I have read so many documents while researching all of this over the last 10 years. I have found that the place to find everyday details of life is most definitely the newspaper. At the turn of the century newspapers served as the town crier for small towns and large cities alike. Births, deaths, marriages, relocation, graduation and other everyday mundane information was reported in the daily, weekly and monthly journals. This has been invaluable to me in gaining perspective on what made Agnes Moorehead who she was.
In all began on December 6, 1900 in Clinton Massachusetts. I have her birth record listing her as being the child of John H. Moorehead, pastor, and Mary Moorehead, home maker. It is a very simple piece of paper comprised of a listing of children born that day in Clinton. It is a full page long and handwritten in the floral style of cursive writing common during that period of time. Clinton was not the Reverend Moorehead's first parish. His first station with the Presbyterian Church was in the small southwestern Pennsylvania town of Scottdale. This posting was key to Agnes' very existence. Had it not happened John would never have met Mary Mildred McCauley.
Agnes around the age of 6
Mary, or Molly as she was called, was from the area surrounding Scottdale Pennsylvania. Her father, an, English immigrant, settled in southwestern Pennsylvania around the year 1874, according to census papers. He worked as a tinsmith. Around 1880 he would marry a local girl named Margaret Doyle. Their first child was Mary Mildred McCauley the woman destined to become the mother of Agnes Moorehead.
Molly and her mother Margaret McCauley
Little is available about the McCauley family other than census records and they're difficult to find. It has been my experience that the census records of the period were taken down incorrectly on a regular basis. Names were misspelled. Relationships were incorrectly documented. Tons of reading as well as interpretation is required to figure out potential relations. I've found Mollies father listed on two census records. The first is is 1900 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He is listed as a roomer in a home documented by the record. I would never have found him if it hadn't been for a newspaper article in the Daily Republican News of Hamilton Ohio documenting the Moorehead family as being visited by Mollies sister in January of 1906 by Mollies sister Mrs. William S. Spang. It is key because the other person living in the home and listed as a roomer along with Edward "Teddy" McCauley is William S. Spang. The McCauley family doesn't surface again for 10 years. On the 1910 census Teddy is listed as a resident on the census of Canton, Ohio along with his wife Margaret. I read an article ages ago that talked of Agnes' grandfather and his passing. He apparently fell asleep in a chair during the day. He subsequently died in his sleep and was discovered dead by his grand daughter Agnes. It makes sense because both families lived in Ohio for years and it is likely that Agnes spent time with them. The last record of Teddy being alive was in 1913 where he was listed in the Canton Directory. Alas the Ohio death records do not list his death but he is never documented again after 1913.. Again, I would never have made the connection to Canton Ohio if it hadn't been for a newspaper article in 1953. That article reads as follows:
February 17, 1953
Canton Ohio, (UP)
Agnes Moorehead's Grandmother Dies
Mrs. Margaret McCauley, 92, grandmother of screen actress Agnes Moorehead, died at her home here on Monday night.
Mrs. Molly Moorehead of Reedsburg Wisconsin, mother of the actress, is a patient in a Canton hospital.
The article was the only connection I had linking the McCauley family with Canton until I obtained the death record of Margaret McCauley. The informant on the death record is one Mrs. Agnes Scott. She turned out to be the sister of Molly also living in Canton. It also told me who Margaret Doyle McCauley's father was. His name was Patrick Doyle.
Agnes had long asserted the she was a relative of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Suddenly I had confirmation that Doyle was a family name and more importantly that Agnes had given out a statement about her roots. Alas, I have yet to connect Patrick Doyle with Sir Arthur but I can tell you more about her roots. Patrick Doyle was born in 1818 in Ireland. He married Mary Molly Newton. Together they came America in 1845 settling in Leechburg Pennsylvania. They had seven children. The eldest being Moses J. Doyle.
