Sunday, January 6, 2019

In Search Of... Florence Darlington

In June 2016, I wrote about Florence Darlington, who, it seems, is a somewhat mysterious and crucial figure in my past. I have a single family photo of her, upon which is written "Florence Darlington, Wilmington, Del., Introduced Greta Chandler to Howard Adams, 1914?"

Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988) and Howard Horsey “Ted” Adams (1892-1985) are great-grandparents of mine on Mom's side. If we are to take this photo inscription at face value, then Florence Darlington is responsible for their first meeting in the same way that Marty McFly is responsible for his parents' first meeting. (OK, not the same way at all.) Without Florence, they might have never met and married, and I obviously would not be here. Zoinks!

That's the operative assumption, at least. How much can you really trust one inscription on a century-old photograph?

I have long wanted to discover more about Florence Darlington. The only thing I had to go on is that she would have been based for at least part of her life in the Wilmington, Delaware, area. I also assumed that she was roughly the same age as Howard and Greta, and thus was probably born in the 1890s.

On the other hand, I don't even know if Darlington is her maiden or married name. A big mystery, indeed.

Here is the process that I've gone through online in trying to learn more about Florence's identity and life. As you will discover, it appears there were some missteps along the way.

* * *

1. A gravestone

This gravestone, discovered at Find A Grave, is for a Florence B. Darlington who lived from 1856 to 1930 and was buried in Cumberland Cemetery, 447 North Middletown Road, in Media, Pennsylvania.

The intriguing aspect is that Howard and Greta lived much of their married life in Swarthmore and Wallingford, which are adjacent to Media in Delaware County.

But the dates don't seem to work. This Florence Darlington would have been nearly 60 when she introduced my great-grandparents to each other.

Quality of this clue: 1 (on a scale of 10).

* * *

2. A fatal explosion

On the afternoon of November 21, 1929, an old hot-water boiler — years past due for inspection — exploded in the basement of the McCrory's five-and-dime store at 416 7th Street NW in Washington, D.C. The final death toll was six, with about three dozen injured.

Reports of this event mention a Mrs. Florence Darlington.

An Associated Press report in the November 22 edition of The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, states: "Those seriously injured were: Charles Decker, five years old, internal injuries; Mrs. Ida Decker, 34, fractured skull and internal injuries; Warren Thayer, 50, fractured spine and broken neck; Mrs. Florence Darlington, 50, internal injuries, and Miss Lulu Carter, 34, both legs fractured."

A different version of the Associated Press' coverage, featured in The Scranton (Pennsylvania) Republican on November 22, adds this: "The last victim to be identified was Mrs. Florence Darlington, whose husband, alarmed at her failure to return home, found her in a serious condition with internal injuries at the hospital."

A day later, this Florence Darlington died. The November 23 edition of The Baltimore Sun has this news item: "Washington, Nov. 22 (AP) — The death list in the explosion under a five and ten cent store yesterday rose to six today with the death of Mrs. Florence Darlington, 50, who succumbed to internal injuries."

We can assume that Darlington was the married name of this particular Florence. Her age would put her birth year around 1879, which is closer to the range we might expect but still about a decade off. Frustratingly, none of the news coverage of this Florence Darlington states where she was from. We might guess it's somewhere near Washington, D.C., which would make it less likely this is the person we're looking for.

Quality of this clue: 1 (on a scale of 10).

* * *

3. Memorial Day high school festivities

Memorial Day was on May 26 in 1913. The next day's edition of The Morning News of Wilmington, Delaware, reports: "There was no address at the opening exercises at the Wilmington High School yesterday morning, but the student exercises were well rendered. ... Miss Florence Darlington (read) "Labor," [sic] by Thomas Carlyle."

There's a high probability this is the Florence Darlington we're looking for. In this case, Darlington is her maiden name and, being a high school student in 1913, she was likely born between 1894 and 1896, which is the ideal time frame for knowing Howard and Greta.

This clue, however, doesn't give us much of a lead for what happened to her later in life.

Quality of this clue: 6 (on a scale of 10).

* * *

4. An obituary from 1979

Flashing way ahead to the May 26, 1979, edition The News Journal of Wilmington Delaware, there is an obituary for Helen Darlington Husbands, who died at age 89. It mentions that she is the sister of Mrs. Florence Darlington Moore of Rehoboth Beach (also in Delaware).

It's very likely this is our Florence Darlington. She would have been in her mid 80s in 1979. She married a man named Moore and took his last name, and she was still living in Delaware.

Is this information — a married name that's quite common — enough to discover more about Florence Darlington?

Quality of this clue: 8 (on a scale of 10).

