We recently heard from a descendant of one of George S. Foster's children -- this time with a different twist.

I received this email out of the blue (with the names censored to protect my correspondent's privacy).

I have been doing research on my father-in-law's family tree and was very pleased to come across your wonderful blog about George Sanderson Foster. George was my father-in-law's (Grandson X, PHD in chemistry) biological grandfather through a relationship with Miss Y, his grandmother. The daughter they produced was Miss Z, who he supported financially throughout her life and even put her through college. She was born in Chicago in 1905 and passed away in 1991. I have put Grandson X's DNA into the system but have yet to come across any Foster relatives. My daughter looks eerily like Margaret Sanderson who's photo I came across while doing this digging. I'm not sure whether anyone knew about Miss Z or not but we came across George's obituary, neatly clipped and saved, at her house when it was being cleaned out after her death. There seems to be physical similarities to him in our clan but really only the DNA would prove the story to the Foster side of the family.

Whether you chose to reply back is up to you; we respect the family's privacy of course and have found lots of information in your blog. More than I ever dreamed of unearthing!

Thanks for all that hard work you did on George's life. It has probably touched many more people than you know.
 I responded in part:
Thank you for your kind note.
As a result of my blogging, a number of distant cousins have come out of the woodwork, as have some first cousins whom I had not been in contact with for decades. It's fun and interesting to do the research and writing, and extremely gratifying to hear from people, relatives I should say, such as yourself. It's a labor of love. 
As far as privacy goes, my general rule is to be open about people who are dead and gone, but to protect the privacy of the living, except to the extent they may have presented a public face. 
Your story of George S. rings true. He had money, status, intellect, position and power, and if his first wife's divorce complaint was to be believed, a wandering eye. 
As far as I am concerned, if George S. (I always say George S. because my father [his nephew] was George W.) supported Miss Z, we are related whether DNA tests bear that out or not. 
Here is a little snippet on George S.'s ancestry I got from a cousin up in Alberta,
I'm looking for information on William Foster who was born in Ireland about 1836. He came to Canada with his brothers James and Isaac, sisters Harriet and Elizabeth and widowed mother Margaret (nee Roach) Foster. Margaret's husband had died in Ireland in 1837 at the age of 36 so he was born about 1801.
I next found them on the 1851 Canadian Census in Oxford Township, Grenville County, Ontario. William married Margaret Sanderson in Kemptville, Ontario, Canada in 1859. They had 5 sons, Isaac, George, William, James Dyer and Robert. Margaret Sanderson Foster died shortly after Robert's birth in 1871. 
William remarried in 1873 to Nancy Jane Loucks and they had a daughter Emily Lillia in 1976. William moved to the USA, Dakota Territories. His sons Isaac, George, William, and Robert went with him. James Dyer Foster stayed in Canada and moved to Edmonton, Alberta.
The George reference in the last sentence is to George S. Foster. The Albertan cousin since identified the ship and sailing dates for Margaret Roach Foster's (there is yet a third Margaret, my father's sister, born to George S.'s brother Isaac) voyage from Ireland during the potato famine. She has even visited Ireland to see the land where they lived, the places they worshiped, etc. 
I have not pictures of Margaret Sanderson Foster, or my great grandfather, her husband, William Foster -- would appreciate it enormously if you could send me anything you got. One of my goals is to get all this stuff published for posterity so it will be there for our children and their children, ad infinitum. 
I have ample material to write a blog post or posts on my great grandfather William, more posts on my grandfather Isaac, and the stories of my aunt Bina's, and my Aunt Grace's short lives. If I can finagle enough information from my Albertan cousin, who descended from George S.s and Isaac's brother, James, I'll write something on that family line as well. When we get snowed in next November I have a research agenda to follow up on as well. I see this process going on for years.
Anyway, great to hear from you. 
Then I heard directly from Grandson X, of Bethesda, Maryland, a retired federal employee in his 80s. He refers to emails as letters. Grandson X is obviously touched by learning so much about a family line he barely knew that he had.
Dear Grady Foster: 
[My daughter in law] sent me a copy of your letter to her whose date is shown above. George S. Foster,my Grandfather, was  the father of Miss Z, my mother, born 1905 near Chicago. George S. was helpful, I believe, to my mother, as you said and continued [to] see her but did not marry my grandmother, Miss Z's mother. My father, Mr. Z, and Miss Z, my mother, had three children, two of which are alive .... I remember, vaguely, George S. coming to our Chicago apartment and giving the "children" coins as presents. To me he was tall. This was probably around the early 1930's. 
If you come to or are in the the Washington,DC area, I would like to meet you. I am about 10 miles from the City center near an area noted as Glen Echo Park or Bannockburn. [My daughter in law] has been very good in tracing relatives. 
Since you lived  in Arlington,VA, you are familiar with the area. RSVP.
Somewhere in my filing cabinet is the obituary of George S. which, of course, does not mention my mother.
What a wonderful and informed letter you have given our family.
 The new relatives and connections continue to grow. This is cool.

Wichita Daily Times, May 15, 1922

1 comment:

  1. Grady, you are amazing. Hoping to see a pix of Margaret Sanderson one of these days.
    Love to all!