I mention Moses Doyle because he has the most documented history of any of the couples children. He was a veteran of the Civil War as well as a survivor of Anderson and the father of one Dr. Paul Boyton Doyle a prominent Pittsburgh physician and Dr. Frank Boyle another prominent Pittsburgh physician. Patrick died in 1894 and Molly, his wife, died in 1884. The Doyle family was very visible in their community and in the society of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
Dr. Paul Boyton Doyle and his wife Leah Ida Horn Doyle
This blurb was printed about Moses Doyle in the biography of Dr. Paul Boyle in the book A Century and a Half of Pittsburgh and Her People
Moses Doyle, eldest child of Patrick Doyle, was born in County WexfordAndersonville
It seems that when it came to her family history Agnes edited very little. She identified her roots as Scotch Irish and English. The only stretching of this truth comes much later in her life when she begins the process of trying to regain and restore the family farm in Ohio. She says in many newspaper articles that the farm was established by her grandparents who immigrated from England.
Not quite true. The farm was actually established by her great grandfather not her grandfather. Her great grandfather was David Moorehead and he was not English he was born in Pennsylvania having been born there in 1799. He moved west into Ohio around 1820. He married Margaret Henderson in Muskingum Moorehead emigrated to this country from Scotland and settled in Pennsylvania. Samuel married a woman of German heritage named Elizabeth Sproul a piece of heritage left out of every biography of Agnes. In her defense she may truly not have known that she had any German heritage owing to a lack of readily available records at the time but it wasn't very difficult for me to connect these dots so nobody can say for sure if she was aware of her German roots. David Moorehead was married to Margaret Henderson, hence Agnes' father's middle name. She was born in 1802 in Somerset county Pennsylvania and died in 1879 in Muskingum county Ohio.
Singleton Peabody Moorehead. Great grandson of David Moorehead and Margaret Moorehead cousin to Agnes born two months before her in Massachusetts.
Agnes' grandmother, the wife of Robert Moorehead, was Hannah Mariah Humphrey. Hannah was born in Muskingum county in 1838. She was the daughter of Marcus Humphrey and Amanda West. The Humphrey family is my connection to Agnes. We have a common great grandmother a few generations back. Hannah's father, Marcus, moved to Ohio from Virginia around 1830 at the age of 20 years old. His father Lee also relocated around that time. Amanda West also came to Ohio from Virgina. She was born around 1808 in Virginia. Her father was William West and her mother Rebecca Tysinger. Hannah and Robert Moorehead had five children together but only four of them survived to adulthood. It bears mentioning here that Hannah had only one sibling, Martha Jane. Martha also married a Moorehead, Alfred Kelly Moorehead, elder brother of Robert. Martha and Alfred were the parents of Lou E. Moorehead the cousin who would sue Agnes later on in the saga.
However tempted you might be to get lost in this apparently simple American family history,
one must remember that despite the appearance of being a well adjusted American girl Agnes had her demons. It appears that tragedy had a large part to play in her life. Now, I'm going to take this a bit out of order but we're going to go as far back as 1906 to take a look at the core of her world and that's always been her family.
To say that the year 1929 was a year of tragedy for the Moorehead family would be an understatement. In the first 7 months of 1929 two family members were lost about 90 days to the day apart. The first family member to pass that year was Agnes' beloved grandfather Robert H. Moorehead.
30, April 1929
Aged Civil War Veteran is Dead
Robert H. Moorehead, 90, Civil War Veteran died at 9 o'clock Sunday night at his home in Rix Mills. He was highly esteemed in his home community. He served in Company A., Fifteenth Regiment, O.V.I., during the Civil War.
Funeral services will be held at 2:30pm Wednesday afternoon at the U.P. church Rix Mills Reverand Lawrence officiating. Burial will be made in Salt Creek Cemetery.
Surviving are four children: John H. Moorehead, Dayton, Mark H. Moorehead of the home, Howard Moorehead, Brunswick Colorado, Mrs. Harold Bay of New Concord.
