Bradford New Hampshire Humorist, Author, Vaudeville Actor and Dramatist Will Martin Cressy (1863-1930)

Will M. Cressy

Will M. Cressy

Will Martin Cressy was born 29 October 1863 at Bradford, New Hampshire. According to his autobiography,   “before going on the stage he was successively a carpenter, machinist, marine engineer, watchmaker, commercial traveler, and hotel clerk.”  Will’s father was first a teacher, and later in 1910 a grain merchant (Cressy & Company) in Concord NH. At that time Will’s family was living at 24 South Street, Concord NH [corrected from South State Street, see comment] and that address is what Cressy used as his permanent address while traveling as a performer during his long vaudeville career.

The Orpheum Show, Will M. Cressy, c1900; lithograph, U.S. Printing Co., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The Orpheum Show, Will M. Cressy, c1900; lithograph, U.S. Printing Co., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

One version of Will’s career is as follows: “He [Will M. Cressy] made his first appearance at South Norwalk., Conn. Sept. 19, 1899, playing six small parts in The White Caps. After engagements in the Uncle Hiram, Busy Day and Little Nugget Companies., he joined Denman Thompson, playing Cy Prime in The Old Homestead for six years. He went into vaudeville Dec. 19, 1900, and has since remained there, his most successful sketches being Grasping an Opportunity, The Key of C., A Village Lawyer, Bill Biffin’s Baby, The New Depot, Town Hall To-night, and The Wyoming Whoop. In these he has been assisted by his wife, Blanche Dayne, whom he married Jan. 19, 1890. He is the author of 130 one-act plays. Clubs: Vaudeville Comedy (ex-pres.) Green Room, Lambs, Friars (New York); Brooklyn Yacht (Brooklyn). Permanent address: 24 South Street, Concord N.H. Summer address: Cressy’s Island, Lake Sunapee NH.”

The Orpheum Show, Will Cressy and Blanche Dayne, c1900; lithograph, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The Orpheum Show, Will Cressy and Blanche Dayne, c1900; lithograph, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

A few things were left out of Will Cressy’s biography.  For one thing, he (and his wife) toured extensively during World War I to entertain the troops [he was there for 7 months], but before he left for France, he put on a show for 2000 orphans, and also he earned thousands of dollars for the Y.M.C.A., Red Cross, and War Savings Stamp drives.  One modern writer has called Will Cressy “The Bob Hope of World War 1.”  The August 11, 1918 Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth MN) on page 1 states: ” First Volunteers Sail for Europe Boys CheeryThey’re off. The first units of entertainers who have volunteered their services for overseas left last week for Paris and soon the boys “over there” will realize that although Mahomet had to go to the mountain, Broadway has come to them. Five complete units, each consisting of five entertainers, went together. Other units will now follow in quick succession. The first contingent contains the following well-known Orpheum artists: Will Cressy and Blanche Dayne, Helene Davis, George Ausin Moore (Moore and Haager) Irene Franklin and Burton Green, Tony Hunting and Corinne Francis, James F. Kelly and Emma Pollock, and Helen Goff, who formerly supported Kitty Gordon. Orpheum patrons will miss them for a while but oh! what a welcome when they get back.”

Mr. & Mrs. Will Cressy in their 1909 Rambler fifty-five.

Mr. & Mrs. Will Cressy in their 1909 Rambler fifty-five.

