Kimmitt Genealogical Research

17 June 2013

The Miserable Life of Miss Dora L. Jones, Latter Day Slave

"Mrs. Ingalls Guilty of Slavery Charge," Boston Herald, 20 Jul 1947,
p. 1., cols. 5-6; GenealogyBank ( :
 14 Jun 2013)
My last post included a newspaper photo. On that same page I happened to notice this account of the bizarre and disturbing case of a couple who kept their maid in bondage for over 40 years! Mrs. Elizabeth Ingalls, 62, "descendant of Massachusetts colonial Governor Bradford," was "convicted... of enslaving her maid," 58-year old Dora Jones! The DA held that Mrs. Ingalls and her husband, Alfred Wesley Ingalls, 64, a former Boston lawyer and legislator (!), "reduced the maid to slavery for 40 years by threatening to expose her affair with Mrs. Ingalls' first husband, Walter Harmon of Washington." [1]

Now maybe everyone else knows about his, but I certainly didn't. It cries out for research! Why should the maid be afraid of the affair being made known? Wouldn't the married man be more worried? Maybe that's what caused the divorce. Wasn't it awkward having Dora living under the same roof with husband number two if she had had an affair with husband number one? Was this seriously the first slavery case tried since 1880? I found it curious, and decided to have a look in some original and contemporaneous records, working backwards from 1947.

What Do the Records Say?

In 1940, 52-year old lawyer Alfred W. Ingalls lived with his family at 28 Bassett Street in Boston. His wife, Myra E. was 51, and with them were daughters Ruth, 32, and Helen, 20, both single. Ruth was born in Washington, DC, Helen in Mass. Also with them was Dora Jones, 50, a maid born in Alabama whose race is described as "Neg." [2] This matches the newspaper account pretty well, assuming Myra's middle name was Elizabeth. Interesting to note is the 12-year gap in the daughters' ages.

Let's look at the 1930 census: The family are in the same house at 28 Bassett Street. Their ages are off somewhat: Alfred-47, M. Elizabeth-45, Ruth L.-22, Helen-10, Dora-40. They also have Elizabeth's widowed mother, Estelle Kimball, 70, in the household. Oh, and Dora's race is now white. [3]

In 1920: Same house, same cast of characters, ages are somewhat in line with 1930--Alfred-27, Myra-38, Ruth L.-11, Helen K.-2 months, and Dora-30, who this times is called Mulatto. [4] So they've all been together for at least 27 years.

In 1910 Elizabeth K. Harman, 26 lived in Washington, DC with her first husband, Walter P. Harman, a 29-year old government clerk born in Vermont, and their 2-year old daughter Ruth L., plus Dora L., 20, Mulatto. [5]

What happened between 1910 and 1918?? Well, for one thing, Elizabeth and Walter broke up. The WWI draft registration card of Harman gives his father as his closest relative. His permanent residence is at 137 Grove St., Rutland, VT, but he works in NY, NY. [6]

In 1920 Walter P. Harmon was 38 years old living in DC (born in Vermont), a single clerk working for the US government and  boarding with an 80-year old widow. [7]

On 15 November 1923, in Rutland, VT, Walter Penfield Harman of Takoma Park, MD, born Bennington, VT, son of Henry A. Harman and Ellen Bromley, married Myra May Hulst, his second marriage. [8] Another wife named Myra, just to confuse future genealogists. (For a while there, I thought Elizabeth might have been living a double life!)

In 1942 Walter Penfield Harman of Takoma Park, MD, registered for the World War II Draft giving his date of birth as 12 Jan 1881. He provided his nearest relative as Mrs. Walter P. Harman. This would have been his second wife, Myra. [9]

These records not only confirm information in the article, but help us put together a rough timeline of their lives.


