Who Do You Think You Are? The Life and Death of Beecher Edgar Chipman / Beecher Wasn’t a Bounder / Who’s Buried In Jean Chipman’s Tomb?

Behind this seemingly ordinary document is a story.  Beecher Edgar Chipman was my paternal grandfather.  And this is his previously unknown third marriage.

Why did a couple who lived in Flint, MI drive to Bowling Green, OH to get married on 24 Apr 1950?

On 23 Apr 1959, Beecher drowned while fishing at a lake in Pendleton Township, MO.  His companion, listed as Jean Esther (Southard) Chipman on her death certificate, also drowned.  They’re buried side by side in a cemetery in Farmington, MO.

Who was Jean Esther Chipman?

The answers may shock you.


But first, who was Beecher Edgar Chipman?

He was the second son, and third of five children of James Edward and Allie May (Oxley) Chipman.  The family owned a small cotton farm in the fertile Missouri boot-heel county of Dunklin.  Dunklin County was named in honor of Daniel Dunklin, governor of Missouri 1832–1836.  The Missouri boot-heel, virtually unknown outside the state, was leveled by the New Madrid earthquake of 1812.

Beecher was born in the small town of Senath, southwest of Kennett, the county seat. Other than cotton, Dunklin County’s most famous export is singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow, who hails from Kennett.  Senath is now only a ghost of its former glory.

In high school Beecher read classics like David Copperfield and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The best grade he could muster was an “M,” equivalent to a “C.”  More often he scored an “I,” which is equivalent to a “D.”

(Click on image to enlarge it.)

Beecher married Jewel Winifred Bailey (my grandmother), the daughter of Alvis Cowan and Mary Ann Cordelia (Harkey) Bailey.  The Harkeys came to Dunklin County about 1851, from Wilkes County, GA via Mississippi.  Like many young families during the Depression, Beecher and Winifred moved north to Flint, MI, where the men sought work in the factories.

In a letter to me dated Jan 1988, Beecher’s niece, Beverly Ann (Page) Budzynski, had this to say about Beecher:

“I’m sure your father [1] is bitter and has every right to be.  Beecher was not a good father—but he was a very interesting and complex person.

“Many people disapproved of him but they liked him.  Even as a child, I can remember his visits.  He came in like Santa Claus—a big, good-looking man, big smiles and a big hug.  I know my mother [2] loved him very much—but really didn’t know what to do or say.  My dad [3] disapproved, I’m sure because he was such a family man, but I know he really liked Beecher.  (Of course, it was through Beecher that he met my mother!)

“Beecher was a tool and die maker in the factory—well respected in his job.  In those days, men heard the factories were hiring and they would gather outside the gates.  Someone would come out and choose likely candidates.  The story goes that Beecher got jobs for many men!  He simply stood there, got chosen—and gave the other fellow’s name.  The next day, the other fellow reported to work!  He must have looked like  a good worker!

“I have one surviving aunt on my dad’s side.  She’s 75 and knew Beecher well—in fact, I’ve always wondered why they never got together as they would have made quite a couple!!  She remembers Beecher with great fondness—describes him in modern teminology as a “hunk.”  She said he was full of life and fun.

“I can remember many discussions about Beecher and why he did what he did!  My mother thought Beecher was devastated  by his first wife’s [4] death.  He seemed to punish himself thereafter.  He sought out low life bars and low life women.  Then, he would return to some semblance of family life.  But, he couldn’t seem to stay on the straight and narrow.  Who knows what would have happened had Winifred lived.

“Also, Beecher was a product of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and was always popular with the girls.

“My mother used to tell me how she learned to drive at seven.  She had gone somewhere with Beecher and she wanted to return home.  He wasn’t ready so let her drive the car home!  She was allowed to keep on driving—in fact her father [5] never learned to drive well, and I think Allie May [6] didn’t drive at all.

“Mother drove them on family trips to Hot Springs, Ark, St. Louis, and when she was 13, drove them to Flint!!”

[Notes:  1. Ralph Vernon Chipman; 2. Pauline Aquilla (Chipman) Page Moffit; 3. Carl Davis Page; 4. Jewel Winifred Baiely; 5. James Edward Chipman; 6. Allie May (Oxley) Chipman.]

This letter dated 18 Mar 1989 from my father to his half-sister Dixie painted an unflattering portrait of Beecher:

“Upon receiving news of our father’s [1] death, while at work with the railroad in Cicero, Ill., my first reaction was a sense of lost opportunity for any improvement ever in my relationship with him.

“The uneasiness and threat was my fear that Dad would appear, (or “show up out of the blue,” as you well express it), get drunk and thrown in jail, or fight, causing me and my family embarassment among my work friends, and our social and neighbor acquaintances.  From reports from Poppa [2] and Aunt Lawcie Mason [3] he had indeed done exactly that around Senath and Kennett.  He had borrowed money from Lawcie and Orval Mason for jail bond.  Poppa, of course, was always indulgent of Dad.  However, Lawcie, Jewell [4], and Winnie [5] were not.  As close as Dad ever came to causing this fear was his taking Jeff [6], then some three years old, and spending a couple of hours at one of the sleaziest bars in Burlington, Iowa.  At the time, we thought he was just going to the nearby grocery to to buy cigarettes, but instead the two of them returned some 2–3 hours later with Dad definitely smelling of alcohol, and only then told us where they had gone.  Of course that was the last time any of our children went anywhere with Dad.

