Tuesday, January 27, 2015


In 1867 my great-grandmother, Nancy Corel Dobbins, wrote a letter to her nephew, a 25 year old man named William McGlothlin, and sent it to him in the gold fields near Virginia City, Montana.  In December of this year, that very letter was sent to me by a distant cousin, who didn't know who William was and thought maybe I did.

I'm going to let the documents I have tell the story.  I'm posting the original envelope that it came in because it is interesting and readable.  The rest of the story will be from transcribed documents.  Old letters and old newspaper articles are difficult to read.  And you'll want to read this:

This envelope was addressed to James S. Dobbins, Nancy's husband.  Here's what the letter inside said:

P. O  Virginia City
Montana Territory
Feb. 27th, 1867

Dr. Madam:

I take the liberty of addressing you and returning your letter to your nephew, the late William McGlothlin  To find the address, I was obliged to open the letter.  This I am sure you will excuse under the circumstances. 

Mr. McGlothlin was murdered on Sat. the 16th of Feb'y near this city.  His body was found on Sunday following, and been decently buried.  Every effort is being made to discover the murderers with a present prospect of success, when they will, in a very few hours, pay the forfeit of their own lives.

I can only add that his friends have the hearty sympathy of this entire community in their bereavement.

You can probably best break the sad intelligence to his mother from whom he had, only a short time before his death, received a letter which was found on him.

I am                 Very Respectfully yours,
                                      A. M. S. Carpenter

                                        Depty Post Master

                                                        * * * * * 

Searching the internet via Ancestry.com and professional genealogist I know who is also a Corel turned up these two newspaper articles.



The city was startled yesterday, about 1 p.m. by the information that a man was lying about three-fourths of a mile north of the now, shot through the head, and had been dead some time.  There was an immediate rush of people to the place, and, no doubt, many more would have gone, had it not been conjectured that the report was a "sell."  We joined the throng, and on reaching the place, found it to be true.  Dr. Yager, coroner, immediately empanelled the following named persons as jurors: N. J. Davis, foreman, and Messrrs Culver, Bartlett, Ousterhouser, Pfouts and Shannon.  After a preliminary examination of the deceased man, the body was conveyed to the city, and the jury adjourned to meet in the Probate court-room at half-past four in the afternoon, where the inquest was held in secret.  "The following are the particulars, as far as we are informed:  The deceased was named William McLothlin; was a laboring man, about twenty-five years of age, and unmarried.  He came here from Lawrence, Kansas, where his parents reside, during last autumn, and has since been employed as a common laborer.  In such occupation as he could find.  He, in company with another man, occupied a cabin on Jackson street near the upper end of town.  He was temperate in his habits and had no personal enmity with anyone.  On Thursday last his cabin was closed and no one knew anything of him until he was found today by Mr. McCloskey.  When found, he was lying on his face with a bullet hole in his head, the ball having entered through the back part and lodged in the brain.  The hat was still on his head, and, where the ball passed through, was powder-burned.  On examination of the body, a navy revolver with all the chambers loaded was found upon him.  In his pocket was $3.15 in currency which, it is supposed, is all the money he had.  His pockets had not been disturbed, nor was there any sign of a struggle in the snow.  He lay almost perfectly straight on the ground and had not moved from the position in which he fell.  The suggestion of a suicide is an impossibility.  There were two tracks in the snow to where he lay – but one away from it.  This also explodes the suggestion of him being murdered in the city, and conveyed there.  The entire affair is, as yet, shrouded in almost impenetrable mystery, and it is to be hoped that the coroner's jury will elicit information that may lead to the detection of whoever committed this brutal deed.  The jury is still in session at the present time.

