28 March 1900
United States of America
24 May 1975|
United States of America
(heart failure & disease, age 75)
American actress and "bathing beauty" who is known to have acted in a couple of brief stints at Rolin/Hal Roach (known credits filmed Oct-Dec. 1917 and July-Sept. 1918).|
Her parents were Lillian Leslie (Graves) (1879-1918) and dentist George LeRoy Terry (1867-1950). In the 1900 Census, they claimed they were married around 1895. In reality, on 16 April 1896 in St. Louis, Missouri, Lillian married... Ernest Clare Lakin (1875-1947), a young draftsman who would follow in his father's footsteps as an architect; seven months later, Lillian gave birth to a son, Oertell Henry Lakin (1896-1979). During mid-late 1897 and early 1898, Lillian would file at least two divorce suits against Lakin. Somewhere around this time, Lillian met Dr. Terry, who was practicing as a dentist in St. Louis, while in his office. In October 1898 (date given by 1900 Census), Lillian welcomed a daughter, Marguerite (or Margaret) L. Terry (1898-1900). The Terrys had moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by the time of Dorothy's birth in March 1900. In a 1908 hearing, Dr. Terry testified that at some point around this time, he discovered that his marriage to Lillian wasn't legal; apparently, Lillian and Lakin weren't officially divorced, so Dr. Terry provided the money to dissolve that union once and for all, and the separation was finalized in Pittsburgh in 1901. As such, Lillian didn't officially become "Mrs. Terry" until 11 September 1902, when she and George tied the knot in Sacramento, California.
Dorothy was the third of five children born to Lillian; in addition to aforementioned stepbrother Oertell (who is listed in the 1900 Census as Oertell B. Terry) and sister Marguerite, she would have two younger sisters: Lillian Windsor Terry (1903-1912) and Blanche Marie (Terry) Tyler/Philbrick (1905-2001). Interestingly, Dorothy's birth record gives her name as "Viola L. Terry." In the 1900 Census, her name is "Viola D. Terry." She is Dorothy Terry by the time of the 1910 Census, with the middle name of Margaret "joining in" by the time of her 1916 marriage. Though her birth record gives her date of birth as 28 March, she gave it as 24 March on later records. By the time of sister Lillian's birth in 1903, the Terry family moved from Pittsburgh to Trenton, New Jersey, where young Dorothy would gain notice for her dancing skills. By 1910, they had moved to Chicago, Illinois, perhaps as the result of a family scandal that played out in Trenton for much of the previous two years (more on that further below...). By 1917 (L.A. City Dir.), they had settled in Los Angeles, California.
During Dorothy's early years, the Terry family would be thrice rocked by tragedy. On 3 September 1900, 22-month old Marguerite succumbed to severe burns as the sad result of playing with matches the previous day. On 3 December 1912, younger sister Lillian lost her life at the age of only 9 (cause unknown). Lastly, on 19 October 1918, mother Lillian passed away -- one of many victims of the influenza epidemic of the late 1910s (see also: Dorothy's Rolin colleague James Fitzgerald). On the other hand, Dorothy and Blanche not only lived long enough to get married, but both would go on to enjoy lengthy marriages, with Blanche's ending just a month shy of 60 years when her husband passed in 1982; Blanche herself would live the longest of all the siblings, passing just a day before New Year's Eve, 2001, at the grand old age of 96. On 7 May 1919, George remarried to German-born widow Le(o)na (Kirmse) Shillings (1868-1942) and relocated to San Diego; Lena's passing left George a widower once more. At the time of George's death on 21 March 1950 (intracranial hemorrhage/hypertension), he was married to Sarah E. Terry. Stepbrother Oertell Lakin (who was eventually raised by his maternal grandmother) married two or three times, became a draftsman (like his father) and an electrical engineer, and died on 25 September 1979 in Sarasota County, Florida.
Back to Dorothy: On 8 August 1916, Dorothy married Joseph Anthony Gallagher (1885-1961) in Marion County, Indiana; Dorothy was only 16 years old at the time, but added two years to her age to appear 18. Joseph held several professions, including a stint as a Servite Catholic priest, but by 1930, he found professional stability in the real estate business. Dorothy and Joseph had three children: Joseph Anthony Gallagher, Jr. (1917-2004), Dorothy Terry (Gallagher) Martin (1920-2001), and Walter Paul Gallagher (1925-1988). Both of Dorothy's known Rolin stints occurred between the births of her first two children. At the time of the 1920 Census (taken 7 Jan, eight months before the younger Dorothy's birth), Dorothy is still working as a moving picture actress; Joseph, Sr. is working as a telegraph lineman. Dorothy and Joseph remained together for over 44 years until his death on 8 January 1961 (pulmonary hemorrhage/lung cancer).
