Copyright 2010 by Dick Brookz, Houdini Museum, Scranton, PA. Thanks to Dorothy Dietrich, Julie Sobanski, David Charvet and many others.
William Newton Sr.(son of William Newton and Hannah Robbins) was born October-01-1858, and died June-19-1837. He married (1st wife) Weston Forain. He married (2nd wife) Millie(Mary) Pray on 1877.
Excerpts from Geneaolgy
Children of William Newton Sr. and 2nd wife Weston Forain are:
1. Della Newton, (Dell O'Dell.) Born Oct. 20, 1902, Kansas, USA. - Died Feb 5, 1962, Santa Monica, California
Children of William Newton and 1st wife Millie(Mary) Pray are:
1. William "Lucky Bill" Newton, b. May-09-1879, 2. Leroy Newton, b. 1881, Kansas, d. 1951. 3. +Henry Newton, b. April-04-1883, d. May-13-1946. 4. +Edward Newton, b. 1884, Quenemo, KS., d. date unknown. 5. +Jesse James Newton, b. December-07-1886, Saline, Ks., d. December-31-1991, Baraboo, WI..
William "Lucky Bill" Newton was but five years old when his mother died. He had less schooling than the other children. A strong attachment developed between him and his brother Henry, so much so that William made several trips to Minnesota and to Wisconsin Pineries to be with Henry, while yet in his teens.
Vast forests of virgin white pine were the treasure which brought the first wave of white settlers to Northern Wisconsin. The farms came later, but for half a century the forests were local history. In 1847, the Knapp, Stout & Co. purchased thousands of acres of pine lands from the Government for $1.25 per acre. In 1848 they began logging operations in Barron County and by 1870 the company was said to be the greatest lumber corporation in the world and the undisputed lord of the thousands of square miles comprising the Red Cedar Valley. In 1901 the Knapp, Stout & Co. mills became silent as the white pine of the area was gone and the denudation of the area was regrettably complete.
Before reaching coming of age, he married Mary Pray, known as Millie Pray, of Beaver Dam and brought her to Minnesota, and the following year to Wisconsin and in a short time to Kansas. There he developed a sizable cattle ranch. Successive years of drought caused him to leave Kansas and return to his brother's home in Minnesota; a long tedious journey for his family by horse-drawn covered wagon.
After the winter of 1888-9 he set out again by team and wagon for the Pacific northwest. He had conceived the idea of starting a road show, animal, magic, anything to retrieve his fallen fortunes. From then on his circus career took form, became his life's work and took him to nearly all parts of the U.S. In that early day, before the advent of radio, cinemas, TV, autos, etc., his animal and acrobatic as well as magic shows were food for fun-hungry youngsters and entertained oldsters as well, tho the troupe endured long hard days and was a severe trial for the family.
The children's schooling was cut short both fall and spring. After a few years, he took his three oldest sons with him on the road leaving the two youngest boys at home with the mother in Minnesota. Eventually the separation became permanent. Later he married Weston Forian (spelling uncertain) but that marriage failed also.
After several years he married a third wife, an attractive widow in Quenemo, Kansas. She survived him by several years. Though he had retired from active circus life at seventy he still chose to accompany his son, William, on his show circuit. but on reaching Connecticut on the route through the New England states in 1933 he became very ill and in a few days died. At his own request he was buried at Willamantic, Connecticut. The two daughters of Martha Parsons at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin attended the funeral which was held under the auspices of the I.O.O.E.. He was the father of seven children.
William Newton, better known as Lucky Bill, was one of those men whose life made a significant impact on the city he lived in, Quenemo. In later years, his daughter, Della Dell O'Dell Newton, surpassed her father in fame, being named The Worlds Greatest Lady Magician.
Lucky Bill made his debut in Quenemo during the fall of 1902. He had already established himself as a wagon circus operator, operating A First Class Vaudeville Show, a traveling exhibition that included magic, ventriloquism, marionettes, songs, marksmen and short sketches.
The traveling show offered a variety of entertainment through the years, changing the acts to match the talent available.
Lucky Bill doing a balancing routine, that was probably the inpiration for one of Dell O'Dell' early routines.
From historical accounts, it was not a well thought out plan to stay in Quenemo that winter of 1902, but one that would serve the city well in the following years. Lucky Bills traveling circus performed all over Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Arkansas, mostly during the months of April through October. He returned to winter in Quenemo, ultimately buying as many as 24 city lots and 23,000 square feet of farmland adjacent to town, as reported in an article written by Orin Copple King in 1992. The local newspaper, The Quenemo Republican, reported in March 1905, He is one of our best citizens and has helped more to build up the town during the past year than any other person here. He has bought tumbled down property and hired our mechanics to repair and improve it. He buys a large amount of provender for the herd of horses and other stock that he winters here and in the above ways helps nearly every family in the entire community.
Lucky is always with us in all our enterprises and he does more charity work than any other citizen in town. His purse strings are always loose and his hands are always ready to help the needy. Four years after the article appeared, a brief story in The Quenemo News explained that Lucky Bill was held in high esteem in Quenemo. He was fond of children and it was important to him to see them have a good time. He often gave children rides after school, using his circus ponies.
In 1910, Lucky Bill married Mae (Coyle) Dunlap, the circus piano player. This was at least the second marriage for both. Together, they raised five sons and a daughter. Lucky Bill and Mae enjoyed a prosperous and exciting career, but it wasn't without its difficulties. Employing as many as 60 people at one time, travel was often a hardship, with dirt roads turning to bottomless mud paths at times.
In 1915, less than 15,000 miles of paved roads existed in the United States. The 15 miles between Waverly and Burlington required two days of travel time for the entire show to arrive (as written in Kings 1992 report). That was even after Lucky Bill had purchased two 3.5-ton Kelly-Springfield trucks and 12 trailers, along with several smaller trucks. Traveling by horses would have taken even longer. Due to the draft and military needs, Lucky struggled to find working men. He also had difficulty with staffing when illnesses struck.
In 1909, The Quenemo News reported that Lucky Bills son, William Newton Jr., became owner of a circus show, and used the title Honest Bill in advertisements.
He had formed a partnership with W.L. Casten, and the two used a similar show format to that of Lucky Bills. The two Bills combined their shows on special occasions, most often to kick off a new season.
Three years later, a surprise show in Quenemo, as advertised in The News, was slated for April 5, 1913. Another son, Henry, was starting up his own show, titled, Happy Bills Big Wagon Shows, and that date was to be a much-anticipated show where the men combined their efforts to showcase the best they had to offer. Henry became ill with stomach trouble and was not able to perform in the combination show, but a month later he opened his show in Quenemo.