I am so happy to write that I have managed to find a great big puzzle piece in my quest to find my 2nd great uncle Dale Stewart. For new readers, let me briefly say that Dale was orphaned in 1914 when his mother was murdered by their father before he committed suicide himself at the Columbia Hotel’s out kitchen in Caldwell, Ohio. Dale and his older brother, my great grandfather, Glenn Archer Stewart ended up in a few home for boys before Dale became a merchant marine and Glenn went on to be a farmer, security guard and a steel worker among his many other incarnations. Both Dale and Glenn committed suicide later in life to which I’ve written about as well.
Dale’s life between his leaving the Boys’ Industrial Home and his death at an insane asylum in Los Angeles has been a bit of a mystery. For the longest time, I assumed the lack of records was because he was out to sea with the merchant marines. However, this past week, I went to Ohio for my grand daughter’s first birthday party and spent time at my mom’s going through her photo albums and was downright flabbergasted when I found a letter my aunt Rosie (Glenn’s daughter) had transcribed from her dad to his uncle Asbury Archer, who owned the Columbia Hotel at the time of the murder/suicide. Asbury was the brother to Esther. In a November 1930 letter from Glenn to Asbury, there was the tiniest line – the briefest mention – of Glenn receiving weekly letters from Dale. Glenn goes on to encourage Asbury to drop Dale a line… IN MONTANA! Wait… Montana? What’s he doing in Montana? Nobody in my family knew had ever said he’d been there.
My mom couldn’t understand my excitement as I literally bounced up and down in my seat. As soon as I got home to New York, I anxiously sat down and began searching for Dale in Montana. Don’t you know – I FOUND HIM along with a fantastic picture but it certainly wasn’t what I expected at all. I knew Dale had been a bit of a wild one, a drinker and who had been rumored to have spent some time in jail. That’s where I found him in Montana actually. I found his intake form for the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge in May of 1930. He was in Montana all of two weeks before he robbed a grain elevator of $15 and was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. The intake form was a treasure trove of neat information – his stats like height and weight, his religious faith, confirmed my uncle Asbury’s whereabouts in Detroit during that time period, his last employer and such. It also showed me that he apparently bounced back and forth between Montana and LA/San Diego before his death.
Though I wasn’t ecstatic to find Dale in the pokey (as I feel he and my great grandfather Glenn had a really rough, unfair start to life and this was likely just a product of their parents’ deaths), this was the first picture I’d ever seen of Dale and I couldn’t help but smile to finally put a face to his sad tale. He looks almost identical to his brother Glenn… and I can even see the family resemblance in my grandfather Archie’s young photos.
So my joy was a mixed boat indeed. I was happy to finally find Dale but sad that he was in such a predicament like that. It really was a big piece of his story and had I not dug through mom’s photo album, I wouldn’t have found that small mention in that letter about Deer Lodge, Montana.