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The divorce that ended the first marriage of W. E. D. Stokes became final in 1900. Details of the case were not made public, but apparently Stokes was badly hurt when his wife called it quits.

However, he soon became involved with a young woman named Lucy Riley in a relationship that lingered for a few years and may have produced a second son — except that Stokes denied he was the father.

The mother decided she had only one recourse. Result: W. E. D. Stokes wound up in another court case.

You'll notice the woman calls herself Lucy Randolph. The name change was made while she and Stokes were having their affair and it was made at his suggestion. Why Randolph? Stokes didn't say. The man worked in strange and devious ways.

New York Times, June 11, 1907
After many adjournments the case of Mrs. Lucy M. Randolph against W. E. D. Stokes to recover $4,500 for the support of her boy, whose father she alleges Mr. Stokes to be, was started in the Supreme Court, in Flushing yesterday. There were only four jurors in the box when adjournment was taken for the day.

The plaintiff’s side of the case will require about a day, and Mr. Stokes’s counsel will take from to to three days to present the defense, they say. The courtroom was crowded when the case was called.

Justice Walter Jaycox, who is presiding at the trial, turned to the newspaper men and said:

“I have heard that there are in court a number of photographers and sketch artists. This is a case that may attract considerable attention. I do not purpose that the trial shall be turned into a show. This is a court of justice. There will be no snapshots and no sketching in this courtroom.”

Beside Mr. Stokes sat his chief counsel, Abe Gruber. District Attorney Ira G. Darrin of Queens County and John J. Trapp of Flushing were with Mr. Gruber. George Gordon Battle had as his associate ex-Judge James M. Seaman.

Mrs. Randolph was accompanied by her boy, who is 4 years old, and Miss Mary Murphy, a friend.

Mrs. Randolph has two separate actions against Mr. Stokes. Her suit for her own support is to be tried this fall, her attorney deciding to separate it from the present suit, which is for $4,500 for the support of her little boy and an adjudication as to what will be a proper sum for his support in the future.

Mr. Battle said yesterday that the boy was born on Oct. 25, 1902, and that Mr. Stokes supported him and his mother until Oct. 19, 1904, giving Mrs. Randolph between $600 and $700 a month for the support of both.

The plaintiff, says Mr. Battle, has three things to show: That the child is Stokes’ son, that he agreed to support the child, and as to what will be a reasonable sum of money for his support.

 

New York Times, June 11, 1907
After an entire morning spent in filling the jury box, the suit of Mrs Lucy Randolph against W. E. D. Stokes, owner of the Hotel Ansonia, to recover $4,500 for maintenance of her 4-year-old son, went to trial yesterday in the Supreme Court, in Flushing, L. I.

Another suit she had brought against Mr. Stokes on her behalf is scheduled for trial later. Abraham Gruber is the principal counsel for Mr. Stokes. George Gordon Battle and James M. Seaman represented the plaintiff.

Mrs. Randolph, who was the first witness on her own behalf, had her boy with her in court. They appeared very fond of one another, and the child occasionally drew down his mother’s face and kissed her cheek. The child’s name is said to be Edward William, no last name given. But, at the close of the day Mrs. Randolph was heard to address her son as Luke.

Mrs. Randolph was on the stand under cross-examination when Justice Jaycox adjourned court for the day, and this will be resumed this morning. Her story as she told it to the jury yesterday was as follows:

“I came to New York in April or May, 1900, when I was 22 years old. I went to various hotels and boarding houses (naming them) and I met different people. I knew a Mr. Voldhart while I was in a Seventy-second Street boarding house. While he and I were talking in the street one evening Mr. Stokes drove past. He bowed to Mr. Voldhart, and later that gentleman told me Mr. Stokes would like to meet me. A meeting was arranged for the following evening, and we were introduced.

“I had no hat on. Mr. Stokes told me to get a hat and take a drive, and I did so. He questioned me about myself, and told me considerable about himself. He said he was very unhappy and that he wanted someone to be nice to him, and he would be very good to such a person.

“The next evening but one he again took me driving and then he spoke of his fondness for children. He said he had but one, and that made him very sad, as he would not take that one away from his wife, from whom he was divorced. He went to his Lexingtonn stock farm for a couple of weeks, and then returned and took me to dinner during which he renewed posposals he had made to me. A little later he invited me to his house to dinner. After that he supplied me with money, and I paid my bills with that money. He gave me about $200 or $300 a month.

“He said he was very anxious to have a child and that he would adopt one and support it if it should be born. This was in August, 1901.

