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

Discussion in 'Pre-1960's Missing' started by Constance, May 19, 2014.

  1. Constance

    Constance New Member

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    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?nid=VaBbNeojGYwC&dat=19220305&printsec=frontpage&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/ref/collection/p16022coll2/id/33842

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

    and the mother's (info on this case included in link): http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&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?
     
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  2. dogperson

    dogperson Well-Known Member

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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. Constance

    Constance New Member

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    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. Marie

    Marie 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. Marie

    Marie Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?

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    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.
     
  6. Constance

    Constance New Member

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    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. Constance

    Constance New Member

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    Wow! Thank you, again! :loveyou:

    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. Marie

    Marie Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?

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    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. Marie

    Marie 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.
     
  10. Constance

    Constance New Member

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    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. Marie

    Marie Daughter, if you don't remember us...who will?

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    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. Constance

    Constance New Member

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    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. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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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.
     
  14. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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  15. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Below is a photo of the grave marker for Harold Robbins (pictured above with his "sister" the mystery baby Vivian Constance).

    A genealogy website indicates that his sister was born in 1919 and died in 1919. No mention of the second "mystery baby" Vivian.

    Which only adds to the mystery. Not only where did she come from? But What became of that baby?

    [​IMG]
    Harold Eldon Robbins
    Birth 16 Oct 1916
    Dysart, Tama County, Iowa, USA
    Death 28 Jul 2002 (aged 85)
    Lemon Grove, San Diego County, California, USA
    Burial
    Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
    San Diego, San Diego County, California, USA
    Plot CBEE 2 137

    Family Members
    Parents
    William Howard Robbins 1893–1940
    Ada Baker Robbins 1896–1926
    Spouse
    Audrey Luerene Robbins 1918–2009
    Siblings
    Vivian Constance Robbins 1919–1919
     
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  16. bodester413

    bodester413 Well-Known Member

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    Reading through the two page article that Marie linked to above. It sounds like Mr. Wheeler thought the biological mother of the baby was the second medium who went by Mrs. Dyer. She had a baby and apparently the child had disappeared from an institution in Chicago the day before the second Vivian Robbins showed up.
     
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  17. 1&2&3

    1&2&3 Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting and intriguing story. Hope you can find more information on this Mystery child.
     
  18. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    From the Washington Times, January 21, 1921:

    Here is the "Miracle Baby", six-month-old Vivian Robbins and her brother Harold, photographed at their new home at Redondo Beach, Cal. Mrs. Ada Robbins, young and pretty mother of baby Vivian, created a sensation some months ago when she said that the child was given to her by a divine power. She believes absolutely that a child which had died on October 1, 1919, was restored to her through the intervention of inhabitants of the spirit world.

    At the time of the occurrence, the incident precipitated a veritable pilgrimage to the Robbins' home in Dysart, Iowa. Practically driven from their home in Dysart, the Robbinses, with their children and Mrs. Sylvia Wheeler, a spiritualistic medium and close friend, motored to Redondo Beach, where they purchased homes. They plan to establish a spiritualist colony there. This photograph is the first made of the "Miracle Baby".

    From the International News Service, September 29, 1920:

    DYSART, Ia -- Mrs. Ada Robbins, young and pretty, believes absolutely that her child, which died October 1, 1919, was given back to her through the intervention of inhabitants of the spirit world. William Howard Robbins, her husband, matches her conviction with a sturdy faith. They are both students of spiritualism.

    They had been told, the mother says, that the child should be returned, so Robbins and his wife donned white robes and filled the house with flowers.

    "I was awake," Mrs. Robbins said, "my husband was asleep. Suddenly at the foot of my bed, a luminous figure appeared, carrying a tiny baby, which was placed on the bed between my husband and myself. Later I aroused my husband. It is our dead baby come to life. I am sure of that."

    "What she says is true," asserted her husband. "It is our baby come to life, and we do not believe anything else."

    They took the child to a physician, who said it was fully matured. Both children were tongue-tied and look alike in all respects.

    Neighbors shake their heads when discussing the event, but say they do not know how to explain it.

    From the Washington Times, 4 Dec 1921:

    ... Mr. Robbins became a trifle suspicious, especially after the medium had installed her husband, daughter, and two friends in the Robbins home, at the Robbins' expense. He began to investigate the circumstances leading up to the appearance of the "spirit baby" in his home ... After his arrival in California, he discovered for one thing, that the medium whom his wife had secretly visited in Chicago ... had borne a girl baby closely resembling the "spirit child" ... Furthermore, he ascertained that the child of the Chicago medium had disappeared from an institution there a day before the visit of the "spirit".

    Epilogue: In March 1922 the couple successfully sued the Wheelers for the car they had bought for the medium's family, as well as other expenses. However, Mrs. Robbins was too frightened to enforce the court's judgment. She feared that if she angered Mrs. Wheeler too much, the medium might "dematerialise" the baby. The second Vivian Constance stayed with the Robbins family, who could not bear to give her up, but it was never known who her biological parents were. She celebrated June 14, the day she was "given back" to Ada by the "luminous figure", as her birthday for the rest of her life, as she had no way of knowing her true birthday
    ---------------------------------------

    Ada Baker Robbins

    Birth 19 Aug 1896
    Clark, Mills County, Iowa, USA
    Death 24 Mar 1926 (aged 29)
    Benton, Ringgold County, Iowa, USA
    Burial
    Dysart Cemetery

    Dysart, Tama County, Iowa, USA

    Cause of death: lobar pneumonia. Daughter of James B. and Amanda Baker. Married William Howard Robbins, 12 Jan 1916, in Vinton, IA.

    Children:
    1. Harold Elden, b. 1916, d. 2002.
    2. Vivian Constance (died 1 October 1919 at the age of one day).

    3. Vivian Constance, b. 1920, d. 1997.

    LINK:
    Ada Baker Robbins (1896-1926) - Find A Grave...
     
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  19. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    Ada May Baker Robbins and her "returned" daughter Vivian Constance Robbins.

    June 14, 2020 marks the 100 year anniversary of this strange case, and would be Vivian's 100th birthday (as she celebrated it).

    … Ada once spoke about the longing to find the true identity of the new Vivian Constance but, in the same breath, she also noted that she had a tremendous fear of what she may uncover.

    [​IMG]

    LINK:

    The Resurrection of Vivian Constance Robbins
     
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  20. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Vivian Constance Robbins always used 14 June 1920 as her birth day. She changed her name in later life, switching her first and middle names and taking the last name of her husband Glen LeRoy Rodd. She passed away in 1997 at the age of 76. They had no children.


    Connie V Robbins Rodd
    Birth 14 Jun 1920
    Death 3 Jun 1997 (aged 76)
    Burial
    Rock Island National Cemetery
    Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois, USA
    Plot O - 389

    LINK:

    Connie V Robbins Rodd (1920-1997) - Find A Grave...
     
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