05 May 2010

Dixie Compton, Take A Bow

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber 2010

A fellow genealogist and movie memorabilia fan, asked a simple question of me last week. She was excited that Dixie Compton had died in Ashland, Kentucky and would like to pay tribute to her by visiting her grave. She went on to explain that Dixie Compton played June in an early production of John Fox Jr.'s Trail of the Lonesome Pine and was an actress.

Trail of the Lonesome Pine's characters have been attributed to the her ancestor, "Bad John Wright" of southeastern Kentucky.

My first reaction was that yes the Compton's were from our area, especially Lawrence County and one of our neighbor's was a Compton. Sure enough click on any movie and acting web link and Dixie Compton was attributed with the birth date of 8 October 1899 and death date of 21 April 1986 in Ashland. These movie databases also added that she was born in Louisville. My "red flag" alarm bells started going off.

Dixie Compton was born 8 October 1899 - not in Louisville, but in Lawrence County, Kentucky. Her delayed birth record is on file. She died in Ashland 21 April 1986 and is buried in Compton Cemetery, Lawrence County, Kentucky beside our neighbor Thomas Shannon Compton and along side parents and grandparents.

Tom and his wife never mentioned that his sister was a starlett. We have a close community and there would certainly be a buzz if there was a celebrity amongst us. Dixie's obituary, written in the Independent, 22 April 1986, is simple, giving her birth date and parents. She was a member of Greenhill Chapter Order of Eastern Star #567 and the Methodist Church. She was survived by nieces and nephews. She had never married. In fact she was NOT an actress.

Dixie, Tom and siblings were the children of John A. Compton [1847-1920] and wife Cora M. French [1869-1964]. Tom was a telephone lineman working with the railroad. He gave my mother-in-law a beautiful antique wall phone as a gift years ago. It is a prized possession in our home today. His wife Claudia Ellis Compton was a friend of the family and the Compton family took great pride in showing me their remodeled home many years ago.

But what about his sister Dixie? Dixie Compton is living with her parents in 1900 on Bear Creek, just across the Lawrence County, Kentucky line showing her October 1899 birth date. Had the movie buffs who published the birth date on their data bases taken the time to do a little math they would have realized that in 1914 when Trail of the Lonesome Pine was being produced in the woods of New Jersey, our Dixie was only 14 going on 15 years of age. Dixie Compton, the actress was attributed with another production Sisters in 1912 when Dixie of Lawrence County, Kentucky was 13 and was in a chorus line in 1910 when Dixie of Lawrence County was 11.

Dixie, daughter of John and Cora continued to live with her parents and in 1920 is listed with no occupation in Lawrence County, Kentucky, while Dixie Compton is enumerated in Manhattan citing her occupation as actress and birth year as 1885. Our Dixie continued to live with her mother and in 1930 is still listed with no occupation.

In fact Dixie Compton, daughter of John and Cora lived some of her adult life in Louisa [is that possibly where the database came up with Louisville - a misread?]. Dixie was living in Louisa when another brother, Chester, died in 1969.

I hope my fellow genealogist does visit Compton Cemetery in Lawrence County, Kentucky. It is a beautiful well kept family cemetery with pictures up at findagrave.com. My neighbors and family have reminisced about our relationship with the Compton's this past week. Several older than us remember Dixie. My in-laws and several neighbors were at the graveside rites for Tom and his wife Claudia as well.

Dixie Compton 1899-1986 has a first cousin once removed, Dixie Compton. Dixie was born June 1896 in Lawrence County, Kentucky and died 16 May 1967 in Huntington, Cabell County, West Virginia. She is the daughter of Albert H. and Rosa B. Little Compton. Her mother, Rosa was born in Ohio. Dixie married Albert Childers. In 1920 she is already married, utilizing the Childers surname and listing "no occupation" in Lawrence County, Kentucky. Not Dixie Compton, the actress.

And before anyone starts yelling that I missed the clue about Louisville, Kentucky, there is no Dixie Compton fitting the description BUT I do find Compton's residing in Jefferson County, Kentucky in 1900. Maybe our actress has an aka?