On 15 October 1963, over two years after Joseph's passing, Dorothy remarried to Grover D. King (1892-1970), also in the real estate business (developer), in Los Angeles. Less than seven years later, Grover's death on 15 March 1970 left Dorothy widowed once more (twice widowed, like her father). Dorothy Margaret King passed away at 9:30pm on 24 May 1975, at Inter Community Hospital in Covina, California, of "intractable congestive heart failure [duration:] yrs, rheumatic heart disease [duration:] yrs, [and] mitral insufficiency." She was living in West Covina at the time, and had worked for two years as a secretary for real estate appraisers J.A. Gallagher & Assocs. -- in other words, helping out with her late first husband's business. Dorothy was survived by her three children, 8 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, her sister Blanche Tyler, and her brother Oertell Lakin. On 28 May 1975, she was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
And now, we backtrack a ways to 1908...
Throughout much of 1908 and into early 1909, there was a calamity of a scandal with regards to the Terrys' marriage. It started in early May, when Lillian unexpectedly disappeared with the three daughters (Dorothy, Lillian, and Blanche); Dr. Terry blamed Lillian's mother, Mrs. George Sinclair, whom he claimed held an incredible influence over her daughter. One of the causes of the dispute was because the ladies wanted eight-year old Dorothy to embark on a stage career, to which Dr. Terry objected; another cause was suspected to be Mrs. Sinclair's general hatred of her son-in-law and her repeated attempts to split him and Lillian up. It turned out Lillian and the girls were at her mother's home back in St. Louis.
Later that month, 22-year old pianist Charles J. MacConnell was arrested during a performance with an orchestra at a society gathering and charged with "having been too intimate with Mrs. George Lee [sic] Terry." MacConnell was identified via newspaper photo by the Terrys' housekeeper, Mrs. Helen N. Dansbury (or Danbury), who testified in Police Court that Lillian and Mr. MacConnell were frequently together throughout the previous three months, that he frequently called at their house, "and that MacConnell was always entertained in Mrs. Terry's bedroom." MacConnell fervently denied the accusations, insisting that his acquaintance with Mrs. Terry was nothing more than casual, and that they knew each other from the dancing academy where her daughters were instructed and where he played piano. While in St. Louis, news of the charges reached Lillian, "and she was stricken with nervous prostration and [became] very ill."
Eventually, come July, Lillian and Dr. Terry reconciled and reunited, and all charges were dropped. In November, Dr. Terry issued a public statement exonerating Mr. MacConnell of any wrongdoing, chalking everything up to a bad misunderstanding based on the story related to him by the housekeeper. However, a mere retraction wasn't enough for the burned and humiliated young musician, and later that month he took Dr. Terry and Mrs. Dansbury back into court, charging the former with defamation of character and both parties with perjury; by December, MacConnell was seeking $10,000 in damages (that'd be over $300,000 in 2022 dollars).
In the words of the late Ron Popeil, "But wait... there's MORE!!!" In an affidavit, Mrs. Dansbury claimed that the charge against MacConnell was the result of a conspiracy between Dr. Terry, his sister Mrs. Anna Caldwell (who had previously visited the Terrys during the earlier marital strain), and ultimately, herself. The housekeeper stated that Dr. Terry and Mrs. Caldwell monetarily persuaded her to finger MacConnell as Lillian's illicit lover so that Dr. Terry could secure both a divorce and custody of the children. The night before the hearing, Mrs. Dansbury claimed, Mrs. Caldwell pulled out a roll of bills and told Mrs. Dansbury that if all went as planned, she would give her $200, which Dr. Terry offered to double ($400 in 1908 = about $13,000 in 2022). Mrs. Dansbury also stated that, in fact, she had never even seen Mr. MacConnell before until the day of the hearing, when he was pointed out to her by Dr. Terry. She further remarked, "I never saw any man call on Mrs. Terry, except once, and he was a young man."
Dr. Terry emphatically denied these claims, saying regarding Mrs. Dansbury, "She is a police character, and drinks heavily." In February 1909, Mrs. Caldwell's testimony was being sought. The MacConnell-Terry case continued as late as May 1909, but ultimately, I could not find a definite conclusion to the whole thing.
Through it all, Lillian stood by Dr. Terry, but her mother was not so inclined, telling reporters that the whole calamity was "all due to his efforts to get rid of [Lillian]" and that she (Mrs. Sinclair) was "not willing to give him another chance." Regardless, the Terrys remained together, but one could assume that the year-long scandal -- the latter part of which was reported in papers throughout the country -- played a part in the Terrys' move to Chicago, perhaps to make a "fresh start." (Couldn't find out for sure what became of Mrs. Dansbury, but Charles Jenkins MacConnell continued working as a pianist in the New Jersey area, passing away in 1945.)
Real name: Viola L. Terry;
later Dorothy Margaret Terry
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