                                                          * * * * *

MONTANA POST 2 March 1867

VERDICT – The Coroners Jury empanelled on the inquest of Wm. B. McLothlin, returned a verdict on Saturday that: "The deceased came to his death from the effects of a pistol shot, fired by some person or persons unknown to the jury."  After the rendering of the verdict, the jury were discharged by the Coroner.  We believe we are correct in saying, that after hearing all the evidence on the matter, the jury were fully justified in the decision they gave.  The numerous reports current about the implication of certain parties and no indubitable evidence of their guilt, could not be sustained when the witnesses were examined under oath.  The murderer of McLothlin is still alive but we hope not at liberty, as the villain, whoever he is, is an adept at murder.  His success in decoying the deceased to the out of the way place where he was killed, and in killing him before he had time to draw the loaded revolver in his suit?, shows that he is treacherous, crafty and had thoroughly planned the "deep damnation of his ____ off."  While a heartless villain remains in our midst, no man's life is safe, and it is nothing more than justice requires that some inducement should be offered to competent persons to ferret him out and bring him to justice.  This thing should not be forgotten until another and another is added to this list of victims, as it seems likely to be from the apathy that is shown in the matter.  Justice to the living and the dead alike requires action – and __ offering a premium to crime to abandon the attempt to discover the perpetrator.

                                                              * * * * *

I am not closely related to William; his mother and my great-grandmother were sisters so I am a distant cousin.  I knew what happened to his brother Henry, and I knew what happened to his brother Shadrick.  I did not know until yesterday what happened to poor William.  The oldest cemetery in Virginia city has many unmarked graves, and though the letter-writer said he was given a decent burial, I'd guess that did not include a headstone.  I've got a few good Corel researchers looking further with me to see if we can put a confident "finis" on his life.  

William did what so many young men of that day did - looked to make their fortune in the gold fields of the west.  James Dobbins himself, before he became Nancy's husband, went for Colorado gold in 1860 but came back home mostly empty handed.  Like William, Tim Madden, brother of my great-great grandmother Ellen Madden went to California from Boston in 1850 and never was seen again. No one knows what happened to Tim.  At least now, we know the story of the short life of William McGlothlin, son of David & Jemima Corel McGlothlin. 

Friday, January 16, 2015


On the Fourth of July, 1865, a prosperous farmer, John Breckenridge Preston McConnell, and Frances Narcissa Wright, daughter of a Church of Christ preacher, married in Barren County, Kentucky.  It was his second marriage, his first wife having died, and her first.  She was 20 years old. John and Fannie, as she was called, ultimately had 8 (or 9) children, but sadly, only three of them lived to maturity.  In the late 1870s the family left Glasgow, Kentucky and settled in Limestone County, Texas.  Later they moved to Colorado.  John died in 1898 and Nannie lived until 1915. These two people were my great-grandparents.

One of them was a Confederate Spy.

In 1905, the Colorado Gazette newspaper had a feature story on page 15 of the Sunday October 22 issue that reads

Get a good look at her in her wedding picture above.  It's 1865 and she's 20.  She obviously was a teenager when she was spying.  Let me share some of the details from the newspaper.

"I was a spy under General Bragg," she said, "and I made more than one visit to General Rosecrans' headquarters on one pretext or another when he invaded Kentucky and I carried information back to General Bragg.  Men could not go anywhere in those days unless they were with an army, and so I, like many other southern women, rendered much service in bearing dispatches.

"When Bragg concluded to send the raider, John H. Morgan, through Kentucky to destroy bridges and railroads in order to cut off Rosecrans' supplies, it was I who carried him the message to report at General Bragg's headquarters.  After that I aided Morgan by bringing him quinine and percussion caps.  These articles were sewed in a quilted skirt which I wore, and the dispatches were sewed between the soles of my shoes.  I made trips across the Ohio river to Indiana towns where a confederate furnished the skirts filled with caps and quinine.

"Often the skirts were loaded so heavily that they became a burden.  I usually went on horseback across the country and had several narrow escapes from being captured by the Yankees.

"I cultivated the acquaintance of Captain George Stone, a Union officer.  He gallantly showed me around his camp.  Then I told him I wanted to see what a fortification looked like and in his innocence he took me over the breastworks and I mentally noted the weak places.  That night I rode 40 miles to inform Magruder and at noon the next day his cavalry dashed in where I told them to and captured the camp, as well as a large quantity of supplies without the loss of life.

