Helen Louise Chambers Boling (1 Jul 1911 – 16 Mar 1944) My Paternal Great Grandmother:
On Thursday, March 16, 1944, at Baltimore, MD., Helen L. Boling, the wife of Jessie Boling, mother of Frank, Dolores and Barbara Boling and daughter of Frank and Lottie Chambers. Services at the Chambers funeral home, 517 11th st. se., on Wednesday, March 22, at 1 p.m. Interment Columbia Gardens Cemetery.
Washington Post (1877-1954)
Mar 23, 1944; page 12
Columbia Gardens Cemetery
I expect this post will be one of my more personal and difficult to write. There remain many blanks to my paternal grandmother’s (Helen Louise Chambers Boling) life that we cannot fill in and some of the answers we have found aren’t what we had hoped for by any means. Helen was estranged from her family and living in Baltimore City, Maryland, when in March 1944 she died or was murdered at age 32. See also my January post Life Choices of a Roaring Twenties Teen, that provides more details about Helen’s life after she abandoned her husband and children. Helen’s grave at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, is unmarked. It appears Helen’s friends, (the Ward’s) unfamiliar to this generation’s family, arranged and paid for Helen’s burial within their family’s plots. And, I know from a child visiting my great-grandmother, Helen’s mother, Lottie Taylor Chambers in the Washington, DC Home for the Incurables, that Lottie was disappointed and saddened at how Helen’s life turned out as a result of Helen’s choices.
My Dad’s Talks with his Grandmother, Lottie Taylor Chambers (Helen’s Mother)
Whenever my dad, Frank Burton Boling, would strike up a conversation about his mother, Helen, with his grandmother, Lottie, (which wasn’t often), she took to scowling and then whispering. Great-grandmother never really described to him what she saw that day she found her daughter, my grandmother, dead in that Baltimore City boarding room. But, older aunts and uncles at the time whispered about a beating, a knifing, and/or gun wound, and alcoholism. Helen’s death certificate indicates chronic alcoholism discovered through an autopsy, but nothing more. The relatives who knew, have all long since passed and because this topic was always hushed, I guess the secret died with Helen and them.
Jesse Burton Boling’s (Helen’s husband) Family
However, on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family, my Bolling’s descend from the marriage of Captain John Thomas Rolfe and Pocahontas. It was their granddaughter, Jane Poythress Rolfe, (daughter of Thomas P. Rolfe, their only child, and Jane Poythress) who married Colonel Robert Bolling of Cobbs, Henrico, Virginia. Colonel Robert Bolling was my paternal 8th great grandfather and Jesse Burton Boling’s 6th great grandfather. In large part, this Boling family remained in Virginia and this is where Helen and Jesse’s short-lived love story that spawned three children (my dad, the eldest and only living survivor) began.
Frank Maynard Chambers and Lottie Taylor Chambers (Helen’s Parents)
It was September 21, 1910, when Helen’s father, Frank Maynard Chambers (26), originally from Franklin, Pennsylvania, married Lottie L. Taylor (20) from Louisa County, Virginia. They married in Washington, DC. Helen was born on July 1, 1911–exactly 40 weeks following their ceremony. Just 10 years before, at age 16, my great-grandfather, Frank Chambers, according to 1900 Census records, was a Ward of the City of Washington, DC–an inmate at the Reform School for Boys. According to the enumeration document, Frank could read and write, but no further personal information was provided–quite a contrast to the vast amount of Bolling heritage I have rather easily discovered. The 1914 New York passenger ship lists show that when Frank and Lottie’s daughter, Helen, was 3, that the Chambers family arrived back in New York from Cristobal, in Colon, Panama, where apparently Frank had worked on the canal’s construction.
When my grandfather, Jesse Boling (1902-1978), later-to-be husband of Helen, was still living at home with his parents (Edward Bud Vincent BOWLING Sr (1872 – 1946) and Mary Florence Wharton (1878-1929) on Ely’s Ford Road in Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg, VA, (adjacent to the Chancellorsville Battlefield) he came to meet Miss Helen Louise Chambers (1911-1944), daughter of Frank Maynard Chambers (1884-1967) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Lottie L. Taylor (1890-1962) from Louisa County, Virginia. Although Jesse was 9-1/2 years her senior, he was immediately smitten with Helen. So smitten, that he would “borrow” a canoe on weekends and paddle the Rapidan tributary to the other side of the Rappahannock River to be with her. The photo below shows what the crossing of that portion of the Rapidan looked like to soldiers in the American Civil War, about 65 years earlier than when Jesse would have entered it. Back then, the soldiers could cross on foot, and they did so by stripping off their clothes and hoisting them on their backs before crossing.
