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  1. #1
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    IA - Vivian Robbins 'Miracle Baby', Dysart, 1920 - Whose baby?

    In October of 1919, a Mr. and Mrs. WH Robbins of Dysart, IA lost their infant daughter to death. The baby was laid to rest in a proper burial. About 8 months later, their farmhand's wife, a spiritualist, brought "their" baby "back to life" for them after traveling to Chicago and returning with a female child.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?ni...rontpage&hl=en (You have to scroll over to what Google counts as Page 7 of 19; article is headed: "GETS JUDGEMENT ON SPIRITUALIST WHO BROUGHT BACK BABY")

    The article states that the Robbins no longer believed this infant was their baby resurrected and wished to find the baby's real parents, although it doesn't say what they intended to do if they were found, as they seemed to love and cherish the child in any case.

    I can't find any mention of this being accomplished, however. I've looked about & cannot find anything further beyond this 1924 mention of 4 year old "Vivian Constance Robbins" being rescued after climbing up a windmill on her father's farm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm...coll2/id/33842

    I believe this is the first baby Vivian Constance's grave (very little info): http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...&GRid=45333037

    and the mother's (info on this case included in link): http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...&GRid=95568888

    So it appears that Mrs. Robbins died only six years after being "reunited" with "her" baby girl. I'm unable to find whatever became of the second Vivian Constance, and whether or not the mystery of her origins was ever solved, but it appears as if she were raised by Mr. and Mrs. Robbins as their own despite their doubts.

    I suppose the place to start would be to check and see if there were any missing female infants reported in or around the Chicago area in 1920. I thought I'd bring this case over here and see if any of you fine folks would like to dig into it with me. I can't possibly open any more tabs!

    The players' info that I have, so far:

    The Robbins Family
    • Mr. William Howard (W.H.) Robbins, father, farmer
    • Mrs. Ada Baker Robbins, mother, farmer's wife, b. 1896, d. 1926
    • Harold Robbins, son, b. 1916
    • Vivian Constance Robbins, dau. b. 1919 d. 1919
    • Vivian Constance Robbins, "Miracle baby of Dysart" (brought to family in 1920 at approximately 8 mos old)


    The Farmhands


    • Mr. S.W. Wheeler, Robbins' farmhand
    • Mrs. S. W. Wheeler, farmhand's wife/spiritualist


    I'm fascinated by this tale and want to know more. Anyone feel like delving into it with me?
    Last edited by Constance; 05-19-2014 at 12:51 PM.

  2. #2
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    Interesting story! Sounds like this spiritualist took advantage of a grieving family. Did she profit from it in any way?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogperson View Post
    Interesting story! Sounds like this spiritualist took advantage of a grieving family. Did she profit from it in any way?
    It seems as if she did. She convinced the Robbins family to pack up & move to California to start a spiritualist community. But sometime before March of 1922 they wised up, sued her, and were apparently back in Iowa by '24.

  4. #4
    Marie is offline Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?
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    She is with the Robbins in Iowa state, 1925. And with the brother, father and his parents (grandparents) in Iowa, 1930. And lodging alone, working as a drugstore fountain clerk in Iowa, 1940.

    Cases like these are fun to work but how awful for the parents of both Vivian's! We can hope she was an orphan in need of a home.

  5. #5
    Marie is offline Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?
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    Snipped -
    Quote Originally Posted by Constance View Post

    The Farmhands


    • Mr. S.W. Wheeler, Robbins' farmhand
    • Mrs. S. W. Wheeler, farmhand's wife/spiritualist


    I'm fascinated by this tale and want to know more. Anyone feel like delving into it with me?
    In 1920 the family is with some Wheeler's in Monroe, Iowa. They are named as James O Wheeler, hired man, and his wife Sylvia M Wheeler. The initials don't match but it must be the same couple? They're almost twice the age of the Robbins family (41 vs 25).