An important note about this obituary is the notation of Mrs. Harold Bay of New Concord. It appears that Agnes' Aunt Camilla was married at one point in her life. The reason it seems so odd is that when Camilla died in 1939 she was not identified by her married name at all. She was identified only as Camilla Urso Moorehead and no spouse predeceasing her was included in the obituary. At some point between 1929 and 1939 Camilla appears to have become unmarried. Let us return to the obituary of Robert Moorehead. We know that Agnes and her sister spent a goodly number of summers at their grandparents home in Rix Mills. They were both close to their grandparents. Her father served as executor of Robert Moorehead's estate. He was not able to file the first and final accounting of the estate until September 19, 1930. Probably because of the following.
Xenia Ohio Evening Gazette
Miss Margaret Moorehead Dies
Miss Margaret Moorehead, 22, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J.H. Moorehead of 19 Stone Mill Road, Dayton, died at Miami Valley Hospital Sunday morning after a brief illness. Dr. Moorehead is a first cousin of Miss Margaret Moorehead and Mr. William Moorehead of this city.
Miss Moorehead has been a resident of Dayton for a year, coming to that city from St. Louis last year when Dr. Moorehead assumed the pastorate of Patterson Memorial Presbyterian Church.
She is survived by her parents and one sister, Miss Agnes Moorehead, New York City. Funeral arrangements have not been completed.
I found only one other mention of Margaret's death and that was in a Zanesville newspaper. It says that she was a nurse in New York City. Nurse or brief illness neither newspaper was telling the truth.
It was maintained for years that she had suffered a heart attack as a result of being jilted by a young man named simply Frank. Her death was a great deal more troubling than that. Margaret committed suicide by taking Bi Chloride of Mercury. Her death was slow and extremely painful. She had absolutely no hope of avoiding death from the moment she swallowed the mercury. Mercury poisoning shuts down every system of the body one at a time and causes a tremendous amounts of pain. The only other person that I've ever read about who chose to die this way was the actress Olive Thomas. Margaret, especially if she was a nurse, was completely aware what this substance would do to her body and totally aware of exactly how fatal it would be. It is often said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Margaret made sure her solution was completely permanent and something her parents would have to come to terms with over the 3 or 4 days it took her to die. We know that Molly wrote to Agnes during this time advising her of the situation. We also know that she spoke with Agnes on the phone during this time as well. Molly seemed completely clueless and very self involved during these communications. Either she was putting on a good face or she really didn't understand what Margaret had done nor the effect it would have on her family. I have to note that some years after the fact during a spat with her mother it is alleged that Molly told Agnes the wrong daughter had died.
Two tragedies back to back and of such great dimension had to have a lasting effect on Agnes.
In addition her beloved grandmother had passed away at the end of 1927 as well. In a span of two years Agnes lost her grandmother, her grandfather and her sister. No matter who you are that much stress combined with the stress of relocating to a city the size of New York, working to support yourself in that city and beginning a new course of study on which rested the rest of your life would be overwhelming to say the least.
Continuing on with the topic of Margaret Moorehead. I did discover one really unusual aspect about Margaret and her relationship with her parents. It has been taken for granted for years that when Reverend Moorehead assumed the pastorate in Reedsburg Wisconsin that his family moved with him, not the case at all. In fact, while Agnes went off to college Margaret remained in St. Louis. She did actually graduate in June of 1925 from Grover Cleveland High School in St. Louis Missouri. It is why no record has ever been found of her attending school in Reedsburg. She didn't live there. Agnes too spent the majority of her free time away from college in St. Louis not in Reedsburg.
July 22, 1926
The Times Recorder
The misses Agnes and Margaret Morehead of St. Louis have returned to their home after spending the week with their grandfather, Robert Morehead, and family
Agnes started singing on the radio in St. Louis in 1925 and had become a fixture by 1927 being known as the "Girl Tenor." The above blurb is the only time that Margaret is mentioned in any newspaper article that I have found until her untimely death in 1929. Whatever the case may be it is a fact that Margaret resided in St. Louis and did not return to live with her parents full time until the fall of 1928 and less than a year later she was dead. I have not yet found any record of college work done by Margaret but there were then and are still several schools in St. Louis that specialized in nursing. If she was a nurse she did not attend her sisters Alma Mater and she did not attend the University of Wisconsin. They were a family divided by choice.
