Category Archives: genealogy

Chester Gillette’s uncle

 

 

Craig Brandon is the author of Murder in the Adirondacks, the definitive book about the Chester Gillette murder case. This case, which resulted in Gillette’s execution in Auburn State Prison in New York in 1908, provided the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy.

Chester Ellsworth Gillette (1883-1908) was arrested on July 14, 1906 at the Arrowhead Hotel in Inlet, New York, an Adirondack outpost, for the murder of Grace Mae Brown (1886-1906).

Brandon gives lectures about the case, about which he is recognized as the foremost authority. In one such lecture, I recall that Brandon spoke of an uncle from Chicago who, learning of Gillette’s arrest from the newspapers, tried to contact either his nephew or the authorities. (I can’t recall which was the case.) Brandon expressed befuddlement over this and implied that the so called uncle was not in fact Chester Gillette’s uncle.

There indeed was such an uncle and his name was Josiah Rice. He was an uncle of Chester Gillette on Chester’s mother’s side.

Attached (see below) is the death certificate of one Josiah Rice. The details are as follows:

Josiah Rice

residence: 5400 N. Ashland Avenue, Chicago

died in Edgewater Hospital [Chicago] on April 8, 1939

widower; husband of Matilda Rice

his date of birth: February 5, 1855

his age: 84 years 1 month 23 days

his place of birth: Oxford, Massachusetts

father’s name: Leonard Rice (born Oxford, Massachusetts)

mother’s maiden name: Matilda Coyne (born Rock Island, Illinois)

Now, some facts about Chester Gillette’s mother:

Her maiden name was Louisa Maria Rice;

She was born in Millbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts on May 12, 1859;

Her parents were Leonard Rice and Dulcena (or Dulcimer) S. (Gale) Rice;

Leonard Rice and Dulcena Gale were married in Millbury on April 25, 1855.

So, it is apparent that Josiah Rice was the son of Leonard Rice by a first wife of Leonard — namely, Matilda (Coyne) Rice — and it would seem to be a certainty that Matilda died giving birth to Josiah.

Therefore, it is conclusive that Chester Gillette’s mother, Louisa (Rice) Gillette was the half-sister of Josiah Rice of Chicago. So, it would be quite natural and proper for Josiah Rice to call himself Chester Gillette’s uncle and to inquire after Chester upon learning of his arrest from newspapers.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     July 2016

 

 

 

Josiah Rice death cert.jpg

 

 

death notice, Sarah Dreiser

 

 

Theodore Dreiser’s mother, Sarah Maria (Schnepp) Dreiser died in Chicago on Nov 14, 1890 at age 57. (Her maiden name is sometimes spelled Schanab.)

Posted here is a death notice from the Chicago Daily Inter Ocean of Sunday, November 16, 1890.

 

 

 

Sarah Mary Dreiser death notice - The Sunday Inter Ocean (Chicago) 11-16-1890.jpg

 

 

 

the marriage of Chester Gillette’s parents

 

 

Craig Brandon’s Murder in the Adirondacks is considered the definitive book about the Chester Gillette murder case, upon which Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy was based. It is indeed an authoritative source, but there are some gaps and factual errors.

For instance: Franklin Gillette and Louisa (Rice) Gillette were the parents of Chester Gillette (1883-1908), who was convicted of and executed for the murder of Grace Brown. Chester Gillette was the prototype of the character Clyde Griffiths in Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

Brandon states, in Murder in the Adirondacks: ‘An American Tragedy’ Revisited (Utica, NY: North Country Books, Inc., 1986), pg. 15, re Gillette’s parents:

Sometime after 1880, Frank Gillette met his future bride, Louisa Maria Rice, a native of Millbury, Massachusetts. … The circumstances of the couple’s meeting, courtship and marriage have not been recorded, but the ceremony probably took place sometime in the summer of 1882. Soon after the marriage they moved to Wickes [Montana], a mining town just south of Clancy. …

This paragraph has been deleted from a revised and expanded version of the book: Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited; Fully Revised and Expanded Edition (Utica, NY: North Country Books, Inc., 2016). Brandon merely states (pg. 15) that Chester Gillette was born on August 8, 1883 “less than a year” after his father, Frank Gillette had married Louise Rice.

