Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wily Twyla

We don't really know much about Twyla.

Daughter of Elmer and Alice Scott Gilbreath, born April Fool's Day, 1893 in Jasper County, Missouri.

Most of what I do know I got from her daughter Charlotte, who was a wonderful person. Really funny and lively. I saw her take an umbrella out of her drink and put it in her hair, like it was the natural thing to do.

As she told the story, when Charlotte was 5 and Georgina was 3, Twyla divorced Everitt so she could run off (marry? that's unclear) with a man who was an acrobat in the circus. Circuses did (and still do) winter in the Newton/Jasper Counties area of Missouri.

She took Charlotte and left Georgina (to become Georga) behind. Georga lived at first with her father and later with her grandparents and Aunt Jessie.

Twyla and Charlotte headed to Europe, where she and Charlotte performed in the acrobatic act of the man they left with. Later, she left him for another man, leaving Charlotte with this step-father. Charlotte was in Paris during World War I.

Twyla apparently lived in California, but we know nothing about this period of her life.

She died in 1948 at the age of 55 and is buried in Carterville Cemetery in the same plot as her parents under the name "Twyla Blevins".

We have no idea who her last husband was.

I've tried to do some research on this, checking Ellis Island for their comings and goings (none that I could find). And no sign of them in the 1920 census.

I did manage to find Charlotte in 1930, when she was living with Everitt's second wife's twin sisterJewel Innes Stipp in Pittsburg, Kansas and "dancing" in a "Theatrical troup". This is probably why Georga wasn't allowed to speak to her, though this wasn't explained to Georga. Her aunt made it clear that Charlotte wasn't "good enough" to talk to, but Georga never understood why. She simply did as she was told.

But I finally got a proper breakthrough the other day when put the World War I Draft Registration Cards online.

Twyla had a brother named Levie Sutton Gilbreath (she had a Great-Uncle named Levi Sutton). Levie later went by "Leroy", but in 1917 he was living in Chicago and his form reads like this:

WWI Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,
Serial Number: 3662, Order Number: 5082
Name: Levie Sutton Gilbreath
Address: 63 W. Shiller? Chicago Cook Ill
Age: 20, Date of birth: Mar 10 1898
Native born [citizen]
Occupation: Salesman, St. Clair Refinery Co
Place of employment: 35th + South Park Av. Chicago

Cook Ill
Nearest relative: sister Mrs. Twyla Cuby
64 W. Schiller Chicago Cook Ill

[signed] Levie S. Gilbreath

Medium height
Slender build
Eyes: Blue
Hair: brown
Disability: no

[signed] Mathilde Jacqer
Sept 12 1918

Chicago Local Board No. 46
Newberry Library, Chicago.

The alert reader will notice "sister Mrs. Twyla Cuby" who lives in Chicago. I did. My eyes nearly bulged out of my head!

And in 1920, Twyla still did:

1920 Cook Co., IL Census
State Illinois
County Cook
s.d. 1, e.d. 1153, Sheet No. 4B
Chicago City, Ward 21
January 1920 by Arthur Hanssen
1357 North LaSalle Street
line 88, 38/87 DUCKWORTH Hannah Head R FW 45 S 1912/Pa /yes/yes England/English England/English England/English Keeper/Rooming House
[other roomers]
line 93, /89 CUBY Clement Roomer R MW 30 M 1900/Na/1910 France/French France/French France/French Acrobat/theater
Twyla Roomer FW 23 M 1904/Na/1910 /yes/yes England/English England/English England/English Acrobat/theater
Georgenia Daughter FW 7 S yes/yes/yes Missouri France/French England/English
Charlotte Daughter FW 5 S no/yes/yes Missouri France/French England/English
[other roomers]

There they are. A slight mix up with the daughters ages, and Twyla claims (*cough*cough*) to have been born in England.

And just when you were convinced that the story was far to interesting to be true notice:

Occupation: acrobat/theater

Also of interest is Clement Seraphin Cuby's draft registration form that notes he is from Lausanne, Switzerland (not true - he's from the Haute Pyrenees in France, near Toulouse) and that he is single, claiming only his mother in Switzerland as a dependent (also untrue, she is actually working as a maid in New York City). It's not surprising Clement claimed to be from (neutral) Switzerland and not France while the war was raging. But I think we can assume he would have claimed Twyla, Charlotte and Georgina if he'd been married. Since he fills out his form on 5 June 1917, and Levie filled his out on 18 September 1918, that narrows down the marriage date signifcantly.

By 1930 Clement and Twyla are no longer married.

Clement is living in Nassau Co., NY:

State New York
County Nassau
Hempstead Township
e.d. 30-102, s.d. 36, Sheet No. 9B
Baldwin Village
Apr 10, 11, 1930 by Bessie H Betts
39 Ashland Avenue
line 79, 208/220 CUBY Clement Head O 10000 R no MW 41 M 35 no/yes France France France French 1900/Pa/yes Actor/Theatrical
Frances Wife FW 48 M 42 no/yes Scotland Scotland Scotland English 1903/Pa/yes Sales-lady/Real Estate
Idalie Mother FW 70 Wd 28 no/yes France France France French 1900?/Na/yes

I'm not sure where Twyla is. There is a Twyla Shaw in California who is about the right age and born in Missouri, but there's no reason to assume it's her.

Wily Twyla.

So, Twyla really was an acrobat. I thought perhaps just Charlotte and her step-father were in the act (from what Charlotte said I wasn't sure).

Anyway, thought you'd find this of interest. Oh, and Georgina/Georgia is also listed in the 1920 census in Neosho:

1920 Newton Co., MO Census
Neosho City
S.D. 13, E.D. 148, Sheet #16A/165A
13 January 1920 by J.S. Sutherland
Cemetery Road
384/409 JACKSON, George W. Head 60 TN TN TN Farmer
Ida Wife 58 MO MO MO
Jessie Mae Daughter Divorced 31 MO TN MO Needlework
Everitt Son Divorced 29 MO TN MO Mail carrier
Percy Son 22 MO TN MO Home Laborer
Georgia Grand Daughter 4 9/12 MO MO MO

Since Clement fills out his Draft Registration Form in St. Louis, Missouri but it gives his home address as being in Chicago, we can assume there was a lot of traveling back and forth. It's the only explanation I can think of for her dual listings. He mentioned specifically on his Draft Form that he's with a traveling show and that their next stop is in Jacksonville, Illinois.

It's the best explanation I have for the dual listing.

One striking thing is that although they were raised apart and saw each other infrequenly as adults, Charlotte and Georga have many of the same mannerisms, speech pattern and the same joie de vie.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Today in Family History:
The burning of the Potterstown Bridge

Jonathan Morgan of Greene County, Tennessee tells the story of his involvement in the burning of the bridge and the consequences of the brutal Confederate response.

You can read his account, transcribed by Donahue Bible, at the Greene County, Tennessee rootsweb website.