EDITH ORCUTT BEATON – DAUGHTER OF A 19TH CENTURY ENTREPRENEUR – PART I

Edith Orcutt Beaton circa 1918, Omaha, Nebraska, photo in possession of author.

My mother and grandmother captivated me with tales about my great-grandmother, Edith (Orcutt) Beaton. Her friends called her Edith, but her family used the nickname “Dee Dee.” My grandmother, Anna Jane (Beaton) Hyde, described Edith as “the sweetest mother in the world.” Jean, my mother, remembers her grandmother as calm and easygoing. She has fond memories of visiting Dee Dee at least once a week after school, usually with a friend or two in tow.

After the girls arrived at Edith’s house at 502 N. 40th Street, they scampered up to the second and third floors of the large house to play dress-up. The second floor had a bedroom closet filled with elaborate ball gowns of taffeta, chiffon, and silk. Old trunks contained feather boas, long gloves, imposing hats, and dainty shoes, clothing worn by Edith and her two younger sisters, Anna Ri and Jane when they attended social events. After they selected their attire, the girls climbed the stairs to the third-floor ballroom, where they pranced about in their finery.

A warm, affectionate, and permissive grandmother, Dee Dee allowed Jean, the only grandchild, the run of the house. Just about anything was permissible. When eight-year old Jean and a friend concocted a plan to raise puppies in the basement, Dee Dee provided them with turquoise-blue paint to decorate the rooms. After about a month of painting, the girls abandonded the project, which Dee Dee knew would happen.

Fascinated by Edith’s privileged life, I spent hours perusing every newspaper article and record I could find about the Orcutt and Beaton families. Another age, another world so different from mine. Fortunately, numerous photographs, newspaper articles, and my grandmother’s and mother’s memories provided me with ample information to write this story about my maternal great-grandmother – a tale of love, loss, and resignation.

ORCUTT and BEATON Photograph Albums

Born on August 26, 1879, Marion Edith Orcutt was the third child of Clinton Delos Orcutt and Anna Dorcas (Dutton) Orcutt. A middle child, Edith, had two older brothers, and two younger sisters. She outlived them all.

  1. Louis Deforest Orcutt (1871-1891) – 20 years old
  2. George Dutton Orcutt (1873-1886) – 13 years old
  3. Marion Edith (Orcutt) Beaton Utendorfer (1879-1964) – 84 years old
  4. Anna Ri (Orcutt) Jaques (1881-1942) – 61 years old
  5. Jane Clare “Jennie” (Orcutt) Keeline (1884-1918) – 33 years old

VILLAGE LIFE IN DURANT, IOWA

The Orcutt family lived in Durant, Iowa, twenty miles west of Davenport in the southeast corner of Cedar County. A small but wealthy village, Durant was located in the heart of the corn belt with an economy that revolved around agriculture and livestock. Described as a “handsome village,” the 1884 Iowa State Gazetteer listed the population as 500. Included in the small community: three churches – Congregational, Christian, and Episcopal, public schools (200 school children), two general stores, two harness makers, a physcician, a justice of the peace, a constable, six saloons, a wagonmaker, a telegraph agent, two shoemakers, two blacksmiths, a hotel, a railway and express agent, a coal salesman, and one real estate agent and broker – Clinton Delos Orcutt. [1]

A successful businessman, Clinton Orcutt began his career peddling fruit trees on shares. He borrowed five dollars, a horse, and “…set off bare-back and went into the business with a keen will.” After he worked a few months and covered several counties, he saved enough money to purchase a country store in Durant with a partner. Through hard work, brains, good health, and good habits, his business prospered. Ten years later, he sold his business and turned his hundreds of dollars into thousands. According to the Davenport “Quad-City Times” newspaper in 1879.

“Since then, he has pursued the same saving and thrifty course-watching the signs of the times, buying and selling produce, goods, farms, or what not, and to-day you would certainly not be able to find a single man in Cedar county who could buy him out dollar for dollar and have a cent left…He has a maxim that he glued into his hat at the start -‘Keep out of debt’.”[2]

Map of Durant, Iowa 1885 -Clinton Orcutt Home Jefferson Street # 14 – Courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection

According to the 1880 census, the Orcutt’s lived on Block 14 Jefferson Street in Durant. [3] One of the Orcutt family albums contains a large photograph of an unidentified house that I believe to be the Orcutt home in Durant. The modest wooden clapboard two-story house has gingerbread trim with functional shutters outside the windows and door. Inside, lace curtains and window shades are visible. I examined the photograph closely, hoping to see a figure peeking out from one of the windows. No luck. A broken picket fence surrounds the house and yard; its barren trees indicate someone took a photograph late fall or winter. A whimsical element is a child’s Victorian tricycle on the front porch. Perhaps it belonged to one of the Orcutt children.

