The Debut of Dewilla

The unusual baby name Dewilla debuted in the baby name data in 1935:

  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: 6 baby girls named Dewilla
  • 1936: unlisted
  • 1935: 8 baby girls named Dewilla [debut]
  • 1934: unlisted

What put it there initially?

A murder that began as a mystery.

On November 24, 1934, the bodies of three slain girls were discovered in the woods near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The case was dubbed the “babes in the woods” mystery by the press.

After about a week, the police were able to identify the bodies as belonging to sisters Dewilla Noakes (age 10) and Cordelia Noakes (age 8), and their older half-sister Norma Sedgwick (age 12).

They were originally from Roseville, California, and had recently traveled east with their father, Elmo, and his teenage niece, Winifred — both of whom were later found shot to death over 100 miles away in Altoona. Contemporary sources guessed that Elmo and Winifred were on the run because they were in an illicit relationship.

That doesn’t explain how or why the three girls ended up dead in Pennsylvania, though. The assumption is that Elmo suffocated them, but his motive isn’t known for sure. (Perhaps the family was out of money and Elmo didn’t want the girls to starve.)

This sensationalized, Depression-era crime happened around the same time that Charles Lindbergh‘s baby boy was kidnapped (1932) and the boy’s murderer was captured and put on trial (1934 to 1936).

Do you like the name Dewilla? (How about the names Cordelia and Norma?)

Sources:

Image: New York Daily News 2 Dec. 1934: 92.

2 thoughts on “The Debut of Dewilla

  1. Any idea why the name was popular in 1934 & 36, but got no love in 35?

    Dewilla reminds me of “de Winter”, as in Mrs de Winter from Rebecca.

    I do like Cordelia, Norma not so much.

  2. I’m not sure why the usage would have been higher in 1936 than in 1935. But the cut-off is just 5 babies, so it’s conceivable that the dip in 1935 only went down to 4 babies before popping back up 6 the next year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.