Unearthed: Lady Bledzo (Pt 2)

Lady Bledzo, Part 1


Poised on a spare desk in the Chicago Avenue Police Station, Lady Bledzo didn’t look like she’d just come from a fight. In her crisp white suit and jaunty tie, with a fur across her lap, she looked like she was ready to go shopping.

But excursions to Wieboldt’s or anywhere else would wait.

There had been a fight, right on the sidewalk, and now there were reporters eager to hear her side of things. Lady Bledzo posed for photos and smiled at their questions.

She was happy to oblige.

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Unearthed: Lady Bledzo (Pt 1)

Lady Bledzo lit up newspapers for two years in the mid-1920s. Like a cabaret version of Billy the Kid, she came from nowhere, made a great scene — and then disappeared. By 1928, there was no trace of her.

bledzo faces banner

She never held a defined occupation. She never got a listing in the census or the phone book. For weeks I’ve been trying to stretch the few available items about her into a full story. I even called in the assistance of Graveyard Snoopette. She, too, was stymied by this mysterious woman.

I have to admit that a full accounting can’t be done. Like Lady Bledzo herself, her story is not tidy nor complete. It will not be contained.

Her name came out of those Chicago Tribune archives. One name, \with many variations to humble the researcher: Lady Bledzo; Rose Bledzo; Lady Rose Bledsoe; Lady Rosa Bledzo; Rose Leonora; Leonore Bleedson; Eleanora Bleedson; and twice, Lenor Grear.

And worse, I’m pretty sure that none of those are her actual birth name.

Fire up the Dusenberg and roll down your stockings. This one is a real lulu.

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The Waiting Room

When I think about my genealogy subjects — my dead people — I like to amuse myself by picturing a waiting room. By that I mean an actual modern waiting room, full of non-modern people.

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Cora: Anastasis (15)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


Anastasis: Noun, from Greek. 1. A recovery from a debilitating condition. 2. Rebirth. 3. Resurrection.

I wish I could tell you that Cora Stallman’s inquest led to a dramatic court case, full of more characters, searing accusations, and great and deep revelations about the people around her.

I don’t have a good ending to recount because, frankly, there wasn’t one. That’s not what Cora got in the end.

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Cora: The Many Secret Things (14)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


Aug. 31, 1925. Humboldt, IL.

“…[I]t further developed that neither Mrs. Anna Seaman nor Tom Seaman, her husband, knew of the many secret things of Miss Stallman’s life.” — Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette, Sept. 1, 1925

Late in the last hot afternoon of August 1925, Thomas Seaman stood up from the witness chair and signaled the end of testimony in Cora Stallman’s inquest. Thomas had provided his contradictory, flawed account. His wife Anna, Cora’s sister, had revealed as little as possible. Neighbors and friends told their own stories about the ex-teacher who amused their children and gave gifts unasked. This version of Cora, true and untrue, had all been committed to paper. And now it was done.

A crowd of 300 people waited anxiously for the verdict, peeking in the town hall windows and adjusting their chairs impatiently. But before Coroner Frank Schilling could hand the case to the inquest jury, he had one last matter to discuss.

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Cora: The Dark Hours (13)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


 

I have had a long time to think about Cora Stallman.

Over years, whether during the periods of all-consuming research, or the lapses when I put her away, I’ve been turning this case over in my head. I’ve asked myself every what-if imaginable — even the unimaginable ones. I’ve considered the people, the town, and the fields that stretched around them.

Mostly, I’ve treated this story like a kaleidoscope, twisting it this way and that, watching all its many elements fall into new patterns and form new theories.

All of this is a long-winded way to say: Despite everything I know, I’m still unsure how Cora died.

I don’t think Thomas Seaman killed her. I think it was an accident…for reasons we will unpack down the road.

Continue reading “Cora: The Dark Hours (13)”