(Photo: Frank Stoneman holding his daughter Marjory at far right. The rest of the Stoneman or Trefethen families are unidentified.)
The name Marjory Stoneman Douglas is much in the news just now. At a high school in Parkland, Florida, there was a horrific mass shooting, and that school happened to be named for her. Most people have probably never heard of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but she turns up on the Internet. Marjory was an admirable writer and environmentalist. Her Wikipedia page has plenty of good information on her works. She lived to be 108, and was a tremendously loved figure in South Florida. Naming a school for her seems entirely appropriate.
There’s a Hennepin County angle to her. Marjory was born in Minneapolis, MN. And her family stories in Minneapolis are kind of interesting.
Marjory’s father was Frank Bryant Stoneman. Frank had come to Minnesota in 1862 or 1863 as a boy. His father Mark Stoneman was a dentist. Mark and his wife Althea installed their family in St. Anthony on the corner of today’s University and Central avenues. He opened a practice over a drug store, and was a dentist there until he died of pneumonia in 1875.
Dr. Mark Stoneman’s children were hard-working and successful. Oldest son Orville—Marjory’s uncle—was one of the first 13 students at the University of Minnesota. He went on to work in real estate, even building the 3-story Stoneman Block at 609 West Lake St. He was also a city council member for the 8th ward during the tumultuous late 1880s, a time when social liberals and social conservatives were battling over illegal saloons, police corruption, and growing the city. The Stonemans supported temperance, were churchgoers, and seemed like upright citizens. These positions were entirely at odd with third-term Mayor A. A. Ames, who was showing all the signs of corruption that would bring down his 4th administration. How odd that the youngest brother, Edgar Ames Stoneman, was probably named for the Mayor’s father.
Marjory’s father Frank Stoneman helped support his mother and younger siblings by working as a pressman in a printing company. As a young man, “President Stoneman” founded the Gopher State Amateur Press Association, and then leapt into publishing by starting The East Side Enterprise, a “neatly printed weekly” in 1875. In 1880, Frank Stoneman was a founder of a young republicans club. He worked as an election judge several times. He joined his father’s Masonic lodge; he attended Holy Trinity Church. In 1887, he and Forrest Rundell founded the American Building and Loan Association with $10,000,000. They incorporated it again in 1888 with $50,000,000 capitalization, on the same day that the Edison Power and Light Company proposed to manufacture electricity in Minneapolis. And this was the year that Forrest Rundell married Frank’s sister Kate.
Frank was 30 when he met Florence Lillian Trefethen, who came to Minneapolis to play her violin. She was not the vaudevillian popular rowdy sort of musician, but one who played classical music for a polite and appreciative audience. Lillian was consistently lauded in newspaper reviews of her work. Perhaps it was an oversight to cause the St. Paul Globe to gush that “the finest talent in the city” had played a private concert at the home of Mr. Thomas Lowry on the same evening that Lillian was preforming across town.
In 1889, Frank and Lillian married. At the time he lived in Minneapolis, and she in Taunton, MA. Both were 31 years old. They honeymooned at Lake Minnetonka for the summer of 1889, then went to their home called “Netley Corner” at 124 13th St. S, in Minneapolis. Marjory Stoneman Douglas was probably born in that house, just ten months after her parents’ wedding. But in that same busy year, both Frank and Forrest Rundell had some sketchy dealings with their American Building and Loan. By January of 1890, the governor was looking into it. They were exonerated a few weeks later, and “great chunks of joy were lying around loose at their office.”
The next summer the family again spent time at Lake Minnetonka. Frank founded another business, an envelope company. Lillian settled into society, and published the day when she would be at home to receive callers (Tuesday). Happiness did not last. And between 1896, when his marriage crumbled and Lillian took Marjory back to Taunton, and 1898, Frank fled Minnesota for Florida. The family had visited in 1884. Perhaps he had acquaintances there.
In 1900, Frank was living in Orlando, and the Census claimed he was working as a lawyer. He was boarding with the Greethams, and in the house was daughter Lilias Shine. She was 33, ten years younger than Frank. Lilias’ father was Captain Thomas J. Shine of the 1st regiment of the Florida Cavalry, but he had passed away and her mother remarried. The Shines were native Floridians.
Ten years on, Frank was in Miami, while Lilias as still at home. Frank had switched careers again, back to his first love: the press. He was the first editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald. Kate and Forrest Rundell moved to Florida with Marjory’s grandmother Althea.
Lillian Trefethen’s struggles with mental illness were well-documented elsewhere. She died in 1912. In 1914, the week of Marjory’s 24th birthday, Frank and Lilias married. Before long, Marjory and Frank were reunited when she moved to Miami.
Wikipedia picks up Marjory’s story from here. But it is worth emphasizing one other small Minnesota connection. Marjory only lived in Minnesota for her first 6 years, yet her earliest memory was listening to her father read “The Song of Hiawatha.”
Karen Cooper is a local historian with great fondness for reading old newspapers and for Hennepin History Museum. You can read her Minnehaha Falls history articles at <http://www.urbancreek.com>.