“So my secondary feeling … was relief.  He had lived his life as he had chosen, and now he was gone.

“My earliest recollection of Dad was his visit to James Edward and Allie Oxley Chipman’s 10-acre farm near Senath, Mo. when I was perhaps 4–6 years old.  People sat on the little front screen porch visiting in the evening.  Dad was laughing a lot, talking, and in a genial mood.  I asked him if I could smoke his cigar butt, and he said sure and when I smoked it I was very ill and threw up.  He thought it was funny, but Momma Chipman [7] was duly critical.

“Dad was involved in the historic auto labor union lockouts/riots in Flint sometime around 1934/1935.  The men barricaded themselves in the auto shops, while some overturned cars outside, etc.  The contention was to get the union recognized.  Also, General Motors, before the union, generally announced each December a flat $100 Christmas bonus:  that was a significant sum…. *

“Dad was … drinking quite a bit, and I recall he and Essie [8] arguing over it.  I believe there were other women problems too, between them.

“He regularly practiced, with [his] pistol, behind our house [in Clio, MI], and could usually keep a tincan rolling with a fusillade of shots.

“In the end, the reason I left Flint was that Dad agreed I could quit school and get a job at Champion Spark Plug Factory.  This proved to me he really did not care about me, because previously he had always said I should get good grades, and aspire to attend General Motors School of Technology.  His work clothes and shoes were always saturated with oil and grease, so he told me, “you don’t want to work in the shops and always be dirty and grimy, which is why you should study and get an education.”

“I think Dad meant well sometimes.  But he was addicted to alcohol.  He never learned any self discipline.  He did not seem to recognize that he was responsible for his actions, and omissions.  Our family history reveals him based on the evidence, despite his charisma, or powers of verbal persuasion.  And maybe Momma Chipman’s Pentecostal devotion penetrated his mind sometime, kicking his butt around the block, whether he liked it or not.”

[Notes:  1. Beecher Edgar Chipman; 2. James Edward Chipman; 3. Lawice Idella (Chipman) Mason; 4. Jewell Vester Chipman; 5. Winford William Chipman; 6. Me; 7. Allie May (Oxley) Chipman; 8. Essie Lee Hyatt, Beecher’s second wife.]

* The strike actually took place in 1936–1937.  For a complete history, see:

Fine, Sidney.  (1969).  Sit-Down The General Motors Strike of 1936–1937.  Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

“Flint grew like a mining camp, without design, without planning….  The incoming thousands overtaxed Flint’s limited housing supply, and some workers were compelled to live for a time in tar-paper shacks, tents, and even railroad cars.  The same lodging rooms were rented to night-shift workers for the day and to day-shift workers for the night.  GM felt constrained to enter the home construction business in 1919, and through the Modern Housing Corporation it had built thirty-two hundred homes for its Flint workers by 1933.

“[The] city ‘never provided’ enough personnel, funds, or services to meet its health problems.  Among twenty-two cities of from 100,000 to 250,000 population in 1934 Flint ranked nineteenth in the infant death rate and the death of children from diarrhea and enteritis, seventeenth in maternal deaths, in a tie for thirteenth and fourteenth place in typhoid-fever death rate, thirteenth in the diptheria death rate, and tenth in the tuberculosis death rate.

“A large proportion of the workers who were lured to the city by automobile jobs and the high wages that GM paid were from rural backgrounds, and many of them reacted unfavorably to the industrial discipline imposed by the factory.

“Of Flint’s 128,617 native-born whites in 1930, 64.8 percent (83,290) had been born in Michigan and only about 30 percent in Flint itself….  The overwhelming proportion of Flint’s Southerners were drawn from the Central South, from Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee:  about 10 percent (12,818) of Flint’s native-born white population derived from these four states, and sections of the city had come to be known as ‘Little Missouri.'”

[Fine (1969), pp. 102–103.]


Which brings us to the mystery that began this column—the utlimate fate of Beecher Edgar Chipman, and the last two (as far as is known) women in his life.

Beecher had four proven children, two by Winifred and two by Essie, and three (probable) by Imogene, for a potential total of seven.

1. Beecher Edgar Chipman married 1st, Jewel Winifred Bailey (my grandmother), b. 5 Apr 1907 in Senath, Dunklin Co., MO, d. 1 Sep 1929 in Flint, Genesee Co., MI, bur. Cude Cemetery near Senath, daughter of Alvis Cowan and Mary Ann Cordelia (Harkey) Bailey. The Harkeys were a prominent family in Dunklin Co.

(Beecher Edgar Chipman and Jewel Winifred Bailey; probably taken about the time they were married.)

[Obituaries for Jewel Winifred (Bailey) Chipman and Donald LaVerne Chipman.  The first and third obituaries are from the Dunklin Democrat, Kennett, MO.  The second obituary is from the Flint, MI newspaper.]

[Jewel Winifred (Bailey) tombstone, Cude cemetery, near Senath in Dunklin Co., MO.]

Although the mining camp environment of Flint, MI in the 1920s and 1930s facilitated the spread of disease, my grandmother Jewel Winifred (Bailey) Chipman succumbed to a heart ailment.  However, my uncle Donald died of bronchial pneumonia which was probably contracted due to the over-crowded living conditions.

