“Miss Bogue is about five feet, ten inches in height, splendidly proportioned, with an exceedingly graceful carriage; is of the brunette type with large, dark eyes with a strong characteristic face.” Amador Ledger, May 9, 1909
“She is tall and statuesque, with large, finely chiseled features, clear skin, gray eyes, and light brown hair, a very queenly figure.” Oakland Tribune, June 7, 1913
Who knows how he convinced Sybil to go along with it, but Virgil Bogue named his second child – his only daughter – after himself. Virgilia Bogue was born in 1886 in Tacoma, perhaps just before Virgil was hired as Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad. He had been lead engineer for the Western Division of the Northern Pacific, working out of Tacoma. The UP meant a move to Portland, focusing on Oregon Railway and Navigation Company construction.
Virgilia would grow up to be a well-traveled young woman, living in Chicago, New York, and finally San Francisco as her father’s work took them back and forth across the country. Their wealth allowed two trips to Europe and Africa, with time in Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Turkey, France and England. In Europe she became fascinated with Italian art and history. She was reportedly capable in several languages and a solid athlete, particularly good at swimming. Also she was “an accomplished musician with a voice of rare quality.”
In 1909, at the age of 22, her life went into overdrive. Within half a year she had a novel published, became a media darling after winning the role of queen of the Portola Festival in San Francisco, and was wed to a purportedly noble Italian artist who made ends meet as a streetcar man.
Virgilia Bogue Baron moved to Italy with her husband Carlo. Their first son died before the age of three, and they quickly had a second, George (Giorgio) Bogue Baron. Then World War One broke out. Carlo, a former cavalry officer, resumed his rank and left for the front lines. Virgilia did her part as a volunteer nurse and wrote letters back home to stoke support for Italy.
Carlo was injured in 1916. The nature of the injury is not stated, but the most common casualty for overstressed officers in Italy was shell shock, a totally misunderstood mental disorder at the time. As with other shell shock victims, Carlo was simply sent home. Virgilia returned with him to America for a time in the middle of the war. Soon after their return, Carlo traveled to Mexico with her father Virgil Bogue. On the return voyage Virgil died at sea, October 15, 1916. She should have stayed in the US, but instead went back to Italy to help when Carlo was ready.
By the end of 1918 Virgilia had perhaps seen too much, witnessed too much tragedy. The death of her mother in August must not have helped. On her return in January 1919, Virgilia was institutionalized on Ward’s Island, New York, at the Manhattan State Hospital. She stayed in the New York mental health system until at least 1940, currently the last trace of her.
Virgilia Bogue Baron Timeline:
- 1886 09 19 Born Tacoma, Washington [familysearch.com]
- Lives in Portland, Oregon at the “Schuyler residence” for four years (guess: 1886-1890)
- Lives in Chicago (guess: 1890-1891)
- (Unsure of timing) School in San Francisco [Many papers, Portola announcement]
- (Unsure of timing) School in Portland [Many papers, Portola announcement]
- 1900 Living with family in Kings, NY, with two domestics [census]
- 1902 moves from 639 St. Marks Avenue Brooklyn to 458 Washington Avenue Brooklyn [Brooklyn eagle]
- 1903 Left Packer Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Described as graduated in papers, but school records show that she left after completing Sophomore year of high school [Many papers, Portola announcement]
- After Packer Institute, “later attended Ms. Spencer’s school for girls” [Oregonian]
- (Unsure of timing) Boxwood Finishing School, Lyme, Connecticut [Many papers, Portola announcement]
- (Unsure of timing) Roie Seminary, Roie, NY [Many papers, Portola announcement]
- (Unsure of timing) First trip to Europe [Many papers, Portola announcement]
- 1906 In Athens, supposedly the King of Greece saw her swimming in the bay and asked her to join the Olympics that year [many Portola articles, eg Physical Culture]
- (Unsure of timing) Joins family in San Francisco
- 1907 Virgilia travels to Italy and meets Carlo in Pelago, Tuscany, Italy (one variant of how they met and when) [Washington Post]
- 1908 08 02 Nicknamed Vergie, writes name as Vergilia [Oregonian]
- 1908 Virgilia meets Carlo in Europe (one variant of how they met and when) [San Francisco Call]
- 1908 10 Virgilia returns from trip to Europe [immigration log]
- Pre-1909 Considered eloping with fellow student of brother at Yale (both went to Yale, not sure which. Samuel started 1899) [NY paper via Oregonian]
- 1909 01 Meets Carlo in SF (one variant of how they met and when) [NY Times 1909 12 16]
- 1909 02 Meets Carlo in SF (one variant of how they met and when) [NY Times 1909 12 15]
- 1909 (Unsure of timing) Meets Carlo on a streetcar, he saves her from being hit by a truck after she slips stepping out of the streetcar. (Several stories exist about how they met) [Oregonian, Oakland Tribune]
- 1909 (Unsure of timing) Engaged to Carlo
- 1909 05 09 Poem printed, perhaps about Carlo [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 05 09 Selected queen of Portola festival [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 05 14 [Amador Ledger]
- 1909 07 Portrait by Brugeriere & Eisen appears with Portola announcement [Grizzly Bear]
- 1909 07 12 Photo sent to Carlos Nelson or Nielson, hand signed by “Vergilia” [email to author]
- 1909 08 Tours Western Pacific rail construction from Oakland on horseback with father [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 08 Early reviews of book “Strength to Yield” [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 08 25 Virgilia’s background checked by Italian inquisitors [Washington Post]
- 1909 10 Strength to Yield published [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 10 03
- 1909 10 16 Portrait by Gertrude Partington complete. On display at St. Francis for several weeks [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 10 20-25 Portola Festival queen [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 10 29 Rumor that Virgilia has married Carlo [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 11 07 Leaves for New York [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 11 13 Strength to Yield banned in two libraries [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 12 Book “Lion of Braganza” is completed, apparently never published [NY Times]
- 1909 12 05 Engagement officially announced [San Francisco Call]
- 1909 12 15 Wed Carlo Luciano “Cesare” Baron in New York at mother’s recently rented 43 Fifth Avenue Manhattan apartment. Had been planned for Easter, 1910 [multiple newspaper articles, certificate per Maura’s comment]
- 1909 12 26 Gossip article in Oakland Tribune that Virgilia was born in Tacoma, WA, not Auburn, CA as she misrepresented by the panel when she became queen.
