Tag Archives: Millie Mae Scanlon

The Other Woman in the Life of Mack Henry James

The pursuit began in 1999. What happened to Mack Henry James, following his abandonment of his wife and children? Following Mac from his home in Kentucky to Bloomington in McLean County, Illinois, the chase has continued since.

It’s known that a third woman was involved with Mack Henry James. First, there was Dorinda “Dora” Phelps-James, the wife he abandoned around 1916. The death of Millie Mae Scanlon, his second wife or partner, from cerebral syphilis occurred in 1934. Flora Audra Spencer is the third. She is the other woman in the life of Mack Henry James. They married in 1935, a year after Millie Mae died. Mac then died tragically in 1945. Flora followed, dying in 1968. Like Millie Mae, Flora died of a severe brain disease. The implication beneath these facts is that Mac may have been the source of infection.

In January of 2016, contact was made with Rebecca Spencer-Landis. As Becky writes in the following, she is a granddaughter of Flora and the partner whom Flora never would identify. With some minor editing, Becky offers the following particulars about her grandmother and her relationship with Mack Henry James.


Email from Rebecca Spencer-Landis to Eric F. James

Hello. It’s nice to meet you. So many questions! Questions are good. I will try to answer them for you as best I can.

First – Flora Audra Spencer was my grandmother. I am the youngest of her son Olin’s four children.

About Flora

The other woman, Flora Audra Spencer
Flora Audra Spencer 1889-1968

She was a school teacher most of the year, which must have been difficult when she was pregnant. During the summer months, she was the housekeeper on a farm (not her parents’ farm) She had my father at her parents’ farm outside Stanford, IL. They cared for him during the week when she was teaching and she returned each weekend when she would take over the childcare and – from everything I was told – pretty much the running of the farm. She died when I was 2 years old so I don’t have any direct memories of her.

From what I was told, she was very strict – to the point that her parents allowed her to run everything when she came home. (According to my father, they hated to see her come home and could not wait for her to leave.)

The Father of Flora’s Son Olin B. Spencer 1921-1994

She never revealed the man who got her pregnant, although according to her sister Alta, the family believed it to be the hired hand who worked at the farm she worked on during the summer. We had always heard he was married with children. Census records list my father’s birth father to have been from Ohio, but no one knows for certain.

Olin B. Spencer, the son of the other woman
Olin B. Spencer 1921-1994 circa 1992 with his second wife Geraldine Pearl Schofield 1926-2001

While no one ever knew who my father’s birth father was, one thing was maintained by everyone – Mac James was not the man who fathered Olin Spencer. I asked – numerous times. I asked my father, his aunt, some of his cousins, all said the same – Mac and my father were not related by blood. (To be 100% honest, I still kind of have my questions on that.) I had thought they were blood related when I was small because I saw a picture of Mac’s son Omar (sic) in an army uniform and thought it was my father in his army uniform. When I got older, I could tell the difference, but they looked very alike when I was young. I don’t know where the photo is now.

Olin, Mac, and Omer

My father told a few stories about going fishing with Mac. I know that Dad and Omar sometimes visited each other, and Dad always spoke fondly of Omar. Don’t recall hearing much of anything about other children Mac had, or even why he was no longer married to their mother. I didn’t even know until now that Flora was his third wife. Either my father didn’t know or it wasn’t talked about. My father usually referred to Mac as “My old man” a phrase he used when talking about his grandfather as well.

The Marriage of Flora and Mac

I am not sure how Flora and Mac met, but my father did work for a time at Tick’s Junk Yard but I don’t know if that was before WWII or after. I would guess – and it’s just a guess – that if Mac was working for Tick’s at the right time, he could well have met her while handling something for the farmer she worked for or for her father’s farm. Tick’s was, and still is, a place most people in McLean County go to get rid of scrap or junk. They may even have met at church.

Flora left teaching after she married Mac. They were married Feb 20, 1935 in Carlock, McLean County, IL. Rev. E. Troyer was listed as the man who married them. They lived outside of Bloomington in an area known as Bloomington Heights. The house as far as I know is still there.

