By E. Ethel Hammond Nielsen
      Genealogy has helped to clarify two important memories from my youth.

      The first one, during the 1920’s or early 30’s, while visiting my Grandmother Davis on Crooked Run, going near Clarksburg, the conversation suddenly turned to discussing a little girl and a very pretty lady walking up the road in front of the house. They were on their way to the Morrison home next door. Someone said the little girl was Gloria Vanderbilt and she was to visit her grandmother. For many years, I wondered how this little girl, Gloria Vanderbilt, fit into the Morrison family? Genealogy, eventually revealed and explained the connection.. They were visiting the grandparents of Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye. More later about Helen. Ethel

       The second event, after this paper was started, was a reminder to look up an old scrapbook from my TWA experience. During my employment at TWA in Alexandria, Virginia., I had saved parts of a TWA Newsletter published sometime during 1943-1944. Some of the photographs, taken from the TWA newsletter, are included herein.

      Working for TWA in 1943-44 was the most exciting job one could ever have! After one year, that job provided a free round trip flight to the West Coast. Needless to say, the return flight was never used; I am still here in California! Helen_Jack_Frye The most memorable event was on April 17, 1944 the day the first “Connie” was delivered . From the high windows of the dispatcher’s office, all employees gathered to watch the landing of the first (Connie) Constellation Airplane at the new Washington National Airport. The plane was designed by Jack Frye fly high and fast. Jack Frye, President of TWA and Howard Hughes, chief owner of TWA (largest stockholder) had shared pilot duties on the 6hr & 58 min. flight across the United States from Burbank, Calif. For one week, the plane was the center of activity with flights offered to celebrities as well as TWA employees, before being turned over to the military. The USA took possession of this and all other planes produced for the duration of the war.


      The duties of the Dispatch clerks included operation of the link trainer, reading all teletype messages and forwarding flight information to other centers, especially to New York and Kansas City. Flight kits were prepared for crew members of each departing plane. These kits contained information about routes and navigational aids, flight time cards, loading forms, manifests and other forms used in flight and at intermediate stops.

       The photograph (attached) of the Intercontinental Terminal shows a soldier, cargo handler Lt. H. C. Pipkin, station manager Dinken Hill, Lt. H. W. Hughes, and passenger agents Monty Howard, Ed Glover and Fred Powell. The scale is used for weighing passengers as well as luggage. TWA

      Unfortunately, the date and name of the TWA newsletter was not saved. However, the newsletter had to have been published shortly after President Roosevelt’s Historic trip to Casablaca. The article is not clear as to whether or not he departed from our terminal; it is also probable that he departed more than once from our terminal. I do remember one day when there was a great deal of excitement and secrecy. Employees never knew 100% that Roosevelt had departed from our Intercontinental Terminal. But, there was a very strong rumor Roosevelt was on board one of the two planes dispatched that day. What we did know was the fact the level of security and secrecy was much higher that unusual day. The article about President Roosevelt’s flight is included on a separate page.

       The Constellation was the brainchild of TWA and Jack Frye. In the Spring of 1939 Lockheed Aircraft Corporation entered into an agreement with TWA to develop a new Constellation Airline as a long-range commercial airplane. A deal was made TWA would fly the planes for the Army Air Force. Bills were sent to the Hughes Tool Company by Lockheed -- Howard Hughes was always creating the complicated paper trails for his companies-- according to the internet article listed below. Also, this web site is a good source for more information about Helen and her marriage to Jack Frye. Some of the words in this paper are from this website. The Jack and Helen Story  (Our own David Houchin is also mentioned on this web site as a contributor)


       The Orange County Register (California) on Tuesday, April 10, 2001 carried the above headline. The article goes on to explain the “ AMR Corp.said it completed its $4.2 billion purchase of bankrupt Trans World Airlines Inc. after an appeals court cleared the way for American Airlines’ parent company to become the world’s largest carrier…..the acquisition marks the end of TWA as a solo carriers, a history dating to the 1920’s when Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, mapped out a transcontinental route across the United States”


       Amanda Catherine Hammond (daughter of Joseph Hammond) married Genius Payne in 1869. Their son Truman married Anna Ethel Morrison on June 9, 1898. Anna Ethel was the daughter of Nimrod Russell Morrison (1846-1930) and Octavia Bailey of Crooked Run, they were married in 1874. Their daughter Maude Morrison (1881-1965) married Harvey V. Varner in 1907 and their daughter Helen Virginia was born Nov. 28, 1908. Helen’s grandparents were Nimrod Russell and Octavia Bailey. In addition, my Grandmother Hammond’s father was a brother to Nimrod; thus, genealogy shows two different Hammond connections to Helen Varner.