IS THIS THE CLINTON ORCUTT HOME IN DURANT, IOWA CIRCA 1885?

Two doors down the street from the Orcutt family lived Edith’s maternal grandparents, Thomas and Sarah Maria (Whiting) Dutton. Originally from Guilford, Connecticut, they settled in Durant in 1867 with their three children -Anna (Edith’s mother), Samuel and Thomas Junior. Thomas Sr., a Congregationalist minister, was advised by his doctor to move west for health reasons and take up farming to strengthen his constitution. Like their father, Thomas and Sarah’s two sons became farmers. Thomas Jr. moved 250 miles away to Arcadia, Iowa, with his wife and six children. Samuel chose to stay in the area and owned a small farm north of Durant. He and his wife had six children, all close in age to their Orcutt cousins.

Although later in life, Edith reminisced about Iowa, she lost contact with her Dutton relatives. It came as a complete surprise to my grandmother, Anna Jane, when in 1972, she received an inheritance from an unknown Dutton cousin, Samuel’s last surviving son.

Based on numerous newspaper articles, I know Edith’s father, Clinton Orcutt, enjoyed travel. He had the money to indulge in long vacations with his family. In 1876 the Orcutt family spent part of the summer in Minnesota. They returned to Minnesota in 1880 and visited Minneapolis. While there, they stopped in at a prominent photographer’s studio, William Jacoby, on Nicollet Avenue. Edith’s only surviving baby/child photograph depicts a nine-month old baby girl with big blue eyes, her fair hair parted down the middle and combed to the sides.

EDITH ORCUTT 1880, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, photograph in posessession of author.

SEEKING A CALIFORNIA CURE

Union Pacific Railway overland route and connections, 1892. Image courtesy of Library of Congress

In 1885 the Orcutt family traveled to Los Angeles, California. The ‘Muscatine Journal” and Davenport “Quad-city Times” reported the family intended to spend the winter there and return in April/May 1886.

November 24, 1885 – “Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Orcutt, of Durant, left Monday for Los Angeles Cal. Mr. Orcutt will return in February , and his wife remains in California until May.”[4]

January 29, 1886 – “Mr. Orcutt left Los Angeles for home on Friday, 22d inst. For a thousand miles, he was the only passenger in the Pulman coach. The conductor told him that was frequently the case coming east…. Mr. Orcutt goes back to California in March, to return with his family in the following monthMr. Clinton Orcutt, who went to California in November last, with his wife, for the improvement of her health by change of climate, arrived today on the train from the southwest en route for his home in Durant. The wife remains in the golden State until April next. Los Angeles and vicinity has been their place of sojourn since their arrival in California, though Mr. Orcutt traveled considerably. [5]

The California trip, made for health reasons, concerned Edith’s mother, Anna, and possibly her older brother, George Dutton Orcutt. I suspect that Anna and George suffered from consumption, now known as tuberculosis. A popular nineteenth-century notion that southern California’s sunny climate and fresh air could cure tuberculosis and other lung ailments triggered a rush of health seekers to the region. Los Angeles, considered an earthly paradise, appealed to those with delicate health. Newspaper advsertisements promised cures for those with lung ailments.

“The Los Angeles Times,” September 29, 1886, Newspapers.com

The Orcutt’s departed for California on November 22, 1885. Clinton, Anna, and their four children, Louis (14), George (12), Edith (6), AnnaRi (4), and Jane (1), traveled in the comfort and luxury of a Pullman Sleeper or Hotel car. Pullman cars offered great comfort and safety, but what set them apart was the decor. “Victorian taste ran toward the baroque, and Pullman offered the utmost in ornamentation: carved walnut paneling, polishe brass fittings, beveled French mirrors, Brussels carpets, brocade, tassels, and fringe.”[6]

As advertised by Pullman, “These cars are so constructed as to combine the convenience and elegance of a private parlor by day and the comforts of a well-furnished bed chamber by night -clean bedding, thick hair mattresses, thorough ventilation.” [7] During the daytime, the younger Orcutt children could play on the floor, or watch through the window for new curiosities. Clinton and Anna could sit and converse as if they were at home in their parlor. In the evening, a porter prepared the beds.

