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Agnes Honora “Nora”  Maloney was born in 1850 in Canada.  She married my second great grand uncle,  Isaac Elder Blake (1844-1906) on   7 September 1867  in Pennsylvania. Isaac is the 10th child and youngest son of Isaac Blake (1804-1883) and Azubah Caswell (1803-1872).

Agnes Maloney Blake (maybe) San Francisco, CaliforniaAgnes Honora “Nora” Maloney Blake c 1885
San Francisco, California
(Photo courtesy of Chuck Snakard)

Isaac Elder BlakeIsaac Elder Blake 

While much is written about Nora’s  famously wealthy husband and the exploits of some of her more colorful offspring, (explanatory blog posts coming soon) the only newspaper article I could find in which she is mentioned, is her own obituary.  But even here, she is identified only as “Mrs. I.E. Blake wife of…”, with  a short explanation of her brief  illness and death, book-ended by a listing of  her husbands business accomplishments and renown, essentially reducing  her to a footnote in her own obituary.


Agnes Maloney Blake Obituary

Agnes Honora “Nora”  Maloney Blake Obituary
Wednesday, 2 August 1899
New York Herald-Tribune (New York, New York) pg #7

Nora and Isaac’s first three children; Winfield  Blake (1868-1932), Allie Blake Manly (1870-1959), and Belle Blake Robinson (1875-1925) were all born in Pennsylvania, where her husband made his first fortune in the oil production business. As the company expanded, the  family moved progressively west and then back.  Their three youngest children; Evarts Isaac Blake (1877-1933), Annette Agnes “Nettie”  Blake Rispin (1881-1941) and Robert Ivan Blake (1886-1972), were born in Wyoming, California, and Colorado respectively.


Isaac Elder Blake children Allie, Belle & WinfieldAllie, Belle & Winfield Blake c 1880

Nora’s death on 1 August 1899, after a brief illness, caught the family by surprise. The following transcription is from a letter written by Isaac to two of their daughters, Allie Blake Manly, her husband George C. Manly (1863-1936)  and Belle Blake, who were living in Denver, Colorado at that time.  While I have left  the grammar, spelling and punctuation as it appeared in the original text, I’ve broken the letter up into paragraphs to make it easier to read.


One brief  note of explanation: Nora’s oldest son, Winfield Blake, was a  famous comedy actor/opera singer in his day.  The letter references Nora and her daughter Nettie attending a matinee performance of one of his shows in New York the day she fell ill.


ISAAC E. BLAKE PRESIDENT                                                                                                                                    Dictated August 2, 1899

Written August 5th 1899

Allie, Belle & George (Manly)
512 Tuxedo Place
Denver, Colorado

Dear Children,

Belle’s letter of July 30th, and Allie’s without date, written presumably at the same time, is received this morning.

Last night we telegraphed you your dear mother’s death at 3:20 yesterday afternoon. She died peacefully without the slightest suffering, just simply stopped breathing.

I am going over to Greenlawn Cemetery, on Long Island, to select a family plot. It is said to be very well located, and sufficiently remote so that it will not be disturbed for genereations; I expect to find it very new, but under all the circumstances, it seems to be as desirable as anything I have learned of.

We have tried to give you all of the details of mother’s illness, but many things will have to wait until we see you before things can be fully explained, I will however this morning, make a brief resume of the entire period of her illness, and perhaps after you receive this letter, there will be some special points that you wish to inquire concerning, which, if you mention, I will try to answer.

On June 10th, being Saturday, your mother and Nettie (Annette Blake) attended a matinee at the Cusine Theatre, where Winfield (Blake) was playing with the Jefferson De Angelis Opera Company; your mother seemed to enjoy the performance very much and laughed heartily at the comedian’s work.

That evening at six o’clock, I was to leave for Chicago, to meet various parties on important financial matters. On going to the house a little after five, for my trip, I overtook your mother and Nettie a few blocks from the house, just returning from the matinee. I did not have sufficient time to spare to get supper, and I kissed mama goodbye in the hall, she wishing me “good-luck” and I left for Chicago.