[Alvis Cowan Bailey, father of Jewel Winifred Bailey, from a tin-type, mid to late 1880s.  Alvis Cowan Bailey died on 25 Jul 1934.  Of his family, we know that his parents were Meschach and Lucinda Bailey.  Meschach Bailey was evidently the son of Carr Bailey of Hawkins Co., TN, who was a son of William “Flea Buck” Bailey.  William “Flea Buck” Bailey made his will on 30 May 1828 (Hawkins Co. TN Will Book 1, p. 42)  Beyond that, I have reservations as to published accounts of the family.  A family story relates that William “Flea Buck” Bailey was the son of Samuel and Sarah (Bryan) Bailey.  Sarah (Bryan) Bailey was allegedly the sister of Rebecca Bryan, wife of the famous pioneer Daniel Boone.  This tale is unsubstantiated and probably false.]

Sketch of the Nesbit Community from History Of Dunklin County, Mo., 1845–1895, by Mary F. Smyth-Davis (1896).

[My grandparents, Jewel Winifred (Bailey) Chipman and Beecher Edgar Chipman.]

Jewel Winifred (Bailey) Chipman d. at Flint, MI on 1 Sep 1929.

Children of Beecher Edgar and Jewel Winifred (Bailey) Chipman:

(a)  Donald LaVerne Chipman, b. 4 Jan 1927, d. 4 Mar 1929

(b)  Ralph Vernon Chipman, b. 3 Nov 1928, in Senath, MO, d. 18 Sep 2016, in Plainfield, IL, only surviving child by Beecher Edgar Chipman’s first wife, Jewel Winifred Bailey; m. 20 Jun 1948 in Mt. Pleasant, IA, Valerie Bernice Jeffery Scarff



(Obituary for Ralph Vernon Chipman in “The Hawk Eye” of Burlington, IA for 21 Sep 2016; Section B p.6.  Regan Stoops is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Mt. Pleasant, IA.  Many obituaries are permanently available at NewsBank Inc. America’s Obituaries & Death Notices within a few days of publication. 

My father didn’t graduate from Burlington High School.  The newspaper notice of his marriage from “The Mt. Pleasant News” of Monday, 21 Jul 1948, p. 5 states he graduated from Bell Technical high school in St. Louis, MO.  “Bell Technical high school” refers to Hadley Technical High School.  Hadley, built in 1931, was located at 3405 Bell Avenue in St. Louis.  It has since been superseded by a new technical high school.  In a memoir my father states he attended Hadley from 22 Jan 1945 to 13 Apr 1945.  He studied Railroad Telegraphy and Station Agent Accounting.  He did not graduate from Hadley; these were vocational classes.  He once took a GED test at Burlington High School and had taken GED correspondence courses offered by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  In 1961 he successfully passed the GED tests at Downers Grove North High School and the GED was issued by Burlington High School, a formality because he began the process there.  In his memoir he also mentions he took two courses at Northwestern University’s Chicago campus: Business English and Psychology, for a total of 6 hours.  Click on image to enlarge.)

[Death Certificate for Ralph Vernon Chipman.  Cause of death was Alzheimers Dementia, with contributing factors of Subdural Hematoma (severe head injury) and Hypertension.  His mother’s name was actually Jewel Winifred Bailey, but as is often the custom in the South, she went by her middle name of Winifred.  Click on image to enlarge.]

[Detail of 1930 Genesee Co., MI Federal Census, Flint City, ED 25-29, SD 10, Sheet 22B.  In 1930 Beecher was a lodger in the home of Charles K. Williams on Glenwood Ave.  Carl Davis Page, who later married Beecher’s sister Pauline Aquilla Chipman, was also a lodger in the home, as were Carl’s siblings Aileen Page and Luther Page.  Jessie Williams (Mrs. C.K. Williams) was a witness at Carl Davis Page’s wedding to Pauline Aquilla Chipman.]

Beecher had placed his son Ralph V. Chipman with Beecher’s father James Edward Chipman:

(Detail of 1930 Dunklin Co., MO Federal Census, Salem Township, ED 35-27, SD 17, Sheet 6B.)

These entries from Polk’s Flint, MI City Directories chronicle Beecher’s marriages.

1929:  Chipman Beecher E (Winifred J) auto wkr r1335 Smith

1930:  Chipman Beecher E autowkr r611 Stone

1931:  Chipman Beecher E (Essie L) auto wkr r417 E 7th

1932:  Chipman Beecher E (Essie L) autowkr r309 1/2 E 14th

1934:  Chipman Beecher (Dessie) autowkr h663 Hall

1936:  Chipman Beecher A (Essi L) autowkr h1041 E Foss av

1937:  Chipman Beecher A (Essie L) die str Chevrolet h1041 E Foss av

1938:  Absent from directory

1939:  Absent from directory

1941:  Chipman Beecher E (Essie L) auto wkr Chevrolet h1073 E Austin

1942:  Absent from directory

1945:  Absent from directory

1946:  Absent from directory

1947:  Absent from directory

1949:  Chipman Beecher E (Jean L) toolmkr Fisher h826 E Hamilton St

1950:  Chipman Beecher E (Jean L) diemkr Fisher h826 E Hamilton av

1952:  Chipman Essie L Mrs h627 Prospect

             Chipman Imogene L Mrs h826 Hamilton av *

1954:  Chipman Imogene (wid Beecher) h905 Mary **

1955:  905 Mary Chipman Imogene Mrs Chevalier Floyd E ***

1956:  Chipman Essie Mrs h425 Bangs

[The above are records I viewed.  * Record shows that by this time Beecher had left Imogene.  ** Women who had been deserted sometimes gave their marital status as “Widow.”  *** Floyd E Chevalier may have been a boarder.]