“About eight o’clock, the porter, in a clean gray uniform, comes in to make up the beds. The two easy chairs are turned into a double berth. The sofa undergoes a similar transformation…The freshest and whitest of linens and brightly colored blankets complete the outfit; and you undress and go to bed as you would at home.” [8]

Divided into two compartments, the Hotel and Sleeping cars provided a separate kitchen area where a porter prepared the meals, the most important event of the day. Although meals cost extra, the guests had numerous choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “…first-class meals, including all manner of game and seasonable delicacies, were served on moveable tables placed in sections.”[9]

LOS ANGELES

The 2,500-mile journey from Durant to Los Angeles required seven days, taking the family through Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Ogden, Utah; San Francisco, California, and Los Angeles. Shortly before his marriage to Anna Dutton in 1870, Clinton visited California for business purposes. He knew the wonders that awaited his family as they crossed the vast plains, the mountains’ rugged beauty, the changing scenery, and abundant wildlife. For his family, the trip would have been a grand adventure.

Train travel in the 19th century could be expensive, particularly long distances. A first-class ticket from Omaha to Los Angeles in 1881 cost $120 per person, $75 for second-class.[10] If a passenger chose to travel in a Pullman car, there was an additional fare. The approximate cost for a one-way ticket would have been about $170 per adult in 1885 or about $4,600 in 2021. The Orcutts did save on fares for the younger children. Children under five could travel for free and from age 5-12 half-fare.

A novelty for the Orcutts, they celebrated their first Christmas in the sunshine and warmth of California. While touring the area, they encountered several people from eastern Iowa who had moved to the Los Angeles area. According to Clinton, “the people ‘from the states’ watch the hotel registers , and when they see an arrival from their old locality they straightaway introduce themselves-and the way they make inquiries would be amusing, if it were not almost overpowering.”[11]

Perhaps one of their acquaintances recommended the James D. Westerwelt Photography Studio on 18 South Main Street in Los Angeles where Clinton, Anna, and George sat for a photograph. Anna wore an elegant satin dress with a form-fitting bodice, a high neck, and a lace collar. Clinton wore a sharply starched white shirt, jacket and vest. You can see a watch fob threaded through his vest button, on the end of it hung his gold watch. Although he was only 44 years old, his hair and beard are turning gray. Both Clinton and Anna look directly at the camera. Twelve-year-old George, hair neatly parted and combed, gazed to the left with a solemn expression. Were there photographs taken of the other family members? If so, where did they go?

Pictured below are Anna Dorcas (DUTTON) ORCUTT, Clinton Delos ORCUTT (Clinton’s gold watch), George Dutton ORCUTT – photographs taken December 1885/January 1886, Los Angeles, California.

Anna and the children intended to remain in Los Angeles until April/May 1886. Clinton, who had business to address, returned to Durant at the end of January. At the beginning of March, Anna summoned Clinton to quickly return to Los Angeles. George was gravely ill.

March 12,1886 – “Clint Orcutt of Durant has been suddenly called to Los Angeles, Cal, by the sickness of his son George.”[12]

March 26, 1886 – “The son of Clint Orcutt, Esq., of Durant, aged about 13 years, whose illness called the father to Los Angeles, Cal. a fortnight ago, has since died.[13]

The “Muscatine Journal” did not provide further information about the cause of George’s death. The Orcutt family returned as soon as possible to Durant in a state of grief. They buried George in the Durant Cemetery, a cemetery that Clinton’s father, Daniel Heath Orcutt, helped purchase and layout shortly before his death in 1864.

One year later, April 1887, a notice in the local Durant paper stated that Clinton Orcutt was building a “comfortable and commodious residence” in Omaha, Nebraska, and intended to move there in the fall. [14] By the second week of August, 1887, the Orcutt family departed Durant for their new home in Omaha. [15]

Omaha offered a new beginning and economic, educational, and social benefits for the entire family. The next chapter in Edith’s story introduces Omaha during the 1890’s and explores Clinton Orcutt’s Victorian residence.

