Friday, April 26, 2013

SHE WAS DEAD TO HER FAMILY - Ida Estella Stinger Craig

The most popular posts from this blog are the ones I write about the history of my own family.  So this week we'll go back to Lacon, Illinois for a tale of prejudice and true love.

My grandmother, Ida Estella Stinger was born August 31, 1876 in Lacon, Illinois.  She was the sixth of eleven children born to Isaiah Stinger (1844-1914) and Harriet Anna Miller (1841-1920).  Her siblings were:  Frank Elsworth Stinger (1865-1936), James Melville Stinger (1868-1961), Clara Belle (Cad) Stinger (1870-1957), Dora Mae Stinger (1872-1907), Leonard Lyon Stinger (1874-????), William S. Stinger (1878-1907), Bertha Ann Stinger (1880-1952), Arthur Glen Stinger (1883-1946), Olive Grace Stinger (1886-1931), and Bruce Norman Stinger (1888-1954).  

Ida's father, Isaiah Stinger had been born in 1844 in Litchfield, Ohio. His father was a minister in the Dunkard Church.

The family story was that Isaiah had run away from home as a teenager because his step-father was so strict.  The Stinger family (also spelled Stenger or Stegner) traced their lineage back to glass-blowers in Germany in the seventeenth century.  Isaiah went west and on June 14, 1864 he married Harriet Anna Miller in Lacon, Illinois.  Harriet was born July 7, 1841 in "the Eastern part of Illinois" to a line of farmers that stretched from Pennsylvania through Ohio and Indiana into Illinois. Harriet was a direct descendant of Revolutionary War patriot Francis Malone.

Isaiah and Harriet had been married by a Presbyterian minister, but over time they became members of the Methodist Church in Lacon.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, Methodists had a very conservative lifestyle.  It has been said that they were mainly a church of "Don'ts". Don't drink, smoke, dance, or play marbles "for keeps."  Don't wear makeup, women couldn't wear pants or shorts.  No movies, no swearing, no card playing, no gambling, etc. etc. etc.  Perhaps that's why they had such large families - there wasn't much else to do...

We'll leave the Stingers for a few minutes and go to the Craigs.  I mentioned in the writeup about Margaret Kelly Craig ( that Margaret Kelly from County Cavan, Ireland married Patrick Craig from County Sligo, Ireland in Lacon in 1868. Patrick and Margaret had five children:  Mary Teresa (1869-1904), John Joachim (1871-1946), Peter Anselm (1873-1945), William Patrick (1875-1937) and the baby James Vincent (1880-????).

What I didn't report was that the four brothers manufactured hand-rolled cigars in Lacon.  Their company was called, aptly enough, Craig Brothers Cigars.  After the brothers learned the cigar-making craft, they went into cigar manufacturing business with their cousin Joe Hanley in 1891.  The firm name of Craig Brothers became well known in Central Illinois and they manufactured several popular brands of cigars that were stocked by many dealers.  Here's a photo of the Craig Brothers looking out the second floor windows of the building where they made the cigars:

The Craig brothers then opened a billiard hall, which continued for a number of years.  Later the place was known as the Craig Brothers cigar store.  William Craig took over the interests of his brothers and for many years operated a tavern and cigar shop in Lacon.  The Craig family were founding members of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lacon:

Lacon, Illinois was a small town in those days, and everyone knew everyone else.  However, each group "kept to their own kind". Catholics socialized with other Catholics, Protestants, with Protestants (I don't think there were any Jews in Lacon).  It was just not "proper" to keep company with someone of another faith.  We don't know when Bill Craig first saw Ida Stinger - she was probably there his entire life, but on the periphery.  We do know that one day Bill and Ida started "stepping out together".  News travels fast, and it didn't take long for the Stingers to find out that Ida was dating Bill Craig.