"When the Federals were in Glasgow, I was suspected on several occasions of being a spy.  They had my hair searched for dispatches.  One day I got mad and had a barber cut if off and I threw it in a Union Colonel's face who chanced to be present.  He laughed and seemed pleased to get it.  This made me madder still and I took it away from him.

"My duties led me to Shiloh and I shall never forget the horrors of that battle scene.  The dead and dying lay in windows and the wounded were piteously begging for water.  There were so many of them, and so few of us to attend their wants, that I took off a new pair of shoes and carried water to them from the creek to the poor fellows in both the blue and the gray who were only too glad to drink from anything."

There is a bit more to the article, but not about spying.

Did any of this story filter down to my generation?  Not a bit of it.  She died in 1915 when my dad was 7 and his sister was 11.  Nannie's daughter Susan Maud was my grandma and she never told any stories about her mother being a spy.  I found out about it through the kindness of a Kentucky genealogist who saw a reprint of the article in the "Hart County [KY] Historical Society Quarterly and wondered if she might be able to find descendants researching her.  Her curiosity was satisfied when she found my name on the Internet as a descendant of John and Narcissa Frances Wright McConnell and sent me an e-mail.

And I think that while all the people I write about in this blog are truly Immortal Nobodies, my "SPY" is probably as close as I will come to having an Immortal Somebody!

Friday, January 9, 2015


In the scheme of things, this man probably had as much influence on my young life as his best friend, my father, did.  He wasn't a "real" uncle, so I don't have a lot of genealogical data for him.  But he truly was special in my life, and since there is no way of memorializing him on my own Family Tree, I'll do it here.

He was born Wilmer A. Funk, in Beatrice, Nebraska about 1906 ; he was called "Bill."  As I recall, he attended Colorado School of Mines, but when his father died, he dropped out to help his family. Somewhere along the line he met my father in Colorado Springs and they became fast and lifelong friends.

The two fellows set out in 1930 for California, where they headed to Angels Camp to check out a possible gravel mine for some Colorado speculators.  This first venture came to naught, but in the meantime my father met my mother, also a relocated Coloradoan, and they married in 1932.  In those days everyone was trying to survive through the Great Depression.  Dad started his family and Bill brought his whole family to the Los Angeles area, where he felt there was more opportunity for them.

My father did not serve in WWII but Bill did.  He was on the South Pacific island of Pelelieu, and if I remember correctly, he worked on building military bases.  Meanwhile my father bought a house iin Long Beach, California, for a pittance.  It sat on property that was needed for expansion of the City Bus lines, so whoever bought it had to move it somewhere else.  Since my father owned some property a few blocks away, it was a match made in heaven.  The house ended up at 1620 Gardenia Avenue in Long Beach.  There was plenty of space in it, and it was at that time Bill moved into a small back bedroom and lived there with our family for many years.   I must explain for the younger readers that when we kids were little, we could not call people by their given names.  It either was Mr.. So and So or Uncle So and So; my dad's best friend became "Uncle Bill" to my younger sister Ginnie Lou and me - and later we called him "Unc."

It was in 1945 that Unc and my father became partners in a small appliance business in Long Beach. My dad handled the sales department and Uncle Bill the repair department.  That arrangement, in all its various future iterations, worked  and they remained partners until they retired.  In the mentime, Unc married in the mid 1950s, after my sis and I both had gone off to college.

Unclc Bill was a perfect counterbalance to my father in all ways.  Dad was high strung; Bill had a stolid German disposition.  Dad worked with fleeting financial figures; Unc worked with machines that needed repairing.  What dad missed in his schooling, which rendered him somewhat useless in helping us with our school work, Bill, with his training, is the only reason that both my sister and I were able to pass algebra in 9th grade (which was when we were introduced to it in those days.)  Night after night he patiently explained to us - me first and then two years later my sister - how algebra worked.  It was SO difficult for both of us; I don't remember a lot of fussing on our part, but I'm sure we weren't the easiest kids to teach.  Unc methodically sat with us on the couch and went over the problem again and again until we caught on.

