My grandfather Edward Lee Wells (1905-1955) worked in various capacities for Timken-Detroit Axle Company from the 1920s until his death on June 19, 1955. The company started on Clark and Fort Streets in Detroit in 1909.
Edward, his mother Nannie, and his siblings Willis, Mary, William, and Jesse came to Detroit from Virginia in about 1923. He married my grandmother Velma Belknap on November 23, 1932. On the marriage license, his occupation was factory work.
In 1933, Edward and Velma were living in Lincoln Park, Michigan and he was a truck operator at Timken-Detroit Axle Company. In the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Edward, Velma and their four children were living in Allen Park and his job was as a stock chaser at the axle company. His income was $1600 and he had worked 50 weeks out of the year. In 1947, now with seven children, the family was living in Melvindale and Edward was a press operator at Timken Axle. In 1953, with eight children, Edward was listed in the city directory as a mechanic at Timken. In 1954, the last directory before his death, Edward was a service representative for Timken.
In the 1950s, my grandfather had to travel a lot to Chicago and back for his job.There is a family story that my grandmother once visited him there and that is where my youngest uncle was conceived (he was born March 31, 1953). Edward died ten days shy of his 50th birthday of a heart attack.
Mildred Wade was the wife of my 1st cousin 4x removed, William I. Bolt. She was born July 22, 1856 in Hillsdale, Michigan. Both her parents died by 1870 and she went to live with her grandmother in Geneva, Ohio. In 1877, she married William I. Bolt in Jackson, Michigan. William was my great-great-great grandfather William D. Bolt’s nephew and the son of Isaiah Bolt. William was a plumber and Mildred was a teacher of elocution in Detroit. They lived at 1191 Jefferson Ave. In 1888, she founded the Detroit School of Expression and became its principal.
In what must’ve been the annual back-to-school issue on Wednesday, August 29, 1906, the Detroit Free Press devoted a large section to “Schools and Colleges of the Northwest.” The paragraph describing Mildred’s school is as follows:
Mrs. Mildred A. Bolt, principal of the Detroit School of Expression, is not only a teacher of the highest ability, but she possesses those invaluable qualities of earnestness and enthusiasm which seem to be transmitted to her pupils, inspiring them to greater diligence and higher aims.
Mrs. Bolt studied elocution with Prof. Moses True Brown, of Boston; attended lectures under Prof. S. H. Clarke, at Chicago University and graduated from the Detroit Training School, where she studied under Mrs. Edna Chaffee Noble.
Under her immediate direction is a staff of highly efficient teachers, who assist her in conducting the classes in elocution, English literature, Delsarte, philosophy, Shakespearian study, voice training, dramatic reading, criticism, physical culture, deportment and general literature.
Five new teachers will be added to the faculty this year, making it possible to give an increased amount of personal attention to each student. The Detroit School of Expression is located in one of Detroit’s finest residence sections, 1191-1195 Jefferson avenue, and was established by Mrs. Bolt in 1888.
William died at the age of 50 in 1907. Mildred’s home continued to be at 1191 Jefferson until at least 1920. Mildred was well-known in Detroit society and was involved in the Detroit Shakespeare Club. She died of uterine cancer on July 24, 1922 at 3578 Joseph Campau, which was the home of Dr. and Mrs. Siefert. Louise Siefert was the Secretary-Treasurer of the school. I’m glad Mildred had a friend to go to at the end.
Mildred and William were buried in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
I couldn’t think of anyone that would fit into the “musical” category (although I did play the clarinet in 6th-8th grades), so I thought I would focus on someone that worked in a Detroit theatre. Or more specifically, focus on that theatre.
In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census (enumerated April 27, 1910), my great-grandmother Mae Oakes was listed as aged 19 (although she was born May 18, 1892 and, if my math is right, that would make her 17 almost 18). Mae had been married in December 1908 to my great-grandfather, but he wasn’t living with her in 1910. Anyway, her occupation was ticket-clerk at “Laf. Theatre.” She and her mother Mina were lodgers of Alta Fisher at 77 W. Elizabeth St.
77 W. Elizabeth St. didn’t exist in the 1921 Old and New House Number for the City of Detroit, but 79’s address was changed to 203. If I look at Google Maps now, 203 is about at the corner of W. Elizabeth and Clifford, smack dab in the middle of parking lots for Comerica Park and Fox Theatre.
The “Laf. Theatre” listed on the 1910 census stood for the Lafayette Theatre. Here’s a little history on the theatre where my great-grandmother worked. The Lafayette Theatre first opened in 1893 as “Campbell’s Empire Theatre.” According to the New York Dramatic Mirror of 12/30/1893, it was built on the former Latimer’s Livery Stable and was located at 17 and 19 Lafayette Avenue, near Griswold.
The Empire Theatre closed in May 1904 and reopened as the Lafayette in August 1904. In Polk’s Detroit Directory of 1907, the Lafayette was located at 15-17 Lafayette Blvd. Here is an ad from Wood’s Official Railway guide from about 1909.
Sometime before 1913, the Lafayette came down and a new theatre, called the Orpheum, went up in its place. It opened in 1914.
In 1925, the interior was completely remodeled and the theatre was eventually named the Schubert-Lafayette. It was demolished in 1964. The spot is now a parking lot for the Dime Building.
