UPDATE 2003!!! I was contacted by a son of Phyllis! Edie did run off with "the man from Haddenham" and she and Edie thrived with him until they all passed on. Phyllis married in 1936 and had five children, passing away 5 July 1999. Her ashes are scattered along with those of her mother and the man who acted as her father until his death. I went to England to meet the family in 2005, and several of them have been to the USA to visit me since. We visited Whirlbush Farm together and got to see a metal plate in which Toby Bates carved his name mounted in the old chimney in the kitchen. We are still interested in contacting family members of Albert Bates who was Grandfather to Phyllis's descendants. Census records in 1911 show several Bates' living locally and at addresses that offer more clues as to the way Edie and Toby met:
Mr Bates Park Grange Thame Park Thame, Oxfordshire
Mrs Bates 1 Bridg Terrace Thame, Oxfordshire
Mr Bates 48 Chinnor Road Thame, Oxfordshire
Mr Bates 36 Chinnor Road Thame, Oxfordshire
The following information was mostly anecdotal and lots of holes have now been filled in.
My Grama told me that she came from a tragic set of circumstances where her mother, Martha Newitt Colsell, died of Pleurisy when Grama was four leaving my great grandfather a 32 year old widower with five children. He was a furniture maker and the children ranged in age from just a few months to 10 years old. Baby Freddie died by the age of two. Initially Grama and her older sister Edie lived with their mother's family for 4 years. Their Newitt grandparents had daughters close in age to the girls, so they fit right into the family. Relations with the Newitt family remained close as the girls became adults. Grama got to go to school until she was 7 while she lived with the Newitts, but then she had to stay at home to help care for her younger brother and new half-siblings from her father's marriage to Emily Rixon when she moved back home to Chinnor. Edie, on the other hand, was 14 by then and either was hired out by her father or went to work on the Beadley Farm in Cumnor.
Time passed and 5 more children joined George and Emilys' family. Edie, now grown, married Albert Bates who lived at Whirlbush Farm, Thame, Oxfordshire, England owned by Messrs. G and R. Bailey who resided in Thame at a shop they also owned rather than on the farm. Albert was known as Toby. Records show that Edith, age 21, of Beadley Farm, Cumnor, Oxfordshire married Albert Bates, age 28, son of George Thomas Bates, brickmaker (deceased) on 2 November 1912. The witnesses to the wedding were Frederick Jakes (husband of Mary Matilda Newitt Jakes, Grama and Edie's aunt on their mother's side), Sarah Bates and Alice Amelia Newitt (another of Grama and Edie's aunts on their mother's side). It appears that Albert and Edie pretty much had the run of Whirlbush Farm for themselves once they married. Grama continued to stay at home in Chinnor to help out with all the new little ones.
By 1914, Grama had left home running to her Newitt aunts who now lived in London to escape life she found unacceptable in Chinnor. First she worked for an American Circus family named Graham, then she became Nanny for the family of Ben Allen, an American newspaper correspondent in London for the Associated Press. She emigrated by default to the USA when the beginning of WWI cancelled all visas at a time when the Allen's were on home leave for the summer in the USA. Shortly in or after WWI, Grama & Edie lost both of their brothers. Rumor has it that their Dad had developed a bit of a drinking and gambling habit at the local pub and communication broke down between my Grama and her father. But Grama and Edie maintained contact and I have many of these letters in my possession. On 28 March 1916, Edie gave birth to Edith Mary Phyllis Bates. I have letters and family photographs (see below) detailing this.
Unfortunately, something went horribly wrong on Thame Show Day, 16 September 1926 and Edie ran away. She was never heard from again by any Newitt or Colsell family members (to our knowledge). Said another way, any traces of communication between Edie and other family members have been destroyed if they existed... there are surviving "rumors." I have since learned that Albert had been entered into one of the competitions at the Show - "Male Servants age 40-50" and he won first prize of £1, in the Class of "Long Servitude" so he definitely attended the show that day. Ironic to our story, this award is given for "those working for the same employer or on the same farm or premises and producing a good character!" Edie, on the other hand, may have run away with a man from nearby Haddenham (see an area map) who was seen with her the day she disappeared and who was reported missing himself at the same time. Grama mentioned knowledge that Edie had been "mistreated" by Albert and that she went away not to be found. I can find no letters to support this, except that Edie does discuss having a "nervous breakdown" about a year before she ran away. We still do not know the truth. However, until she died in 1973, Grama mourned the loss of her sister and wondered if contact could ever be remade. Records suggest Albert Bates died in 1968.
Grama's Aunt Mary, writing in response to a letter from Grama to Albert inquiring as to Edith and Phyllis' whereabouts, reported that Albert had turned the pertinent information over to the police who were never able to find Edie. In 1998, I made contact with the current owners of Whirlbush Farm and they had the story posted in a local paper, The Thame Gazette. They learned it was incorrect that Edie's disappearance had been reported to police in either Thame or Haddinham. Then they received a phone call from a Luton woman who identified herself as Albert's niece and said she had gone to live with Albert after Edie left. She said he never got over the disappearance of his wife and daughter and that no one could understand why Edie had run off as Albert "adored Phyllis" and was "always so good" to Edie. She was making inquiries herself, but had no luck so far. Unfortunately, this lady was elderly and did not offer her last name or phone number, so we have no way of contacting her again. A 1998 Christmas letter from a surviving family member in England tells me they grew up being told Edie had "run away to America" and had "married Doris Day's uncle." They were also told, "Watch what you do or you will end up like poor Edie." As far as a connection to Doris Day's family; I happen to live not to far from where Ms. Day lives and have been in contact with her publicist who offered that this story is unlikely. On the other hand, I do not know that Ms. Day has been asked directly and I know she is supposed to be very private. Sounds like someone took the rest of the story to their grave? I wonder if any descendants of Mary Newitt Jakes, shown below, could hold further keys to the story....
My grandparents lived for 55 years in one very small California town and it is extremely unlikely Edie would not have contacted her only sister if she were in the USA. Even if she had lost Grama's address, something addressed to the town where they lived surely would have reached them in those days. They were very considered prominent in their little burgh! We have no idea what happened to Edie or to young Phyllis, pictured below. You can see an additional photo of Edie picture here. You can see the family group chart for this family here.
Edie passed on in 1972, one year before Grama passed on. We would still love to know more about what actually did happen....
If anyone has any information, please email me.
Phyllis - 2 years
Phyllis - 4 years
Phyllis - 6 years - with her mother, Edith, and May Vickary