Additional newspaper reports seem to indicate that while Will Cressy was in France, he was the victim of a poison gas attack, affecting his health for the remainder of his life.  The 31 May 1925 Boston Herald (Boston MA) stated: “Cressy and his wife, Blanche Dayne, who has played with him all these years, have had a far wider experience of life than falls to the lot of many. Six times they have motored across the continent in their own car. Once they circled the globe in it. They have summered in Japan and wintered in Honolulu. They have toured into ever forgotten nook and corner of England, Scotland and Ireland. Forty-six big volumes of photographs taken by Cressy bear witness to the extent of their travels. In the summer they leave the circuit to spend the hot months in a beautiful house on Lake Sunapee, purchased in the early days of their vaudeville ventures, and now surrounded by find estates. Here Cressy has built his own sand bathing beach and breakwater, and here he delights to fish and to tinker with rustic furniture of his own construction, or dab with a paint brush. Work has just been completed on a handsome bungalow in St. Petersburgh, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, where the Cressys will spend the cold months, since exposure to gas in France during the world war left the actor’s throat too delicate to withstand winter weather in the North. Since his debut in vaudeville December 19, 1898, Cressy has written 144 sketches and has appeared with his wife in 14 of them. Practically all of them are on the rural order, based on true incidents which he observed during his boyhood in a little country town in New Hampshire. Mr. Cressy and his wife are appearing in a sketch called “Without a Will, There’s a Way,” at Keith’s this week.”

At his death, the military groups honored Will Cressy.  The Friday, May 9, 1930 Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond VA) stated: “ST. PETERSBURG FL–Full military honors will be paid to Will Martin Cressy, 66, veteran vaudeville headliner and playwright who died here early today.  The American Legion post here will conduct military services Saturday morning. The active bearers will be members of the St. Petersburg Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of which Cressy was an honorary member.  Mr. Cressy and his wife were the first vaudeville actors to volunteer their services for overseas duty during the World War. While entertaining in France he suffered a gas attack, which in later years undermind his health and eventually caused his death from heart trouble.

William Cressy 3In 1921 the  February 20, 1921 issue of the Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth MN)., page 2 [by Llewellyn Totman] tells a great story about Will Cressy’s life: “It was a blustery New England night back in the ’90s [1890s] when the Frost and Fenshawe Repertoire company braved the winter elements and installed itself in the town opry house at Concord, N.H. Blanche Dayne was the star of the troupe. Whether the memory of that night is engraved in the historic annals of Concord or whether it has ceased to be even a memory, Will Cressy never lets on, but a inch it is that Concord should be famous for more than its grapes to theater-going generations, for it is Will Cressy’s home town, where he ran away to go on the stage.”

Mr. Cressy, with his father and brother, was in the wholesale flour business in Concord. But handling flour sacks didn’t strike young Cressy as the fitting epitome of a lifework, and the lure of the stage was so great, that the night when Frost and Fenshawe played Concord the two Cressy boys said farewell to New Hampshire and joined the show troupe. They called themselves “The Refine Musical Mokes,” but the music was the least of their accomplishments.  With Frost and Fanshawe they played a half dozen roles in every play in the repertoire, that ranged from Shakespeare to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” It was customary to distribute the important parts, and then interpret the remaining characters by every make-shift method known to resource. Once will was called upon, in his role of policeman, to arrest himself, in the role of a drunk. Attention was distracted from the darkened portion of the stage where the drunkard sat at a table, and by one of those ingenious lightning changes know to be possible duly by protean artists and kid actors with their attic shows, the change was successfully accomplished, and Cressy reappeared to arrest the dazed super who had been hurriedly thrust into his place at the table.  The company carried a small organ with it, and every member of the troupe had to learn to play the organ so as to be ready to create music off-stage if all the other players chanced to be in the scenes.  Of course the one tune known to all of them never varied.”

Such was stage life in the rip-roaring days of the “ten-twenty’thirt.” And to hear Will Cressy speak fondly and humorously of it is, let me tell you, an experience. He could write a book about those days, at least an article for “The American,” for the pages of his own history are rich in reminiscence, rare in the humor of the man himself and in the insight they throw on the life of a trouper in those days.

I played every dialect character,” said Cressy “and I played them all with a Yankee accent. There were two expedients, though, that were satisfactory in a pinch. I’d stick a split pea under my upper lip to force an Irish brogue in talking; and two wads of paper in the nostrils would give the Yiddish nasal.  I tell you, those were the days!”

Then I got married, and my brother got sense and went home.”  His wife was Blanche Dayne, who was the star with Frost and Fanshawe when Cressy joined them. Mrs. Cressy came of stage people. At the age of 5 she made her debut with Emma Abbot at the Griswold Opera House, Troy, NY.  At 7 she was playing Little Eva, and at 9, Topsy.