My mother was not really well a lot of the time, and to make matters worse she became pregnant again at age 37.  She had terrible morning sickness and could barely get out of bed.  My father had always been the first one up each day; his job was to turn on the floor heater, set the coffee percolating on the stove and the bacon frying.  Uncle Bill took over the duty of making sure Ginnie Lou and I got out of bed each morning.  We would hear him at the door of our bedroom give a fairly substantial knock, then in a sing-song voice say "SADDLE BLANKETS" and then he'd crack open the bedroom door a bit so we could smell the coffee and bacon.  If we ever knew the significance of "Saddle Blankets" it has escaped me in my old age.  But it did the job.  Ginnie Lou and I would be more than half-way dressed before mother would pop out of her bedroom and run into the bathroom quickly.  Poor mother.  She was so sick.

Unc never talked much about his time in the service, but he had foot problems for the rest of his lie.  He called it "Jungle Rot."

Unc was a part of our life.  He was truly a member of our family and wasn't a time that he wasn't with us.  He was an unassuming man who didn't fuss over things.  Although they truly were partners in business, my father drove a Cadillac and Uncle Bill drove one of the store repair trucks. Looks just didn't matter to him.  Through the years we came to know his brother Claude, Claude's wife Lois, and their sons, Ronnie and Davy.  We vaguely remember a sister Betty - and I know we met his mom several times.  But it was only Uncle Bill that we really knew well.

After we went away to college, he met and married a woman with two young children, Barbara and Frank.  I don't believe we kids ever met his stepchildren, but we did know his wife Betty, because they often socialized with my folks.

The marriage didn't last but a few years, but Barbara and Frank had experienced Unc the same way my sister and I did.  They stayed in his life after the divorce, and when he suffered toward the end of his life with a crippling case of arthritis, they were there for him.  He and my father retired from business and both lived long lives, although neither as healthy as they wish they had been.

We were SO lucky to have Unc in our lives.  I have often wondered how I could find a way to immortalize him on the internet and share with everybody about his goodness and kindness to our family.  I finally decided I would put him under "Immortal Nobodies" - who usually are quiet little folks that I've only read about in my never-ending genealogy reserach.  For Unc, I think I'll temporarily change the title to "IMMORTAL SOMEBODY!"

Saturday, January 18, 2014


From the very first, my idea of getting into “genealogy” was that it would become a place where I could capture and store all the old stories my mother told me as I was growing up.  She died unexpectedly in 1982, and at that time the subject of genealogy wasn’t even on my radar screen.  But two years later I was introduced to it by a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was her enthusiasm and encouragement that started me thinking I could make some order out of the “old stories” my mother told me about the farm in Kansas, the tornados they lived through, the fire that burned down their house, the photography school she attended in Illinois, her grandfather who left his grandchildren a nice chunk of money when he died that came to them in the middle of the Great Depression, her authoress grandmother….and ultimately the trip that brought her to California. 

I started into genealogy with what is called a family group sheet – a form on which to capture the “name, rank and serial number” (so to speak) of each family that I was related to.  I learned how to hunt down elusive facts; sometimes it was as easy as picking up the phone and making a phone call to an aunt.  Other times I had to send off to county offices to get a copy of a birth or death certificate.  This was all before the advent of both the personal computer and the internet, so overall it was not a particularly effortless chore.  Those empty blanks on the family group sheet were always calling to me for answers. 

It is now thirty years later, and they are still calling.  Today I’m hunting for the details of the short life of Blanche Stevens.  She truly is an Immortal Nobody, and while I suspect I’ll never have a picture of her to post on Find-a-Grave or on the blog, hopefully I can get a sense of this child who actually was my grandma’s cousin.

Here’s what I know about Blanche.

