Grace Grisdale Elopes with a Serial Womaniser in Seattle

Posted: September 20, 2013 in Family History
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In 1911 the following report appeared in Washington State’s Tacoma Times:

 Girl of 15 Disowned By Rich Uncle When She Elopes. SEATTLE, June 22.

Early this morning, as the steam schooner Redfield, bound out of Seattle for Nome, passed the three-mile limit that marked the vessel’s entrance Into the domain of the ‘high seas, there occurred a strange wedding.

Fifteen-year-old Grace Grisdale became the bride of C. G. Pike, 35, first engineer of the boat. The knot was .tied by Captain McKenna, master of the vessel.

James Grisdale, the girl’s grand uncle and nearest relative, followed them to the pier and caused the girl to be detained by the police. A superior court judge heard the story, however, and ordered the girl turned over to the expectant bridegroom. The grand uncle is a pioneer of the Puget Sound country and is worth $100,000.

He disowned the girl when she decided to go to Alaska with Pike.

I won’t here go too much into Grace’s ancestors, suffice it to say that both she and her grand uncle James were descended from the early Canadian settler Wilfred Grisdale, who had arrived in North Monaghan in 1816/17 (see here).

Seattle Harbor

Seattle Harbor

Grace was born in 1895 in Bay City, Michigan to ‘Contractor’ Robert Grisdale and his wife Jessie E. Defoe. She was christened Dolores Grisdale but obviously she was known as Grace. Grace was the couple’s fourth and last child. For a reason we do not know shortly after Grace was born Robert and Jessie divorced and Jessie disappears from view. Several surviving children were sent to live with various relatives. But Grace was sent to Saint Vincent’s Orphanage in Detroit. But at some point we know she went to live with her rich great uncle James in Washington. He had made his money in just a few years by operating logging camps and who was at the time living in Eagle Harbour, Kitsap.

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

And so aged fifteen (actually 16) she had wanted to elope with ‘35’ year-old Calvin Greene Pike, for that was his full name. Having ‘tied the knot’ on board the F. S. Redfield, Calvin and Grace were on their way to Alaska. But then in August 1911:

The 469 ton 160 foot wooden gas screw F S Redfield stranded and was lost near Cape Prince of Wales at 10:00 p.m. Saturday August 19, 1911.  The vessel departed Unalaska July 19, 1911 bound for Cape Prince of Wales.  There were 23 crewmen and 350 tons of general merchandise aboard.  She had about a third of a deckload of freight.  The following are excerpts from the wreck report filed by James McKenna, master of the F S Redfield:

“3 mi. east Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska”  “South gale, rainy, dark, cloudy”  “South gale and current setting in to shore, could not head to sea”  “Stranded”  “Anchors let go; dragged until she struck”  “One day after vessel went aground, the mate went ashore and telephoned for the Revenue Cutter Bear at Nome, who arrived 48 hours later and rendered all possible assistance by helping lighter cargo and carry crew to Nome”  “Total loss”

The F S Redfield, valued at $25,000 was a total loss.  The cargo, which was worth $10,000 was damaged $5,000 on the report.  The F S Redfield had insurance of $12,500 on the vessel and $3,500 on the cargo.  There was no loss of life.

It seems that Grace was still on board when the ship was lost because another report reads:

The vessel stranded and lost when anchors dragged in gale; it was transporting supplies to Government schools in Alaska. Cutter Bear came to the rescue and carried crew and cargo to Nome. Grace Grisdale, 15, who had stowed away on the trip, ended up marrying First Engineer, C.G. Pike, with the ceremony conducted by Captain McKenna.

Now Calvin seems to have been both a trickster and womaniser, and there’s nothing much wrong with either. In the 1910 Census he is found in Seattle listed as a steamship captain aged 36 and born in Kansas of parents from North Carolina. The age fits more or less with the newspaper report and it must be what he told people. But there are two lies. First, he was born in Staley, North Carolina not Kansas, and his parents were Solomon Franklin Pike and Martha Staley, so he was 30 not 36. Having been brought up in Chatham, North Carolina it’s true that in 1900 he had gone to live with his uncle Lawson Pike and his family in Kansas, but Kansas-born he was not. More interestingly, in 1910 Calvin, although living alone, was said to be married, and this just months before his elopement with young Grace Grisdale.