The first record I found in Hamilton Ohio of the Moorehead family was in the local newspaper, of course, and it is a peak at the demeanor of her father, the man she admired most in the world:
January 11, 1906
Said The Reverend J.H.Moorehead Last Night
Local Minister Takes a Not Uncertain Stand Against Saloon
Large congregation heard mostly timely and powerful discourse at a prayer meeting last night, minister is warmly commended by his people.
The Reverand Mr. Moorehead the various phases of the liquor question and, spoke of the effort made by Cincinnati Brewers to put Dan Bauer, proprietor of the Majestic Cafe of that city out of business. The minister expressed himself as having the belief that action was taken was purely selfish and instead of having the interest of the city at heart, the men back of the action were acting purely from a business standpoint, wishing to hit their competitors in business through the Majestic Cafe which handled the beer manufactured by other breweries.
The speaker also said that most of the trouble that the cities are having today is caused by saloons and gambling houses and other places of a similar nature. But the brewery interest were becoming greatly alarmed and were uniting for their own protection. Hamilton was feeling the force of a better element of people today more than she ever did before. The better class of people were taking a stand against the low dives of our city. This town has been under the yoke of the saloon power for years is slowly arousing from her lethargy and will surely be but a short time when public spirit will assume such proportions as will cause the saloons to cringe with fear and agree to obey every part of the law. The minister spoke of the probable passage of the county option law and expressed himself as believing that the county of Butler would go dry just as soon as such a law was passed by the state legislature.....
"What we need in this city," said Mr. Moorehead, "in view of the disgraceful plight of our city council is to have one hundred good citizen of Hamilton go to the council chamber and throw out such men as elected of this city, proved traitor to their trust and thrust petty politics before the welfare, advancement and prosperity of Hamilton."
What an eyeful and what strong opinions this colorful gentleman had. It's easy to see where Agnes learned to emote with such passion. I've always thought that the majority of preachers were just a stones throw away from show business anyway and the good Reverend Moorehead was no different. I'm sure that like any good public speaker him practiced at home. It seems quite likely he was watched by his daughter who later on would strive to be as precise and well rehearsed as her father.
His sermons were every bit as strong as his opinions. I was lucky enough to discover an Easter sermon written by Reverend Moorehead in 1908.
April 17, 1908
For Now Is Christ Risen
( by the Rev. J.H.Moorehead)
On the Easter sabbath the christian church celebrates its greatest festival. On that day, its pulpits proclaim its most glorious doctrine. The incarnation was gigantic, the crucifixion stupendous, but the resurrection has been the greatest of the worlds wonders.....
The entire sermon is simply to long to put in here but suffice it to say that anybody willing to use gigantic, stupendous and the greatest of the worlds wonders prior to finishing the first paragraph is a persuasive and powerful speaker. The more I read about this man the more I became convinced that this man held tremendous sway over his daughter and her view of the world. Reading the editorial pieces written by Agnes you can see the same pattern of speech, the same emotive style of speech.
She was her fathers daughter.
As I continued on I found blurbs on the Choral Society and Mollie's performance during a recital given by them. There were book club meetings, visits from Mollie's family, prayer meetings, midnight impromptu weddings, dinners, luncheons, breakfasts, funerals, births and holidays. It seemed that during their twelve year stay in Hamilton that the Moorehead family was seldom,if ever,idle in any way.
As evidenced by the following:
Butler County Democrat
June 25th, 1905
The funeral services for Dr. Miller will be held at the family residence Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock, the Reverend J.H. Moorehead officiating
June 21st, 1906
The ladies missionary society of the United Presbyterian Church, held a meeting in the home of Miss Stoneker, in Trenton Thursday afternoon. After the meeting the home which Miss Stoneker had built for herself was dedicated, the exercises being conducted by the Rev. J.H. Moorehead, pastor of the United Presbyterian Church. The dedicatory address was appropriate and at the conclusion, Rev. Mr. Moorehead named the new home "Rest Cottage" and those present sang "Home Sweet Home."