1907  (ca) Walter P. Harman and Elizabeth Kimball marry
1908  Ruth L. Harman, daughter of Walter P. and Elizabeth Harman, is born in DC.
          She is not Alfred's daughter.
1910  Walter Penfield Harmon and Elizabeth Myra (Kimball) Harman are living in Washington
           DC with daughter Ruth L. and a servant named Dora L. Jones.
          Walter and Elizabeth break up
          Elizabeth marries Alfred Wesley Ingalls of Lynn, MA
1918  Walter lists his father as next of kin on WWI Draft, so is probably single
1918  Helen Ingalls, daughter of Alfred W. and Elizabeth Ingalls, is born in Massachusetts
1920  Walter lives in DC, is single.
1920  Elizabeth lives with 2nd husband, Alfred Wesley Ingalls, at 28 Bassett St., Lynn, MA
1923  Walter remarries, to another Myra (!) in Vermont
1930  Alfred W. and family still live on Bassett St.
1940  The family is still at Bassett St.
1942  Walter Penfield Harman of Takoma Park, MD, registered for the World War II Draft
           giving his date of birth as 12 Jan 1881.
1942  Alfred registered for the World War II Draft, stating...
1947  Case comes to trial

Wider Implications for Civil Rights

Yikes! I mean, Mira Elizabeth Ingalls [13]
According to the article, the Ingalls were the first to be charged with slavery in the United States since 1880, a violation of the 13th amendment. In The Lost Promise of Civil Rights, Risa Lauren Goluboff refers to this incident as a "watershed case" and goes into considerable detail. It was the Ingalls' younger daughter, Helen (Ingalls) Roberts, who reported her parents to the Department of Justice. [10]

The sordid details of the case were that Elizabeth kept Dora working without pay and in bad conditions by threatening her with prison or a mental institution if she did not comply. Dora's offense thirty-eight years earlier, or circa 1909, was having had an affair with Walter and an abortion after that. She told Dora she could be arrested for that, and either go to prison or a mental institution.

Goluboff states, "For more than twenty-five years, Jones had been 'required to arise at an early hour in the morning and perform practically all of the household labor in connection with the maintenance of the Ingalls household. She was forbidden to leave the household except for the commission of errands and performed drudgery of the most menial and laborious type.'" She was forced to sleep in a car on the street, or in bathtubs, not provided with sufficient food, and given only cast-offs for clothes.

They were unable to convict Alfred, but Elizabeth was sentenced. What made this a watershed case was the fact that not only did Elizabeth have to pay damages to the US government, but she also had to pay poor Dora the sum of $6,000. Elizabeth's prison sentence was suspended, however, perhaps due to fears expressed by her counsel that her life would be threatened.

Some Questions Answered, But Take With Grain of Salt!

An article in the Toldeo Blade provides more detail. "The five-foot, 100-pound maid, Theodora Lawrence Jones... was 17 when she was befriended by the present Mrs. Ingalls, then Miss Elizabeth Kimball, a missionary school teacher in the reconstructed south. When Miss Kimball married her first husband, Walter Harmon, they took Miss Jones to Washington DC, where ten years later they were divorced...In 1918, the former Alabama teacher married Ingalls. [11]

Another article worth mentioning is "Slave Trial Jury Told Dora Jones Was Pushed Down Stairs." We learn more details of Dora's sad existence: that Helen had actually tried to rescue Dora from Elizabeth, who had struck and scratched her, among other things. And finally, we get some great genealogical information: Elizabeth's other daughter Ruth's married name was Castendyk, and she was in Chicago in 1947; Dora had at least two siblings--Myrtle Turrentine of Athens, AL and Arthur Jones of St. Louis! [12]

Alfred Wesley Ingalls, 1947 [14]
There are many, many articles on this case, and by reading them all, you can fill in the timelines with much more precision. Though sometimes contradictory or wrong, they do provide hints on where to search further. Here is a link to another one: "Coronado Couple Held on Charge of Holding Housemaid in Bondage," in which we learn that Elizabeth and Alfred married in 1907 and were divorced in 1917. There are more details of Dora's horrible treatment, and best of all, photos of the offending couple. [13]

Now I ain't no Judy Russell, but this is one interesting, groundbreaking, horrifying and amazing case. And the only reason I found it was because my little mind was wandering to other articles on a newspaper page!

Bygone Era Be Gone!

I found it interesting that "the Jury went out to dinner at 10:30 and resumed their deliberations at 12:00 o'clock." I wonder why they went so late. Was it perhaps to avoid the cost of putting up the jury overnight? I was also sort of surprised at this, too: "Mrs. Ingalls heard the guilty verdict without a quiver. She was remanded to the custody of the US Marshall, who escorted her and her husband to dinner." How very civilized that they were escorted to dinner. Why the hell didn't they take DORA to dinner? By all accounts she needed it. and clearly, Elizabeth was well nourished.

