I think I mentioned that I am the Vigo County (Indiana) Historian. For several years I have worked from time-to-time to piece together the life of actress Valeska Suratt and have written newspaper accounts and given talks about her career. She adopted the single "r" spelling. I have examined the life of her siblings but have not specifically searched for genealogical data except where it is coincidental to Valeska or where I might run into information by accident.
The Ralph Surratts located in Terre Haute in about 1888 from Owensville. Ralph was a blacksmith. By the time of the family's arrival, children Austin, Valeska and Leah were already born. Another child, Ralph -- who was called "Judge" even as a youth -- was born here, I think. There are many stories about Valeska in early magazines and newspapers where it is contended that she is a "native of Terre Haute, Indiana." For that reason, I suspect, the cinema databases and some screen encyclopedia list Terre Haute as her place of birth.
I do not think Austin married or had any children before he was killed in 1902. Confusion exists as the precise date Valeska was born. It could have been 1882 or 1884. Leah, I believe, was two years younger, placing her birth date in 1884 or 1886. I am inclined to believe, after examining census data, that Valeska was born in 1882 and Leah 1884 though Leah told a local journalist in a 1961 interview that the family moved to Terre Haute when Valeska was 4. The journalist may have been confused. Leah might have been four when the family moved.
Valeska married twice. The first marriage was to vaudeville comic Billy Gould. That marriage occured in 1904 or before based upon information I recently found. According to one report, Gould died but I have been unable to find his death date. Later she married actor Fletcher Norton. I do not know how that marriage ended but, I suspect, by divorce. Valeska died in 1962 in a Washington, D.C. retirement home.
Leah married twice, too. The first marriage was in January 1904 to John Jahries of Terre Haute in Vigo County. I have that marriage certificate. The Jahries moved to California where John became a scenic designer or related trade in Hollywood. Her second husband was named "Hinchliffe." Leah died in 1980.
Ralph "Judge" Surratt was killed in 1950 in Alaska. He was a film photographer who apparently was well known in Alaska. He was married and had at least one child named Ralph, Jr. (probably should have been "Ralph III.") Paul Sarrett's excellent website has some information about his marriage that I do not have.
I have no association with the family; however, I did become acquainted with a lady named Elizabeth Lauer who was the Suratt/Surratt's housekeeper in 1913-1915. She died a couple of months ago at 102.
If you do not know much about Valeska's career, I could provide that information and, also, give you some specific dates on matters described above. She had a spectacular career in vaudeville, legitimate theater, then silent films and, finally, vaudeville again stretching from 1905 to the mid 1920s. She was one of the highest paid stage and screen personalities of her day. She was the bona fide headliner in 12 motion pictures, 11 of which were films in which she played a vamp." Some time around WW I, she seemed to become nearly fanatical about religion. She wrote a screenplay of "Mary Magdalena" and gave it to Will Hays and Cecil B. DeMille to review. They kept it but rejected it. A couple of years later, DeMille made "The King of Kings" and Valeska accused Hays/DeMille of stealing her script. The litigation ended in 1930 with some sort of settlement. About that time, Valeska -- one of the most visible of all theater personalities -- disappeared from view, apparently going into seclusion. Some suggested she was blacklisted. Others suggest she simply was a religious zealot. Of course, the vaudeville era was coming to a screeching halt about that time due to the popularity of talking films. Valeska was asked to write her autobiography but it was never published because, according to one quote, Valeska contended she was the "Mother of God." In the late Thirties a benefit was held on her behalf but she apparently frittered away the proceeds, perhaps to charity. It was said that, during WW I, she gave $500 a week to the American Red Cross. He whereabouts after that have not been traced until she ended up in the Washington retirement home many years later.
The above is a snippet of information I have acumulated in the course of trying to put together a biography.
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