            She was born in 1889 in Wichita, Kansas.  Her dad was George Stevens and her mom was Sarah Smith Stevens.  She had a brother, George Dewey Stevens, born in 1898.  Her mom died in 1900 of Bright’s Disease.  Needing a mother for his children, her dad married Adelia Gale on Christmas Day of 1901.  Daddy George took a job in Guthrie, Oklahoma and the family moved there.

            In December of 1909, Blanche married E. E. Thompson at the age of 20.  In November of 1910, Blanche died.  She is buried in the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie.  Her husband ultimately remarried and moved to Florida.  Her brother graduated from college and became a geologist and moved to Texas.  Father George and stepmother Adelia followed George Jr. and ultimately died and are buried in Houston. 

That’s what I know about Blanche.  That’s not enough. 

Genealogy reflects our culture, and it is not surprising that there is a paucity of information about most of the females that we are researching, especially the ones who die soon after reaching adulthood.  In the case of many women of that day, often there is a grave of a baby beside the mother, or named on the same tombstone.  Many, many women died in childbirth.  Is that what happened to Blanche?  1910 is fairly early to expect a death certificate to be required.  Logan County, where Guthrie is, says I must send in a $15 research fee to see if a death certificate for Blanche exists.  I am paying for research time; if one exists I’ll receive a copy of it.  If one doesn’t, the fee still applies.  I have no problem with that.  If it does, I will be able to add a little knowledge to the life of Blanche. 

What else might be available that would shed light on her life?  It is a little early for high school yearbooks.  Does the public library have copies of them that far back?  Or perhaps the high school does.  If so, can someone see if a picture of her exists in that yearbook?  I hope, I hope….but I’m not holding my breath.

Do old copies (or microfilmed copies) of newspapers exist?  Were there any stories about her marriage?  Was there an obituary printed at her death?  To find out, my choice is to take a trip back to Guthrie and research myself (not likely), hire a researcher to take a peek for me, or count on the good graces of a kind library staff to check for me and tell me how I can get copies of the articles. 

To give Blanche more of a “self” it will be worth a few dollars spent in the hunt.  Lurking in the back of my mind, of course, is that maybe none of these things exist….and then what? 

In genealogy, strange things can happen.  One time early on I received an envelope in the mail from someone whose name I didn’t recognize.  I opened it up and out fell a carte de visite photograph of my great-grandmother, Nancy Dobbins.  It seems that a lady in El Paso was the great-granddaughter of Nancy’s sister Olivia.  Being the youngest child of the family, Olivia had retained all the old family photographs and albums, and perhaps being the most prescient of them, had thought to label each one that she knew.  That box of photographs had been passed down to the youngest daughter of each generation, finally resting with the lady in El Paso.  The El Paso lady was herself a genealogist and tracked me down to deliver that photo by mail. 

So I never can discount that something totally unexpected will happen and Blanche will become a real person again.  But for the time being, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the traditional ways of turning up facts will once again produce good stuff and that Blanche will become better known to all of us Stevenses.

Friday, November 1, 2013


In an earlier post I wrote about my great-grandma Louise.  She has always been the subject of some consternation in my extended genealogical family for several reasons:  She was a second wife, marrying a man twice her age who was widowed and had two smallish sons.  Between the time of his first wife's death and the remarriage, he had placed both boys with other families in the farm community to care for.  The present day family believes that Louise was the one who farmed the kids out.  It still makes them mad.

Another reason is that she WAS very young when she married and this didn't set well with them.  She was born in 1863 and married in 1878, which made her 15, although a few days after she married she turned 16.  Apparently she was not a perfect stepmother and tended to favor the son she had with her husband over her stepchildren ... at least if you believe the remnants of stories the present day family tells.

A third problem grew out of whether or not she wrote a book about Caldwell, Kansas.  Her husband said she did, but the present family believes, in spite of a letter to the contrary from her husband, that he himself wrote it.  This book's writing was slammed beyond belief by a local professor, and I have always wondered why the present day family wants to claim it if it is so horrible -- purple prose, this fellow calls it!

