CHAPIN, Sarah Haag

CHAPIN, Sarah Haag

Female 1885 - 1963  (77 years)

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  • Name CHAPIN, Sarah Haag 
    Born 21 Nov 1885 
    Gender Female 
    • She resigned her position as custodial officer at the Muncy State Industrial Home on 8/12/1951.
    • Written by Ruth Chapin Hill in 2009

      Sarah was nicknamed Teddie. She was born in 1885, the eldest child of Hettie Haag and Clarence Augustus Chapin.

      When I was a little girl, Mother (Ruth Young (Chapin) Hill) told me that Teddie had studied shorthand and typing as a young woman and worked as a secretary. (This is a very hazy memory and may be wrong.)

      Many years later I learned that Teddie had had an affair, short lived I understood, with Lloyd Woodling. They eventually ran away to get married, couldn't find a justice of the peace, and gave up on the idea. That was the end of it. When Teddie discovered she was pregnant, she informed Lloyd Woodling. By that time, he was engaged to someone else. He offered to break the engagement and marry Teddie, but she refused. The baby was born at the home of family friends in Philadelphia on January 21, 1921. Teddie named him David L. Wilson.

      David was raised in a foster home, served in the air force in World War II and Korea, and graduated from Penn State. He and his wife, also a Penn State graduate, had four children, 2 boys and 2 girls. Soon after his birth, he was seriously ill and spent time in Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. That may be why Teddie trained as a nurse at Children's Hospital.

      Teddie did private duty nursing. Back in those years you registered with individual doctors and were employed to nurse their patients. Teddie was registered with doctors on the Main Line. There was a young Italian doctor who had married an Italian girl and brought her over to the States. They had a son. The wife was homesick and returned to Italy to visit her family and show off her son. (Teddie learned later that the wife never returned to her husband.) Teddie was hired to go along as nurse for the infant son. That was probably in the late 1920s.

      They sailed for Naples on the Conte di Savoia, first class. Teddie thought Naples was fabulous. From Naples they went by train to Florence. Apparently the wife's family was well-to-do, aristocratic although not noble, and lived in a huge old palazzo. After a grimy train trip, the American nurse naturally expressed a wish to take a bath. The big elegant palazzo had no indoor plumbing for the bathtub. The servants had to heat water down in the kitchen, carry it up in buckets and pour it into some sort of tub. The elegant, austere family patriarch officiously saw to the filling of the bath, repeatedly swishing his hand through the water to check on its temperature and announcing when it was ready.

      When it was time to leave Florence, Teddie traded in her first class return ticket, bought a third class ticket from Cherbourg or Le Havre on the Ile de France, and spent the difference in seeing Paris, including the Follies Bergere. My mother, her sister, was scandalized.

      In the early 1930's Teddie accompanied an asthmatic boy to the southwest. It was thought at the time that the dry desert climate was good for asthmatics. They flew first to Albuquerque, New Mexico. On the flight, a motor of the plane caught fire and they had to make an emergency landing. Her patient saw no improvement in Albuquerque, so they went on to Tucson, Arizona, where Teddie stayed at least a year. As I remember, she didn't like the heat of the desert southwest.

      At the end of the job, having saved her money, she flew down to Mexico on some small airline that had no terminal facilities. If you needed the "facilities" when they made local stops, you left the plane and went out behind a bush.

      She stayed at a small inn in Mazatlan. The owners had a pet boa constrictor. One morning Teddie got up and found the snake resting in the shade of a tree. About a foot or so below its head there was a large bulge. When Teddie asked about it, the owners informed her that the snake had eaten the pet cat! There were no screens on the windows and Teddie's room was on the ground floor. She didn't sleep well, waking often expecting to see the snake slithering into her room.

      Visiting us, she talked about the boys who dove off cliffs to retrieve coins. She talked about Popocatepetl, the mountain outside Mexico City. She talked about Lake Xochimilco and the floating gardens. She sailed from Veracruz to New York City. Mother and I went in to meet her ship in the spring of 1935.