“While we were at the Kentucky farm together he became ill after eating too many strawberries, and returned north, leaving me there with no money. I went home later and then, becoming ill myself, went to New York to go to Roosevelt Hospital. While there Mr. Stokes looked me up and was very penitent for his treatment of me. I told him I had not expected to see him again, but I was glad to see him, nothwithstanding, for I had been very sick.

“He paid my bills and bought some things for me, sending them from a department store. Later, when he was informed of my hopes, he acted like a delighted boy, and said I could have anything I wanted. He provided everything for me and for the child.

“After the child was born he said he was giving me all he could then afford, as his money was tied up and involved, but that later he might be able to give me more.

“In January, 1903, he began cutting down my allowance. First from $500 a month, which he had been giving me, he gave me only $400, then $300, and lastly only $200, until the fall of 1904, when he ceased giving me anything. Since that time I have had to support my boy myself.

“Mr. Stokes told me he had compelled his family to turn over about $5,000,000 to him, and that his income was about $135,000 a year. He said that when he had untangled some of the knots, we would be in clover, and that I could then have anything I liked. He introduced me to people as his niece. He gave me a horse and carriage and I used them daily until the fall of 1904, when he took them away again.”

Before beginning the cross-examination, Mr. Gruber moved a dismissal, saying he desired to avoid the publicity of the details as far as possible, but Judge Jaycox decided to have the case go on, and denied the petition.

The first thing Mr. Gruber brought out in cross-examination was that the plaintiff’s name is not “Randolph,” but Riley. She said Mr. Stokes had advised her to take the name of Randolph, as it would be better not to use her own name. Mr. Gruber caused her to describe how, as a stenographer in Philadelphia, she had worked for various firms and people, and to admit what she called “unfortunate experiences” there.

The name of Peter Duryea was introduced, and she was questioned as to calls he had made. Letters she had written to Stokes, mostly about money, were also read, and it was announced that many more are to be put in evidence.

 

New York Evening Telegram, June 12, 1907
Judge Jaycox this afternoon summarily dismissed the suit of Lucy Riley Randolph against W. E. D. Stokes for $500 a month for the support of her son. The Court ruled that no proof had been produced of any agreement by the millionaire hotel man to support the child.

The decision was rendered at the conclusion of the complainant’s case after a bunch of highly interesting letters written by Stokes had been heard by a large crowd in the Supreme Court in Flushing. Abraham Gruber, counsel for Stokes, moved for dismissal on the ground that the girl had agreed to be content with the sums bestowed on her during her relations with Stokes. Judge Jaycox refused to entertain the motion on such grounds, but immediately threw the case out of court for the reason he himself advanced.

On hearing the finds of the Court, Mrs. Randolph seemed to be threatened with collapse and wept a little. George Gordon Battle, her counsel, immediately filed notice of appeal after a motion for a new trial had been denied.

Million or More
Before the complainant’s case was closed, Stokes was called to the stand and asked by Mr. Battle how much he was worth.

“I am worth more than a million dollars,” he said. He was then excused.

Mrs. Randolph, called for redirect examination, said she had changed her name from Riley to Randolph at Stokes’ suggestions and that he had bought her a wedding ring which, she declared, he said would “fool the public.” He told her, she said, to say she was a widow from Virginia.

In dismissing the suit, Judge Jaycox said:

“In my mind the only question at stake is what the handsome and moral allowance made by the defendant was meant for. It might mean anything. According to the woman’s story, the defendant gave her a lot of money, which was part of an agreement. The only action whereby the complainant might recover would be a suit for expenditures made out of her own money in support of the child. There is no action before me for such a sum and the only conclusion I can take is that the woman is entitled to nothing.”

In the letters read in court Stokes repeatedly urged Mrs. Randolph to marry some nice fellow,” telling her she was a “lady and well bred.” Some of the epistles contain a statement of funds furnished Mrs. Randolph, and one refers to the child.

“You refer to the boy as my son,” he wrote. “I would be glad if I knew this were true.”

Among the letters were several as follows:

“Mr. Dear Mrs. Randolph: Here is the bottle of whiskey, 1851, you say you want for sickness or sociability on one condition – you do not touch a drop yourself. It is bad – especially for women. Does sociability mean for your intended husband? I would not marry a whiskey drinking man if I were you. Yours truly, W. E. D. S.”

“My Dear Mrs. R.: Here is what you asked for. Say, why do you treat me so bad? I work so hard and have so many worries that I cannot afford to be roughed up. W. E. D. S.”