As she told the story years later, they had a family meeting and Isaiah raised the roof.  He told Ida that it was bad enough that she was dating a Catholic but he was also a cigar maker who operated a tavern!  To the Methodist Stingers, Bill Craig had three strikes against him from the start.  They forbade Ida from seeing Bill any longer.  Her father's threats did no good.  Ida started sneaking out so see Bill.  Things got serious between the two.  Bill told Ida that if they were to marry that she would first have to convert to Catholicism.  Isaiah Stinger, son of a Dunkard minister found out about this and gave Ida an ultimatum:  If she continued to see Bill Craig, or, God forbid, marry him, she would be dead to her family.  She would be cut off, once and for all from all she had known and loved up until then - cut off from her parents and her ten brothers and sisters.

Ida was in love, and her family's threats were useless.  In the spring of 1903, Ida Stinger ran away from home.  Bill Craig had made arrangements for her to move in with a convent of nuns in Peoria and take Instructions in the Catholic faith while she lived with them.  Then when she was ready to be received into the Church she would send for Bill who would come to Peoria and they would be married.  Ida's family could not do anything to stop her - she was of legal age.

On July 23, 1903, Ida Estella Stinger and William Patrick Craig were married in the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria.

And then they returned to Lacon...

And as I mentioned in the previous article, the newlyweds moved in with Bill's parents, Patrick and Margaret Craig.  After Bill's sister Mary Teresa Craig Dunn died in childbirth on Halloween 1904, Bill's brother-in-law gave his house to Bill and Ida saying "I'll never set foot in that house again."  Bill and Ida lived in that house on Broad street in Lacon and raised their family there.

What about the Stingers?  How did they react after Bill and the newly-Catholic, newly-married Ida came back to Lacon?  They were true to their word - they would have nothing to do with her.  She said later that if one of her parents or siblings was walking toward her on the street they would cross to the other side so they wouldn't have to deal with her.  How could they do this to their own daughter? their own sister? They felt that she had been the one who had betrayed them, and all they stood for.

Did they keep this up forever?  No, according to Ida things got a little better once the grandchildren started coming along.  My Aunt Marie told me that they would stop at the Stingers to visit every Sunday on the way home from church, and when Harriet Miller died in 1920 one of her pallbearers was her grandson Raphael Craig.  But my Uncle Donald was not so forgiving.  He said he would never forget how they had made his mother suffer, and on my first trip to Lacon he refused to take me to their graves. 

So how did Ida and Bill the Catholic cigar-maker, tavern keeper turn out?  They had eight children, six of whom made it to adulthood: William Raphael (1905-1960), Thomas James (1906-1907), John Cecil (1907-1970), Donald Peter (1909-1977), Delilah Margaret (1911-1993), Marie Ann (1913-2001), Edward Kelly (1916-1973), and Ida Elizabeth (1919-1925).  For the story of the tragic death of five year old Ida Craig check out this article:

Here is a photo of Bill and Ida and their family (circa 1918):

Bill and Ida had a long and happy life together.  On January 8, 1937 Bill came home for lunch complaining of a bad headache.  He lay down and died shortly afterward of a cerebral hemorrhage.  He was sixty-one years old.  Here's a photo of Ida at home circa 1950:

Ida died at home on July 11, 1954 of heart disease.  She was seventy-seven.  Ida is buried next to the man she gave up everything for, in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Cemetery in Lacon:

I never knew either of my father's parents.  They both died before I came along.  When my mother met my father, Bill Craig had already been dead for several years.  I wish I had gotten the chance to know my grandmother Craig.  She must have been a very strong woman.  In a time when women did not have the rights they have today, she gave up everything - her home, her family, even her religion, for the man she loved.  What a wonderful love story.

Bill and Ida Craig - love conquers all - may they rest in peace.

Friday, April 19, 2013


In my genealogy research I often came upon the name of a noted Evanston photographer named J.D. Toloff.  Since he keeps popping up I thought it might me interesting to see what I could find out about the man who recorded so much personal history from my home town.