Anyway, given that this condition exists, there is also a strictly genealogical problem that has been around as long as I have been researching this family. From early on, new genealogists are told to prove every fact.  It is easy to think that a death certificate is proof, and often "newbies" use that as their proof.  But as an example, the informants who give the information put on death certificates often are simply wrong about what they put down.  They may believe it with every fiber of their being, but that still doesn't make it so.  My issue with Louise "Lou" Hall has been her birth year.

The earliest year she shows up on a Federal census is in 1870.  At that time she and her family were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  Here is what the family looked like at that time:

1870 Census – Warrensburg, Johnson, Missouri

John A. Hall       34
Martha Hall        36
Abner Hall         12
Charles Hall       10
John Hall             9
Bessie Hall          7
Lou Hall              5
Roger Hall           1

That census showed that sister Bessie was two years older than Lou, and by deduction, Lou would have been born about 1865.  Since I had no reason to think the informant (probably either her father or mother) would be incorrect, I just assumed this was accurate.  Thus, all the research I did from that point on was predicated on the assumption that Lou was born in November of 1865.
The major problem this presented to me was that she would not have been close to 16 when she was married but rather was close to 14.  


By 1880 Lou was happily married with a new baby - and at least as far as Federal Censuses go, she never again appeared enumerated within the context of her birth family.  And I didn't get around to researching her siblings for a long, long time.

However, for an entirely different reason I decided to see if her family appeared intact on the 1875 Kansas State census.  Although the name Hall did not appear in the index, (making me assume they were not in Kansas) by browsing through the various townships in Sumner County, Kansas, where I knew the family had moved, I was able to find them.  And I got a big surprise:

1875 Kansas State Census

John A. Hall    40
Martha            34
Abner             17
Charles           15
John                13
Lou                 12
Bessie             10
Roger               6

In this census, Lou and Bessie have exchanged positions; Lou appears to be the older of the two girls, making her birth be in 1863 rather than 1865.  That meant that all those other documents where her year of birth is shown as 1863 were correct.  She had NOT knocked a few years off her age like so many women did (and still do!).  Whoever in 1870 gave that bad information to the census taker (and it could have been either mom or dad OR the census taker himself!) was in error.  

I had built up a whole story that would make sense for using 1865 as a birthdate; it never occurred to me to question its veracity.  The story I fabricated made sense, but it was wrong.  Finding this new census information  solved a big problem I had, and made me once again realize how necessary it is to check and double-check what one is using for "truth."  

I do not want wrong information as a legacy of my genealogy!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


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So here is a sad story.  It’s a very interesting story, but still, quite sad.  It took place in Riverside, California in 1908. 

On the morning of April 16 of that year, the Sells-Floto Circus arrived in town via the railroad.  Stopping in an area just northeast of town, the area filled with people watching the circus set up.    The first event of the day was a parade of all the costumed performers, caged and uncaged animals and the circus band at the head of the line.  Into the town it went, and then it circled back to finish setting up.  Between the band and the calliope there was music everywhere, and the townsfolk were excited about this year’s event.

Sells-Floto Circus was lucky enough to have six trained elephants in their menagerie: Old Mom, Trilby, Floto, Snyder, Alice and Frieda.  In the parade they carried banners advertising local businesses. 

While it seemed like the whole city had turned out for the parade, there were still plenty of businessmen who had jobs to tend to and chores to complete.  One of these was a deliveryman who had a tank on his delivery wagon and he needed to fill it with gas.  This wagon was pulled by four horses.  His first stop of the day was at the Standard Oil Company storage yard, which was about a block southwest of the circus grounds. 

Leonidas J. Worsley, a 62 year old Civil War Veteran and resident of Riverside, was refilling his delivery tank with distillate when there was a sudden explosion and fuel shot out all over Worsley and his wagon.  Fire followed and quickly spread to the storage yard.  The blast set the horses running toward the empty lot over by the circus tents and it tossed Worsley on the ground about 20 feet away.  People nearby ran to help Worsley; about all they could do was to roll him in the dirt to put out the flames.  He was alive, but horribly burned.  He was put in a wagon and immediately was taken to County Hospital.  He died of his burns an agonizing three days later.

