Maplewood History: Cora Clamorgan – The Conclusion

The following article appeared in the St. Louis Star on July 17, 1911.

Then on September 11, these two articles were carried in the St. Louis newspapers.

This isn’t the end of the story. Julie Winch in her book, The Clamorgans – One Family’s History of Race in America, does a great job of following up on what befell the key players in this story.  My summary follows but I highly recommend you read her book.

Everyone involved in this saga suffered through big changes in their lives.  The Clamorgan family including all but one of their children, their son-in-law, Jack Collins and their infant granddaughter, Virginia had left St. Louis by the end of the year.  Owen and Mary Collins had lost their son and granddaughter.

The Clamorgans moved to Los Angeles where they first changed their name to Morgan and then to Demorgan in an attempt to put the experience behind them.  Louis and Louise moved to Sierra Madre.  Louis died there in 1922.  Louise moved back to LA where she died in 1946 at the age of 82.

Blanche left her two suitors in St. Louis. She married an English immigrant, Albert Leat, in California in August 1912.  They had a daughter, Hazel in March of 1914.  Albert died in 1957.  Blanche died in 1969, age 86. Her race (white) had not been questioned.

Walter eventually got a job selling cars.  Then, probably with the help of Blanche’s husband, he got a job as a maintenance man at 20th Century Fox Studios.  He died in 1965 at the Motion Picture Hospital.  He was 75 and white.

Clothilde, using her middle name, became Isabel Morgan.  In 1916, she wed a Californian. They had one son born in 1919.  “Like most of her siblings, Isabel spent the rest of her life in California, dying in Los Angeles County on May 26, 1978, at age 83, her identity as a white woman unquestioned.”

Grace, the youngest, married in California when she was 19.  She and her husband moved to New Jersey but were living back in Pasadena by 1930. Grace Demorgan Roney died in Los Angeles in 1990, age 92.

Cora and Jack had a tough time. She gave birth to their second child, Herbert Jack Collins, on September 18, 1912. They moved often and by 1920 were back living with Cora’s parents.  At some point over the next decade they separated.  Jack’s parents moved to Burbank in 1920 in order to be near their son. They never reconciled themselves to their son’s marriage.  When Owen died, Jack turned his back on Cora to be with his mother.

Jack and Cora’s marital problems had an impact on their children.  Herbert left home early.  Virginia married Orville Maloy when she was 17 in 1929.  In 1931, she gave birth to a daughter, Jeanne Margaret.  Cora stayed close to her daughter’s family.  She never divorced Jack.  Cora Clamorgan Collins died in Los Angeles County on January 6, 1989 with Virginia by her side.  Like her siblings, she was white when she died.

What a powerful story!  Thanks to everyone who stayed with me all the way through.

Doug Houser   July 6, 2020

Addendum.

This addendum is made necessary by the meticulous research done by reader Dave Pepin.  First, he has given us a bonus image by discovering a copy of Cora and Jack’s marriage license.  As he has mentioned below, they were actually married in December of 1910 even though they reported a marriage date in August.  This was, no doubt, in order to put a little more time before the birth of their daughter, Virginia in April of 1911.

On page 296 of Ms. Winch’s book she states that “Jack, burdened with a family…dead end jobs…continuing financial hardship…seems to have caved in under pressure.  His father’s death intensified the demands upon him. His mother was alone and he turned his back on Cora to be with her.” The source she lists is the 1930 U.S. Census, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Calif.

Two paragraphs later, “Cora stayed close to Virginia, Orville and her granddaughter.  She shared a home with them…and when she and Jack briefly reconciled in the late 1930’s, so did he.” Ms. Winch lists California Voter Registrations, 1934, 1940, 1942, 1944 (www.ancestry.com) as the sources of this information.

She goes on to say, “Within a year or two, Jack had faded out of their lives again. Cora never divorced him, but she made a determined effort to become independent of him.  She decided on a new career.  She qualified as a nurse and worked until she was in her sixties.”

This next document, discovered by Dave, shows that Ms. Winch must have gotten some misinformation somewhere along the way.

Jack Collins had passed away in 1921 at the age of 30.  His death certificate is signed by his father.  I suppose we ought ought to inform Ms. Winch of this.  I think she would appreciate getting this information.

Much thanks to Dave Pepin for this surprise ending.

 

13 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Cora Clamorgan – The Conclusion

  1. Great story! This should be shared with MRH students as an example of people in their own community dealing with racism, especially as the newspaper articles and court documents give public examples of how language reflects society’s current attitudes….Thanks.

    • You are welcome, Stacey. I agree with you. It should be shared with all students. Decent folks whose lives were made miserable by racism. The Black Lives Matter movement is welcome and overdue in my mind.