Joseph David Toloff was born April 24, 1888 in Grodno, Lithuania. Grodno was one of those cities that, although it stayed in the same place, the country it belonged to kept changing.  Sometimes it was in Poland, sometimes in Russia; today Grodno is a major city in Belarus. When J.D. Toloff was born, approx. 1/2 of the 50,000 population of Grodno were Jewish, as was Toloff.

The family name was originally "TOŁOCZKO" but there is no Ł in Latin/French/English so Toloczko. As a Russian citizen his family name in Russian must have been "ТОЛОЧКО".

In 1908 when Joseph was nineteen he emigrated to the United States. The 1910 Census shows him in Philadelphia having already taken up his craft of photography.  He said his occupation was photographer in a "Picture Parlor".  His native tongue was Yiddish, but he was also fluent in English.  He was living as a boarder at 410 South Ninth Street, in Philadelphia.  He said years later that his big break came when he began working for "Mr. Goldensky of Philadelphia who is without question one of the most able and versatile  photographers in America."

J.D. Toloff came to Evanston, Illinois in 1913.  Some of his early work there stirred up controversy as evidenced by this article from Abel's Photographic Weekly from October 31, 1914:

Apparently Toloff believed that there was no such thing as bad publicity.

By the time Toloff registered for the Draft on June 5, 1917 he was both living and working in Evanston. He was living at 616 Hinman Avenue

616 Hinman Avenue, Evanston, Illinois

and his studio was at 1623 Orrington (where the State National Bank Plaza is today). 

He mentioned on his registration form that he was the sole support of both his mother and his father, but war was war, and that did not keep him out of the Service.  From the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 22, 1918:

Evanston Photographer to be Enrolled in Naval Reserves.

Joseph D. Toloff, Evanston's best known photographer, has answered the call to the colors.  He has enlisted in the United States naval reserves and will be enrolled tomorrow morning.  It is rumored he will be chief instructor of a school of serial photography to be established at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.  In addition he will conduct four government studios at the different camps where sailors may have their pictures taken at cost.

There was sad news for the Toloff family in the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 26, 1919:


Joseph D. Toloff, Evanston and Chicago photographer, learned yesterday that his father, David, died two years ago in Russia.

But there was happy news as well:

Evanston Photographer to Wed Her in Love At First Sight Romance

A pair of blue eyes and a demure smile have made Joseph D. Toloff, Evanston photographer de luxe for the North Shore, the principal in a romance.

Toloff met Miss Helen Weingarten on Decoration day at Oelwein, Ia., while attending the wedding of Miss Ruth Weil, a former Northwestern co-ed.  Miss Weingarten was the maid of honor.  Now she is to be the bride.

She is the daughter of Max Weingarten of Champaign, Ill., and a graduate of the University of Illinois.  Announcement of the engagement was made at Evanston yesterday.  Lester Toloff, brother of the photographer, said Joseph had fallen in love at first sight. - Chicago Daily Tribune - June 22, 1919

Here's the rest of the story from the Bulletin of Photography magazine of February 4, 1920:

Miss Helen Weingarten and Joseph D. Toloff were married on January 27th at the Hotel La Salle, Chicago, Illinois.  After the ceremony they left for a trip to Atlantic City and New York.

Hotel La Salle, Chicago

The Toloff family was featured in the Chicago Daily Tribune of December 14, 1919 with the following story:

Years of Separation in War Fade as Sisters Meet Again
Sisters Parted by Years of War Reunited Here
One Comes from Poland to Make Home in Evanston

The sisters, separated by war, were tearfuilly happy in their reunion at the La Salle street station last evening. Esther of Bialystok, Poland, and Helen of Evanston, held each other in a fond embrace while the brother, Joseph D. Toloff, a photographer in the Fine Arts building, beamed upon them.

"O, dear, I'm so relieved that you're here, " said Helen in English.  "We were so worried about the bolsheviki.  Wasn't it terrible?"

"I was so afraid you didn't get my telegram and wouldn't meet the train," murmured Esther in Polish.  "Are the bolsheviki very bad in Chicago?"

Finds Fears Unfounded.

