Lena Anne Putnam
Lena Anne Putnam

My paternal great grandfather (Joseph Putnam) had two daughters from his first marriage to Fanny Stewart and two more daughters and a son from his second marriage to Ida Mae Clough Bryant. Lena A. was born to Joseph and Ida Mae on Aug 12th, 1885, in Three Rivers, California. Three Rivers is in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Visalia, California. The family were ranchers. Every summer they would take the cattle up to the higher elevation for their summer grazing. They drove the cattle up to Mineral King / Sequoia area with horses and camped out while the cattle grazed. There was no limit on the deer hunting at that time.

Dear Camp
Deer Camp

My father’s Aunt Lena was 14 years old in the 1900 US census. She is with her father Joseph (46), brother Ike (17), and young sister Blanche (11). I wrote about Aunt Blanche in my blog a couple of weeks ago. They were living in Santa Clara, California at the time of this census.

1900 US Census Santa Clara, California
1900 US Census
Santa Clara, California

In the 1910 US census we have Aunt Lena (24) living with her half sister Alice (Allace) Bryant Corsen (35), Alice’s husband John (31), and her sister Blanche (Putnam) Cook, who is already a widow at 21.

1910 US Census  Los Angeles, California
1910 US Census
Los Angeles, California

In the 1920 US census Lena is still single at 34.

1920 US Census Pasadena, Los Angeles Co., California
1920 US Census
Pasadena, Los Angeles Co., California

In the 1926 city directory for south Pasadena Lena A. Brown (Mrs. Stewart A.) is a Secretary for Mission Auto and Realty Company.

1926 South Pasadena City Directory
1926 South Pasadena City Directory

In 1930 we find, Lena(44) married to Stewart Brown (32). It shows they were married when Aunt Lena was 34 and Stewart was 22. Must have been just after the 1920 census. The census shows Stewart as an Auto Park Operator. What do you think that is?

1930 US Census Los Angeles, California
1930 US Census
Los Angeles, California

When we still lived in Visalia I remember Uncle Stewart and Aunt Dorothy. As a child I did not understand how they were related to us. Even though Lena and Stewart never had children Uncle Stewart remained part of the family along with his second wife Dorothy.

The directory for Visalia in 1932 has a listing for Stewart J. Brown (Lena) at rural Rt 4 Box 133. Think that could have been the ranch west of Visalia?

1932 Visalia City Directory
1932 Visalia City Directory

One of my earliest memories is standing in our front yard in Visalia with soot falling around us from the ash in the air when Aunt Lena’s Lazy A Ranch Dance Hall burnt down. I was probably about 5 or so.

There was supposed to be another man in Aunt Lena’s life. Printess Stokes. I always thought he played in the band at the Dance Hall. Now that all those old newspapers are on online through ancestry.com and genealogy bank I have been able to find one of the family “scandal’s”.

The Fresno Bee July 18, 1933 Fiddlin' Farmer
The Fresno Bee
July 18, 1933
Fiddlin’ Farmer

So Printess Stokes, “fiddlin’ farmer” was married and had two children according to the newspaper, his wife “Birdie” sued Lena for alienation of affection and was awarded $5000. Lena settled with her out of court and paid her $1500. This is in 1933.  I’m wondering where Stewart was in all this. There is no mention of him in the story reported in the Fresno Bee (one of the San Joaquin’s Valley newspapers).
So Aunt Lena had a Dance Hall on her “Lazy A Ranch”. Country music and dancing for all the local cowboys. I remember playing in Aunt Lena’s attic where she kept decorations and costumes from the Dance Hall. My oldest sister (8 years older) talks about how people from all over came to the Lazy A Ranch. It was open only on weekends. They had their own band and served sandwiches and soft drinks. Alcohol was not allowed inside so the guys would all go out to their cars to drink and smoke. It was quite the place. While my mom would help out at the snack bar my dad patrolled for the County Sheriffs office.

1940 US Census Visalia, Tulare Co., California
1940 US Census
Visalia, Tulare Co., California

In the 1940 US Census Lena Anne Brown (54) is listed as divorced and Operator of a Farm.
Also in the same household are 11 boarders, low and behold there is Printess Adam Stokes (54) divorced, a Musician in a Dance Band. Four others are also listed as musicians in a Dance Band and includes Frank Easley laborer on a farm who I remember Aunt Lena speaking about. As I recall Frank did a lot of the chores around Aunt Lena’s place up until she died. You will notice that the family next door is Lloyd Fletcher Putnam and Family.
What I remember about my great Aunt Lena was she always wore blue jeans, made the best Fig Jam, allowed us kids to watch the first TV in the area in her Living Room. Was it the Wednesday Night or Saturday Night Fights? Which ever she never missed.
In that acreage between her place and ours I remember the cattle, then after the cattle she grew watermelons and alfalfa. After we moved off the ranch I know she kept in touch with mom, but I do not remembering her visiting us in Placerville. Uncle Stewart and Dorothy would stop by and visit. I do believe those cactus lamps in the living room Uncle Stewart made when they were living in Hemet, CA.
The dance hall must have burnt about 1950, I’m still looking for a newspaper account about the fire.

Aunt Lena died in 1969.


10 thoughts on “52 Ancestors ~ #20 Lena Anne Putnam ~ Dance Hall Queen

    1. I have a lot more on Lena Brown and Print Stokes from my Dad Lloyd Reading who was in the band Rocky Mountain Cowboys from 1040’s until 1950. I also have a radio recording of the show with Print and Lena talking.

  1. Wow, Ada what a great detective. I have to say 2 things that point to the misconceptions of childhood. 1. I thought Stokes first name was Prince. 2. I somehow thought he and Aunt Lena were married. Do you know when Stokes died or where?

      1. Anna, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I would love a photo of the Rocky Mountain Cowboys, especially if Aunt Lena was in the picture. If you have a recording of a radio show with her I would love to get that.

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