For all accounts Flora was truly happy for the first time in her life after she married Mac. She supposedly became a different person. He ran the house more than she did. She cared for him after he lost his legs and was horribly upset when he died.

She had lost her mother in 1936 and her father in 1944. My father who had been in the army was discharged to help her care for her father and for Mac, as both were ill at the same time and she was trying to take care of both. My father was just as upset at Mac’s death as his mother, perhaps a bit more as he had been the only real ‘father’ he had known outside of his grandfather.

After Mac’s Death

After Mac’s death…I think she did laundry, sewing, odd job types of things. When my parents bought a very small farm outside of Danvers, IL in Dec 1966 and moved in, they had both grandmothers move in as well.

I was told Flora began acting differently in the last few years of her life; sometimes forgetting things like she had experienced a stroke. This is why Dad wanted her living with us. My mother said – a few months after moving in – she began to forget who my father was and simply called him “that man.” She sometimes acted like she was a child, and sometimes as if I – the baby – was a dolly to play with. Many years later my mother would realize that she had what we now know as Alzheimer’s, which was not very well researched in the 1960’s.

The last few months of her life, Flora would hide from my father and only respond to my mother, telling my mother in a childlike voice “That man was here. He was looking for me. He hates me.” She died in Jan 1969 and was buried on my sister’s birthday.

I have seen a picture or two of Flora and Mac but it has been a long time. I will have to see if I have any or if my sister does. She may be able to provide more information too. She and my oldest brother live in Kentucky in the Cambridge Shores Subdivision on Kentucky Lake. It may take some time to do some digging but I promise I will get anything I find to you. I hope that what I have put into this has helped somewhat.

Best regards,

Becky Landis

Becky Landis
Rebecca “Becky” Spencer-Landis
The family of Flora Audra Spencer-James: Siblings standing L-R: Roy Augustus Spencer 1894-1923, Alta E. Spencer 1893-1983, Ross Hamilton Spencer 1891-1976, Flora Audra Spencer 1889-1968. Not shown is deceased infant Harris Edwin Spencer 1899-1900. Parents seated: Mary Catherine Ranes 1865-1936, John Hamilton Spencer 1863-1944

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Tuesday March 2nd, 2021
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Photos from Jesse James Soul Liberty, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence's post ... See MoreSee Less

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Tuesday February 9th, 2021
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Theater advertisements for plays appeared like this in newspapers. This ad for Bloomer Girl appeared in August of 1845. Bloomer Girl was the product of Daniel Lewis James Jr. and principally his wife Lilith Stanward. The following excerpt about them appears in JJSL:

Written against the backdrop of World War II, when blacks were moving out of the South into an industrial workforce, and women also were moving out of the home into the workplace, Bloomer Girl is set in the pre-Civil War era, interweaving themes of black and female equality, war and peace, and politics. The play’s principal character, Dolly, is based upon the inventor of the bloomer, Amelia Bloomer, a contemporary of an acquaintance of Vassie James and Susan B. Anthony. As a fighter in the suffragette movement for women’s rights, Bloomer advocated, “Get rid of those heavy hoop skirts; wear bloomers like men; let’s get pants; let’s be their equal.” In the play, Dolly politicks for gender equality, as her rebellious niece Evelina politicks her suitor, a Southern slaveholding aristocrat, for racial equality. As the play’s librettist, Yip Harburg, stated,
Bloomer Girl was about “the indivisibility of human freedom.”

