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Millican's Adelaide Prince, Star of Vaudeville

January 26, 2022 - 00:00
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Sometime between the 1870 and 1880 U. S. Census, Solomon Rubenstein along with his wife and seven children came to live in Millican, a short distance north of Navasota along the railroad line. The census record shows that Rubenstein, a store clerk, was an immigrant born in Russia, while his wife and all seven children were born in England.

Among the children was 19-year-old daughter Lena. She came to Navasota to attend private school and participated in a dramatic club. Young Lena was considered a “great beauty and, early in life, dreamed to go on stage.”

During this time, Navasota featured an opera house that was frequented by traveling entertainers performing plays and musicals that included Friday night performances and Saturday matinees.

Lena was possessed with the desire to perform and soon was in Galveston married to a well to do showman Harry Prince. She became Adelaide Prince, no longer acknowledging her given birth name of Lena. She began acting as well as bearing two children.

Desperate for a stage career, the now named Adelaide Prince, abandoned her husband, son Harry and daughter Ethel, for New York. There, appearing as a “statuesque beauty,” she was immediately accepted.

Russell Cushman’s “Navasota Current” blog, lists one of her first roles as in Portland, Maine, but by 1891 she was performing in London, acting in Irving’s “As You Like It.” Cushman quotes Maureen Chinski in her Navasota Bluebonnet book of 1854 - 1954 that her husband Harry Prince “waited patiently for her return to Galveston, hard work and her children, which was never to be.” There was finally a divorce. Adelaide then married Creston Clarke, a member of the legendary theatrical performing Booth family.

Cushman’s blog states “she found the keys to fame, fortune, and legitimacy as she travelled with him and his company, always guaranteed the leading female role in his plays. Later, in the 1920s, she acted in the first motion pictures, becoming a “silent film star.”

During the 1890s the pair reportedly appeared in Navasota in a one-night stand that she apparently paired with a visit to her two children.

An internet squib about Adelaide states she became a vaudeville and silent screen star by “circa 1900.” During her career, though generally not believed, she claimed she had been born in England. According to the 1880 U. S. Census record she was telling the truth.

Even then her story continues with her son, Harry, as Cushman’s blog added: “There were reports that her children, Harry and Ethel had died in the 1900 Galveston hurricane.” But, no, Cushman writes: “Harry lived a long life becoming a prolific writer of plays, films and television shows. He co-authored a play called ‘The Milky Way’ with Lynn Root which was picked up by Hollywood producers who convinced Harry to move from the East Coast to Brentwood, California with his wife Mildred. His daughter, Lynne, stayed behind on her grandmother’s farm in Pennsylvania until Harry and Mildred had set up a home in Brentwood.”

Her granddaughter, Lynne, would become an accomplished ice skater and was offered a job traveling with famous skater Sonia Hennie. Instead, she married and lived a long happy life in California.

Adelaide’s daughter, Ethel, married and lived a long life in Florida. Adelaide, the little Lena of Millican, died on her farm in Pennsylvania in 1941.

(Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation. See for more info and membership).