Friday, 22 February 2008

William Daglish, Santa Cruz, California

I recently found some advertising materials for Daglish’s Health Food Service of Santa Cruz, California, and a little research led to a colourful story.

An article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel by Carolyn Swift provided some details.

The story begins in 1928, when Sarah Jane Kitchen married William Edward Daglish. The couple moved to Santa Cruz at the height of the Depression, opening the “Daglish Free Welfare Depot”. William quickly earned a reputation: the report describes him as "something of a fanatic, driving a "sign-flaunting gas chariot"... on a boisterous one-man moral crusade".

Life for his wife was difficult. She was described as "semi-invalid" and, forced by her husband to eat his chosen diet, some thought she was slowly starving – and said she occasionally went to neighbours for more food.

On July 17 1940, Sarah Jane died. She was buried the next day, Thursday, when William delivered the funeral sermon. On the following day he eloped to Reno, Nevada, with 22-year Joan Allardyce where the couple were married. This series of events led to nationwide news coverage, and one newspaper reported:

"If Daglish and Miss Allardyce had reached the Remo marriage license clerk four minutes later than they did, their marriage would have to be postponed until Sunday because Daglish’s church, Seventh Day Adventist, does not sanction marriages on Saturday."

Meanwhile, back in Santa Cruz, the authorities had ordered Sarah Jane’s body to be exhumed from the Felton Cemetery, and tested for poison.

William protested his innocence and gave his version of the story. He accused the authorities of a plot against him because of his campaigning against vice and gambling. He claimed that Sarah Jane had approved of Miss Allardyce as his future wife, and had urged him to marry her immediately after the funeral.

No poison was detected in the tests, and the authorities accepted the coroner’s decision that Sarah Jane had died of “hemorrhagic pancreatitis”.

The handbill dates from just after this in 1941. The photo shows William, Joan and their daughter Noaomi Celeste. William continued his business until his death in 1952.

William was born in 1896 in Indiana, the son of John Daglish and Mary Aldrich. His grandfather, also John Daglish, had emigrated from England.

I would be very interested to know more about the family and their story, or to hear from any relatives. Also any photos of the Daglish store in Santa Cruz, which was covered with various slogans and adverts - I have seen one small photo from the 1950s, but this is too small and the quality too poor to show here.

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