      Teddie nursed in the DuPont family on a number of occasions. Once, when I was quite sick and she came to visit, she had somehow inveigled her spoiled brat patient to part with one of his many toys and she brought me clay of some sort. At some time, an older female member of the DuPont family was driving in New York State, Staten Island, if I remember correctly. There was a bad accident and the elderly lady was in the hospital for weeks, too shattered to be moved home. The DuPonts did not trust the New York nurses, and Teddie was not authorized to nurse in New York State. Trusting Teddie, they hired her to oversee the licensed nurses in the hospital. Teddie admitted that was a difficult job, checking on fully competent nurses for the DuPonts.

      A friend of Teddie's was a nurse for General George Goethals, after whom the Goethals Bridge on Staten Island was named. He was also the engineer officer who built the Panama Canal. The friend went on vacation, so Teddie took the job for two weeks.

      Another friend, Esther Niedermyer (later her partner in the Chapin-Niedermyer dress shop), nursed Elliot Roosevelt's first wife when she was pregnant. She was an heiress and decided she needed care because she was "sick".

      At some time in her career Teddie was governess to Christine Cromwell. There was a wealthy couple named Cromwell who had two children, a son and a daughter. The daughter, Louise Cromwell Brooks, married, divorced, went to France in World War I and was reputed to have been General Pershing's mistress. While in France she met and eventually married an officer on the general's staff, and became General Douglas MacArthur's first wife. They were later divorced.

      The Cromwell son was James H. R. Cromwell. He married the heiress to the Dodge motor car fortune, Delphine Dodge. They had a daughter, Christine Cromwell. They divorced. Later, James Cromwell married Doris Duke, the "richest girl in the world", heiress to the Duke tobacco fortune.

      Eventually the Cromwell father died and his widow married E.T. Stotesbury, a senior partner of J.P. Morgan & Co. and head of Drexel & Co., a multi-millionaire of that era. He was socially prominent and eminently acceptable in Main Line society. His wife was not! The story goes that old E. T. forced her acceptance through his clout in the banking world: issue and accept invitations or else!

      Teddie entered the picture because James Cromwell and Delphine Dodge were divorced. Delphine had custody of their daughter most of the year. When Christine was with her mother she was actually cared for by a French governess, Ma'mselle. When she went for some shorter period of time to stay with her father, she actually went to live with her grandmother, Mrs. E. T. Stotesbury at Whitemarsh Hall on the Philadelphia Main Line. During World War II the treasures of the British Museum were evacuated and stored secretly at Whitemarsh Hall. The Hall no longer exists. In its place now is a housing development.

      Mrs. Stotesbury did not like Ma'mselle, so when Christine came to stay, Grandmother got rid of the French governess and hired Teddie to serve in that capacity for the duration of Christine's visit.

      There were many stories about Mrs. Stotesbury's silliness. Every morning Mrs. Stotesbury would hold court in her boudoir, stretched out on an elegant chaise lounge. The heads of all the departments would appear in order and outline their plans for the day. When it was Teddie's turn, Mrs. Stotesbury would hear her out and then assign whatever car was necessary for her plans for the day.

      Evenings, when Mrs. Stotesbury went out, her personal maid would bring the appropriate wrap to the head of the grand staircase and hand it to the footman. The footman would carry the wrap down the stairs and turn it over to the butler. The butler would then present the wrap to Mrs. Stotesbury's escort, who would help her on with it. What a production!

      Teddie did not stay long in that position. Christine missed Ma'mselle so desperately that she got sick. Her doctor finally insisted that Mrs. Stotesbury make peace with Ma'mselle and bring her back to care for Christine. Teddie left.

      Before she left, she was asked to return later and take the case when Christine had her tonsils out. Teddie refused. She said she was used to taking responsibility for the lives of her young patients, but she refused to take responsibility for the millions of dollars that Christine represented. That was all her doting family was interested in.

      When the Dodge grandfather died, he left his daughter, Delphine, some funds in trust, but the bulk of his estate went to his granddaughter, Christine.

