Orville Dorward Raitt

Orville Dorward Raitt, was born in Rising City, Nebraska on 21 July 1902. He was a son of John Dorward Raitt, who came to America with his parents when he was one month old, and his cousin Lily Dorward Raitt. John Dorward was the son of John Raitt and Cecilia Monroe Crabb who emigrated in 1863. Lily was the daughter of John's younger brother James Dorward Raitt and his wife Elizabeth Abbot who emigrated in 1871 (my great grandfather David Dorward Raitt was their youngest brother back in Arbroath, Scotland).

In the 1910 census, Orville is at home with his father (listed as widowed) and siblings in Union, Butler County, Nebraska. In 1911 Orville was clearly a budding author like his sister Ethel and the pair submitted stories to the local press. Their mother Lily had died in 1904 and in 1915 their  father remarried in Waltham, Massachusetts on 24 August 1915 - his new wife being Letitia Estelle Ross. The marriage didn't last long and the couple divorced before 1920 since Letitia married again in Watertown, Mass. on 6 March 1920 (and in the 1920 census for Reading, Butler, John is listed as divorced). In the 1920 census Orville is a 17 year-old boarder in Union with seemingly no trade or profession though the head of the household he is boarding with is a farmer - so maybe he is helping out on the farm. An elder brother and cousin and other relatives and their families live close by.

Orville married Edith Mae Green on 7 January 1925 in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa. She was aged 19 and born in Stromburg, Polk, Nebraska in 1906. The couple had a daughter, Betty Lee Raitt, born 29 March 1926 in Osceola, Polk, Nebraska. In the 1930 census for Canada, Polk, Nebraska, Betty aged 4, born Nebraska (both parents said to be born in Iowa) is living with her grandparents, Lee and Alice Green (both born in Iowa). In the 1930 census for Los Angeles, there is an M. Edith Raid, aged 24, born Nebraska (father born Kansas, mother Illinois) married (first married at 19) and working as a cosmetician in a beauty parlour - this may be Edith Raitt. An Edith Raid, 33, single, is a roomer in Competine, Wapello, Iowa in the 1940 census - no place of birth or occupation is given. Edith Mae Green (Raitt) died on 26 July 1961 in Polk, Oregon.

Although not yet found in the 1940 census, Betty Lee Raitt, aged 14, may well have been in California with her grandparents, since her grandfather, Lee Eugene Green gives his address as Concord, Contra Costa, California in his 1942 WW2 draft registration. After a couple of marriages, Betty Lee died on 30 December 1991 in Lake Oswego, Clackamas, Oregon.

Now Orville Raitt, aged 24 and born in California (as were both parents) according to the 1930 census, is single and a roomer, occupied as a mechanic, in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. However, on 17 June 1930 in Chicago, Orville married Catherine Mulrooney (born 20 July 1906 in Illinois and died 9 March 1989 in Washington, Tazewell Co., Illinois ) and they had a son, Orville John Raitt, born 22 October 1932 in Chicago and who died there on 13 December 2008. Catherine and son Orville John are living in Chicago in 1940 and Catherine, 33, is head of the household, married, and working as a stenographer in real estate. They were at the same place in 1935. Orville John married Juanetta Mae Schuman in 1957 in Cook County and the couple had several children.

Some time after the birth of his son Orville John, Orville Dorward seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. After seven years, he was apparently declared legally dead – but what happened to him is a mystery. Shortly after his disappearance, one of his brothers is said to have gone to Chicago to talk to the authorities and they informed him that Orville had been a member of Al Capone’s mob and the word was out that he had been murdered and they didn’t expect to find a body (see Raitt Anecdotes).

And so this is possibly what happened to Orville Dorward Raitt – maybe the life of a farmer-turned mechanic and family man was not for him and the bright lights of Chicago and the attraction of easy money and the excitement of the times lured him to leave his family and join Al Capone – with the result that following the latter’s downfall, those that Orville may have ridden roughshod over during those heady years handed him the ultimate punishment  – perhaps a pair of concrete shoes.

