Monday, May 22, 2023

Mad Hoover


The term moral insanity was first used  in 1835 by Dr. James Cowles Prichard, a physician, who described it as 'madness consisting in a morbid perversion of the natural feelings, affections, inclinations, temper, habits, moral dispositions and natural impulses, without any remarkable disorder or defect of the interest or knowing and reasoning faculties , and particularly without any insane illusion or hallucinations."

In this post, I will deal with a case of moral insanity.

During a recent conversation with a cousin who is now an author, I made the comment. "You picked the right family", referring to his two published books and two more in the making, based upon our mutual ancestors, who were anything but usual and whose substance and lives are full of stories to be told. Truth be told, every family has a story, if one digs deep enough and wide enough, to find out more about the individuals within the family trees, not just names and dates. 

My last two posts were on members of the Solomon/ Dancy family. Three of the children of the John and Abigail Loyd Dancy family of Iredell County,  married three Solomons from Stanly County. My end goal is to answer certain questions about this family and these three Solomons, who were born in the 1820/1830's.

1) Were the three, John E., Jarrett Thomas and Lucinda G. Solomon siblings, cousins, or otherwise related?

2) If so, who were their parents? Which of the three sons of William and Diana Gordon Solomon who migrated to the Stanly (Montgomery) County area, William, Bennett, Goodwin, did they descend from/ were the children or grandchildren of?

3) How did they make the acquaintance of the Iredell County Dancy's? There were no Dancy's in Stanly County. 

While looking for answers to these questions, I discovered that Lucinda G. Solomon had married William Armstrong Dancy, the oldest son of John and Abigail Dancy. Lucy, as she was called, was the first Solomon to marry a Dancy, in 1848. Lucy was the middle one of the three, in age. John E., the oldest of the three, was next, marrying Will's sister, Eliza C. Dancy, in 1849. And lastly, Jarrett Thomas Dancy, the youngest of the three, married Will and Eliza's younger sister, Margaret, in 1855. We have two clues concerning the two Solomon men. First, John E. Solomon had been ordered in 1841, in the Court of Pleas and Quarters of Stanly County, to be brought to court to be bound out, a system of 'foster care' in the 19th century, so to speak. The court record also noted that he had been living with Edmund W. Lilly at the time. John would have been 17 at the time and this system was used in the case of orphaned or fatherless children.

Before 1850, John had bought and sold land in Stanly County, gotten married, and in 1850, was living in the town of Gold Hill in Rowan County, which is not far from his Stanly County origins. Also, in 1850, Jarrett Thomas Solomon was 14, and living in the home of John Dancy, as if he had been bound to that family, but normally, children who were brought to court to be bound out, were bound to family's who lived in their home county. To be honest, I've not seen the exception, ever. That doesn't mean it never happened, but if it did, it was probably a familial connection, because I know of two young girls who were "half-orphaned' and sent to live with family outside of their home county. In this case, the father had 'went west' and no one really knew if he was dead or alive, and then the mother, who was waiting for his return, passed away. 

The Texas Dancy Brothers, W. E (left) and John C. (right)

Two of the sons of William A. and Lucinda G. Dancy, William E. and John C., had also 'went west', in this case, to Texas. 

William E., was the youngest son of the couple, having a sister younger than he. His aunt, Eliza C. Dancy Solomon and her husband, John E., a childless couple, seem to have taken this one and his family under their wing. There were several land transactions and other instances, that find the two couples together in a somewhat 'parental' stance or situation. 

William had married a girl from Rowan County named Teresa Roxanna Pethel and they became the parents of seven children, the first four having been born in North Carolina, and moved sometime in the later part of 1899 or early part of 1900, to Texas, as daughter, Lucinda Love Dancy, was born in North Carolina on June 10, of 1899, and the family was living in Dallas by July of 1900.

The oldest child of this family was a son, named Elmer Hoover Dancy, sometimes  referred to as "Hoover". 

Hoover had been born August 14, 1891 in Concord, Cabarrus County, NC, a thriving mill town at the time. He was 8 or 9 upon the families removal to Texas. By 1900, cities in the east were fairly modern constructs, although farmers still plowed with mules and would drive the team and wagons to town. Yet, the West was still very much the wild wild West. It could have been a bit of a culture shock, especially to the women and children in the group. Dallas, on the other hand, was already a thriving and burgeoning metropolis by the turn of the century. 