(Beecher Edgar Chipman, 1931, Flint, MI.)

2. Beecher Edgar Chipman married 2nd, on 18 Feb 1931 in Genesee Co., MI, Essie Lee Hyatt, b. 2 Feb 1908 in Nashville, Howard Co., AR, d. Jul 1998 in Fresno, CA, bur. Clovis Cemetery, Clovis, CA; daughter of Thomas Edward and Hattie Ann (Bigger) Hyatt. Beecher and Essie divorced in Genesee Co., MI on 31 May 1949 (State File No. 25 18514, Docket No. 47577).

(Detail of 1920 Dunklin Co., MO Federal Census, Independence Township, Kennett City, SD 12, ED 80, Sheet 15A, Thomas Edward Hyatt family.  Essie is 4th from bottom.  Beecher’s wives all had a Dunklin Co. connection.)

Children by Essie (information from obituaries supplemented with my research):

(a)  Joyce Elaine Chipman, b. 22 Feb 1932; m. on 21 Mar 1953 in Genesee Co., MI, Troy L. Barnett, b. 9 Sep 1929 in Lawrence Co., AR, d. 30 Nov 2012 in Fresno, CA.  According to Troy L. Barnett’s obituary published by Yost & Webb Funeral Home, Joyce and Troy’s children are:  LeRoy T. Barnett and Teresa Lynn Barnett (m. Henry Saldivar). Grandson: Vincent Saldivar.  I have nothing further on this family.

(b)  Dixie Lee Chipman, b. 12 Oct 1940, d. 12 Nov 2013 in Greeneville, TN; m. Jack Alton Dodd, d. 19 Jun 2012.  According to her obituary published 9 Jan 2014 in the Greeneville (TN) Sun, her relatives and descendants are:  sons David Alton Dodd of Baja California, Mexico, and John Edward Dodd of Kingsport, TN; sister Joyce Barnett; half-brother Ralph Chipman; half-sister Sue Bartlett; grandchildren Rebekah Dodd-Crosby (dau. of David Alton Dodd by Irving), Joshua Alton Dodd (son of David Alton Dodd by Irving), Juan Huerta Dodd (son of David Alton Dodd by Guzman), Sharon Guzman Dodd (dau. of David Alton Dodd by Guzman), and Anna Margarita Dodd (dau. of David Alton Dodd by Guzman); and three great-grandchildren (not named).  David Alton Dodd is a sportswriter and freelancer; m. twice: (1) 23 Mar 1985 in Clark Co., NV, Lynette Joan Irving; (2) Rocio Luna Guzman.  I have nothing further on this family.

(Beecher Edgar Chipman and his second wife, Essie Lee Hyatt, 1933.  Bottom row:  Ralph Vernon Chipman, Joyce Elaine Chipman.)

(Joyce Elaine Chipman with arms around Dixie Lee Chipman.  Flint, MI, 1946.)

3. Beecher Edgar Chipman married 3rd, on 24 Apr 1950 in Bowling Green, OH, Imogene Lulu (Oliver) Golden aka Lula Oliver, b. 26 Feb 1915 in Malden, Dunklin Co., MO, d. 15 Nov 1995 in Leesburg, Lake Co., FL.

Of her, the facts at hand are these:  she was the dau. of John and Minnie (Kiethley) Oliver.  In the 1920 Dunklin Co., MO Federal Census, Malden City, SD 12, ED 73, Sheet 17A, Line 47, Imogene Olliver age 5 is residing with her widowed mother Minnie Olliver age 20. By the 1930 Dunklin Co., MO Federal Census, Malden City, SD 17, ED 35-7, Sheet 14A, p. 102, Imogene Oliver age 15 (step-dau.) is residing with her mother, Minnie J. King, and Minnie’s new husband, Earl M. King.

According to the 1940 Genesee Co., MI Federal Census, SD 6, ED 85–70, Sheet 7B, Imogene Golden (divorced in 1936, no children) was employed as a waitress and performing housework in a private home, occupying the rear apartment of the residence which she shared with Minnie King, her mother, who was also divorced and working as a seamstress (see detail below).  I interpret this entry to mean Imogene was working as a domestic in a private home.

(Click on image to enlarge.  The 1940 Federal Census is the most recent census available to the public.)

In 1941 Imogene, calling herself “Lula Oliver,” was working as a maid as this Flint city directory page shows:

The 1942 Flint city directory lists Mrs. Minnie King residing at h1606 Bingham.

By age 21, Imogene had been married and divorced.  In 1940, the United States was still reeling from the Great Depression with unemployment at 15%.  Job opportunities for single women with little education were limited.  As WWII ramped up, Imogene joined the massive influx of women into the factories.

Imogene had no siblings.  Her affair with Beecher must have begun about 1943.  The couple never divorced.

[Imogene Lulu (Oliver) (Golden) Chipman]

The obituary of Imogene L. Chipman, of Leesburg, FL, homemaker, in the Clermont-Orlando Sentinel, states she was b. in Malden, MO, and had moved to Leesburg from Orlando in 1993.  Survived by:  sons James, Michigan; David, Orlando; daughters Sue Golden, Dallas; Donna Platman, Leesburg; Glenda Caruthers, Orlando; 19 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.