Or is it? In the 1940 census for Chicago, living in N. Maplewood Avenue (also in 1935) there is a certain Orville Rogers, aged 32, married, born California, working as an automobile mechanic. His wife Cecile Marie Gudel was born on 21 September 1913 or 14 (records  vary - as Cecelia Maryanna Gudel) in Chicago. On his WW2 draft registration card, dated 16 October 1940, Orville gave his name as Orville Donald Rogers and his date of birth as 21 July 1907 and place of birth as Long Beach, California. His employer was Grandville Motors in Chicago and he and wife Cecile were living in Norwood Park, Cook County. He was 5ft 7in tall, weighed 150 lbs, had blue eyes, brown hair, a ruddy complexion, and a scar on the right side of his chin. Orville enlisted on 14 July 1943 and was released on 20 December 1943. Orville died on 27 July 1976 in Des Plaines, Cook, Illinois; Cecile "Theresa" (Gudel) Rogers died on 8 January 2003 in Chicago. From the brief note about her funeral in the Chicago Sun-Times of 10 January 2003, we learn that she was indeed the wife of Orville and that her son was Donald, who was married to Linda with whom he seems to have had two children Daniel and Kaitlin.

Though no date of birth has been found for son Donald nor marriage date found for Orville and Cecile, he does appear, though, in the 1961 Yearbook of Maine West High School, Des Plaines, Illinois - his estimated age is given as 16, thus born about 1945. After attending Maine West High School, Donald seems to have graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1971 with a B.S. in Radio, Television and Film, followed by an M.Ed. in Education. He studied for a PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. From 18 March 1973 to 30 August 1983 he was a Project Director for various government contractors. From 3 June 1983 to 28 September 1992 he was a Senior Program Manager for C3 in Herndon, Virginia, and from 2 October 1992 until 29 September 2017 he was a Senior Network Engineer assigned to the Department of Justice working in various government contractors in Washington, DC.  He currently lives in The Village of Polo Ridge, The Villages, Florida.

Now, the question is, could Orville Donald Rogers actually be Orville Dorward Raitt? There are a few interesting similarities which are sufficient to think so. First, the initials ODR are the same (admittedly many people have those three initials); second, the date of birth 21 July is exactly the same - though five years later - 1907 rather than 1902 (admittedly many people share the same date of birth); third, he is a mechanic in both the 1930 census as Raitt and the 1940 one as Rogers); fourth, in the 1930 census he already sets up his place of birth as California; fifth, there is no record of an Orville Rogers being born in California in 1907, or indeed anywhere else - nor is there an Orville Rogers in earlier censuses (1910, 1920, 1930) born in California at that time; sixth the signatures of Orville Donald and Orville Dorward have certain similar characteristics; and seventh, perhaps most conclusive, is that Orville's son Donald Rogers is a DNA match for me as a fourth cousin - despite there being no Rogers that I am aware of in the Raitt Family Tree! Donald's DNA also matches others of my American Raitt cousins who are (unlike me) actually descended either from the siblings or (grand)parents of Orville Dorward Raitt.

So, it would appear that the mystery of Orville's disappearance is solved, even if questions such as missing birth and death certificates still lurk. Some States have good records, others don't - it's a familiar situation in Scotland. But if he ever was involved with Al Capone, then he was probably not so much trying to escape from the Mob, but getting away, for whatever reason, from his existing family life. If he was deserting the Mob and a life of crime, then he would probably not have kept a fairly unusual name like Orville, nor the same initials and date of birth (apart from year), nor would he have stayed living in the Chicago area. Was anyone else in the family aware of his secret? Was the story about his involvement with Al Capone merely a ruse to throw people off the scent? After all, it seems that his father's short-lived second marriage was also not known to some of the other members of the family. And whether his wife Cecile knew or son Donald knows of his past is not known, especially as Donald seems to be incommunicado.

The photos below show Orville Dorward Raitt in his younger days, and with his sister Ethel. In the middle row there is (l to r) Betty Lee Raitt, her mother Edith Green Raitt, and aunt Clara Green taken in California; Orville John Raitt about age 19 taken at the Raitt Farm in Nebraska and a later picture of him. And in the bottom row is Donald Rogers, aged 16, and in later life.