A Custom-Built Home
By 1930, Jesse, Helen, and their children Frank and Delores were living in their new home that Jesse had built himself. According to the census, their address was “15 Stanley Street, Spaulding Heights, Maryland, which is just a couple of miles beyond the District of Columbia boundary line near Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. This would have made Helen 18 and Jesse 27 with already two babies: Frank 16 months and Delores 4 months, according to this record.
Expanding upon my Earlier Post in January:
Based on the whispers and mysteries that surround Helen Chambers Boling’s life and death, I’d say her work in the arsenal factories probably gave her the only sense of achievement in life that she ever had. Helen was a teenager when she married Jesse Boling and she gave birth to her first two children when she was 17 and 18, followed by a third at age 22 in 1933. About 15 months later, she abandoned her babies and her husband. The girls never saw her again. My dad Frank was 5 when she left them.
Dad was about 11 or 12 when he next saw his mother, Helen. It was a strange accidental meeting. He went home from school with a friend and found Helen there cooking in the kitchen. I can’t imagine the emotions that went through him at that time. Dad didn’t say specifically how the exchanges went. The next time my dad saw his mother was when he was 15 in March 1944, and sneaked into the W. W. Chambers Funeral Home where Helen was laid out.
After Helen left, my dad’s father Jesse continued working as a carpenter but took to heavy drinking. Since my dad, Frank, was the eldest of the children, the task of raising his sisters and getting to his dad early on paydays fell on him–starting at the ripe age of 5. Dad’s sisters were 4 and 15 months old when Helen first left. To this dad, my dad hates boiled potatoes and cabbage because they apparently ate a lot of them as children. Their living situation also explains why there are no pictures of my grandfather as a young man, nor any of my dad and his sisters before their mid-teens, and definitely no pictures of their mother, Helen among the family. Jesse never really moved on from his relationship with Helen. He came to live for many years with my parents when I was growing up. He then went to help out his second oldest child, Delores, with her six children, and he lived there for many years. Once Delores’ children reached their late teens, Jesse moved into his own apartment in nearby in Hyattsville, MD. By then, Jesse had developed type II diabetes and it had gotten out of control. We visited him and I took him dietetic/diabetic foods, but he disliked them. Jesse had grown up on rich, fatty, and tasty southern cooking. Had Jesse survived until February 2, 1979–five more months–he would have been 77. In all those 45 or so years following Helen’s leaving (about 1933) him, I never knew my grandfather to find or even look for another love. After sobering up, he devoted many of those years to his family and he turned his love to movies and baseball. Jesse’s team was the Washington Senators (1901-1960) who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. I remember him visiting my young family and bringing his great-grandchildren baseballs and bats from the hometown games he attended. And, the name “Harmon Killibrew,” would always come up. Killibrew was my grandfather’s favorite player. In fact, Killibrew lived until 2011. He passed away at age 74 from esophageal cancer (probably caused by cigarettes or chewing tobacco as most baseball players used to use –a habit my grandfather never developed–thank goodness). In fact, “Killer”, “Slugger,” Killibrew played baseball for 22. years (1954-1977) the biggest part of my grandfather’s listening and viewing years of baseball.
I’m not sure how long after Frank Chambers left that my great-grandmother hired a private eye to try and find him, but they never did. However, given today’s technology and vast databases of records on people, I very easily found Frank Chambers when I first looked for him about two years ago. He had moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. And in fact, the 1957 Las Vegas city phone directory included his profession as a school crossing guard. He would have been in his mid-70’s then. Frank Chambers, according to social security records passed on October 28, 1967, at 84 years old, leaving a wife, Audrey.
He was buried in the Garden of Prayer at South Bunker Hill Memorial Gardens and Cemetery in Las Vegas, NV. Interestingly enough, “Father” is inscribed on his headstone, leaving me to believe that Frank had an additional child or children during his life in Nevada. (A search and perhaps an updated story for another time.)
If there is but one moral to this story I could identify, it would be that my father never abandoned his family or gave up on his children. He has truly dedicated every moment to us. Out of all the children from Jesse and Helen’s marriage, dad became the strongest and has been a great role model and family patriarch to my brothers, me, and my family of children and grandchildren to follow.
I guess this post is just a little early for Father’s Day, but with dad around, it’s always Happy Father’s Day–a father to be truly proud of!