When I reached Chicago, I found that Mr. Newhouse, whom I had hoped to meet there, had just undergone a surgical operation, and could not, at that time, come to Chicago, so I went through directly to Salt Lake City.

On the 19th, I received a telegram from Evarts (Blake) saying that mother was very sick with her old difficulty and that the doctors thought that another operation would have to be performed. So I replied immediately advising him to follow Dr. Curley’s advice, and on the 21st at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the operation was performed. I received a telegram two days later saying that conditions were favorable for recovery, but as soon as I possibly could, I hurried homeward expecting to stop in Erie a day to transact some business there, but on reaching the hotel, I found a telegram from Evarts saying that the doctors stated that mother was liable not to last through the night. This was a terrible shock to me as I had supposed she was getting along all right, not having heard for several days.

I took the train for New York, leaving Erie about 11 o’clock and reached New York the following afternoon, and as soon as possible, went to your mother’s bedside. I found that although she had passed through a most critical night, she was somewhat relieved from her high state of fever, and her temperature had fallen even a little below normal, but it gradually raised again up to 105 or 106, and she had another chill at midnight, and in the paroxysms following the chill each time, the doctors had grave doubts that she would be able to live but a very short time. However there was about two days intervening between the next chill, the second one a little longer and the third one, after I came home, seemed to be the climax of all, her temperature reaching 107.

From that time forward the maximum temperatures began to decline until about the 17th of July, when the fever became less alarming, ranging from normal to 102- and occasionally to 103. This began to give us hope that she might recover, but at the very best state, about this time, the doctors only admitted that she perhaps had an even chance to live. Before that they considered that she only had one chance in ten.

On Monday the 17th she sat up two hours, and that night I left for Erie. That was Monday night. I got back Thursday the 20th, and they told me that she had been sitting up each day for two hours. So from the 17th to the 20th seemed to be the most hopeful time in her illness, as the danger from the pyemic condition seemed to be very much lessened.

Just the nature or exact cause of pyemia (septicemia) we shall never know; whether an abscess formed in the liver, or whether it was simply a general poisoning of the blood to a limited extent no one can tell, probably the latter. Just at this time occurred the characteristic result of pyemia.

When I went into her room on the morning of the 20th she called my attention to her right hand that she could not use; the hand from the wrist down seemed to be useless, the rest of her arm seemed to be all right and the remainder of her right side was at that time unaffected. I noticed in her talk that she lisped at that time, no one seemed to notice it until my return that morning and had called their attention to it. The cause of this is unquestionably what is called “thrombosis”, described in my previous letters.

On account of some heart lesion, or condition of the walls of the blood vessels becoming roughened, on account of the poisonous matter passing through the blood, began to coagulate at some point near the base of the brain, this coagulum beginning gradually, and not entirely stopping the flow of blood, so it only caused a slight paralysis at first, the brain getting a limited supply, and the impairment of the mental faculties became greater and greater each day from the moment of the beginning of this thrombosis until her death. It was a constant increasing paralysis and less of mental faculty.

You could scarcely say that at any time after she arrived home on Wednesday whether she realized all that you were saying or not. But at times she would appreciate more than at others, but I think that at no time after Sunday of the 23rd did she have full control of her mental powers; she apparently knew us, and when we asked her to say words, she would make an effort to say them, and she would pat us on the check or put her arm around our necks, or squeeze our hands as a token of her affection, until next to the last day of her life. If she did think and realize anything, she was unable to express it scarcely, after the 23rd.

She would rally a little after a good day, seeming to have great natural vitality, but each day would leave her a little lower than the one previous until yesterday, at the time named, she expired without struggle.

Since my return home I have endeavored to get a clear history of all the facts which occurred on the night I left, and the time the operation was performed: I get most of my information from Robert (Blake), Nettie being almost dazed with grief and does not seem to remember clearly, and Evarts was at the office that period.