Oh yes, it was an era of stoicism and gentility and SLAVERY. We've come a long way since 1947, but even then this case was outrageous. Newspaper accounts about a crime like this can exaggerate or just be wrong, so these articles should not be considered completely reliable! You can read a summary of the trial at United States v. Ingalls, 73 F, Supp. 76, District Court, S. D. California, S. D., 29 July 1947. [16]

I like to imagine that Dora took that money, went back to her family and lived an easy life thereafter. She certainly deserved it. There are no words for the vile behavior of this couple and I can only hope that they were ostracized from their socialite community for the rest of their lives. They really should have gone to prison for life. It would have been sweetest if Elizabeth had been forced to work for a living, for someone such as evil as herself.


[1]  "Mrs. Ingalls Guilty of Slavery Charge," Boston Herald, 20 Jul 1947, p. 1., cols. 5-6; GenealogyBank ( : 14 Jun 2013).

[2] 1940 US census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Lynn, ED 19-34, sheet 64A, household 365, of Alfred W. Ingalls; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[3] 1930 US census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Lynn, ED 151, sheet 9A [penned], sheet 278 [stamped], dw. 130, fam. 260, household of Alfred W. Ingalls; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[4] 1920 US census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Lynn, Ward 3, ED 146, sheet 5A, dw. 69, fam. 103, household of Alfred W. Ingalls; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[5] 1910 US census, District of Columbia, Washington, Prec. 10, ED 203, sheet 18A, 425 [Mien?] Pl., dw. 327, fam. 391, household of Walter P. Harman; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[6] "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," Walter Penfield Harmon, Serial n. 490, Order n. 1264, b. 12 Ja 1881, employed at ; 347 Madison Ave., NY, NY, Local Board Rutland, VT, for Div. N. 1, City of NY, NY, 7 Jan 1918; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[7] 1920 US census, District of Columbia, Washington, ED 284, sheet 5A, 1613 Irving St., dw. 25, fam. 92, household of Maria J. Miner; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[8] "Vermont Marriage Records, 1909-2008," Harman-Hulst, n. 138, 23 Nov 1923, Rutland; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[9] "World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," Walter Penfield Harman, Serial n. 0303, no Order n., b. 12 Jan 1881, Bennington, VT, Local Board n. 3, Prince George's Co., 27 Apr 1942; ( : 16 Jun 2013).

[10] Risa Lauren Goluboff, The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2007), 162-68; GoogleBooks ( : 17 Jun 2013).

[11] "Slavery Trial is Opened for Couple in California," Toledo [Ohio] Blade, 24 Jun 1947, p. 2, cols. 7-8; GoogleNews ( : 17 Jun 2013).

[12] Ted McKenna, "Slave Trial Jury Told Dora Jones Was Pushed Down Stairs," The [St. Petersburg, FL] Evening Independent, Home Edition, 3 Jul 1947, p. 2, cols. 2-4; GoogleNews ( : 17 Jun 2013).

[13]  "Bondage Charge Faced by Couple," and "Coronado Couple Held on Charge of Holding Housemaid in Bondage," San Diego Union, 26 Feb 1927, p. 1, col. 3, and p. 3A, col. 2; GenealogyBank ( : 17 Jun 2013).

[14] "Alfred Wesley Ingalls," San Diego Union, 26 Feb 1927,  p. 3A, col. 2.

[15] "Mira Elizabeth Ingalls," San Diego Union, 26 Feb 1927,  p. 3A, col. 2.

[16] United States v. Ingalls, 73 F, Supp. 76, (S. D. Cal. 1947); Leagle ( : 17 Jun 2013).


Marian said...

I'm dying to know what happened to Dora!

Jane E. Wilcox said...

I am too, Marian!

Jane E. Wilcox said...

I am too, Marian.

Polly F. Kimmitt said...

I found Dora in the 1900 census with her parents Plato and Lizzie and 8 siblings, including the two mentioned in the article, Arthur and Myrtle. They are in Athens, AL and Dora is called Teddie, which makes sense, because her name was Theodora. Her parents were born before the Civil War. Imagine how they must have felt, knowing about Dora's situation.

Kerry Scott said...

I wonder what happened to Helen. To stand up to parents like that couldn't have been easy.

SAM said...

Just ran across your wonderful account -
Elizabeth was Mira Elizabeth - I think this may be a link to a notice of her first marriage -

And here is a link to her and Alfred's graves in Santa Barbara -

I am trying to find out who her parents may have been -

Sam -

Meiko said...

Nice work and is put together well.