      The Morrison home and the old slave house are both still standing; the slave house was used later as a school room. See photo attached. About 1927 (sometime between finishing High School in Clarksburg and going to the Chicago Art Institute in 1930)

       Helen married Noah “Andy” Anderson but it only lasted about 2 years. She never finished the art course and some sources say she only lived with him about 7 months. He was an athlete at W.Va Wesleyan College and later became a High School Coach. She was divorced in Reno in 1932.

       Also, during the period (1927-30) Helen dated Thomas Harvey Smith in Clarksburg and later in Los Angeles where they both lived during the 30’s. Thomas was born in 1914; he got his Aviation License at age 16 (1930). His father was a lawyer in Clarksburg and the mother’s of Thomas and Helen were best friends. In 1939 he attempted to fly the Atlantic and his plane was iced down a few hours later. He left a note in the plane he had food and was walking out. Helen used her influence to convince Howard Hughes and Jack Frye to start a search for his body. Thomas was never heard from and his plane was not discovered until 1941. Helen

       Helen dated Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. for approximately 3 years before they were married on January 4, 1935 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Shortly after their marriage there was speculation they were separated. She was the 3rd wife of Cornelius and one of his previous divorces had been granted for abuse.

       In 1939 Helen was in Reno with her sister who was getting a divorce when she discovered Vanderbilt had another wife! She phoned him to let him know he now had two wives! When she later obtained a divorce, the property settlement in the divorce papers was sealed forever, an unheard of order! Was it because she accused him of cruelty, or, did she spell out a mental problem? We’ll never know.

       The website mentioned above, shows a photo of Jack and his bride with a caption saying: “January 18, 1941, amid glaring flashbulbs of dozens of world press reporters, Jack and his bride Helen Frye exit a TWA airliner at LaGuardia Airport in New York City.” The website photo was by courtesy of Nevajac Frye, Jack’s only daughter. Jack Frye and Helen Vanderbilt had been married in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 1, 1941 in a secret ceremony. The photographs included here were from Helen’s cousins and Aunts.

       The daughter of one of Helen’s sisters remembers visiting Helen and Jack in their Mansion with 30 rooms in Alexandria, Virginia. They had an enclosed pool with a frog in it; one bathroom had a pink bathtub. She remembers when they descended the stairway on their way out for the evening, they looked like royalty! Helen lived a life of glamour. One article said her marriage to Jack Frye created a marriage and partnership, a celebrity-love-story! In addition to the Alexandria, Va mansion, they had several homes; the one in Kansas City was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. They were often guests at the White House. In 1946 she was with Jack at the White House when President Truman presented him with the presidential “ Medal for Merit.” This was just one of many times they were invited to the executive mansion.

       Jack divorced Helen on June 27, 1950 and married a younger woman. He made Helen sole owner of the 700+ acre Cattle Ranch and house in Sedona, Arizona. Jack was a frequent visitor after the divorce. There was speculation they were planning to remarry when he died in an auto accident in 1959 in Tucson, Ariz. Jack had resigned from TWA in 1947. By the time he died, he owned over 50,000 acres in Arizona and had many patents in his name. After his death, a couple of the patents were granted in Helen’s name.

       After the divorce, Helen continued to live in Sedona at the Smoke Trail Ranch. helenShe was co-founder of Sedona Humane Society, and in 1959 started what eventually became the Sedona Arts Center. Her interest in the fine arts was probably from her association with Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and the Whitney Museum in New York. Although she had always had an interest in art, sketching, and writing. Helen and Jack together started the Sedona Legend. Today, part of the 700 acre ranch is now Red Rock State Park. The house is called the “House of Apache Fires”. Helen died of cancer in Sedona on December 4, 1979.

Many more pictures from Ethel Neilson   Click Here

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