    -Vivian, VCR, was married in 1941. Looks as if she stayed her life as their daughter. Very weird story! I wonder if she knew and what she thought.
    Last edited by Marie; 05-19-2014 at 04:07 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marie View Post
    She is with the Robbins in Iowa state, 1925. And with the brother, father and his parents (grandparents) in Iowa, 1930. And lodging alone, working as a drugstore fountain clerk in Iowa, 1940.

    Cases like these are fun to work but how awful for the parents of both Vivian's! We can hope she was an orphan in need of a home.

    Thank you so much for tracking that info down for me. I don't have access to or experience with many genealogy or census sites, so I was lost.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marie View Post
    Snipped -

    In 1920 the family is with some Wheeler's in Monroe, Iowa. They are named as James O Wheeler, hired man, and his wife Sylvia M Wheeler. The initials don't match but it must be the same couple? They're almost twice the age of the Robbins family (41 vs 25).

    -Vivian, VCR, was married in 1941. Looks as if she stayed her life as their daughter. Very weird story! I wonder if she knew and what she thought.

    Wow! Thank you, again!

    Is there any way of knowing whether or not the Wheelers had children of their own, perhaps old enough to be of child-bearing age around 1920?

  8. #8
    Marie is offline Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Constance View Post
    Wow! Thank you, again!

    Is there any way of knowing whether or not the Wheelers had children of their own, perhaps old enough to be of child-bearing age around 1920?
    I just notice that in one of the article's it mentions that Mr Wheeler, the farmhand, went to Chicago to get the spiritualist, his wife. (Cenus record says they were both born in Illinois) It also says that the Wheeler's had 3 relatives with them on the trip to California.

    But I don't think the baby was her grandchild or stolen; I think she spent months conning the Wheeler's and eventually sought the big payout by giving them a reborn child, probably a motherless orphan. What a horrible, mean scam! Evil to prey on such tender emotions.

  9. #9
    Marie is offline Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?
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    Here is another article. It says that the "spiritual medium" told the mother that the new baby would die too, unless she were strictly obedient. - Really can't stand this Wheeler con artist.

    And here is a two page article with lots of pictures and information about the popularity of spiritualism at the time.
    Last edited by Marie; 05-19-2014 at 05:17 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marie View Post
    Here is another article. It says that the "spiritual medium" told the mother that the new baby would die too, unless she were strictly obedient. - Really can't stand this Wheeler con artist.

    And here is a two page article with lots of pictures and information about the popularity of spiritualism at the time.

    I'm with you -- this was really reprehensible behavior on the part of the Wheelers. How sad for the second little girl! It's like her life was stolen away and she was forced to become this other person...a replacement. This story just boggles my mind. That's what I get for reading old newspapers for fun!


  11. #11
    Marie is offline Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Constance View Post
    Thank you so much for tracking that info down for me. I don't have access to or experience with many genealogy or census sites, so I was lost.
    You did very good without any access! One great free genealogy research site is familysearch.org. That's where I found her marriage record. It also has many birth and death records, and most of the Census records.

    I kept thinking about both little girls all day; the news sure didn't seem very concerned about who the 2nd baby belonged to, or even in how she was obtained.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marie View Post
    You did very good without any access! One great free genealogy research site is familysearch.org. That's where I found her marriage record. It also has many birth and death records, and most of the Census records.

    I kept thinking about both little girls all day; the news sure didn't seem very concerned about who the 2nd baby belonged to, or even in how she was obtained.
    Thanks! My uncle was our family genealogist and when he died, I sort of lost interest in it. But I'm going to bookmark that page for the future.

    As for wondering all day -- me, too! I can't imagine being a member of the Robbins family and not pursuing this further. But then, they likely didn't want to rock the boat and risk losing her, too.

  13. #13
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    Fascinating story. Dysart, Iowa is a very small town, even today. I wonder if there was a town paper at the time that had any coverage on the story.



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