      Hettie Haag Chapin died February 13, 1935. Teddie was executrix of her mother's estate. By 1937 she had retired from nursing and opened a dress shop across from the movie theater in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in partnership with Esther Niedermyer. After a number of years, Teddie gave up the dress shop, and Esther bought her out.

      Retired in Lewisburg, she was known to have been a children's nurse. At some time someone came to her and asked if she would take on a case at the State Industrial Home for Women in Muncy, the state prison for women. A prisoner was due to give birth and they wanted Teddie to attend the birth and look after the infant until they figured out what to do with it. She accepted. Then she returned again when a second prisoner was due to give birth. Eventually she went to work at the prison as a warden.

      Mother and I visited, and Teddie took us around. It was an open-campus arrangement and sat far back from the road with open farm fields all around. There were cottages, dormitory-like buildings, not particularly large as I remember. The rooms were pleasant, very much like a dormitory - bed, desk, chair - curtains, bedspreads, etc. - except, of course the prisoners were locked in at night. The inmates worked on the farms, canned some of the produce. In one basement, I remember, there was a large sewing room where some of the inmates made uniforms for prisons.

      Teddie talked a lot about the inmates and the security measures. While there were no walls, the prison was relatively isolated and most of the prisoners were city girls. If one escaped, the state police would be notified and they would send cars to specific locations where the girls were likely to turn up. While Teddie was there, only one escape succeeded through sheer brazenness. A car drove up to the front of one of the cottages, the prisoner walked out and got in, and off they went! She was not recaptured, at least not before Teddie left.
      Teddie was fascinated by the inmates, girls from such brutal backgrounds. Her stories were an eye-opener and an education for me. One inmate Teddie compared to Hedy Lamar, the movie star. She was gorgeous, in prison for every crime except murder. Another girl was convicted of having chopped up her sister's illegitimate baby. Yet another inmate, middle-aged and a teacher's wife, had become suspicious of her husband. She followed him one night to his little love-nest, and shot him dead. Her only regret was that when she got out of prison she would be too old to marry again.

      There were riots, too. In one, Teddie was thrown down some steps and broke her wrist. It never healed properly, her hand was slightly angled after that. She retired from the prison in 1951. She had moved to Muncy by that time. From then on she worked at odd jobs, for a while part time in a gift shop. Mother and I visited that shop. Teddie was enthused about the odds and ends that were sold there.

      Eventually Teddie gave up and moved to a Presbyterian retirement home. She died in 1963 at the age of 78.
    Census (desc) 1900  Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Census (desc) 1910  Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    living with her parents and working as a stenographer for the railroad 
    Census (desc) 1920  Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    living at 615 Broadway with her mother and working as the proprietress of a soda fountain 
    • The soda fountain was the Holland Tea Room at 15 Broadway.
    Nickname Teddie 
    • Sarah and Lloyd were never married. She made up a name for her son to hide the fact that he was born out of wedlock.
    Residence 1963  Newville, Cumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    at the Parker Home (Presbyterian Homes of Central PA) 
    _UID 86D87A2ED397AE4FB2CDAD930EE1A7B87AF7 
    Died 25 Mar 1963 
    Buried Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Milton Cemetery 
    Person ID I997  Our Ancestry
    Last Modified 7 May 2014 

    Father CHAPIN, Clarence Augustus,   b. 30 Nov 1854, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 Jul 1919, Danville, Montour, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years) 
    Mother HAAG, Hester,   b. 19 Mar 1862, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 Feb 1935, Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years) 
    Married 1885 
    Family ID F100  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family WOODLING, William Lloyd,   b. 11 Aug 1892, Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Aug 1975, Kelly Township, Union, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years) 
    +1. WILSON, David L.,   b. 27 Jan 1921, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 8 Dec 1993  (Age 72 years)
    Last Modified 29 Nov 2023 
    Family ID F1280  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos

  • Sources 
    1. [S1067] Milton Evening Standard, Milton PA, 8/12/1976.