Hauser, Michael. “Downtown Detroit’s Magnificent Movie Palaces.” Presentation at the 2013 Michigan in Perspective: The Local History Conference.
Joseph Ralph Smiechowski was my great-grandmother’s (Mae Moore Oakes) second husband. They were married in 1916 in Detroit, Michigan. I have found his last name spelled a few different ways, including Smiechowsky and Smilchowski.
Joseph was born 6 September 1893 in Detroit to Wladyslaw (Walter) Smiechowski and Eva Wolff. He had one brother Edward (born 1895) and two sisters, Amelia (born 1898) and Anna (born 1900). In the 1900 census, the family was living on St. Joseph St. in Detroit. In the 1910 census, they were living on Theodore Street. Joseph was 16 and employed as a shipping clerk at a tannery. On 19 June 1916, Joseph and my great-grandmother, Mae, were married in Detroit. One of the witnesses was her brother, Earl Moore. Mae had a daughter, Helen, who turned four years old on their wedding day. On his World War I draft registration card, dated 1 June 1917, Joseph is described as medium height, stout, with blue eyes and light hair. He lists his dependents as a “wife and child 5 yrs old.” In various documents, his occupation is listed as decorator or painter.
In the 1920 census, the little family was living on Sheridan Street in Detroit. My grandmother Helen was listed as Helen Smiechowski, instead of Helen Oakes and as Joseph’s daughter instead of step-daughter.
Mae filed for divorce on 17 December 1924 and the divorce was granted on 11 May 1925. Causes listed were extreme cruelty and non-support. Mae went on to marry her third husband Alfred Johnson in July 1925.
In the 1930 census, Joseph was living with his parents on Pressler Street in Detroit.
I recently found his death certificate on the SeekingMichigan.org site. Joseph died 21 Sept 1936. His place of death is listed as Motor Boat Lane, Detroit, Michigan. This road appears to be next to a marina or an inlet of the Detroit River near the Manoogian Mansion. His cause of death was “asphyxiation by suffocation drowning.” His father Walter is listed as the informant. His address was 6629 Burns, and I assume Joseph was living there at the time of his death, but the certificate lists his address as unknown. Burns Street was only about 5 or 6 blocks over from Motor Boat Lane. I had no idea when I started looking for his death date, that Mr. Smiechowski had come to such a tragic end.
“Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N3TS-CLW : accessed 5 January 2016), Joseph R. Smiechowski and Mae D Moore Oakes, 19 Jun 1916; citing Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, v 6 p 443 rn 131966, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2,342,718.
“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images,FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6XQ-4NM : accessed 5 January 2016), Joseph Ralph Smiechowski, 1917-1918; citing Detroit City, Michigan, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,675,371.
“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZW1-7LF : accessed 5 January 2016), Joseph Smilchowski, Detroit Ward 17, Wayne, Michigan, United States; citing sheet 20A, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,820,816.
My great-grandmother was married three times, which surprised my mother who always thought she was the sweetest lady and how could she have married three men? Third times a charm, I think, because she was married to her third husband, Alfred Johnson, for 46 years until her death.
Mae Dillon Moore was born in Plymouth, Michigan on May 18, 1892 to Fred and Mina (Bolt) Moore. She had two brothers, Glenn and Earl and a sister Helen. On December 23, 1908 at the age of 16, she married William E. Oakes. In the 1910 U.S. Census, she and her mother, Mina, are living as lodgers in the home of Alta Fisher on W. Elizabeth St. in Detroit. I haven’t found her husband William yet in the 1910 census, but obviously they were living apart. However, my grandmother, Helen Dorothy Oakes, was born on June 19, 1912, so we know it wasn’t a permanent separation! Mae filed for divorce from William on August 31, 1914 for cruelty and non-support. The divorce was final on July 13, 1915. William died in 1928.
Mae married Joseph R. Smiechowski on June 19, 1916, her daughter Helen’s fourth birthday. Mae’s brother Earl was one of the witnesses. In the 1920 U.S. census, Joseph, Mae, and Helen are living at 1521 Sheridan Avenue in Detroit. My grandmother was listed as Helen Smiechowski. Joseph was a painter whose father was from Poland. Mae filed for divorce from Joseph on December 17, 1924 for extreme cruelty and non-support. The divorce was final on May 11, 1925. Joseph died in 1936.
Coincidentally (or not), Mae’s third husband Alfred was married to Cecelia Martin and their divorce was finalized on December 8, 1924, just days before Mae filed for divorce from her second husband. Hmm. Mae and Alfred were married July 3, 1925 (less than two months after her divorce). They lived at 14810 Parkgrove in Detroit for over forty years. They had no children. Mae died on June 6, 1971 of colon cancer and Alfred died January 27, 1975 of spinal cancer. They are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.
Mary Everitt Bolt is my Great-Great-Great Grandmother. She is about as far back as I have been able to go on my matrilineal line, which so far consists of Mary > Mina > Mae > Helen > Mary > Me. I love this picture and that it was made in Detroit.
This is the obituary of my Great-Grandmother who sent my mother all those postcards in 1959. She died June 6, 1971 at the age of 79. The three great-grandchildren mentioned in the obituary are my three brothers.