MRS. MINNIE CHILDS LEWIS
Mrs. Minnie Childs Lewis, whose artistic and literary ability has won her nation-wide fame, is a resident of Tustin, Orange County. She was born in Kendallville, Noble County, Indiana, her parents being William Corydon and Luset (Earl) Childs. The father, who was a native of Wayne County, Ohio, moved with his parents to northern Indiana, where they were among the early pioneers. Later he became a prominent and successful wholesale hardwood lumber dealer in Chicago, where his death occurred on the 29th of August, 1895. William Childs, the American progenitor of the family, settled in Massachusetts in 1624, and among his descendants was James Childs, who married Mary De Haven of old Philadelphia. The De Haven family was noted for its strong patriotism and loaned large sums of money to the colonies during their struggle for independence. John Childs, son of James and Mary (De Haven) Childs, married Diantha Wells, of Wayne County, Ohio, and they were the parents of William Corydon Childs, father of Mrs. Lewis. In the maternal line Mrs. Lewis traces her descent from Job Conger, the first representative of his family to come to the New World. Among his descendants was Reuben Conger, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, whose niece, Esther Conger, married Nathaniel Carr. Ann Carr, daughter of Nathaniel and Esther (Conger) Carr, became the wife of Alison Green, a veteran of the War of 1812. Calista Green, daughter of Alison and Ann (Carr) Green, married Avery Fitch Earl and to them was born a daughter, Luset Earl, who became the wife of William Corydon Childs. Avery Fitch Earl was orphaned in early childhood, after which he was reared by his uncle and guardian, Judge Ferris, of Albany, New York. Mrs. Luset (Earl) Childs was born in Auburn, New York, and died in Chicago, Illinois, in 1905. She was a woman of rare charm, refined and home loving, deeply religious and intellectual, an inspiration to friends and family. By her marriage to William Corydon Childs she became the mother of eight children, three of whom survive, as follows: Mrs. Solon Holmes Benbow, who resides in Kalamazoo, Michigan; William Corydon Childs, who has been connected with the First National Bank of Chicago for thirty-seven years; and Minnie Calista, the wife of Perry E. Lewis. The above genealogical record shows that Mrs. Minnie Childs Lewis has in her veins the blood of several of America’s best families, including the Bradford’s of Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620), Carr’s (1620), Green’s, De Haven’s, Childs’s, Earl’s, Conger’s and others, members of which families have figured prominently in the affairs of the country since colonial days.
Minnie Calista Childs acquired her early education in the public schools of Indiana and Illinois. Following her graduation from high school she studied technique and design under Louis Millet at the Art Institute of Chicago. She took several courses in writing at Chicago, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana, as well as home correspondence courses from Springfield, Massachusetts, and the National Press Association. In 1890 she established a studio in her home in Chicago, where she taught water color, oil and ceramic painting, her work being exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the art galleries of Boston, New York, Portland, Philadelphia, Washington, etc. Her private courses included art, literature and philosophy, to which she has devoted her life in large measure. In 1911 she gave up her studio in Chicago and removed to California. She has now abandoned painting on account of trouble with her eyes but still does considerable writing. Moreover, she has become noted for her culinary art, has received many valuable cash prizes for recipes and excels in the art of cooking and home-making as she did in painting.
On the 7th of February, 1928, Minnie Calista Childs became the wife of Perry Eben Lewis, whose biography appears on another page of this publication. They reside in Tustin, California, on Main Street and Newport Boulevard.
