Bleakley & Mystery Plane
Can you help us to identify this mystery plane?
Courtesy of Rick & Vicki Anderson, 9-28-04
Editor's Note: To Rick & Vicki -
I have lost your email address. Please contact me.

Bleakley and his Monoplane
Courtesy of Rick & Vicki Anderson, 9-28-04

Tom Benoist Company Aviator, 1912
     Walter E. Lees had to work and earn some money before he could get back north in the spring of 1912 to join the Benoist Co. in St. Louis as an aviation mechanic.
     After working for the Benoist Co. through the summer, Lees started going out on exhibition dates that fall with Company aviators, Tony Jannus, William Bleakley and Ray Benedict. Lees was so eager to learn to fly that Jannus was giving him a little instruction when time allowed on these trips. He made his first solo "accidentally on purpose" on November 14, 1912, at Creve Coeur Lake, Mo. While taxiing a Benoist Hydro faster than he should, it suddenly jumped off the water and he found himself about 50 feet in the air before he realized what was happening. He kept his head, however, and landed it safely but was severely criticized for doing it. With some additional help, he did succeed in making a little progress toward learning to fly that fall. That winter, Lees went back to St. Augustine as a mechanic with Ray Benedict to fly resort exhibitions
Collection of Walter E. Lees

     Roger Weightman Jannus, the son of Frankland and Emeline Carlisle Weightman, who was born in Washington, D.C., on December 25, 1886. Following his graduation from high school, Roger studied engineering. He earned a degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University, eventually ending up in Panama as an engineer on the Panama Canal
     Roger's interests changed in January, 1913. He departed Panama and joined his brother Tony Jannus in St. Louis. As chief pilot for the Benoist Aeroplane Company, Tony hired Roger as shop mechanic. Shortly after, Roger began taking flying lessons from William H. Bleakley. Bleakley had earlier been a student of Tony's and had only recently received his own license and was now an instructor. Roger's flying skills may not have equaled Tony's, but they were not far behind. Soon, Roger was a more than competent aviator and part of the Benoist aerial exhibition team.
This comes from an article in the
Journal, American Aviation Historical Society/Spring 1997
by Thomas Reilly

I am deeply indebted to Mr. Reilly for his courtesy in allowing me to use this reprint and also for his supplying photos of Roger Jannus, Tony Jannus and Tom Benoist for my use.

via email from Evelyn Cathalin, 5-25-05
(mother was Dona Bleakley, William's niece)
Hi Ralph,
     As families lose contact it's difficult to re-connect! But when you know of somebody in your family who has done something remarkable, it brings us back together!
     William Bleakley was the brother of my Grandfather, George who passed away when I was an infant. But, did you realise that William was also a very accomplished poet? I will try and find a poem of his at home, and send it to you.
     William's nephew farms land about 10 miles South of Arvagh near a place called Aughnacliffe, and where I spent my school holidays! A few years ago, a memorial was erected in Arvagh in William's memory, and a plaque was placed on the wall of the house where he once lived.
Editor's Note: I appreciate this information from Evelyn and hope that she can find one of his poems which I can add to his story. I also hope that she can obtain a photo of the cited memorial and plaque which can be added to this page.

via email from Kay Fordham, 6-30-07
Hello Ralph,
     Just ran across your website on early aviators. I had never heard of William H. Bleakley until today while researching my great-grandaunt's children. Tradition has it that her daughter Norma Edwina Hinkle married a William H. Bleakley who died in 1929 in Panama. Norma and her parents resided in Hempstead, Nassau County, NY.
      I find a World War I Draft Registration card for William H. Bleakley of Nassau County, NY who was born 22 March 1890 in Arvagh, County Cavan, Ireland. He was single at the time he filled out the card. I also find an index card for a pension file on Norma H. Bleakley, widow of William H. Surely, Norma's husband must have been the gentleman detailed on your site. Do you know anything of William H. Bleakley's wife or children, if any?
Kay Fordham (Temecula, CA)
Editor's Note: If you can help Kay with her search for more information, please contact me and I will forward your message to her. Thank you.

Norma Edwina Hinkle - Notes
via email from Kay Fordham, 6-26-09
email message to Trevor McMullan
Hello Trevor -
     Unfortunately, our family knew little of the Hinkles until I began researching them. Norma Edwina's mother was Harriet Louella Stoddard, and she was the sister of my great-grandfather, George Henry Stoddard. Their parents were Obadiah Holmes and Ellen (Davis) Stoddard. The Stoddard children were born in Pennsylvania and Elmira, Chemung County, New York. After the death of their mother in 1885, most removed to the state/territory of South Dakota. Harriet Stoddard Hinkle, however, remained in New York. She resided in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. My only knowledge for years was a name and location in the obituaries of siblings. I personally don't know much about Edwina. What type of info are you interested in?
Kay Fordham in Temecula, California

Norma Edwina Hinkle - Notes
via email from Trevor McMullan, 7-1-09
Hi Kay,
     Edwina was a opera singer ... she sang once at the City Hall in NYC but stopped singing when her husband died in a plane crash in the Paname Canal in 1929. She married my third cousin William Henry Bleakley, an Irishman and a early bird flyer ...
      William started flying in 1911 (maybe even earlier) in St Louis. He somehow moved to Long Island where he taught one of the Roosevelt children to fly. That child flew in the first world war and was killed in France.
      William and Edwina lived in Hamstead, NYC (Long Island). They are both buried in Greenfield Cemetary on Long Island. Edwina's grave is not marked but William's is ... the attendent told me Edwina is also in this grave.
     When Edwina died it is said she went a little crazy, and destroyed a lot of William's newspaper clippings, photos, etc. This is a rumour and I was hoping to find out if the rumour was just a rumour and some material had been passed on.
     So you don't know any of Edwina's ancestors?
Thanks for replying


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