Children of Imogene:

(a)  * Glenda Elaine —, b. 19 Sep 1941 (named in mother’s obituary as Glenda Caruthers of Orlando, FL); m. Gary Daniel Carruthers (Orange Co., FL records show that on 18 Feb 1990 Glenda Elaine Carruthers was issued a citation for “Fishing, Hunting Or Trapping W/O License” at Ocoee.  At that time she gave her birth date as shown.  On 26 Feb 1990 agreed to the charge.  Uniform Case Number: 481990IN000297000AWX.)

(b)  Susan Dean Golden aka Susan Dean Bartlett (probable dau. of Beecher Edgar Chipman), of Eustis, FL, and Leesburg, FL, b. 22 Oct 1944 [As Susan Dean Golden of Eustis, FL, in Case No. 2002 MM 00 2359 State of  Florida vs. Susan Dean Golden, pleaded “No Contest” on 3 Jul 2002 to a charge of Misdemeanor Battery-Domestic Violence (Battery-Touch Or Strike).]

(c)  Donna Jane Golden aka Donna Jane Platman aka Donna Chipman Platman (probable dau. of Beecher Edgar Chipman), of Leesburg, FL, b. 7 Apr 1946; m. 24 Jan 1977 in Genesee Co., MI, Frederick Edward Platman, d. 24 Dec 2012 (Bride gave her maiden name as “Golden.”  On 24 Nov 2008, Donna Jane Platman was booked into the Lake Co., FL jail on a charge of “Aggravated Battery Person Uses A Deadly Weapon,”  a 2nd Degree Felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  Booking # 0814076; Inmate # 93834.  She posted $20,000 bond.  Her birth date given was 7 Apr 1946.  On 8 Apr 2009, Platman in Case No. 2008 CF 003768 pleaded “No Contest” to the charge and was sentenced to 4 Years Probation plus counseling.  The Lake Co. , FL Sheriff website maintains booking data online for 10 years.)

(d)  James Edward Chipman aka James Edward Chipman II (probable son of Beecher Edgar Chipman), b. 10 May 1948, d. 8 Aug 2013 (This individual is discussed in some detail later in the column.)

(e)  * David Michael Chipman, of Orlando, FL, b. 12 Feb 1953; m. 28 Jun 1971 in Genesee Co., MI, Heilda Maxine Tatum  [On 14 Oct 1991, David Chipman aka David Michael Chipman, in Orange Co., FL Case No. 1991-CF-004333-A-O, agreed in a plea bargain to a 1st Degree Misdemeanor charge “Improper Exhibition Of Weapon Or Firearm” and was sentenced to 1 Year Probation.  On 28 Jun 1991, the court filed correspondence from Sue Golden to the judge.  In this and other cases including theft, bad check, and drug charges, David Michael Chipman gave his birth date as 12 Feb 1953, which I presume to be correct.  On 7 Mar 1997, in the 7th Judicial Circuit Court (Genesee Co., MI), Stephen J. Platman sued Heilda Chipman, and David Chipman of Orlando, FL.  The subject of the lawsuit was “Complaint For Paternity And Injunctive Relief.”  Case No. 97-054964-DP.]

* Not child of Beecher Edgar Chipman.

My motive in assembling the above account of Imogene’s children was to learn the truth about my grandfather Beecher Edgar Chipman’s third family.  Most of this information came from online government databases operated by the courts in those jurisdictions or other available online sources.

I had two series of contacts with Susan Bartlett, daughter of Imogene, both of them initiated by her.  The first time she supplied the names and birth dates of herself and her siblings, and the location of Beecher and Imogene’s marriage.  Her information enabled me to obtain the marriage record.

In the second series, as you’ll read below, Susan accused me of lying about her family.  I did what any prudent person would do: I determined to get the facts using the best sources available.  I found that some of the birth dates Susan had previously supplied were inaccurate.

Beecher met Imogene while both were working in the Chevrolet plant in Flint, MI. Although Beecher married Imogene on 24 Apr 1950, four of her children were born prior to the marriage.  Obviously he divorced his second wife in order to marry the third. Essie refused to give Beecher a divorce unless he picked up the expenses.  Beecher married Imogene in Bowling Green, OH so people in Flint, MI wouldn’t know the couple had been “living in sin.”  In that era cohabiting couples were a scandal.

Without a DNA test, I can’t be 100% certain of the paternity of Imogene’s children.  Evidently Beecher didn’t sign the birth certificates of Sue Golden and Donna Jane Golden.  Beecher deserted Imogene and took a job with a toy company in St. Louis.  I found an old letter which gives the reason:  “BE [Beecher] claimed child No. 5 [David] was not his, and evidently Imogene and BE separated about the time child No. 5 was born.”

(R.L. Polk & Co. Flint City Directory 1952 sub “Chipman.”  Record shows Essie L. Chipman and Imogene L. Chipman without Beecher Edgar Chipman in their home.)

It’s Imogene’s first son, James Edward Chipman (just known as James), who interests me here.  The details were sketchy, and came from Beverly Ann (Page) Budzynski:  James “killed a policeman in Flint, was sent to prison & escaped.  He was recaptured and is serving time in Marquette Prison.”

Using this information, I was able to locate a dossier (including photograph) on James.  He had been incarcerated in the maximum security facility at Marquette Branch Prison in Marquette, Michigan.