Mrs. Lewis is a member of the Chicago Ceramic Art Association, of which she was vice president in 1904 and 1905 and historian from 1906 until 1912; the National League of Mineral Painters, of which she was treasurer; a member of the National Society of Associated Artists, serving on the advisory board of this organization from 1903 to 1909; the New England Historic Genealogical Society of Boston, Massachusetts, and a charter and life member of the Laguna Beach Art Association of Laguna Beach, California. She is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Tustin. She is an active member of the Ebell Society of the Santa Ana Valley, of which she was director from 1915 until 1917 and first vice president from 1919 to 1921, declining the presidency in 1921 because of the demands of her literary work. She served on the Woman’s State Legislative Council of the California Federated Clubs from 1913 to 1915, was chairman of art for Orange County from 1917 to 1921 and for two years chairman of the committee on education. She is a member of the Women’s Relief Corps of Santa Ana. One the occasion of the completion of Mrs. A. F. Lawton’s term as president of the Ebell Club of Santa Ana in 1915, she was presented with a beautiful water color, “Sunset at Golden Gate,” painted by Mrs. Lewis. The Ebell Club records refer to this incident “as an appreciation of Mrs. Lawton’s service to Ebell. This is mentioned particularly because of the nature of the gift, as every retiring president has received from Ebell members a fitting testimonial of esteem, but this is the only instance where it has been the handiwork of one of our members.” Mrs. Lewis served as first chairman of the ways and means in raising the money for a club-house when Ebell decided to build one in 1921, and the present beautiful structure was completed three years later. She composed the Club House Rally Song which was sung by the members at a banquet at St. Ann’s Inn in their efforts to gain the necessary support and cooperation for the erection of a new club-house. The following comment is part of the Ebell history: “This interest was encouraged by the singing of the Club House Rally Song, composed by that gifted member, Miss Minnie Childs.”
In earlier years Mrs. Lewis exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute, the Pan-American Exposition, and in all of the other large cities of the country from Boston to San Francisco, particularly in connection with the exhibits of the National League of Mineral Painters. At the exhibit of the National Association of Associated Arts at the Palmer House, Chicago, she showed a water color, “Surf,” a Pacific Ocean scene, which was the honor piece of this exhibit. Of this work the Chicago Tribune said: “One of the best done marines is that of Miss Minnie C. Childs, showing the surf of the Pacific Ocean, with dashing spray.” In 1903 the Fine Arts Journal reproduced “Surf” with this comment: “Minnie C. Childs evidently understands the contour of breaking waves. Her “Surf” is expressive of the slow, deep, mellow voice of the restless ocean.”
Mrs. Lewis has written many articles, poems and stories for the leading magazines, her first work appearing in Harper’s Young People. In 1920 she published “Orange Blossom Time in California and Other Poems,” a collection of her verse which had appeared in magazines and the entire edition was quickly sold. She is prominently mentioned in “California Artists and Authors,” and her works, with biography, are in the California State Library at Sacramento. Mrs. Lewis is a close and discriminating reader and a constant student, and is a lover of all things beautiful in nature and art. Among her numerous possessions of historic value are a land grant given and signed by Martin Van Buren, his secretary, A. Van Buren, and Colonel Wilson, commissioner of public works; various books, documents, antiques and relics; the first clock brought to northern Indiana, where her grandfathers, John Childs and Avery Fitch Earl, were among the earliest pioneers. She has several letters of appreciation from the Marine Service, the War Department and the Treasury of the United States, and from officers at the Hospital (tuberculosis) for United Sates Sailors at Fort Stanton, New Mexico, for very substantial gifts to their library. Among her many cherished letters are communications from the publishers of such leading magazines as Harper’s, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Business Philosopher, expressing their appreciation for her work.
An appropriate ending to this review of the life of Mrs. Lewis is her poem, “California.”
The land of golden sunsets and skies of azure blue,
Where sunshine floods the mountains, the vales and canyons, too,
Where flowers bloom forever and songbirds fill the air
With strains of sweetest music of love-life everywhere.
Where rolls the broad Pacific, with rhythmic swish and sweep,
Its rockbound coast a guardian of the secrets of the deep.
Where mountains tower toward the sky, majestic, grand and tall,
Sublime in glorious early dawn or when evening shadows fall.
Where mighty trees stand stately, as sentinels towering high,
Above the fertile valleys, beneath the cloudless sky.
Broad stretches of sandy desert that shall blossom like the rose,
Mysterious in its vastness, its marvel, its repose.
Where starts shine bright in lonely spots, where moonbeams
Where God is good to mortals and blessings come to all.
Fair land of richest heritage beyond all tongue to say,
A treasure-trove of choicest gifts, a land of perfect day.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 761-766, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.