Calvin and Grace seem to have had one son: John Calvin Pike, born in 1913. In the future John Calvin would give his birthplace at either Oklahoma or Missouri, following in the path of his father in this regard. In 1914 Calvin and his wife Grace are listed in a Seattle directory and he was said to be an ‘engineer’, on a steamship no doubt. In 1918 Calvin is still listed as an engineer in Seattle but no wife is mentioned. It seems however that sometime after 1914 he had left young Grace Grisdale because in December 1916 he married (for a third time) Lena E. Baettner in Seattle.

His lying about his age continued. When Calvin was drafted on 12 September 1918 in Seattle he gave his address as 117 Clay, his occupation as a Bridge Foreman and his employer as Monson Construction. He even gave the name of his father as Solomon F. Pike. But he continued to add 6 years to his age, giving his date of birth as 29 March 1874, when it was in fact 29 March 1880. Later when he registered for service in WW2 in Edmonds, Washington in 1942, he’d given up this lie and gave his correct date of birth. He said he was ‘self employed’.

His relationship with Lena Baettner didn’t last long either, because by 1920 he had moved on to his fourth ‘wife’ Myrtle Beatrice McPherson. Actually he might not have married Myrtle as he was probably still married to Lena, but Calvin and Myrtle had and lost their first child called Tupper McPherson Pike in 1920. Tupper died in Cle Elum near Lake Kittitas which is far away from Seattle. It looks like Calvin and Myrtle had had to flee. His parents brought him back to Edmonds to be buried.

Calvin and Myrtle's Grave in Edmond's Memorial Cemetery

Calvin and Myrtle’s Grave in Edmond’s Memorial Cemetery

Three more children were to follow: Calla B. Pike (1926), Solomon A. Pike (1927) and Martha R. Pike (1930), the births it seems being nowhere recorded. In 1930 the family were living in Currie, Snohomish, Calvin first being a concrete contractor and then a building labourer. But even now although Calvin gives his age and place of birth correctly it seems his dissembling hadn’t finished. In the 1930 census the place of birth of 17 year-old John Pike’s mother (Grace Grisdale) was given as California! I wonder what Calvin had told his son about his mother?

Calvin’s wife Myrtle died on 29 December, 1848 in Edmonds, Snohomish.

But Calvin Pike’s serial womanising was not over yet. Here was man in his sixties who had had at least four ‘wives’ and had slipped down from being a ship’s captain, through being a ‘bridge foreman’ to working as a building labourer; a man who was continually lying and trying to evade the authorities. You’d have thought he had had enough! But good on him, no! In Omak, Douglas County, Washington State, on the 14th May 1949, just a few months after Myrtle’s death, when Calvin was 69, he married again. This time his wife was a married mother of 49 called Ida Ellen Kopsala. There must have been something of urgency because on the day they married Calvin had to apply to the court to waive the usual three day waiting period before a wedding licence could be issued, which the court duly did. Why the rush?

But Calvin’s exploits were nearly over. He died on the 10th of  June 1950 in Everett, Snohomish in Washington State. Ida died in 1958.

But let’s go back. What happened to Grace Grisdale who had eloped with Calvin aged 15 (16) aboard his steamer in 1911? Not too long after she split with Calvin Pike, Grace married Richard Edward Cantwell in Tacoma, Washington on 7 September 1920. She gave her name as Dolores Grace Grisdale (not Pike). But something must have happened because in the 1920 US census we find her married but living alone in Tacoma: as ‘Grace Cantwell’. She was a hotel ‘servant’. Richard, it seems, was back in Charleston, South Carolina living with his mother! What was going on? The answer is that Richard was an Epileptic. We find him in the South Carolina State Hospital in Columbia in 1930 and he died there in 1941 of ‘epilepsy’, which the records say had it’s ‘onset’ in 1918! Poor Richard and poor Grace.

And what of Grace? What happened to her? Well I’m still investigating that.

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