  2. What a sad love story , especially during these sad times in our world. This should be suggested material in our history books. I’m 80 years old & always new “ There was a difference “ ?? But never realized
    how our laws were at that time.🙏🙏

    • It is a very sad story, Joan, made sadder by the fact that the adverse reactions by some of the folks involved were totally unnecessary. Thankfully we have made some progress since then but we still have a long way to go. Thank you for your comment.

    • Correct, the name has been changed from Maria Avenue to Rabenberg Place and the house at 7122 that the Clamorgen’s lived in has been demolished.

  3. I found a number interesting documents regarding this sad story that I thought important to share. I have not read Julie Winch’s book so I have no idea if these documents were discussed in the book or not.

    The first item below is from an index of Missouri Supreme court cases. Unfortunately, for this case, the actual files have not been made available digitally and I haven’t requested copies so don’t know the outcome of the case.

    ———————-
    Title Series Superior Court Case Files
    Title
    Parties Clamorgan, Jacques – Respondent
    Ester, A Free Mulatto Woman – Appellant
    Dates Year of Filing 1809
    Term of Court, Year
    Term of Court, Month
    Year of Opinion
    Coverage County Saint Louis
    Court of Origin
    Description Case Type Civil
    Diposition
    MO Supreme Court Report
    General Notes
    Case Summary Ester agreed to work for Clamorgan for 7 years, she worked for 14. Claimed Clamorgan owed her $50 per year; he said she owed debt to him.
    Location Box RD024 Folder 14
    ————————

    It’s think interesting that the newspaper articles seem to indicate Ester, thought to be Cora’s Great Great Grandmother, was Cora’s only non-white ancestor. I guess even back then the story was more sensational if one thinks Cora is only a tiny bit non-white? While in fact all 4 of Cora’s grandparents (Henri Clamorgan and wife Hattie nee. Eagleson, and Andrew Tate and wife Addell nee. Livingston) have strong evidence in the historical record that indicate they all were identified or had immediate family identified as either “mulatto” or “colored”. America is truly a great melting pot and we all should embrace and celebrate our diversity, like others have mentioned here we all seem to have a few “surprises” in our family histories.

    The marriage license for John B. Collins and Cora M. Clamorgan shows they married on December 5th, 1910, not in August of 1910 as claimed by their story told in the newspapers. Their daughter Virginia Blanche was born in April 18, 1911, so it seems clear why they are claiming the wedding was in August, 1910? A possible second marriage license for Cora and John B. Collins was issued on March 18, 1916?

    The last bit I will add today in this post is that John B. Collins, husband of Cora, died in Sept. 9th, 1921 of tuberculosis at age 30. His father Owen L. Collins was the informant for the death certificate and was living in Glendale California. John had been a mail carrier during much of his time in California and was a postoffice clerk at the time of his death. This untimely death of John at such a young age seems at odds with the summary Doug provided based on Julie Winch’s book?

    • Dave, you’ve done it again. You’ve stirred the pot. You’ve found information that eluded Ms. Winch. Tomorrow I’ll post the copy of the death certificate you found and the part of Ms Winch’s book that disagrees with it. I’ll attempt to forward what you’ve found to Ms. Winch. Congratulations and thanks.

    • Sorry I had no time to reply to this last night. Regarding Jacques Clamorgan’s common law wife, Esther, Ms. Winch devotes a good deal of space to their relationship at the beginning of her book.
      As for Cora’s ancestors, unless there is someone I’m forgetting, according to Ms. Winch’s book, most if not all of Cora’s ancestors were persons of color. It has been awhile since I read the book so keep that in mind.
      As for Dave’s other discoveries, I’m adding an addendum to the post. Thanks, Dave.

  4. This is so sad, I wished for a happier ending for this family. You start to empathize with the hardships they faced. I remember the first (mixed marriage) couple I knew who faced this bigotry. It was difficult watching their struggles, loving them and not knowing how to help, other than just loving them.

    In researching my own family history I found my Uncle, who we all assumed was single his whole life, actually was secretly married. His wife’s brother was a famous bomber during WW2. There was a huge parade for this aviator as he had fire bombed Dresden to it’s knees. My family immigrated from Germany and still spoke fluent German at that time. There would be no way his marriage would have been happily accepted by his family, my uncle was unlucky as his mother lived to be 101, he could never feel safe in his own family with the truth . A true Romeo and Juliet affair. Not as heartbreaking as the Claymorgan’s

    Cora and Jack had to live their lives under the constant threat from all the publicity , I wish their love could have endured stronger through these difficult times.

    • Mary, Thank you very much for sharing your family story and sentiments with us.