Bloomer Girl opened on Broadway on October 5, 1944. Dan (Daniel Lewis James) insisted Lilith’s (Dan’s wife) name come first in the show’s credits. The play was an instant hit, lasting 654 performances. Dan remained modest about the show’s success, considering his contribution a failure. “...I seem not to have given full credit to my collaborators on the 1944 musical comedy Bloomer Girl...The facts, in brief, are as follows: the originator of the story idea from which the musical grew was my wife, Lilith James, who charmingly chose the perversities of Fashion to dramatize the early struggles of the Women's Rights movement. She also developed the principal characters. I joined her in writing a first draft of the libretto. It failed to satisfy our lyricist, E. Y. Harburg, and Harold Arlen, the composer. It also failed to satisfy us. An impasse developed at which point all agreed to call in the team of Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy who were experienced writers in the field of musical comedy. They reworked the material to the satisfaction of everyone but Lilith and myself, who had hoped to invade Gilbert & Sullivan territory, with what we thought was a light-hearted paradoxical look at history. What I took for a personal artistic failure for which I blamed, first of all, myself, went on to become a lavish entertainment which played on Broadway for eighteen months and has since often been revived in summer theater. If I was not delighted, audiences certainly were and full credit for this should be given to Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy (now deceased) without whom the production would never have taken place...”
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Wednesday February 3rd, 2021
Stray Leaves

YOU CAN'T HELP BUT WONDER...What might have happened if Alan Pinkerton assigned Kate Warne to track and capture Jesse James?In 1856, twenty-three-year-old widow Kate Warne walked into the office of the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago, announcing that she had seen the company’s ad and wanted to apply for the job. “Sorry,” Alan Pinkerton told her, “but we don’t have any clerical staff openings. We’re looking to hire a new detective.” Pinkerton would later describe Warne as having a “commanding” presence that morning. “I’m here to apply for the detective position,” she replied. Taken aback, Pinkerton explained to Kate that women aren’t suited to be detectives, and then Kate forcefully and eloquently made her case. Women have access to places male detectives can’t go, she noted, and women can befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspects and gain information from them. Finally, she observed, men tend to become braggards around women who encourage boasting, and women have keen eyes for detail. Pinkerton was convinced. He hired her.

Shortly after Warne was hired, she proved her value as a detective by befriending the wife of a suspect in a major embezzlement case. Warne not only gained the information necessary to arrest and convict the thief, but she discovered where the embezzled funds were hidden and was able to recover nearly all of them. On another case she extracted a confession from a suspect while posing as a fortune teller. Pinkerton was so impressed that he created a Women’s Detective Bureau within his agency and made Kate Warne the leader of it.

In her most famous case, Kate Warne may have changed the history of the world. In February 1861 the president of the Wilmington and Baltimore railroad hired Pinkerton to investigate rumors of threats against the railroad. Looking into it, Pinkerton soon found evidence of something much more dangerous—a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration. Pinkerton assigned Kate Warne to the case. Taking the persona of “Mrs. Cherry,” a Southern woman visiting Baltimore, she managed to infiltrate the secessionist movement there and learn the specific details of the scheme—a plan to kill the president-elect as he passed through Baltimore on the way to Washington.

Pinkerton relayed the threat to Lincoln and urged him to travel to Washington from a different direction. But Lincoln was unwilling to cancel the speaking engagements he had agreed to along the way, so Pinkerton resorted to a Plan B. For the trip through Baltimore Lincoln was secretly transferred to a different train and disguised as an invalid. Posing as his caregiver was Kate Warne. When she afterwards described her sleepless night with the President, Pinkerton was inspired to adopt the motto that became famously associated with his agency: “We never sleep.” The details Kate Warne had uncovered had enabled the “Baltimore Plot” to be thwarted.

During the Civil War, Warne and the female detectives under her supervision conducted numerous risky espionage missions, with Warne’s charm and her skill at impersonating a Confederate sympathizer giving her access to valuable intelligence. After the war she continued to handle dangerous undercover assignments on high-profile cases, while at the same time overseeing the agency’s growing staff of female detectives.

Kate Warne, America’s first female detective, died of pneumonia at age 34, on January 28, 1868, one hundred fifty-three years ago today. “She never let me down,” Pinkerton said of one of his most trusted and valuable agents. She was buried in the Pinkerton family plot in Chicago.
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YOU CANT HELP BUT WONDER...What might have happened if Alan Pinkerton assigned Kate Warne to track and capture Jesse James?
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