According to a 1930 marriage record Jean Ford was born Helen J. Stone on January 6, 1905 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. The record notes that Helen was previously married to a man with the last name of Jennsen. In 1930 Helen was living in Rossford. Her fathers name was Frank Stone and her mother’s name was Marie, with a maiden name of La Barr. Helen married Ray J Powell in Wood County, Ohio on June 3, 1930. Ray was working as a fireman and was originally from St. Louis, Missouri. What brought the two of them to Toledo and eventually together is unknown at this time.
Helen and Ray appeared in the 1931 Toledo City Directory living at 352 Nebraska Avenue.
Jean Ford is Born
It’s quite possible that Helen Powell went to the Valentine Theatre in February of 1932 to see the film “The Beast of the City” and left the theatre as Jean Ford, taking the first name of the film’s temptress and the last name of the actor seduced by her. Certainly makes for a good story. But the reality is, the origin of Helen’s pseudonym remains a mystery.
The first time Toledo read about Jean Ford was in the Toledo News Bee on February 21, 1934. The home of the 28-year old “leading operator in Toledo’s Red Light district,” located at 352 Nebraska, was raided by Toledo Vice Squad commander Charles “Spike” Hennessy a few days earlier. The Bee stopped by Ford’s place to interview her shortly after the raid. Ford stated:
“They’re putting me the middle and making an ass of me because I’m more notorious than the others, but I don’t pay out to any shakedown artist.“
The Bee wrote that the former platinum blonde appeared with “red hair in a green clinging creation, decked out in the stylish toggery with which she meets the clients of her salon.” They also described Ford’s home as “Sumptuous, elaborately furnished, and modernistic.”
Ford stated that the raid was unexpected, noting that she had “been operating quietly in the area for several years, minding her own business.”
It was known in police circles that Ford’s place was “out of bounds.” The Bee was at Ford’s place to perhaps make the connection between the raid and the resignation of Hennessy shortly thereafter, but seemed to get distracted by Ford’s “salon,” her wardrobe, and her beauty.
Jean Ford -v- Toledo
Back on the job, Hennessey went back to making the rounds of the red light district, with Toledo New Bee reporters tagging along. At Jean Ford’s place reporters were turned away…
…but Hennessy was allowed in.
Two days after Hennessey made the rounds, resorts remained “closed.”
“She wore a blue ensemble and her nails and lips were a brilliant scarlett.”
The Battle of Jean Ford’s Front Porch
Jean Ford Beats the Padlock. Opens Up Nextdoor
At about this time the “slum clearance” on Nebraska was commencing to make way for a public housing project (Brand Whitlock Homes). Ford’s place was on the list of hundreds of structures planned for demolition.
In 1936 Jean Ford filed for divorce but it appears the request was denied.
Jean Ford was looking across the Ohio border into Erie, Michigan for a new opportunity.
1416 Washington Street.
In April of 1936 Jean Ford was living with Raymond Powell at 1416 Washington Street.
Jean Ford Run Out of Town
In the 1940 U.S. Census the former Jean Ford was 35 and living as Helen Powell with her 21 year old son Carl Killgallon and Raymond Powell at 3610 Howard Street in Detroit.
Helen filed for divorce from Ray Powell on July 31, 1941. Divorce was granted October 31st.
Raymond after Helen
Raymond remarried a women named Vera in June of 1943. In the 1947 Lincoln Park City Directory, Raymond and Vera Powell lived at 14885 Euclid. Raymond’s occupation was locomotive engineer. That marriage ended in divorce in February 1952. Raymond then married a women named Anita June. Raymond died in 1959 at age 49. He was living at 5530 Livernois in Troy, Michigan according to his obituary and was buried at Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit.
Helen After Raymond
So, what became of Toledo’s Jean Ford? Well, research suggests that Jean Ford might not have been the first person created by Helen. Consider again the info from the marriage certificate.
- According to her father’s name on the 1930 marriage record Helen’s maiden name would have been Stone, making her Helen J. Stone.
- The record suggests that Helen would have been 25 on January 6, 1905.
- The record notes Helen being previously married to someone with the last name of Jennsen.
- The record notes Helen being born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.
- The record notes her mother’s maiden name being La Barr.
- The record suggests Helen was living in Rossford.
That’s a lot of info! But, none of this information can be confirmed on the various Ancestry sites or via other avenues of research. Names don’t match up and variations on names and cities and states changes nothing. Assuming Helen J. Stone ever legally existed, her life before and after Toledo (aside from a brief period spent in Detroit) is a mystery.
There’s also the 1940 census from Michigan which notes a 21 year old son, Carl Killgallon (“stepson” to Raymond Powell). He appears on, and falls off of, the radar in 1940 via that census.
Regardless, the search will continue.