May 3rd, 1906
Wm. F. Gundhofer, age 36, railroad contractor, of Cincinnati Ohio and Carrie M. Meyer age 33, of St. Charles were married. The Reverend J.H. Moorehead officiating.
April 11th, 1907
Reverend Moorehead of the United Presbyterian Church, was visited but that minister was absent and it is not know whether the couple finally landed into the bonds of holy matrimony or not.
August 1st, 1907
Baby Schmidt Dead
Margaret Catherine Schmidt, the month old daughter of Wm J. and Estella Schmidt, died at 5 o'clock this morning. The funeral will be held at the house Thursday afternoon at 2 o'clock, the Reverend John Moorehead officiating.
Hamilton Daily Republican News
January 21st, 1906
Surprise at the Manse
About fifty members of the United Presbyterian Church surprised Mrs. William S. Spang, sister of Mrs. J.H. Moorehead, at the manse last night. The crowd swooped down unexpectedly upon the manse and enjoyed an evening of rare pleasure. During the social hours taffy pulling was engaged in and music and songs assisted in making the occasion a most delightful and happy one. Mrs. Scott returns to her home in Scottdale Pennsylvania Wednesday morning after a pleasant visit in Hamilton. She has made so many friends during her sojourn her in this city.
October 5th, 1906
Death of Miss Susie Brown
....The funeral will take place tomorrow Saturday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the family residence, Reverend J.H. Moorehead officiating.
January 9th, 1908
United Presbyterian Church to Celebrate Special Services This Week
The pastor Reverend J.H. Moorehead, has preached every night thus far and will preach at the prayer meeting tonight. The meetings will continue until Saturday night of this week, and may extend over all of next week.
January 28th, 1908
Announcement of Bible Club meeting at the home of Reverend and Mrs. John H. Moorehead
March 7th, 1908
The Reverend Mr. Moorehead will speak at 3 o'clock this afternoon on "First Things First" at the YMCA.
One very interesting piece I came across had the following information provided by a woman who had known the Moorehead family when they resided in Hamilton:
May 26th, 1974
It did not take long to notice the large beautiful Saint Bernard dog which lay on the porch of the parsonage of the United Presbyterian Church, then located next to the church. We lived on nearby Monument Avenue.
The dog, just a pup really, looked up at us appealingly. I wanted to pet him, but he sadly looked at us and scarcely moved. I asked Reverend Moorehead if I would be permitted to come into the yard. He said "Certainly," and explained that the dogs back and hind quarters were weak having grown too fast.
I opened the get and went to the porch to see and pet "Don" as he was called. Immediately we became good friends and Don struggled to his feet to get up and follow me to the gate when I left.
Thereafter he watched for me and soon came to visit our home nearby. The Moorehead children too often played with the four children in our family. Agnes and her younger sister Margaret were well acquainted with our neighbors and to us. Every Sunday Don would nose his way through the crowd leaving the services until he found me. Then his great paws would reach up to my shoulders and he would lick my face and nuzzle his soft furry head in my neck. Then triumphantly waving his beautiful tail he led me home staying for a while for play, petting and companionship. Don was my faithful pal until the family moved away from Hamilton.
The community was greatly saddened by their departure in 1912 and threw two farewell banquets in their honor. In fact just days before the Titanic sank the Reverend and his wife were given a farewell banquet. Mind boggling isn't it. The Moorehead family would remain connected to Hamilton Ohio for a very long time. They made trips back to visit as illustrated below:
Hamilton Evening Journal
September 3rd, 1918
Reverend and Mrs. John Moorehead and daughters Agnes and Margaret have returned to St. Louis after a visit to Dr. and Mrs. G.A. Hermann and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Blair.
April 3rd, 1932
Dinner Party for Reverend and Mrs. John H. Moorehead
Honoring Reverend and Mrs. Moorehead a group of friends met for dinner on Tuesday evening at the Anthony Wayne Hotel and later on adjourned to the home of Dr. and Mrs. J.B. Stewart on East Avenue for a pleasant social evening.