“Out of the 30 years she has been married to Mr. Cressy there have been only three days when she didn’t help earn their living. Miss Dayne was the only woman player in the Forst and Fanshawe company at one period. In one play she was “the daughter,” and after a dramatic scene existed and ran all the way over the creaking planks of the stage (built by laying planks across carpenters’ “horses”) to the other side, to answer, as the daughter’s mother in the play, a question called to her from the stage by Cressy.  Cressy improvised a line about “mother’s being lame,” so the audience was saved from further insult to their credulity by the appearance of “mother” on the stage.

Will Cressy was not only a talented artist, but as a humor writer he wrote a series of Humorous History graphic from Granite Monthlybooklets entitled, “Will Cressy’s Humorous History of <state>”  Earlier this month I posted  Will Cressy’s Humorous History of New Hampshire.

In addition he wrote and published:

Will Cressy’s Humorous History of Florida
Will Cressy’s Humorous History of Connecticut
Will Cressy’s Humorous History of Massachusetts
Will Cressy’s Humorous History of Georgia
Will Cressy’s Humorous History of Vermont
Will Cressy’s Humorous History of Maine
Will Cressy’s Humorous History of Rhode Island
and others….

=====GENEALOGY OF WILL MARTIN CRESSY=====

Mighill Cresse, b 1628 Kent, England, d. 6 April 1670 in Ipswich MA; m. 1658 Mary Bachelder, dau of John & Elizabeth Bachelder. She was bap Salem MA 19 Apr 1640 and d. August 1659. He came from England with his brother William, landing at Salem MA in 1649. In 1658 he said he was 38 years old. He lived for a time with the family of Lieut. Thomas Lathrop. From June 1652 to May 1663 he lived in the family of Joshua Ray at “Royal Side,” Salem [now Beverly MA]. After his 1st wife’s death he moved to Ipswich MA and m2nd) 6 April 1660 Mary Quilter, dau of Mark Quilter. After Mighill’s death she moved to Rowley MA in 1671 and died there 7 May 1707. [much of this from Genealogical and family history of western NY, by Lewis Hist. Pub. Co. 1912, page 24] [A more detailed biography here]
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Child of Mighill & Mary (Bachelder) Cresse:
1. +John Cresey/Crissey, b. August 1859 at “Royal Side” Salem MA
Children of Mighill & Mary (Quilter) Cresse:
2. Mighil Cressy
3. William Cressy
4. Mary Cressy m. — Hidden

John Cresey, son of Mighill & Mary Cresse, b. 5 August 1659 at Salem, MA, d. 22 July 1735 in Beverly MA. After the death of his father, he lived with his grandfather Bachelder. In 1675 he chose in court his uncle, Joseph Bachelder as his guardian. He was a tailor and resided at “Royal Side” on land formerly owned by his Grandfather Bachelder. He was deacon of the Second Church at Beverly. His grave is marked by a slate stone, inscribed, “Here lyeth the body of Deacon John Cresy, who died July ye 22nd, 1735 in ye 76th year of his age.” His will dated June 12, 1734 was probated August 18, 1735. He married 23 November 1665 to Sarah Gaines, daughter of John & Mary (Tredwell) Gaines of Ipswich. [See a more detailed biography here]
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Children of John & Mary (Gaines) Cresse/Cresey:
1. Mary Cresey
2. John Cresey, died young
3. Sarah Cresey
4. John 2nd Cresey
5. +Daniel Cressy, b. 11 July 1698 Salem MA
6. Job Cresey
7. Benjamin Cresey
8. Hannah Cresey
9. Abigail Cresey
10. Noah Cresey