NameHuver E Dancey
Birth DateAug 1891
BirthplaceNorth Carolina, USA
Home in 1900Kings Creek, Cabarrus, North Carolina
Ward of City#2
Sheet Number20
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation339
Family Number339
Relation to Head of HouseSon
Marital StatusSingle
Father's NameWm E Dancey
Father's BirthplaceNorth Carolina, USA
Mother's NameTerressa R Dancey
Mother's BirthplaceNorth Carolina, USA
Years in US8
Attended School1
NeighborsView others on page
Household members
Wm E Dancey37
Terressa R Dancey27
Huver E Dancey8
Mary L Dancey7
Leroy S Dancey4
Lacy L Dancey11/12

John C. Dancy had went there to practice the trade of a Barber, while William E. Dancy was a carpenter, set to work in all of the building that was being undertaken. Elmer Hoover Dancy appears to have been called 'Hoover', his middle name, as a boy. He was a student in 1900, the oldest of 4 children, followed by Mary L, Leroy S., and Lacy L., the baby 11 months old. Leroy was obviously named for W. E. 's brother Leroy. 

NameHoover Dancey
Marriage Date19 Sep 1908
Marriage PlaceDallas, Texas, USA
SpouseMabel Shanks
Certificate Number18763

On September 19, 1908, at the young age of 17, Hoover married for the first time to a girl named Mabel Shanks. Mabel, 16, was a Texas girl, daughter of William Henry and Mattie Frazier Shanks. Thus began a series of both happy and tragic events for the teenagers.

On June 8, 1909, nine months after their marriage, Hoover and Mabel welcomed their honeymoon baby, a son they named William Hoover Dancy, aptly named for both of his grandfathers and his father.

Sadly, before the year was over with, on December 17, 1909, Mabel, barely 18 years old, would pass away. Her baby boy was only 6 months old. 

NameWilliam Dancy
Age in 19100
Birth Date1910
Home in 1910Dallas Ward 10, Dallas, Texas, USA
Sheet Number1b
Relation to Head of HouseGrandson
Marital StatusSingle
Father's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Mother's BirthplaceTexas
Native TongueEnglish
Enumeration District Number0074
Enumerated Year1910
NeighborsView others on page
Household members
Jacob V Pethel75
William E Dancy46
Terisa R Dancy37
Hoover E Dancy18
Mary L Dancy17
Leray S Dancy15
Love E Dancy12
Gilbert Dancy9
Fleta Dancy5
William Dancy0

In the 1910 census, taken on April 10, 1910, little William Hoover is shown in the home of his grandparents, with his 18 year old father. Also in the home is Jacob V. Pethel, 75, Teresa Pethel Dancy's father. Many family trees have William as the last child of William Edward and Teresa Dancy, as Teresa was only 37 and still in her childbearing years, but the record clearly states that he was a granchild.

Then tragically, just a month later, on May 16, 1910,  little William Hoover Dancy died of Whooping Cough at 11 months old. This was a load of tragedy to happen to a boy before he's twenty years old. 

ameE.H Dancy
Marriage Date2 Oct 1910
Marriage PlaceDallas, Texas, USA
SpouseLillie White
Certificate Number27045

Hoover would quickly find another wife, and later that same year, on October 2, 1910, he would marry a girl named Lillie White.

Lillie Mae White was a mere child of 13 when she married the now 19 year old Hoover. The daughter of Hiram and Rosanna White, she had been born in Alabama. 

They settled in a town called Peach, in Wood County, Texas, but life was anything but peachy. A brief history of Peach is included below.