Reverend Moorehead was a former pastor of the United Presbyterian Church and he and Mrs. Moorehead are planning to leave for Dayton shortly, therefore this happy gathering was arranged.
They were gone but certainly never forgotten and they definitely never forgot Hamilton. I think it may have been one of the best times they had as a family unit.
1913 found the Moorehead family settled in St. Louis. Their residence was located 4466A McPherson Avenue. Agnes turned 13 in December of 1913. She entered her teenage years in a metropolis that was humming with activity. As the family settled down Agnes would have entered the equivalent of middle school today. By 1914 the family had moved again and were now living at 1762 Forest Avenue. Agnes would be going to Central High School and her identity as an actress was beginning to form.
Agnes would often go to the vaudeville halls and wait by the exits hoping she would not be identified as she waited for performers to come out so that she could collect autographs. She loved Eleanor Duse, the noted actress, even taking it upon herself to write Madame Duse to ask for an autographed picture. She received that picture from Madame and it became a prized possession. In fact many, many years later in the 1960's she would name a beloved dog Duse in honor of the great actress.
Agnes also loved attending silent films at the Aerodrome. She would memorize scenes from the pictures and go home to recite them in front of the mirror in her room. Believe it or not she was also scientifically inclined. When she entered Muskingum College she committed to a course of study in biology. She would graduate with a bachelors degree in biology belying her interest in acting. She was a bit of a rebel though. It was a rebellious act the landed her on the stage of the Municipal Opera in St. Louis. She said she hadn't gone there with the idea of auditioning for the opera but had gone, instead, as support for a girlfriend who wanted to audition for the chorus. The year was 1915 and in a highly uncharacteristic move Agnes cut class to go to that audition with her friend.
How I Lost My Shoe While Dancing At The Opera
Agnes agreed to go to the open audition with her friend but she was going to stand in the background while her friend went through the paces. Instead she found herself beside her friend on the stage auditioning for a part as a dancer in the first performance at the Municipal Opera. As they began the process she did not expect what happened next. She found her friend eliminated from the audition and she found herself moving forward in the audition. She said that before she had the opportunity to faint so that she could excuse herself they tapped her on the shoulder telling her that she would be a dancer in the chorus.
She was so terrified because she was now going to have to go home and confess to her father the pastor that she had cut class and as a result of cutting class to support her friend she had herself stumbled into the entertainment profession. Having been taught that it is always best to tell the truth she did just that. Owning up to her crime she found herself staring at her father expecting the worst. How surprised was she that he simply asked her how much tickets would be so that he and her mother could attend the performance! She rehearsed like a fiend. Every movement. Every nuance. Every beat. Finally, opening night arrived. Everything was going just fine until she got slightly over exuberant with a kick. Off came her shoe sailing into the audience and into the lap of a gentleman who subsequently stood up holding the shoe aloft in excitement as though he'd just won a huge prize. She ran from the stage in mid performance. She paced fervently backstage in tears assuming that her career was over. She was completely mortified. Pacing and mumbling and crying she suddenly found herself face to face with the artistic director. Instead of scolding her she was told in quite a supportive manner that she was wasting her talent in chorus. With emotive skills such as she was displaying she should be at the front of the stage as a principal performer. An actress was born in that very instant and her world as well as our own would be forever changed.
Coming in the next installment
The Muskingum Years
- ► 2013 (18)
- ► 2012 (26)
- Mr. Agnes Moorehead
- The Mysterious Mr. Lee
- The Last Words Of A Woman On A Mission
- The Body of It All
- Orchids and Peanuts
- Next Week
- Reposting of: The Other Moorehead Girl
- Just In Case You Would Like To Know
- For Those of You Reading These
- The Question Left Unanswered
- New York, New York, New York
- The Muskingum Years
- Going Back, Way Back, To The Beginning
- The Swinging Sixties Agnes Style
- The Gist of the Matter or What's the Matter With R...
- I Lead A Conservative Sort of Life
- ▼ June (16)