This has become a challenge. Before those movie databases multiple into eternity with the wrong dates for Dixie Compton let's see if anyone with the right sources can locate more information about her. Remember there is plenty of room for comments at the end of this blog! To get anyone started I do have some information that has been verified for Dixie Compton.

The earliest notation I could locate shows that she was in Manhattan in 1910 in the chorus on Broadway in the Belle of Brittany. I have not located her in the 1910 census.

As stated above, in 1912 she played in Sisters; 1913 A Woman Scorned and The Blind Composer's Dilemma; 1914 The Man o' Warsman; 1914 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine and The Family Stain and The Senator; in 1917 The Brand of Hate.

"Gossip of the Film World" a column appearing in many newspapers announced that Dixie Compton had left Universal to work for Broadway Picture Producing Company in 1914. In 1914 she had to be in New York or New Jersey where the Broadway Picture Producing Company was filming in the woods. Broadway Picture Producing Company paid taxes in New Jersey as well. Publicity for The Trail of the Lonesome Pine stated that Dixie had "every advantage in her favor of portraying the primitive girl of the hills for she herself is of the blood and bone of the southland."

The [February] 1920 Manhattan, New York census shows her living in District 13 in the home of Oscar Boehm and wife Jenny. Oscar Boehm was from Germany and made glass ornaments. He also had several patents for glass. Dixie gives her age 35 placing her birth year as 1885 not 1899. It states that she and her parents were born in Kentucky. She gives her occupation as actress. There is another boarder in the household named Frank Forester born in California who gives occupation as a clerk. The family resides on St. Nicholas Avenue.

In May 1920 the New York Tribune announced that she along with others had been in an automobile accident in New York. The paper gives Dixie Compton's age as 20 and residence of 528 West Seventy-fifth Street. The article states she is a motion picture actress. She was with Mrs. Bertha De Mesquita age 40 of 155 West 162d Street and Mrs. Franklin Shuster, fifty five of Fort Washington Avenue. The chauffeur, Arthur Beatty was also injured.

Mrs. De Mesquita's husband was well known for his patents dealing with surgical knives and razors. Arthur Beatty the driver, was single born in Washington DC and in the census gives his occupation as a chauffeur for a private family. Another chauffeur Edwin Bartha, [in the 2nd vehicle] employed by Paul G. Simon was arrested and charged with assault.

Dixie Compton, the actress again makes the news 28 August 1924 still in New York City where police caught and arrested two men in the act of holding up and robbing her. She is described as a well known motion picture actress and the incident happened on Riverside Drive. No age is cited.

The Silent Era ended in 1929. Even more silent is Dixie Compton. I find no glossies of her. She has incorrect birth and death dates attributed to her on internet movie databases. While Dixie is swimming in my head, I also have dusted off my first edition, John Fox Jr. Trail of the Lonesome Pine to read again. There is nothing like a good classic and a cup of tea.


  1. Teresa, what a kick kind of an article. I love the fact that your internal genealogical antenna lead you into a very interesting state of affairs.

    Enjoy your cup of tea and a good book.

  2. Thomas and Claudia were my grandparents. There son Jim is my Father. Dixie was a character and we all loved her. The farm will always live in my heart and I hope to have a reunion there one day. A great time in my life and great memories...i loved sitting out front with Papaw as he waved to everyone or when jack and kirk and others would stop by to chat. Simple times...great times. Please let me know if you have any pictures or know the current owners. Coming back one more time would mean the world to me. Thank you!

  3. Rob, it is nice to hear from you. The farm was split up by Bill and the house has had at least 2 different owners. The newest owners have built a new barn and have horses.

    Unfortunately I don't have any pictures - if Elsie had any they must have been unlabeled and we did not recognize them. Your grandfather was always very kind to me. I visited when they remodeled and they showed me the fire place and told me a story of finding a civil war uniform stuffed in it.

    When you come down our road for a visit drive a little further and stop and say hello at the log house on the right.

  4. Thank you! I miss Rush so much and hope to return one day.