 Peach, also known as Genevie Switch and Elberta, was fifteen miles east of Quitman in eastern Wood County. The area was settled as early as the 1850s and by 1870 had a sawmill and gristmill operated by J. H. Saxon. No established community, however, was reported at the site until the late 1890s, when the W. G. Ragley Lumber Company of Winnsboro built a tramline through the area to ship timber; this later became part of the Texas Southern line (which in 1909 became the Marshall and East Texas Railway). Before it became known as Peach, the community may have been called Elberta, probably after the type of peach trees planted in the local orchards. It may also have been called Genevie Switch when the railway came through, but when the community received a post office in 1902, the office was called Peach. By 1914 the settlement had a telephone connection and its population of fifty-six was served by nine businesses, including a poultry breeder, two general stores, and one each of saw, shingle, and grist mills. Peach declined after the fruit orchards deteriorated and the surrounding timber was consumed by the mills. By 1923 the railroad line had been abandoned, and in 1929 the post office closed. In 1933 the Peach school district reported an enrollment of forty white students in seven grades. By the late 1930s the community had one school building and a few widely scattered dwellings. The population from that time until 1947 was reported at 200, after which no further records are available. By the 1970s almost nothing remained at the site
This Everlasting Sand Bed': Cultural Resources Investigations at the Texas Big Sandy Project, Wood County, 1850–1900,Quitman, Texas: Wood County Historical Society, 1976.

A number of children were born, not all of them named.

Leroy R. Dancy , named for a series of Leroy's in the family, came frist, on August 18, 1911.

Another baby boy was born on September 417, 1913 and died in April of 1914.

William Elmer Dancy was born on September 17, 1913

Raymond Hoover Dancy was born August 19, 1915

Boy born and died in 1917. May have been born dead.

Boy born and died in 1918, also died at birth or shortly after.

The onlly daughter, Dorothy Dell Dancy, was born on January 20, 1919.

There was one other child, born after Dorothy, gender not revealed, buried as "Infant Dancy" in Lousiana.

Hoover's World War I  gives the information that he was born on August 14, 1890 in Concord, NC. He was employed in Sawmilling in Peach, Texas by F. H. Payne. He was of a medium height and weight with blue eyes and 'sandy' hair, referring to a dark blonde or light brown shade. He claimed a wife and two children.

NameCharls Dancy[Charls Daney]
Birth Yearabt 1888
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1920Justice Precinct 8, Harrison, Texas
StreetJefferson High Way
House Numberx
Residence Date1920
Relation to Head of HouseHead
Marital StatusMarried
Spouse's NameLillie Dancy
Father's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Mother's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Able to Speak EnglishYes
OccupationMill wright
IndustrySaw Mill
Employment FieldWage or Salary
Home Owned or RentedRented
Able to readYes
Able to WriteYes
Household Members (Name)AgeRelationship
Charls Dancy32Head
Lillie Dancy23Wife
Leroy Dancy8Son
Elma Dancy6Son
Raymon Dancy2Son

The 1920 census is the only one that shows the family together. Hoover, oddly, is shown as "Charles", which wasn't his name at all. He's 32, Lillie is 23 and the boys are Leroy, 8, Elmer, 6, and Raymond 2. Dorothy wasn't born yet. The family was anything but happy. Hoover was working as a millwright at a Saw Mill. 

At some point, the family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. Did too many folks know them in Peach? Did he have work there? Were there demons to be left behind?

At what point had Hoover gone mad, I wonder? Before or after the war? Had he treated Mabel, just a teen, like he treated Lilly? But mad, out of his mind, paranoid, angry, and hostile, he was.

Hoover Dancy was a dangerous and abusive husband, which leads me to believe his abuse my have led to the death of some, or all of the premature and stillborn babies. 

In April of 1927, Hoover , drunk and dangerous, threw his wife and children out of the house. They found shleter at a tourist camp. Lilly, at some point, had cautiously returned home to attempt to get some of their belongings, bringing her oldest son, Leroy, 16, with her, perhaps for protection. They may have been hoping Hoover was passed out or not at home. He was neither, and attacked Lilly with a kitchen knife, slashing her throat and arm. She was hospitalized and he was jailed.

Lilly, in a classic case of abused spouse syndrome, refused to press charges, but was attempting to get a divorce, which angered Hoover greatly. In a turn of events that seem shocking, Lilly left the children in the hands of her husband, and yet, returned to cook for them everyday. This act led to her demise.

Shreveport. Louisiana, June, 1927

Just two months later, when Lilly was at the home, Hoover shot her three times as she attempted to escape his abuse, and did so in front of their six year old daughter, Dorothy.