Beverly’s letter wasn’t entirely accurate.  Using newspaper accounts from The Flint Journal I pieced together the events:

James was in the Genesee County (Michigan) jail for the 10 May 1970 murder of a Flint teenager, with whom he’d been arguing about a woman.  On 6 Apr 1971, Genesee Co. Deputy Sheriffs Ben Ray Walker and Harry G. Abbott took inmates James Chipman, Charles Macklin, and Jesse Bailey to a local dentist.  When Walker took off James’s handcuffs to make him more comfortable, James attacked Walker. In the ensuing struggle, Macklin gained control of Walker’s handgun, fatally shot Walker and wounded Abbott. James and Macklin hid in a nearby home but were apprehended.


(Officer Down Memorial Page for Ben Ray Walker.)

Charles Macklin confessed to the murder of Walker.  Macklin was later killed while attempting to escape from prison.

On 20 Jan 1972, James was convicted of manslaughter for the murder of 10 May 1970 and sentenced to 7-15 years.  On 9 Aug 1971, James was sentenced to life in prison for the Walker murder, and drew 50–70 years for the attempted murder of Abbott, the same sentences given Macklin.  (The trial took place in Pontiac on a change of venue.)  Circuit Court judge Donald R. Freeman told James:  “Even though you did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed Walker, you are equally guilty because you plotted with Macklin to escape.”  Although James wasn’t technically guilty of Walker’s murder, he was an accomplice.  But for James, Deputy Walker would have lived.

In Jan 1984, James and another convicted murderer escaped from Huron Valley Men’s Facility near Ypsilanti, MI.  James eluded the manhunt for nearly seven weeks until he was recaptured in Phoenix, AZ.

James appealed his  “concurrent life sentences for his jury conviction of first degree murder and assault with intent to commit murder” to the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.  On 7 Dec 1987, the appeal, alleging unconstitutional instructions to the trial jury, was denied.

According to the Jackson Citizen Patriot, on 26 Jan 1990, James and four other prisoners  escaped from the Southern Michigan Prison Central Complex in Jackson County, Michigan, overpowered two guards, took them hostage, and stole their van.  After a brief high speed chase, the prisoners surrendered peacefully.  The two guards sustained minor injuries.  The kidnapping charge earned James an additional 25-50 years, but it hardly mattered.

The story came to an abrupt end on 8 Aug 2013 with the death of James Edward Chipman.  He brought tragedy to the family of Ben Ray Walker, tragedy to his brother and sisters, and tragedy to my family as well.  Having seen his photo, I think James probably was the son of Beecher Edgar Chipman.


The two Emails I’ve transcribed in full below are from Sue Bartlett, a daughter of Imogene Lulu (Oliver) Golden.

Complaint No. 1:  Imogene was “left pregnant.”  David Michael Chipman’s birth date of 12 Feb 1953 is established in a number of Orange Co., FL court records.  If Imogene’s pregnancy followed the ordinary course, David was conceived ca. Jun 1952.  The R.L. Polk & Co. Flint City Directory 1952 proves that by some point in 1952 Beecher had already left Imogene.  By early 1954 Beecher was in a relationship with Jean Esther Southard.

The question is:  when was the data in the 1952 city directory assembled?  The Library Of Congress copyright was registered on 5 Nov  1952.  How much time did it take to process the submission?

The 1952 directory itself states the data was acquired by actual canvass.  Given the amount of time taken to canvass Flint, put the data in order, create the advertising, and publish the directory—which shows Imogene was on her own—was Beecher in the household when David was conceived? Would he even have known Imogene was pregnant?  If Beecher’s absence was merely temporary—perhaps the result of a quarrel—it’s unlikely Imogene would have omitted him from the listing.  Thus it seems likely the 1952 data was gathered in the Spring of that year and by that time Beecher had moved out.

Complaint No. 2:  My report that in 1940 Imogene and her mother Minnie shared a rear apartment and Imogene worked as a waitress.  Those facts are recorded in the 1940 Flint, MI Federal census, a screenshot of which is above.  This was 4 years before Sue was born.  At that time Imogene had no children.  Sue’s comments are an insult to waitresses everywhere.  Waitresses are mythic American icons, celebrated in film, TV, and detective novels.  It would be 3 years before Imogene met Beecher when both were employed at Chevrolet.  By 1950 Beecher and Imogene were living on E. Hamilton Ave. in Flint.  In the 1954 Flint, MI city directory Imogene was listed as a widow living at 905 Mary St., but Beecher was very much alive.  I don’t know what Imogene’s circumstances were at that time or after.

Complaint No. 3:  My account of her brother James’ encounters with the law, which were extensive.  That was taken from newspaper stories.  I believe the court reached the correct verdict in the Ben Ray Walker murder.  Sue implies the murder was linked to a problem James had with the police in California.  I see no connection at all between a Genesee Co., MI sheriff’s deputy who was kind to James and whatever happened to James and his wife in California, of which I have no record.

Complaint No. 4:  You would not want YOUR family skeletons and secrets scattered across the universe would you?  Has she even read this blog?

I cannot be more emphatic: I do not share Susan Bartlett’s opinion of her brother James or endorse her version of his encounters with law enforcement.