[Sidenotes]

  1. There is a contradictory element regarding George’s date of death. His tombstone notes the date as February 27, 1886. However, two newspaper articles stated that Clinton Orcutt traveled to Los Angeles in March 1886 and that George passed away two weeks after his father arrived in California. I believe that the gravestone should bear the date March 27, 1886, instead of February 27. What is on a gravestone is not always accurate.

2. Six months after George’s death, his 14-year old cousin, Charles Arthur Dutton, passed away. Sadly, George and Charles each had a brother who died a few years later, 1890 (William Boardman Dutton) and 1891 (Louis DeForest Orcutt). I have not been able to find a cause of death for any of the boys. They all rest together in Durant cemetery.

© 2021 copyright – Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved

 

Genealogy Sketch

Marion Edith ORCUTT BEATON UTTENDORFER
Name: [Marion Edith ORCUTT BEATON UTTENDORFER -1879-1964
Parents: Clinton Delos ORCUTT 1840-1905 and
Anna Dorcas DUTTON ORCUTT 1841-1891
Spouse: *Alfred James BEATON 1872-1916 and George Newll UTTENDORFER 1887-1972
Children: Anna Jane BEATON HYDE -1907-1998 and Orcutt Phillip BEATON 1900-1971
Relationship to Kendra: Great-Grandmother

  1. Marion Edith ORCUTT BEATON UTTENDORFER
  2. Anna Jane BEATON HYDE
  3. Jean HYDE HOPP EICHORN
  4. Kendra

 

  1. “Iowa Gazeteer and Business Directory, 1884-1885, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 February 2021) entry for Durant. page number 441.
  2. Quad-City Times, Davenport, Iowa 4 January 1879, online archives (https.//www.newspapers.com accessed 29 December 2020), p. 1.
  3. 1880 U.S. Census, Cedar County, Iowa, populations schedule, Durant, Enumeration District (ED) 357, Roll 331, Page 200A, dwelling 10, Clinton Orcutt; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com :accessed 15 December 2020/
  4. Muscatine Journal, Muscatine, Iowa, 24 November 1885, online archives (https://newspapers.com: accessed 10 January 2021), p. 2.
  5. Quad-City Times, Davenport, Iowa,29 January 1886, online archives (https://newspapers.com: accessed 29 December 2020), p.1.
  6. Jack Kelly, “The Golden Age of the Pullman Car,” The History Reader Dispatches in History From the St. Martin’s Publishing Group. http://www.thehistoryreader.com : accessed 10 March 2021.
  7. Union & Central Pacific Railroad Line” Timetable, Schedule of Fares, Connections, Information for Travelers (with 11 Engraved Illustrations), and the Rand, McNally & Co. “New Map of the American Overland Route” February, 1881,” Central Pacific Railroad Photographic Museum. http://www.cprr.org : accessed 9 March 2021.
  8. Charles Nordhoff, California How to Go There, and What to See By the Way, “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. V. 44, 1871-1872. Database: Hathitrust.org, Original from Cornell University, Digitized by Cornell University,. http://www.babel.hathitrust.org : (Accessed 12 February 2021). p. 885.
  9. Joseph Husband. The Story of the Pullman Car. (McClurg & Co, Chicago, 1917), Digital Images. Archive. org (Accessed 7 March 2021).
  10. Union & Central Pacific Railroad Line” Timetable, Schedule of Fares, Connections, Information for Travelers (with 11 Engraved Illustrations), and the Rand, McNally & Co. “New Map of the American Overland Route” February, 1881,” Central Pacific Railroad Photographic Museum. http://www.cprr.org : accessed 9 March 2021.
  11. Quad-City Times, Davenport, Iowa,29 January 1886, online archives (https://newspapers.com: accessed 29 December 2020), p.1.

About treeklimber

An interest in history and travel lends itself to a passion for genealogy. The more I research, the more I realize there is to discover. It is a never-ending puzzle.
This entry was posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry, Photographs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to EDITH ORCUTT BEATON – DAUGHTER OF A 19TH CENTURY ENTREPRENEUR – PART I

  1. Kendra, I have missed your wonderful posts. I love how you used your photos, documents, and information you find on the places, events, etc. to weave the story of your great-grandmother Dee Dee’s early life. I look forward to the continuation.

    Liked by 1 person

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