There is a record of the marriage of Chester Gillette’s parents. It indicates that Franklin Gillette and Louisa Rice were married on October 21, 1883 in Jefferson County, Montana Territory, shortly after their first child, Chester Gillette, was born.

The witnesses to the marriage were Franklin Gillette’s brothers Rembrandt Gillette (1848-1893) and Ellsworth Gillette (1861-1896).

Frank and Louisa’s first child, Chester Ellsworth Gillette, was born on August 9, 1883 in Wickes, Jefferson County, Montana.

 

 

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transcription of marriage certificate (see copy below):

marriage record

Franklin Gillette and Louise

October 21, 1883

County of Jefferson; Territory of Montana

recorded Nov. 19, 1883

Territory of Montana / County of Jefferson

This is to certify that I a minister of the Gospel did join in lawful wedlock Franklin Gillette and Louise Rice on the 21st day of October 1883 in the presence of Carrie Gillette and Rembrandt Gillette witnesses / W W Van Onsdele (?) / Recorded Nov the 19th 1883 at 7 o’clock am / Joseph (?) D. Taylor; County Recorder.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     July 2016

 

 

Franklin Gillette-Louisa Rice marriage certificate.jpg

 

 

Gillette genealogy

 

 

 

 

descendants of John Gillette

 

 

descendants of Leonard Rice

 

 

Descendants of Daniel Brown

 

 

Descendants of Charles H. Babcock

 

 

 

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This post contains four reports — posted above in downloadable PDF format — showing the genealogy of the families of Chester Ellsworth Gillette (1883-1908) and Grace Mae Brown (1886-1906).

Gillette was executed in Auburn, NY in 1908 for the murder of Grace Brown.

Chester Gillette was the prototype of the character Clyde Griffiths in Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy. Grace Brown was the prototype for the character Roberta Alden in the novel.

The reports posted here were generated using genealogy software. They include:

 

Descendants of John Gillette

John Gillette (1729-1760) was an ancestor of Chester Gillette.

 

 

Descendants of Leonard Rice

Leonard Rice was an ancestor of Chester Gillette. Rice was the maiden name of Chester Gillette’s mother, Louisa Maria (Rice) Gillette (1859-1939).

 

 

Descendants of Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown (1696-19771) was an ancestor of Grace Brown (Chester Gillette’s murder victim), the daughter of Frank B. Brown (1856-1918) and Minerva (Babcock) Brown.

 

 

Descendants of Charles H. Babcock

Charles H. Babcock (ca. 1832-1881) was the maternal grandfather of Grace Brown. Babcock was the maiden name of Grace Brown’s mother Minerva (Babcock) Brown (1858-1939).

 

 

It should be noted that a newspaper — The Journal and Republican, from the small nearby town of Lowville, NY — in a story, “Tragedy at Big Moose,” dated July 19, 1906, gave Grace Brown’s date of birth as April 20, 1886, which differs by exactly a month (later) from other sources.

 

 

 — Roger W. Smith

    June 2017; updated September 2019

Lorenzo A. Hopkins grave

 

 

In February 1886, L. A. Hopkins stole cash from his employer, Chapin & Gore, in Chicago and fled with Theodore Dreiser’s sister Emma.

The couple wound up living in New York.

The story provided the factual basis on which the plot of Sister Carrie is based, as did the two persons involved. Emma Dreiser became Carrie Meeber (Sister Carrie) in the novel, Hopkins became Carrie’s lover George Hurstwood.

The full name of L. A. Hopkins was Lorenzo A. Hopkins. His dates were 1847-1897. He died in Brooklyn, New York on December 21, 1897 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens County became a borough of New York City in 1898.