Daniel Cressy Sr. born 11 July 1698 Salem MA d 1 Apr 1747 in Louisburg Cape Breton Canada; m. 29 Dec 1720 in Salem MA to Sarah Ingersoll, daughter of Richard & Ruth (Dodge) Ingersoll. She bapt. 30 Aug 1702, d –.  The book: Richard Ingersoll of Salem MA and some of his descendants, Salem MA, 1909, page 21, states: “removed to CT about 1740, 11 children.” At some point probably removed to New Hampshire. [A more detailed biography here]
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Children of Daniel & Sarah (Ingersoll) Cressy Sr.
1. John Crissey, b 1721 in Salem MA; removed to Bath NH, and in 1790 to Fairfax VT. He married Martha Davenport. Children: John, James, Gould, Samuel, Nathaniel and Sylvanus. The last 3 settled in Stockton, Chautauqua county NY and Sylvanus later moved farther west.
2. Ruth Crissey, died young
3. Mary Ruth Crissey
4. Sarah Crissey
5. +Daniel Cressy Jr., b. 11 October 1730 in Beverly MA
6. Joseph Crissey
7. Elizabeth Crissey
8. Richard Crissey
9. Ebenezer Crissey
10. Anna Crissey

Daniel Cressy Jr., born 11 Oct 1730 Beverly, Essex Co. MA; died 20 May 1827 in Bradford NH; He m1st) 9 May 1754 in Rockingham NH to Eunice S. Morgan. He m2nd) abt 1765 to Abigail Allen, dau of Bartholomew & Abigail (Cressee) Allen. She b. 19 Aug 1731 in Manchester MA, d ?. She had married 1st) Abner Bowers. [More detailed biography here]
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Children of Daniel & Eunice S. (Morgan) Cressy Jr.
1. Elizabeth Cressy b 28 Jan 1755 in Salem, Rockingham Co. NH
2. Daniel Ashby Cressy b 22 Dec 1757 Salem NH
3. Sarah Cressy b 10 July 1759 Salem NH
4. Benjamin Cressy b 9 Nov 1761 Salem NH
5. Eunice Cressy b 5 Aug 1763 Salem NH
Children of Daniel & Abigail (Allen) Cressy Jr.:
6. Andrew Cressy b 10 Feb 1766 Bradford NH
7. +Edward Woodbury Cressy, b. 1768 Bradford NH
8. Bartholomew Cressy b 19 Nov 1769 Beverly MA
9. John Cressy b 1772 Hopkinton NH
10. Abigail Cressy b 1774
11. Mary Cressy b 1776

Edward Woodbury Cressy b abt 1768 in Bradford NH and d 22 June 1822 in Bradford NH; He m1) 1790 in Bradford NH to Sarah Presby.  He m2d) 1799 in Bradford NH to Sarah Sawyer, dau of Oliver & Abigail (Plummer) Sawyer. She b. 29 May 1776 in Hopkinton NH and d 18 Jan 1858 in Bradford NH, buried Presbyterian Cemetery Bradford NH..
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Children of Edward W. & Sarah (Presby) Cressy:
1. Phebe Cressy b: 1792 in Bradford, Merrimack Co., NH; she m. 24 December 1805 in Bradford NH to Ebenezer “Eben” Cheney
2. Daniel G. Cressy b: 1794 in Bradford, Merrimack Co., NH; d. 1874 Gloucester MA; m. Elizabeth Jones of Barre VT.
3. Hannah Cressy b: 1796 in Bradford, Merrimack Co., NH; m. Jonathan Hoyt.
4. Robert Cressy b: 19 Jun 1796 in Hopkinton, Merrimack Co., NH; m. 21 May 1816 in Bradford NH to Abigail Bagley.
Children of Edward & Sarah (Sawyer) Cressy:
5. Sarah Cressy b 1801 Bradford NH; m. 6 August 1821 in Warner NH to Joshua George.
6. Margaret Cressy b 1803 Bradford NH; m. Bard Plummer Paige
7. Oliver Sawyer Cressy b 26 Feb 1805 Bradford NH; m. 1831 Sarah Stanwood
8. Edward Cressy, b. 21 Feb 1809 Bradford NH, d. 19 January 1881 in Bradford NH; m. 5 Feb 1874 in Bradford NH to Nancy Boutell Stevens, daughter of Josiah & Betsey (Colley) Boutell.
9. Lucinda Cressy, b. 21 Dec 1809 in Bradford NH. She  m1st) 1829 to Stephen Marshall. She m2d)  Abisha Washburn. He d. in Rock Island, Illinois in 1870. She d. in 1892 aged 83 years.  Her children: Lucy, Edwin, William, George, Isabelle, and Frank.
10. + William Plummer Cressy, b. 31 Jan 1812 in Bradford NH
11. Mary Cressy b 1814 Bradford NH; She m. Benjamin O. Stanley
12. Louisa Cressy, b. 1817 Bradford NH; married Bard P. Paige, as his 2nd wife (he had married her sister Margaret as his 1st wife).