In the meantime, the horses were caught and separated from the burning wagon.  Some embers set a few small fires around the circus grounds but they were quickly put out.   It would still be an interesting story if this were the end of it. 

But it went on.

After the parade, two of the elephants (Old Mom and Trilby) had been put to work moving the crates and other storage items to a corner of the lot.  The four remaining elephants had been “staked to the ground in a picket line.”  The big animals sensed the danger and one by one the four elephants, “trumpeting, twirling and pulling…pulled their stakes from the ground and fled…” Hoping to find and calm the elephants, the elephant handlers took Old Mom and Trilby with them as they headed out to capture the marauding beasts.  Three of them were fairly easily caught, but Floto was enraged and he led them on a not-so-merry chase.

To make a long story short, he saw a woman alone on a front porch and he headed for her.  She tried to get inside the house, but the door was locked.  Floto lumbered up the stairs, head-butted her, picked her up with his trunk and then threw her down on the ground, after which he stomped on her.  She didn’t die then but by 9 p.m. that evening she was dead.  The elephant proceeded to run amok through the streets of downtown Riverside, trashing everything he could see.  He tore up the barbershop in the Mission Inn, destroyed a camera shop, a music shop, broke a horse’s leg, tore up fences and trees and finally found himself in a stable.  From there he was trapped.  The handlers caught up with him and after more than an hour they were able to calm him enough to lead him back to the circus grounds.

Amazingly, the circus was able to give the evening performance and the town settled back to normalcy.  The circus had an insurance representative with them and he settled all the claims, including burial costs for the lady killed by the elephant to everyone’s satisfaction.  Within a few days, the circus packed up, loaded back onto the train and chugged off to their next booked event.

End of story.

Being a good, snoopy genealogist, I have already learned what more there is to know about poor Leonidas J. Worsley, who he married, his child’s name and his grandson’s name.  I also know that he was buried in a local cemetery, although the death date on the stone is off by one year.  When my life slows down a little bit I’m going to make a trip down to that cemetery and get a snapshot of his stone to add to the Findagrave posting.

I learned about this story from a fine article researched by Aaron Maggs and Allison Maggs and published in the Journal of the Riverside Historical Society.  They did a beautiful job of documenting the tale and as I read their Notes, which is where they show their sources, as late as 1988 the story had been written up in the local newspaper.  Although this is not a “good” story, it IS an interesting one.  I wonder if many Riverside residents know about it now?

You wonder what my interest is in all this?  Aside from it being a very interesting run of events, I had a distant relative, Traber Norman Dobbins, grandson of my great-grandpa James Sellers Dobbins, who played clarinet in the Sells Floto Circus, though many years after this above episode happens.  And learning about all the traveling circuses that criss-crossed the country before the biggies of my own childhood -  Clyde Beatty, Barnum and Bailey and Ringling Brothers - did was a big surprise to me.  These circuses came by train, too, and many times before I was even a teenager I watched the circus train pull in just north of the interesection of Cherry and Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, California, and unload everything -- just like the Sells-Floto had been doing for years.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012




Wednesday, October 20, 2010


In researching at the Protestant cemetery in Istanbul, I found everything way too interesting, so I had to set definite parameters for the future book: AMERICANS BURIED in the Protestant Cemetery. While their families who weren't buried with them were important because I wanted that information to help link them up to a place in America, in the Pratt case I barely knew that there was such a child as Albert Pratt. I was really researching the details of his father and mother, Dr. Andrew and Sarah Goodyear Pratt, and the names of their dead children on Dr. Pratt’s tombstone were my focus. So more than 10 years later coming upon the name of one of their children who lived in Redlands, California after leaving Istanbul was, well, just a shock and too good not to continue researching! If you are a genealogist, you know that the more you need to research, the happier you get!