 

 

 

Lorenzo A. Hopkins grave.JPG

Lorenzo A. Hopkins grave, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, NYC; photograph by Roger W. Smith

 

 

death notice, Helen Dreiser, Los Angeles Times

 

 

death notice, Helen Dreiser, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1955

 

The entry for Helen Esther Dreiser, Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, is at the bottom of the left hand column.

 

 

 

Helen Dreiser death notice LA Times 9-27-1955 FINAL.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, September 27, 1955, pg. 32

Edward M. Dreiser obituary

 

 

“Edward Dreiser Dead,” New York Times, January 31, 1958.

 

Edward M. Dreiser (1873-1958) was Theodore Dreiser’s younger brother.

 

 

 

 

Edward Dreiser obituary, NY Times 1-31-1958

 

New York Times, Friday, January 31, 1958

 

Esther Dickerson obituary

 

 
“Mrs. E. A. Dickerson Dies,” Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), August 27, 1916

 

Esther A. (Schnepp, or Schanab) Dickerson (1840-1916) was Theodore Dreiser’s aunt. She was the younger sister of Dreiser’s mother, Sarah (Schnepp, or Schanab) Dreiser. Samuel T. Dickerson was Esther’s second husband.

Esther Dickerson was also the maternal grandmother of Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, Helen (Patges) Dreiser. Esther’s daughter by her first marriage, Ida V. Parks, married George Patges. Their daughter Helen E. Patges married, secondly, Theodore Dreiser as his second wife.

The obituary notes that Mrs. Dickerson died at the residence of her daughter (by her second husband) Mrs. Carl M. Dies. The daughter, Myrtle Josie (Dickerson) Dies, was the mother of Harold James Dies (1914-2012), a relative of Theodore Dreiser’s second wife Helen (Patges) Dreiser. Harold Dies became Trustee of the Dreiser Trust.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

Esther Dickerson obit, Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 8-27-1916, pg. 14

 

Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), August 27, 1916

 

 

genealogical reports, Dreiser ancestry

 

 

Descendants of Johann Paul Dreiser

 

 

descendants of Henry Schnepp

 

descendants of Theodore Dreiser

 

 

Descendants of Johann Paul Dreiser

 

Descendants of Henry Schnepp

 

Descendants of Theodore Dreiser

 

 

 

This post contains three reports (downloadable PDF files above) showing the genealogy of branches of the Dreiser and Schnepp (aka Schänäb) families.

The Schnepp or Schänäb family were ancestors of Theodore Dreiser’s mother, Sarah Maria (Schnepp) Dreiser, and of his second wife, Helen Esther (Patges Richardson) Dreiser.

These reports were generated using genealogy software. Each report shows the ancestor going back to a beginning point, so to speak, and then shows that ancestor’s descendants for a few generations down to the present (to the extent known).

The report entitled “Descendants of Theodore Dreiser” merely shows genealogical facts about the author and his spouses. There were no descendants.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2019; updated May 2020

death certificate, Margaret Dresser

 

 

Margaret Dresser death certificate.jpg

 

 

State of California

Department of Health Services

Certificate of Death

Margaret Dresser

died August 7, 1961 at 7:25 p.m.

Female

Caucasian

birthplace, Ohio

date of birth, February 2, 1867

age, 94 years

occupation, Housewife

Widow

Place of death, Camarillo State Hospital, Camarillo, Ventura Co., Calif.

length of time there, 8 years 9+ months

last usual residence, Hillhaven Sanatorium

cremation, August 9, 1961, Westwood Memorial Park Crem., Los Angeles

cause of death, Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease

Associated with Senile Brain Disease, with Psychotic Reaction

 
Margaret Dresser (born Margeruite May Steinman in 1867) was Theodore Dreiser’s sister-in-law. She was the wife of Dreiser’s brother Alphons J. Dreiser.

Theodore Dreiser seems to have had minimal contact in later years with his brother Al, Margaret’s husband.

In his The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser, Jerome Loving states (footnote pg. 448):

The last known address for Al Dreiser was in 1934, at 1235 Muirhead Street, Los Angeles; he had apparently written Dreiser about his share of the royalties from the publication of The Songs of Paul Dresser.