“Mr. Dear Miss Riley: I shall send you your typewriter Monday as you request. I shall not answer your letter. You know I have been square to you. You know I do not care nor know who you are, that from the moment I first met you I have tried to get you to return to your mother and sister.

“You promised to go to your sister after going to Lexington, and now your refuse. Now, child, let me tell you. You are a lady; you are well bred. You know nothing of the world. I have begged, entreated and urged you to listen to me. Go to your mother and sister and I will help you. You are not strong; you are not well. There is but one life for you, and that is to marry some nice fellow who will be kind and thoughtful of you and I will help you to do this.

“I will help you with funds. I will help you other ways. Do as I advise you. Stay at the farm as long as you like. Pick up the way you were doing when I left. I was then at the point of death. I am very weak still. I will write you again tomorrow, but answer this letter and say you will go home to your sister. With kindest regards. W. E. D. Stokes.

“P.S. – I was sick but I did not blame. I know you did not mean it.”


“My Dear Miss Randolph: I have, as I telegraphed you, deposited $100 to your account in the bank You had better move to the farm house you intended stopping at when you left here. If times continue bad I shall dispose of my horses and cut down expenses. You are having a great time. You had better see whether this fellow is rich or not.

“Now in your letter you refer to the boy as my son. I would be glad if I knew this were true ... My friends tell me that the boy is not mine ... I have been good to you in spite of a lot of abuse you have heaped on me. I never called you ‘Blonde,’ but others did.

“Now don’t ride a free horse too hard. If you get a chance to marry, do that, and quit this gay Nantucket party. I know all about that nurse. Don’t bank too much on her. You went to harnessmaker’s and purchased $74.22 worth of stuff. They sent you the bill and you said charge it to me. That was not a fair deal. Now they are about to sue you on your return to town. You send me your check to harnessmaker’s order and I will make a deposit to cover it. Yours truly, W. E. D. Stokes.”


“My Dear Mrs. Randolph: You say you want to see me. I am very busy, as you know, but I will meet you any time between half-past three and five anywhere you mention in the Central Park, between Seventy-second Street and Fifty-ninth Street. What I did not like was what appeared to me to be a persistent habit on your part to write me letters, in each of which you referred to the boy as my son. You know the ground I have all along taken. I understand that you did not so intend, and it is all O.K. Then I am glad to help you, but I want to understand the situation, and I want you to, also. Yours in haste. W. E. D. S.

“P. S. – Answer by bearer. At the top of the letterhead, you see I have an engagement at three which will doubtless keep me until four. New York September 12, 1903”


"My Dear Mrs. Randolph: I asked nothing unreasonable, and when you talk in a quiet way and act with thought I am not so very unreasonable. So here is your $300. I am sorry you are in debt. Now, all I ask is that you quit going into debt again. Make this go the limit, as I am limited now. Yours truly, W.E. D. Stokes.

“P. S. – I understand you have decided to go to Kansas. If you are in earnest write me your decision.”


“Mr. Dear Mrs. Randolph: I am glad you have had such a fine summer. You say you are hard up and need some money. Well, here is my check for $200. Now, as for your boy, you know the stand I have taken. If I believed this boy mine I would feel different. You had other friends and some of my friends tell me they know he is not mine.

“However, I want everyone in this world to be happy, and I continue these loans to you. Hoping you will meet some fellow with a lot of dough and get married. Yours very truly, W. E. D. Stokes, New York 7, 1903.”

Tears in Profusion
Earlier in the day the complainant underwent at the hands of Mr. Gruber a severe cross-examination, in the course of which she wept so profusely that procedings were halted for a while.

Mr. Gruber first interrogated her about Mr. Whiteside, an employe of the Scott Trust, in Philadelphia, who, she admitted, gave her $5 a week extra while she was working for the company there, and who was her first visitor after she came to New York to live.

“Didn’t Mr. Whiteside introduce you to William Neat, the clerk at the Monterey, where you first stopped, and say he would pay all your bills at the hotel?” asked Mr. Gruber.

“I do not recollect that he did any such thing. He did help me to pay my expenses for a time, however.” Mrs. Randolph denied that she had seen Whiteside frequently here.

“Didn’t Mr. Peter Duryea tell you that Mr. Stokes did not want to see you any more?” asked Mr. Gruber.

“Yes,” she admitted. “I told him to tell Mr. Stokes that I needed him and to come to me as soon as he could.”

Regarding a deposit of $1,975 she had made with the United States Trust Company, Mrs. Randolph said that it was money that Mr. Stokes gave her after the birth of the boy.