* * *

5. An engagement announcement from 1945

Plugging "Mrs. Florence Moore" into and searching for Delaware news, I came across this item in the May 16, 1945, edition of The Morning News of Wilmington, Delaware:
"Announcement has been made of the engagement of Miss Rose A. Moore, daughter of Mrs. Florence Moore of Stanton and Mrs. Thomas Moore of this city, to Staff Sergt. Frank W. Pirozo of Norristown, Pa."
BINGO! Three new full names to work with: Florence's husband (ex-husband?), daughter and son-in-law.

(This is assuming that the Florence Darlington Moore mentioned in the 1979 obituary is the one we're looking for, and, crucially, that this is the same Florence Moore.)

Quality of this clue: 9.5 (on a scale of 10).

* * *

6. A picture of the daughter

A few days later, on May 25, 1945, the News Journal repeated the engagement annoucement, this time accompanied by a picture of Rose A. Moore. Here are photographs of the possible mother and daughter side by side...

Quality of this clue: Pending.

* * *

7. Florence's daily life

In a May 16, 1947, article in The News Journal, Mrs. Florence Moore is listed as the member of the faculty at Krebs School in Newport, Delaware.

Quality of this clue: 5 (on a scale of 10).

* * *

8. Florence had a son, too

The June 12, 1953, edition of The Star-Democrat of Easton, Maryland states: "Mrs. Florence Moore, of Wilmington, has been spending a two week vacation with her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas L. Moore."

Quality of this clue: 8 (on a scale of 10).

* * *

9. Rose had a baby

The August 14, 1953, edition of The Star-Democrat states: "Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pirozzo and son, Robbie, and Mrs. Florence Moore are the guests this week of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas L. Moore."

Alarmingly, however, this gives us a different spelling of Rose's husband's last name. We now have Pirozzo and Pirozo as possibilities.

Quality of this clue: 4.5 (on a scale of 10).

* * *


Now I have a headache. This obituary is from the the January 29, 1966, edition of The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware.

L.G. Moore, Retired Broker, Dies
Leon G. Moore, 72, a retired manager of the Francis I. du Pont & Co. brokerage office in Wilmington, died unexpected Friday in Pompano Beach, Fla.

Mr. Moore had lived at 11 Pennsylvania Ave., Rehoboth Beach, since his retirement and was vacationing with his wife, Mrs. Florence Moore, in Florida at the time of his death.

Mr. Moore was a World War 1 veteran...
We now, unless I'm going crazy, have two different strands of Mr. Florence Moores from Delaware. The "Mrs. Florence Darlington Moore" mentioned in the 1979 obituary (#4) is noted as being from Rehoboth Beach. So was she the one married to Leon G. Moore?

And then we have the whole separate thread, I think, of the "Mrs. Florence Moore" who was married to Thomas Moore and is mentioned in #5 through #9. Now that I think about it, there was a leap of logic between #4 and #5 that might have been faulty. Upon further review, I'm not sure the maiden name Darlington appears in any of the news items that discuss the woman who was married to Thomas Moore.

Quality of this clue: 9 (on a scale of 10).
Frustration involving this clue: 11 (on a scale of 10).

I think I have to go back a few steps, probably starting with searching about Leon G. Moore. Doing that, I find...

* * *

11. A fresh Darlington connection

A series of classified advertisements in late May and early June 1925 editions of The News Journal state that Leon G. Moore was the assigned executor of the estate of a Wilmington resident named Ida L. Darlington.

BINGO! (Wait. Where have I heard that before?)

This can't be a coincidence or faulty logic, can it?

So it appears that Leon G. Moore is much more likely to be the actual husband of the Florence Darlington who is possibly responsible for my existence and, by extension, this blog. (What a legacy! If only she knew.)

And Ida L. Darlington is, most likely, Florence's mother.

If that's correct, we can forgot all about those other people I mentioned in the middle of this post.

These Moores, meanwhile, had a daughter, too.

The February 26, 1949, edition of The News Journal announced this:
"Mr. and Mrs. Leon G. Moore, 726 Nottingham Road, announce the engagement of their daughter, Jean Darlington Moore, to Mr. John Woodside Croft, son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Croft, Aiken, S.C. Miss Moore is a graduate of Stuart Hall, Staunton, Va., and Harcum Junior College, Bryn Mawr, Pa. Mr. Croft, a graduate of Clemson College, served for three and a half years in the Army with a motar [sic] battalion in Europe and as a captain in the CIC In Japan. He is with the DuPont Company. The wedding will take place in the spring."
Here are Florence and Jean (from the News Journal engagement announcement), side by side:

This time, I think, there might just be some resemblance in the eyes and mouth. I think we're definitely on to something here.

So I have Jean Darlington Moore and John Woodside Croft to research, moving forward. I hope I can use their histories to trace backward and find some more information about Florence Darlington Moore. That will have to be another day, though. I'll close (finally) with this picture of Jean and John on their wedding day in May 1949.

Conclusion of the search

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