Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Will De Garmo Skips Town

In the previous post, we met my tragic cousin Addie and were left wondering about her husband, William De Garmo. Was he dead, since the 1900 U.S. Census showed Addie as a widow? Addie's death records indicated that she was the "divorced wife of William De Garmo." Which version was true? Why did Addie and her two boys call themselves Ellis, her maiden name, rather than De Garmo after they moved to Worcester, Massachusetts?

These newspaper articles might shed some light. The first was published in The Weekly Cherokean on Jan. 4, 1887--Addie and William (oh, let's just call him "Will" like the tongue-in-cheek news writer does) had been married for just two and a half years and had a toddler, Franklin. 

The next article is from The Cherokee Times, dated two days later, Jan. 6, 1887. "Forty-rod" is apparently whiskey, especially when cheap and strong. 

Not long after, The Weekly Cherokean on Feb. 1, 1887 gleefully reported the missing Will's whereabouts, no doubt for the benefit of his many creditors, who had been wondering. 

In one of those Time Capsule columns that newspaper editors love, The Cherokee Daily Times of Jan. 17, 1987 reports:

I was sorry to see that my great-great Uncle Edward Ellis (Addie's father) was somehow involved with the rascally Will, being an "associate of De Garmo in violation of the law forbidding saloon men from allowing boys in their places." However, I was glad that Uncle Ed paid up and didn't have to go to jail. I think his association with Will might have cured him of the saloon business, as he reported his occupation as house painter from then on.

I had wondered if Will had forgotten to take Addie and Franklin along when he left with the billiard tables in the night, but they must have accompanied him, as Addie gave birth to their second son, Bertie, in Nebraska in 1888. Two years later she had moved with her boys and her parents away from the bad memories of Iowa and Nebraska all the way to Massachusetts.

Will wasn't dead in 1903 when Addie died. He had married Alta Katherine Hart in 1895 in Lincoln, Nebraska. then moved back to Iowa (but not to Cherokee, where he was "famous") sometime between 1895 and 1900. Over the years, he reported his occupation as "commercial traveler" or "laborer on the steam railroad." He died in Dunlap, Iowa, in 1937 at the age of 64, and is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery there. 

Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Dunlap, Harrison County, Iowa


1. U.S. Federal Census: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940

2. Massachusetts Death Records, 1841-1915

3. Digital Archives of the Cherokee Public Library (for newspaper articles): http://cherokee.advantage-preservation.com/

4. Iowa Marriage Records, 1880-1937

5. Merriam Webster Dictionary for definition of "forty-rod:" https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forty-rod

6. Nebraska Marriage Records, 1855-1908

1 comment:

  1. The writers certainly had fun reporting on this - unless all of their articles were so fancy free!


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