Then it developed their fears were unfounded, for neither sister had seen a Red or the manifestation of one, to the best of her knowledge.

Bialystok?  Yes, it was in a bad way.  For one thing, there was hardly any sugar and coal was so oscarce many of the industries were closed down, said Esther.  Why, the stores shut at dusk and the street lights were turned off.  And the cost of living was out of sight.

Helen stood aghast.  But the Germans?  Yes, Esther told her, the city had been occupied by the Germans for three and a half years, and it wasn't very nice.  But every inhabitant had a job and could make a living.  The worst hardships, she said, came with the invasion of the Polish army.

Says Poles Looted.

"The Polish troops started to loot houses," she declared, "and the arrival of the American Red Cross commission was all that stopped them.  There is more suffering under the Polish occupation, because the system is poor.  A pair of shoes cost 450 marks; a woman's coat, 2,000 marks, and all other wearing apparel is almost prohibitive in price."

Miss Toloff left Warsaw Nov. 22.  The war made a linguist of the young woman, who now speaks Russian, German, and Polish and hopes to learn English quickly.

The loss of her parents, who died during the war, made the period doubly trying.  Miss Toloff will reside with her sister, Mrs. E.L. Ray, at 616 Hinman avenue, Evanston.

The 1920 Census shows all of the family living at 616 Hinman. 

But dealing with the public does have its drawbacks.  The Bulletin of Photography magazine issue of April 20, 1921 carried the following story:


Suit for $100,000 damages against Joseph D. Toloff, a prominent photographer of Evanston, Ill., was brought in the Circuit Court on April 11th, by H. Clay Beckwith, of Ravenna, Ohio, formerly of Evanston, as a result of the printing of a spurious photograph in the Chicago Tribune, Sunday April 3rd.

The case is in the nature of a libel and arises out of the action of Mr. Toloff, in giving to the Chicago Tribune a picture of H. Clay Beckwith as that of Prof. Holmes Beckwith, who killed Dr. Dean Wharton of Syracuse, New York, on April 2, and then committed suicide.  The picture of H. Clay Beckwith was printed in the Tribune under the caption "Slayer-Suicide", and in connection of a long account of the tragedy and the summary of the life of Dr. Holmes Beckwith.  This stated, among other things, that Dr. Holmes Beckwith was at one time a professor at Northwestern University at Evanston.  

The error was called to the attention of the Tribune by a friend of H. Clay Beckwith, and brief correction was made in the "Beg Your Pardon" column of the Tribune of April 4th.

The plaintiff claims the action of Mr. Toloff was either malicious or inexcusably negligent, and that by reason of the publicity has caused the plaintiff great notoriety and injury.

H. Clay Beckwith is a prominent citizen of Ravenna, Ohio, and is well known in Evanston and Chicago.  For some years he has been General Manager, Secretary and Treasurer of the John F. Byers Machine Company.  He is in no way related to Dr. Holmes Beckwith.

I could not find any further mention of the lawsuit or its outcome - perhaps they decided to settle out of court.

By 1922 the newlyweds left Hinman Avenue and moved to 1346 W. Howard in Evanston, to a building that no longer exists.

J.D. Toloff photographed everyone from the famous to the ordinary. Here's his portrait of Evanston resident and Vice President Charles Gates Dawes:

He photographed the greats from the world of dance:  Here's Ruth St. Denis from 'The Peacock':

and Ted Shawn (Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn were the founders of the world-famous Denishawn Dancers):

He photographed the greats from the stage:  Here are two portraits of Wanda Carlyle from 'The Tavern' (1920):

He also did weddings.  Here are two photos from the wedding of Martha Elisabeth Pape and Charles Joseph Bleidt from May 11, 1921:

Photo courtesy Amanda Pape and Bill Parker

Photo courtesy Amanda Pape and Bill Parker

Toloff did portraits as well.  Here are two shots of Martha Elisabeth Pape circa 1916:

Photo courtesy Amanda Pape and Bill Parker

Photo courtesy Amanda Pape and Bill Parker

Here's a photograph that Toloff submitted to a photographic expedition in 1919 called "Girl With Black Hat":

As his reputation grew, Joseph Toloff was contacted by local schools to do their yearbook photography.  I have seen Toloff photos in the yearbooks from Roycemore School in Evanston, all the way up the North Shore to Barat College in Lake Forest, but Toloff did his most consistent work for the yearbook of Northwestern University in Evanston - "The Syllabus".  In fact, in 1922 Northwestern asked Toloff to stroll around the Evanston campus and photograph anything that he found interesting.  This resulted in a sixteen page section called "Some Campus Views".  It is with great pleasure that I present it to you here:

My favorite is the shot of the Evanston lighthouse.

Toloff always took out a full page ad in the yearbooks he worked on. Here is his ad from the 1924 Syllabus:

Ad from Northwestern University Syllabus - 1924

In 1925 Toloff decided to move his studio from Orrington Avenue in Evanston to 518 Davis Street:

Studio Light Magazine, the Eastman Kodak magazine for professional photographers from May, 1925 featured Toloff and his new studio:

In 1925 Toloff and his wife Helen moved their residence to the Sovereign Hotel in Chicago:

Ad from Northwestern University Syllabus - 1928

The Toloffs moved their residence again in 1931, this time to the Park Lane Hotel, 2842 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago:

And in 1935 the Toloffs relocated to the Hotel Pearson, Chicago

The high point in the career of Joseph Toloff came in the late 1930s when he was named a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.  From then on, he was able to list his credit as J.D. Toloff, F.R.P.S.  This is a high honor and only comes after either a direct submission, or as was likely in Toloff's case, the evaluation of his entire body of work.

In 1955, after being in business in Evanston for more than forty years, Joseph Toloff decided to retire.  His brother Lester had retired to Miami, Florida (although he died in 1952) so Joseph decided to move south and get away from the harsh Chicago winters, once and for all.  

Less than two years into his retirement, the Chicago Daily Tribune from March, 1957 carried the sad news of the death of Joseph Toloff:

Although Toloff's only living relative was still back in Evanston, he was buried in the military graveyard in Andersonville, Georgia.  Here is his interment record from the US government:

It is amazing that, after all these years, Helen Toloff Ray was still living at 616 Hinman in Evanston.  Here is a photo of Joseph Toloff's grave:

Photo courtesy Kevin Frye

It is also interesting that Joseph's sister Helen is listed as his next-of-kin.  What happened to his wife Helen?  I don't know.  After the 1940 census I can't find a trace of Helen Weingarten Toloff.

So, that's the story of noted Evanston photographer Joseph D. Toloff - a man who photographed history.  As I was working on this story I wondered what became of all of Toloff's negatives?  Can you imagine what a treasure trove that would be for a historian?  Toloff was the premier photographer of Evanston from 1913 to 1955.  Joseph and Helen had no children, so perhaps the negatives went to other relatives or, as often happened, maybe they were just thrown out.  If anyone knows what became of Toloff's negatives I would be very interested in finding out.

Joseph David Toloff - a man who probably knew more about Evanston and Evanstonians than any other person of his era.  The Evanston photographer de luxe for the North Shore - may he rest in peace.  

Special thanks to Amanda Pape and Bill Parker for allowing me to use the Toloff photos of their family for this article.  Amanda has a fascinating blog about her family that is a must-read for anyone interested in Evanston history.  You can find it at:

Thanks also to fellow Find-a-Grave photographer and graver Kevin Frye for the photo of Joseph Toloff's grave.

All other photos are from the author's collection.

NOTE:  There is alot more material available about the life and work of J.D. Toloff.  The hardest part of writing this article was to decide what to include and what to leave out.  Because Toloff and his work are so interesting, I have started another blog "Toloff Photography Evanston" that will deal with his life and work.  I will post one item each week, either from Toloff's works or about Toloff himself.  Please join me at:

Thanks to Feliks Woroszylski for his help with the original family name.