Several different papers reported the shocking "Murder - Suicide", some giving various details. Hoover had written a  letter to his children, indicating that his actions were premeditated. He stated he could not live without Lilly, so they would die together.

From "The Vernon Daily Record", Vernon, Texas June 27, 1927

A Texas newspaper, The Vernon Daily Record, reported that death was not immediate for either spouse, that Hoover was 'dying and that Lilly was in serious condition.

A Louisiana newspaper reported that Hoover was a carpenter, by trade and that he was on parole, or "liberty', as it was called, and that Lilly had filed for divorce. Odd that she would use fidelity, and not abuse, as cause. Perhaps in the twenties, abuse was not a valid reason for divorce.

On his death certificate, Hoover's name was given as 'Elam Hoover Dancy'. He had lived at 3011 Alabama Street in Shreveport. Despite having been described in the newsparers as 'middle-aged',  Hoover was only 38 years, 10 months and 13 days old. He was a Carpenter, and married to Mrs. Lillie Mae Dancy. Born in North Carolina, He was the son of 'Wm Edward' and T. R. Pethel Dancy, both born in North Carolina. The informant was Lee R. Dancy of Dallas, Texas, his brother, not his son or Uncle of the same name. Cause of death was Traumation and Firearm (suicide) and the date was June 27, 1927. He was buried at Forest Park Cemetary.

The Shreveport Times, Shreveport, LA

There must be ghosts in Old Shreveport, because in a macabre twist and discourteous affront to Lillie, both killer and victim were buried in the same grave, per Mad Hoovers wishes, detailed in the note he left for the children. The four surviving children were placed in the custody of Hoover's brother, Gilbert, in Mira, LA.

Lillie Mae White Dancy outlived her murderer by one day. Her name was given on her death certificate as Mrs. Elam Hoover Dancy. She was only 28 years, six months and 20 days old. Her brother-in-law, Leroy, was again the informant, and he didn't know the names of her parents. Her cause of death was again traumation and firearm, with (Homicide) in parentheses.
The couple left four living children and a half dozen deceased ones. Only daughter, Dorothy Dell Dancy, six, witnessed the violence. I wondered how such a volatile and traumatic childhood had affected the Dancy children. 

With little Dorothy, we couldn't know. She passed away just a little over a year later on August 10, 1928 in Henrietta, Clay County, Texas, of spinal meningitis. Her meager estate was settled by her tutor , William Solley and uncle, Gilbert Dancy, guardians and executors of what little Hoover had left. 

All three of the boys living at the time of their parents deaths made it to adulthood.

LeRoy, the oldest son, married young, at 18, just a few years after the murder/suicide, to a girl named Edith. They had two boys and that relationship ended in divorce. Edith remarried a Smith and at times the two boys were seen as Smith. Leroy worked as a farmer and carpenter. In midlife, he moved to New Mexico, after serving in WWII. He married again, possibly more than once, but at 48 he married a lady named Rita, and helped raise her children. This seemed a happy match and they retired to Volusia County, Florida and left pleasant memories with their survivors.

William Elmer Dancy, the middle son, lived to be 66. He seemed a troubled soul. He left Louisiana behind and didn't look back, preferring to live in Texas. At 28, he's found in prison, during the end of the 1930's, for multiple counts of forgery. His brother sued him. He married twice, but remained childless. In the 50's, in middle age, he took a wife named Gussie. That relationship would end in divorce. At 65 years of age, in 1975, he married Martha. He would leave her a widow the next year, in 1976, while working at his chosen profession, truck driver. He died of a heart attack. 

The youngest of the three boys, Raymond Hoover Dancy, known as Ray, seemed to have faired the best out of all of them. He lived with his older brother, Leroy, as a teen, and then left for Detroit, Michigan with his other brother, William Elmer. There, at 24, he met and married his only wife, Leona. They had three children and Ray, as he was known, became a successful business man. He owned several ventures, sometimes in conjunction with his brothers, but that didn't seem to go well. He settled in Arizona, before eventually moving to San Diego, where he died in 1984.

Who knows what got into the mind and the life of Hoover Dancy? Did WWI change him? Or was it something else that drove him mad, and led him to be an abusive spouse and probably parent. But among the few grandchildren he left, it seems that the cycle was broken.

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