On Sat, Dec. 27, 2014 at 10:10 PM, Sue Bartlett wrote <gud2bsue@gmail.com> wrote:

You have much wrong info on your page. Imogene did not share a back apartment with her mother, but, rather, she rented a very large house, and sub-rented two apartments to two other families when she was left pregnant and supporting four other children. So she was very resourceful. We always lived in a decent home and she was very smart. Also, She did not work as a waitress, but opened her own restaurant with her mother helping her. I was eleven years old then, and remember everything quite well. She was a very intelligent and strong woman. Her only fault was loving the wrong man. But she always found a way to raise her five children in a large house. Not some back apartment. I do not like having her portrayed as a lesser person. She was a strong, clever and attractive woman, who made sure her children had a decent life. With the rent from the sublet apartments, she was able to support us, since she never received child support. I helped her in the restaurant that we owned. She was not a waitress, but a business owner.

Also, James was not arguing over a woman, as you have written, but had reported his wife had been raped by a biker gang when he was in California, and when the police refused to take action, he sought revenge. He was arrested and brutally beaten and to[rt]ured by Flint police after he tried to escape with Macklin. He was the most wonderful, kind, strong, handsome, intelligent and amazing man I have ever known, and few men could ever have endured what he endured. He suffered four years with stage four bone cancer, much longer than the average person lives after being diagnosed. He was also a writer.

Please get these facts straight. There is too much hurt from scandalous errors. My heart is heavy with pain from the death of my brother, James. I do hope my brother, Ralph, is doing well.

On Sun, Dec 28, 2014 at 1:01 AM, J C <binky9@gmail.com> wrote:

The information was mainly taken from newspaper accounts and the Federal census. I would prefer that you not contact me again.

Sue Bartlett <gud2besue@gmailcom> Sun, Dec 28, 2014 at 4:00 PM
To: J C <binky9@gmail.com>

I prefer that you write an accurate account and not show my family in an unfavorable light. I am writing and publishing a book, which will be out at the end of 2015, or the beginning of 2016. Perhaps you can read the truth for yourself. The Dew Drop Inn was the name of the restaurant, in case you want to research that too. I have resisted the urge to write you to correct the accounting of my brother, a man whose shoe’s no one could fill, but when you depicted my mother as living in a back apartment and working as a waitress, that was the last lie I could contend with. My mother was a business woman, and persevered under very hard conditions. But she always provided us with a nice house to live in, and never had to work as a waitress. I will not contact you again, but surely you would not want YOUR family skeletons and secrets scattered across the universe would you? And especially if they were not true. If you want a question answered, ask me.

Aunt Sue

But who was Jean Chipman, with whom my grandfather is buried?  The facts are these:

According to her death certificate, she was Jean Esther Southard, born 16 Feb 1913 in Morehouse, MO, the daughter of Robert E. and Lillie (England) Southard.  Her family was located in the 1930 Mississippi Co., AR Federal census, as follows:

Lila Southard 34 b. MO (head) widow; Esther 17 b. MO (dau.); Lester 13 b. MO (son); Lucy 10 b. MO (dau.); Edna 9 b. MO (dau.); Eva 7 b. AR (dau.).

Lillie (England) Southard is listed as an orphan born March 1896, living in the home of Samuel Evans in the 1900 New Madrid Co. Federal census.  Lila Southard is probably the Lula Southard who died on 16 May 1931 in Mississippi Co., AR.  Jean’s brother Robert Lester Southard was born 9 Oct 1916 in MO, and died 26 Mar 1989 in San Diego, CA.  His death record lists his mother’s maiden name as “England.”

New Madrid Co., MO marriage records show that R.E. Southard married Lillie England on 10 Mar 1912.  Robert Ephron Southard was born on 3 Feb 1892 in Fredonia (Caldwell Co.), KY, the son of Brice and Jennie Southard.  Although Lillie (England) Southard gave her marital status as “widow” in the 1930 Mississippi Co., AR census noted above, Robert Ephron Southard actually died on 11 May 1969 and is buried at Mansfield Cemetery in Richland Co., OH.  

The death certificate of Jean Esther Southard “Chipman” checks out.  I have no birth certificate confirmation for Jean’s birth date as 16 Feb 1913, but it tracks with the 1930 census entry.  The informant on her death certificate, Giniver Shockley, was correct in all other details, so I think she may be trusted here.

Jean had an insurance policy worth $800.00 with Bankers Life and Casualty Company of Chicago.  The policy was issued in 1954, and Beecher was the beneficary.  I wrote Bankers Life and Casualty asking for a copy of Jean’s application, but received no reply.  However, it’s known that Jean lied about her birth date on the application.  Evidently the insurance company spotted the discrepancy when they examined Jean’s death certificate, and reduced the payout on her policy from $800.00 to $550.00.

Probate papers were filed with the St. Francois County, Missouri Probate Division, appointing Berl J. Miller, then St. Francois County Coroner, as administrator of Jean’s estate.  But because Miller had ruled that Jean and Beecher died simultaneously, the money was paid into Jean’s estate as if she had survived Beecher. 

According to the estate papers, Jean had two sons:  Carl Wayne Crader of Fresno, California and J.C. Crader, address unknown.  Miller determined that Jean had no relatives in Missouri.

Mr. and Mrs. Carl W. Crader are listed among the relatives attending Beecher’s funeral.  Carl Wayne Crader was born 28 Aug 1932.  That places Jean’s marriage to Carl’s father as ca. 1931.  The location of the marriage is presently unknown, but could have been in Mississippi Co., AR.