“Did you ever bring an action against Mr. Whiteside?”

“No, sir.”

The witness also indignantly denied that she ever visited a foundling asylum in that city.

“Did you have Mr. Stokes sign any paper guaranteeing support for the child?”

“No, sir, I thought he was an honorable men. I did not think it would be necessary.”

So far I've found no information about what became of Lucy Riley (Randolph) or her son.

 

He wasn't exactly a romantic
Much was made during 1911's Case of the Shooting Show Girls about a letter W. E. D. Stokes forced Lillian Graham to write during her visit to Stokes' horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Basically, it seems Stokes wanted a license for worry-free sex. If she would put into writing that she had had sex with other men, then W. E. D. Stokes felt he was home free. She couldn't come after him later about any consequences.

There's no logic to this, of course; at least, not by today's standards. But Stokes lived during the double-standard era. Men who had pre-marital or even extramarital sex were, after all, just men. Women who had pre-marital sex were tramps.

Surprisingly (at least to me), at no time during Graham's trial was there mention of Stokes' tawdry affair with Lucy Ryley, who sued him for child support in 1907. That trial uncovered an interesting letter Stokes had written to the woman in which he recounted their relationship. The letter seems to have been written with a lawsuit in mind. Stokes, that hopeless ol' romantic, made copies of all the letters he wrote. In this one he mentions how during their first meeting – when he gave her a carriage ride – he took her to his place so she could write him "a legal release," as he put it, in which she admitted she had been intimate with others.

Since he had done this with two women before he met Helen Ellwood, who became his second wife, it gave folks a reason not to believe many of his stories during his two failed divorce attempts. Obviously the man checked out women before he had relations with them. He was, after all, a cautious curmudgeon. So it was impossible to believe the woman who passed his purity test in 1911 could possibly have been a prostitute in Chicago, the mother of a child by a black lover, and a playgirl who later dated several men in New York during the period she was being courted by Stokes himself. Yet during the Stokes vs. Stokes divorce trials, he hoped these accusations would be believable.

What follows is a sad, pathetic letter from a man who must have been too horny to simply avoid a woman who obviously had serious problems and could only cause trouble for him (no matter what she wrote in her "legal release"). His words may have said no-no, but there was yes-yes in the money he sent her with almost every letter. Note the postscript to this one.

New York Sun / June 13, 1907
Broadway, Seventy-fourth street, N. Y.
February 16, 1904

My Dear Miss Randolph:

Whenever I hear of people in trouble I try to help them. You say you need $100 for some medical operation you do not care to tell me. I can guess that before I help you.

Let me recall to your memory a few facts. You recollect how me met. I was driving through Seventy-second street and you signalled me from your bedroom window. I stopped and you came down to the street, and we arranged for a drive that night at 8 o’clock.

I called with my victoria [four-wheeled carriage, seats for two] and you told me before we reached Seventy-ninth street and Riverside Drive that you were penniless and in trouble; that you had been the stenographer for an old man in Philadelphia named Woodside and that his son, a married man named George Woodside, treasurer of the American Snuff Trust, had brought you to New York and established you at the Victoria Hotel, at Broadway and Twenty-seventh Street; that you had several lovers in Philadelphia, among them young Hardy, and at the Victoria an Englishman named Solomon.

Then you had spinal meningitis and a fever, and had lost all your hair and eyebrows and had come up to 260 West Seventy-second Street for a change of air, but you assured me you were perfectly well.

Within ten minutes after leaving 260 West Seventy-second Street we had turned at Seventy-ninth Street and Riverside Drive and were at 225 West Seventy-fifth Street, and we went up to my library and there you wrote me a legal release, and that I need have no fear, as you had been intimate with others.

You went away with some money. Within a few days thereafter I met you; you said you were sick and you had no money for a doctor. I sent you one. He found you in a fever, and you had to be taken to Roosevelt Hospital. I paid all there and a lot of other expenses of yours, a perfect stranger to me.

Afterward I paid your bills at Cincinnati Hospital and at Roosevelt again, and a lot of other bills. Not long ago I learned that you had not told me the truth, that you had lied to me about your health.

Now, regarding your son. I stood by you against the advice of all. I laid myself open for attack. You say you have no idea of such a thing. I don’t know whether you’re telling the truth or not. You said you never threatened to kill my son. I was told you did make that remark. Say, let me once hear you ever breathe such an idea and I will tear you limb from limb, and I get a written denial of this statement and I never give you another cent.

Yours truly,

W. E. D. Stokes

P.S. – I inclose you check for $100.

 

 
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