Elizabeth A. Lee to Katharine F. Lenroot, August 6, 1931

The adoption investigation described in this letter was prompted by an adoptee’s request for help in finding his birth mother. The original request, written to the U.S. Children’s Bureau, is E. L. Beckwith to Grace Abbott, June 21, 1931.

RE: Capt. Beckwith

My dear Miss Lenroot:

The first thing I did was to try to verify the adoption of Ernest L. Beckwith. I found recorded in the Probate Court on September 30, 1909 a petition by Fred Beckwith and Annie Beckwith for the adoption of Clarence L. Andrews, born April 5, 1903, child of Frank C. And Blanche E. Andrews, deceased. Also another petition was filed by the Beckwiths for adoption of Edward H. Andrews, born May 19, 1907, a brother. These petitions were both allowed. I then verified the birth of these two boys and found that the mother was Blanche E. Beckwith.

Confidential Exchange showed several agencies interested in the Beckwiths, among them the Red Cross. I telephoned the Red Cross and was told that they had made every effort to establish parentage of Capt. Beckwith, had visited the Charlestown address but were not able to get any information to help. Notwithstanding this report, and armed with the information about the adoption of the two boys, I visited Fred L. Beckwith at 3 Albion Place, Charlestown. I talked with Mr. Beckwith who at first was quite impatient that another person had come to question him concerning Ernest. He says that the two boys referred to in the beginning of my letter were the children of his sister who had died and that Edward is living at the present time in Charlestown. Beckwith gave the following story concerning himself. Said that his first wife was Mary Detterline, born in Philadelphia of German parentage. They were married in 1892 in Camden, New Jersey. He says that in 1903 she came home one day with a baby boy about two months old and said that he was the child of a Mary Towne. She called him Ernest and said she had adopted him. He said he did not join in the adoption and never went into the Probate Court. Says that he remembers seeing some sort of a paper with the name Towne on it. He and his wife separated soon after and she went to Philadelphia to her people taking this baby with her. He says that she has since died. As near as he can make out this child must now be thirty-four or thirty-five years of age. He insists that he never knew anything more about the child’s parentage, that the only way to get any information would possibly be through his wife’s relatives as she may have told them something about the child. His second wife was Annie B. Andrews and she has also died.

The name Towne appears in the records of the Probate Court only as follows: Henry William Towne and Ada L. Towne of Calais, Virginia adopted Alldanna McMillian, born February 5, 1895. Search of birth records shows a male child Towne, born June 24, 1898, parents Ernest and Mary McMillan. Father was a soldier. Checking up this birth at the Lying-In Hospital, no further information was learned. The Confidential Exchange furnished a long list of agencies interested in the Towne family.

I thought possibly that the child born June 24, 1898 might be our Capt. Beckwith but looking up the records of the Children’s Friend Society I found that on March 12, 1907 this child who was known as Howard and John was in the Gwynn Home with his brother George who was born in 1899. A sister Sadie’s record shows that Howard married in haste a girl of twenty-one years at Framingham. I have been trying through the various agencies to locate some of the members of this Towne family thinking that possibly there may have been an illegitimate child who was given away by the mother, but up to the present time I have been unable to do this. . . .

I am very sorry indeed that I have not been able to do anything to help out. . . .

Sincrerely yours,

Elizabeth A. Lee


Source: Elizabeth A. Lee to Katharine F. Lenroot, August 6, 1931, United States Children's Bureau Papers, Box 548, Folder 7332, National Archives II.

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