So who got the money from Jean’s estate?  Berl J. Miller—who was also the proprietor of Miller Funeral Home (now Taylor Funeral Service) of Farmington, Missouri.  Jean’s sons received nothing.  Before you cry “foul,” after burying Jean and performing the duties of an administrator, which included newspaper notices to locate heirs, Miller actually wound up with a deficit.  In reviewing the estate papers, it would appear no one contributed anything to help defray his expenses—although Ralph Vernon Chipman contributed to Beecher’s bill, as implied in the letter below.

There is no record of Jean’s marriage to Beecher.  My father and Beverly Ann (Page) Budzynski ( Beecher’s niece) agree that Beecher and Jean had never married.   Beecher hadn’t divorced Imogene, so Jean’s use of the “Chipman” surname was as an alias.  Missouri abolished common law marriage in 1921, but the few states that accept it require the parties to be free to marry.  Beecher and Jean were cohabiting in rural Missouri in the 1950s, and found it prudent to say they were married.

The insurance policy, effective 22 Feb 1954, comprised Jean’s entire estate.  Is that date significant?  Was David Chipman, Beecher’s last (probable) child by Imogene, born the day before, on 21 Feb 1954 (the birth date supplied by Susan Bartlett), or more than a year before, on 12 Feb 1953, the birth date given in an Orange Co., FL criminal case?  The birth date of 12 Feb 1953 was given to the court in a number of cases including drug and bad check charges, and therefore must be correct.  Thus it appears that Imogene was not left alone and pregnant.  By early 1954 it is certain that Beecher was in a relationship with Jean Esther Southard.

Beecher had no children by Jean, who was in her forties when she met him.  My father signed Beecher’s Social Security death benefit over to Imogene at the urging of Beecher’s sister Pauline Aquilla (Chipman) Page Moffit (who was Page then).

Beecher and Jean are buried at Doe Run Memorial Cemetery in St. Francois Co., Missouri.   They are buried together and will remain together.  The cemetery is sometimes informally referred to as “Rosella McCloud” because of the memorial arch which bears her name.  The cemetery is an association.

For now, the legend on Beecher and Jean’s shared tombstone giving her surname as “Chipman” will remain.  Here’s how their tombstone should read:

Beecher Edgar Chipman

Son of James and Allie Chipman

Born May 15, 1908                          Died April 23, 1959

Jean Esther Southard alias Chipman

Daughter of Robert and Lillie Southard

Born February 16, 1913                   Died April 23, 1959

The birthdate on Beecher’s death certificate of June 16, 1909 is wrong—his father, James Edward Chipman, filed a delayed birth certificate in 1939 so Beecher could register for Social Security.  Beecher was born before birth certificates were mandatory in Missouri.

Beecher and Jean had gone fishing that calamitous day of 23 Apr 1959.  What really happened?  I located the couple’s obituary, and discovered there had been an eyewitness:

Berl J. Miller, St. Francois County Coroner, ruled the deaths “Accidental Drowning,” and no inquest was held.  Note that Beecher’s wife is listed as “Esther E. Chipman.”

Beecher’s funeral was on 27 Apr 1959 at Miller Funeral Home in Farmington, Missouri.  It was attended by many family members and friends.

But that’s not quite the end of the story.  This is:

After a life of self-indulgence, Beecher Edgar Chipman had become a modest farmer.  He left behind a car with a blown clutch, a few chickens, and some ethereal hogs. And scars along the way.  You don’t just walk away from someone like Beecher.

(Beecher Edgar Chipman, ca. 1950s, sporting a W.C. Fields look.)

One uncorroborated tale about Beecher I feel compelled to record.  It’s known he carried a gun.  He told his son Ralph the gun was for protection from “tough” neighbors.  Another version claims Beecher was involved in the numbers racket in Flint—low-level, quick money.  He left Flint and moved to St. Louis, then left St. Louis for a farm near Doe Run, an unincorporated community in rural St. Francois Co., MO—allegedly due to “heart trouble.”  But was Beecher in some other kind of trouble?  Was the farm a hideout?

Following my grandfather’s trail of bread crumbs to Hell reveals a journey of selfishness and dissipation.  Beecher could not have been more different from his four siblings, who were all (as people said in those days) “upright.” Every family has a Beecher. He could be superficially charming, as such men often are. In the end, alcoholism turned him into a cartoon. He made one more grand gesture, but the Earth was having none of it.  His children depended upon him for the basics of life and emotional support, but he was emotionally abusive, a bully who struck his victims with words.


Material in brackets mine.  The inspiration for this column was the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?”  But there’s nothing heart-warming about the story of Beecher Edgar Chipman.

In many family histories written between the 1880s and 1930s, their “Beechers” are concealed in a hiding place of a few words.  Complete wastrels, if they have the “right” ancestry, assume an importance they never had in life.  Beecher Edgar Chipman was a descendant of Mayflower passengers and Anglo-Saxon monarchs, yet he couldn’t have been less idealistic, and he was no prince among men.  He was of one of the oldest families in America, but had he known the details of his ancestry, I doubt he would have cared.

The task of the genealogist is to interpret the available records and draw reasonable conclusions from them while keeping errors to a minimum.  Having written this column, I feel as though I have finally buried Beecher.  And the woman, though not his wife, who lies buried with him.  There are no additional scandals known to me or my informants.  People have survived horrors far greater than this dismal tableaux.

The best way to exorcise a ghost is to bring him into the light, and let him evaporate like dew on the mourning grass.


Revised April 6, 2017

~ by Jeffrey Thomas Chipman on May 19, 2016.

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