William Plummer Cressy b 31 Jan 1812 in Bradford NH, d 23 Dec 1890 in Bradford NH; m. Mary Chase Gould, daughter of Enoch & Lydia (Rowell) Gould. She b. 24 February 1811 in Hopkinton NH; and died 24 October 1897 in Bradford NH. He was a farmer. They are buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Bradford NH.
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1860 US Census > NH > Merrimack > Bradford
William P. Cressy M 48 NH
Mary Cressy F 48 NH
Frank Cressy M 19 NH
Willis E. Cressy M 13 NH
———————–
Children of William P. & Mary (Gould) Cressy:
1. Warren George Cressy, b. November 1836 NH; m1) Clementine Seavey; m2) Isabelle Root. She was b. Feb 1842 in IL. In 1900 living in Independence, Polk Co., Oregon. Had at least one child by his first wife, Emma Cressy (b abt 1859), and 4 children by 2nd wife including Stella, and Mabel L. Cressy b Oct 1878 in Oregon.
2. +Frank P. Cressy b 21 October 1842 in Sutton NH
3. Willis Edwin Cressy b abt 1846 NH; he served in Co. H of the 1st NH Infantry during the Civil War, and in 1890 received a pension. In 1880 he was living in Chico and then later Junction, in Butte Co. California. He married 1) Mrs. Lucy Middleham; m2) Mary Turner

Frank P. Cressy, b. 21 Oct 1841 in Sutton NH, died 13 July 1926 in Newbury NH, school teacher; m. 13 March 1862 in Bradford NH to Annette M. Ring, dau of Edmund J. & Meriam (Nelson) Ring.  She was born  5 May 1841 in New London NH, and died 3 Dec 1916 in Concord NH; School teacher. Buried Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH. Frank had  attended both Bradford and Colby Academy. For occupations he was a railroad mail clerk, and later 8 years a clerk for the Treasury Department in  Washington, D.C. This was followed with a job as traveling salesman.  Finally in 1898 bought out the business of “Wholesale Dealers in Flour, Grain and Feed” under the name of Cressey & Company, in Concord, NH.  While in Concord he has served as Alderman and Representative.  He was also a member of the Boston Chamber of Commerce.
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1910 US Census > NH > Merrimack > Concord > 24 South Street
Frank Cressy Head NH NH NH wholesale merchant grain
Annette R. Cressy wife NH NH NH
May F. Cressy dau F 37 b. DC NH NH book keeper grain store
Will M. Cressy son M 46 b NH m1x for 20 yrs playwright
Blanche D. Cressy dau in law F 39 NY MA MA m1x for 20 yrs 0 children actress
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1930 US Census > FL > Pinellas > St. Petersburg
Will M Cressy Head M 63 NH
Blanche M. Cressy wife F 56 NY
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March 1, 1926 Boston Herald (Boston MA) page 8
HARRY P. CRESSY: Concord NH, Feb 28–Harry 4. Cressy 56, one of Concord’s best known residents, died suddenly at his home this afternoon. Two days ago, in response to requests, Mr. Cressy announced his candidacy for the city tax collectorship and his election next week was accepted as a foregone conclusion. He was a brother of Will M. Cressy, the actor who is in Florida recovering from an illness. Mr. Cressy was noted as a good story-teller from one end of the state to the other and was in much demand as a speaker at banquets. He was born in Washington D.C. Sept. 5, 1869 and has been a resident of Concord 30 years.  For the last 35 years he was manager of Cressy & Co., wholesale grain and feed dealers, being associated with his father, Frank Cressy, who died last year.  Mr. Cressy was a member of the Unitarian Church, Eureka Lodge A.F. & A.M., past chancellor of the Knights of Pythias, member of the Knights of Khorassan, the Concord Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and the White Mountain Traveler Association.
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Children of Frank & Annette (Ring) Cressy:
1. May Florence Cressy, b.28 Jan 1862 [b rec says 72] DC; d. 21 Feb 1917 Concord NH, of tuberculosis, single
2. +Will Martin Cressy, b. 29 October 1863 in Bradford, NH
3. Harry Ring Cressy, b 5 September 1869, d. 28 February 1926; m. 30 June 1906 Concord NH to Vinnie Maud Boutwell. She b abt 1881 dau of Horace & Viola I. (Nelson) Boutwell