So in 2002 I went over to the Redlands library - Redlands being a small town next door to San Bernardino - and looked in the old Citrograph newspapers of June, 1889. Sure enough, there was a BIG article on the wedding. This wedding was the social event of the year.

Madeleine was from a well-to-do family originally from Kewanee and Chicago, Illinois. A big chunk of the Sloan family had moved to Redlands. Madeleine had lots of aunts, uncles and cousins there. Madeline’s grandfather, Seymour Sloan, had not moved here but he visited often. The newspaper, which actually has been indexed, announced that on one of those visits he died and his body was shipped back to Illinois for burial.

One of Seymour’s sons was Dr. George Sloan of Chicago who financed the building of the Sloan House in Redlands, a three-story brick hotel, which opened in 1888 with Horace, Madeleine’s father as proprietor. Another of Seymour’s sons was Junius Sloan, a well-known Midwest “prairie painter,” who also lived for a while in Redlands. He was married to Sara Spencer, daughter of the man who developed the Spencer writing style. In August of 1900 Seymour was in Oak Glen, near Redlands and known locally as apple-growing country, and while he was climbing a tree searching for a scene to paint he fell out of the tree and was killed.

But lest you think Albert married “up” – that he was just a poor missionary’s kid from Turkey – as a wedding gift he gave his bride six lots in the city of Redlands. Albert’s father had a pretty impressive background too. His bio, taken from the book Genealogy of the Goodyear Family by Grace Goodyear Kirkman (Albert’s mother was a Goodyear) says:

Andrew Tully PRATT, eldest child of William T. and Eliza H. (Steele) Pratt, b. Feb. 22, 1826, at Black Rock, near Buffalo, N. Y.; graduated at Yale College, 1847. Dr. Pratt taught for a few months after graduation in Southport, Conn., and spent the next year in the Union Theological Seminary, New York City.

He then began the study of medicine in New Haven; was also connected with the Yale Theological Seminary for two years, and graduated as a M. D. at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, N. Y., in 1852.

In pursuance of the plan which had been in his mind from the time when he began to study, he was ordained as a missionary and physician of the American Board, at New Haven, Aug. 8, 1852; and, having been married on the same day to Miss Sarah Frances Goodyear, of New Haven, sailed with his wife Dec. 22d, for his mission field in Syria. His first station was at Aintab, but he removed to Aleppo in 1856, and to Marash in 1859. In 1868 he was transferred to the Western Turkey Mission and stationed at Constantinople, where he was engaged on the revision of the Armeno-Turkish Bible until his death in that city, Dec. 5, 1872.

After their honeymoon Albert and Madeleine returned to Redlands, where he became manager of the Windsor Hotel and Madeleine’s mother the proprietor. In 1892 he leased the Seven Oaks resort in the mountains north of Redlands and began a 6-year venture of managing and upgrading this resort. Ultimately the resort was sold and Albert and Madeleine, now the parents of a daughter, Rosamond, moved to San Francisco, where he became an insurance agent.

Unfortunately, Madeleine Pratt’s life was cut short by tuberculosis, dying on Monday, September 22, 1902. In June of 1903, a Citrograph article said her body was reinterred at Hillside Cemetery in Redlands.

I finally had to tell myself to stop researching. I did NOT need to know everything in the whole world about this family. But before I quit, I did learn, however, that his mother and at least his sister Fanny ultimately moved to California. Albert died in 1933 and his daughter Rosamond (I think) died in 1957.

The Goodyear Genealogy book, which I found on Google, has other details on the birth and death dates of the Pratt children for the researcher. I grew very fond of this family, and it’s hard to let go of friends. You can see that here in almost 2011 I’ve still got them on my mind.

I was never able to find a photo of either Albert or Madeleine, nor of Albert’s parents. But here for the record a picture of “Uncle Junius Sloan."

So ends the tale of my venture “Chasing a Turk.”