- 1910 Living with Carlo and her family in Manhattan Ward 15, presumably 43 Fifth Ave. Virgilia Bogue Baron. Perhaps parents just listed her and she was actually gone? [census]
- 1910 01 Write up in Physical Culture magazine describes her as a vegan, saltwater swimmer, fond of riding, tennis and other outdoor exercise, with a beauty “based upon wholesome living.” [Physical Culture]
- 1910 02 13 Plans to publish another book, about the Portola Festival. Living in New York with Carlo. Planning to travel to Morocco and caravan to Fez, head to Paris and then live in London. Portrait is being painted by friend Prince Pierre Troubetskoy [Oregonian]
- 1910 05 15 Travelling Europe [Oregonian]
- 1910 ? First child born in Florence, Italy [Oakland Tribune]
- 1910 08 16 Western Pacific stop Virgilia, California named by her father [San Francisco Call]
- 1912 6? Death of first child in Fano, Italy [Oakland Tribune]
- 1912 07 09 Virgilia to return with young son, born within year of wedding. Plans to write in NY [Oregonian]
- 1912 07 18 Virgilia to return to US; amid rumors [San Jose Mercury News]
- 1912 11 24 Headed to Prince Rupert, Canada to join parents (Virgil probably doing work for Canadian Pacific railroad). Expected to pass through Portland. Living in Perugia, Italy with Carlo. [Oregonian]
- 1913 05 13 Birth of second child, George Giorgio Bogue Baron, named after Virgil Bogue’s father George [Bogue family history]
- 1913 05 22 Birth of second child in Perugia [Oakland Tribune]
- 1915 04 Italy enters war
- 1915 (timing unknown) Carlo volunteers
- 1915 Virgilia works in Red Cross (American Relief Clearing House) hospital in Venice [NY Times]
- 1915 Writing in support of Italy (haven’t found publication until late 1917) [Oakland Tribune]
- 1915 06 Virgilia tours front lines of Italy near Udine [NY Times]
- 1916 04 27 Virgilia returns from Italy with Carlo [immigration log]
- 1916 05 10 Society listing with Carlo [Anaconda Standard]
- 1916 09 10 In New York with Carlo, at society luncheon [NY Times]
- 1916 10 Carlo and Virgil in Yucatan Peninsula on business
- 1916 10 15 Father Virgil Bogue dies at sea during return
- 1917 10 Italian army defeated at Caporetto
- 1917 11 12 In New York [NY Times]
- 1917 12 Virgilia a volunteer nurse on Italian front lines near Venice [Oakland Tribune]
- Working with American Relief Clearing House
- Virgilia’s friend Mrs. Pierre Troubetskoy was in the ARCH’s war relief agency for Serbia in New York.
- 1918 04 Younger brother Malcolm Bogue dies
- 1918 08 Mother Sybil Bogue dies
- 1918 09 (or 10) Virgilia has a nervous collapse in Italy
- 1919 01 30 Return from Italy to New York. Mental collapse “several months ago”. Institutionalized at Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island [Oakland Tribune]
- 1920 Ward’s Island [census]
- 1920 Son George apparently living in boarding house in Peekskill, NY [census]
- 1920 Possible match for Carlo living in Manhattan [census]
- 1925 Middletown State Hospital [NY census, per Maura’s comment]
- 1926 Family lists her as dead in genealogy
- 1930 Middletown State Hospital [census]
- 1940 Middletown State Hospital asylum inmate [census]
On the Net:
The San Francisco Library holds a number of photos of the Portola Festival parade.
Strength to Yield pops up occassionally at used bookstores like Powell’s.
Thanks to Denise Jones for sharing information on George.
Besides the usual newspaper archives, information on Virgilia can be found at the Portola Festival page of the San Francisco Post Card club. They should be commended as the only previous location with details of Virgilia’s life. However, information seems based on a handful of San Francisco Call articles, and I urge future researchers to look for details in the publications I mention above. In particular, Carlo’s middle name is listed differently in many articles, but I believe “Lucien” is correct. Also, the page seems to imply that Virgilia suffered depression because of the international move to Italy, because the writer was unaware of her participate in World War One. Even with these limitations, the hints the page provided were important to me in identifying that she was institutionalized and to look for a reason.
There are further promising lines of research.
- Virgilia’s service in World War One must have been documented. Perhaps there are archives of the American Relief Clearing House.
- Virgilia’s school days may have left behind a trail, but so far nothing.
- Her son George seems to have been in boarding school in New York from at least the time she was institutionalized, but possibly he was left in America during the war. His absence in press reports and records is perplexing, and something I hope to resolve.
- Serbian Pierre Troubetskoy appears several times in articles about Carlo and Virgilia before and during the war.