Will Martin Cressy, son of Frank & Annette M. (Ring) Cressy was b. 29 October 1863 in Bradford NH, and d. 8 May 1930 in Orlando FL. He m. 17 Jan 1890 in Lee, MA to Blanche M. Dayne dau of William R. & Martha (Brickland) Dayne. She was b. 25 Dec 1871 in Troy NY and d. 27 June 1944. They are both buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Bradford NH. They had no children. This article is about him, see above.

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8 Responses to Bradford New Hampshire Humorist, Author, Vaudeville Actor and Dramatist Will Martin Cressy (1863-1930)

  1. Pingback: Will Cressy’s Humorous History of New Hampshire (1925) | Cow Hampshire

  2. susan booth says:

    Hello, I currently own the Cressy residence in Concord NH, and noticed that the address listed in your blog is not correct. The Cressy family owned 24 South Street(not South State St); this is a common misunderstanding as both buildings are brick and both share a corner of Thompson St, just two blocks apart. I own Vintage Kitchens, which is in the Cressy building. you can see the building on my website http://www.vintagekitchens.com

    Thank you for posting all of this wonderful information about the Cressy family. We love being the stewards of their home!
    Best regards
    susan booth

  3. Jef Cressy says:

    Very cool Will is my Great great grandad

    • Janice Brown says:

      Jef,
      Thanks for leaving a message. Which Will is your great-granddad, as the man I wrote the story about had no children! There were others named Will Cressy or similar in the story.

  4. David E Belcher says:

    Do you have any information on the.area on the Tennessee river in.loudon TN called creseysshoal? I’m a member of first families of TN and amateur history student and had never heard the name applied to this area until recently, thank you for your time David E Belcher ,loudon

    • Janice Brown says:

      David,
      In the 1830’s Col. Stephen Harriman Long (my 4th cousin 5x removed, born in Hopkinton NH), was loaned to the State of TN by the Topographical Bureau, and he made the first extended survey of the Tennesse River. For pilots and guides, “he had two good rivermen, Captain Pleasant Cresey and Captain George Wells. … the waters were navigable; but at the upper and lower extremities of every pool or basin there Were invariably shoals that made navigation difficult.” One of these “shoals” or islands was named Cresey’s Shoal or Cresey’s Island, no doubt after the guide of the same name.
      Janice Brown

  5. sharon Linn Davis says:

    my name is sharon Linn Davis my family also from Bradford Warner Henniker Sutton ALL in NH and more parts davis road in NH Bradford. my family.my Email is sharon. earley68@yahoo.com

  6. Rae Gordon says:

    I am starting to check out my roots…….and not the dark ones on my blond head! Turns out I’m related to these cressy’s and after reading about Will, it makes sense that I’m a performer. I’m looking to make a trip to Bradford NH next year. Currently in Oregon, grew up in Southern California. Grandma was Barbara Cressy, grandpa Hugh Bennett. Any suggestion on places to check out and reconnect, would be great. Have never been. You can send me a note at raegordon.com/contact

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