I learn however, that on the Sunday following the day I left she had an attack, evidently a gall stone had started to escape through the common duct, they applied the hot water bags, and during the day she recovered and was around the house the rest of the day. The following day about half past three she had a recurrence of the attack, and from that time forward until she was taken to the hospital, she grew continually worse; she was so bad that she could scarcely breathe, and it was necessary to revive her with compound oxygen.

Dr. Abbe made an examination with Dr. Korley, who was with her daily, and he decided to wait until Wednesday the 21st, before performing the operation, which was more than a week after the attack, the operation being performed at the Roosevelt Hospital. She had already developed a high fever at the house, on account of the purulent matter being forced back into the system by the closing of the common duct with a large gall stone. This I believe covers the entire history of the case.

We have one consolation, that the last two months of her life, before she was taken ill, were probably the happiest she ever had. We had come to understand each other better, and to enjoy the mutual confidence and love. Never before did I really appreciate her worth, and I hope her daughters will emulate her worthy example, and you may be sure, on my testimony of more than thirty three years of intimate association that your mother, no steadier, purer or truer woman ever lived.


Isaac added this next part of the letter two days after the funeral services were over.  I love the insight he shares into  what a close relationship Winfield  had with his younger sister Nettie. She would later name her only son Allen Winfield Rispin (1901-1946).

I want to say something about Nora’s son Evarts here.  Evarts was just 22 at the time of his mother illness and subsequent death. His father mentions receiving telegrams from Evarts regarding his mothers illness, and Evarts being the one he directed to follow the doctors orders concerning her medical treatment.  He had to have been overwhelmed/terrified handling all of that in his father’s absence.

Isaac briefly mentions a few of the people who were able to  attend, or attempted to attend the funeral service.  Among those listed was Frank Snakard (1867-1964). Frank was Nora’s nephew by her sister Ellen Maloney Snakard (1840-1898).

Frank SnakardFrank Snakard
(Photo courtesy of Charles Snakard)

Also mentioned is their cousin Nellie.  I’m not sure, but I think he’s referring to Grace Eleanor Barrett (1870-1940) who lived in Titusville, Pennsylvania at that time.

Grace BarrettGrace Eleanor Barrett 




Saturday, August 5, 1899

Dear Children,

Allie’s and George’s letter of the 2nd are received. Mother was buried on Thursday, the services being performed at the house. Robert, Mr. Little, the treasurer of our company, and Mr. Beardsley and myself and Evarts were present at the services, and Winfield.

Winfield thought Nettie could not stand any further strain so he took her up to one of her girl friends house to stay until after the services were over. Winfield, Robert, Evarts and myself rode to the cemetery known as Greenlawn referred to above, and attended the burial. Frank Snakard, and your cousin Nellie came from Bradford to attend the funeral, but their train was delayed several hours and they arrived too late.

It was decided to send Nettie and Robert back to Bradford with them until our plans for the future could be more settled, and it will do Nettie a great deal of good to be among new scenes and sympathetic friends.  Evarts took them to the train and got them off this morning.

Winfield has been of great help and comfort to Nettie; he has purchased her all the apparel she needed for her trip, and has paid her expenses to Bradford. He also had a beautiful cross of flowers, wreath and loose flowers placed on the casket at the funeral.

We have had many letters of sympathy, and telegrams, from ours and the children’s friends, among which are letters and telegrams from Mr. & Mrs Gummer, Mr. Woodbury, Mr. Purdy, Bishop Fowler, and many others, which we will keep and show you sometime.

Yours affectionately,
Popa Blake


Isaac Blake Letter

Isaac Blake Letter 2

Isaac Blake Letter 3Isaac Elder Blake Letter
5 August 1899, New York, New York
(Letter courtesy of Beatrice Aldrich Nelson)

Agnes Honora “Nora” Maloney Blake was buried on Thursday,  3 August 1899, in Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery on Long Island.

Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Warners, New YorkGreenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery
Warners, Onondaga, New York
(Photo courtesy of Paul G. Healy)

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