Monday, November 6, 2017



     Agnes Salathiel Hall and I shared second great grandparents.  Agnes' mom was the niece of my great-grandma Nancy.  Any way one tries to explain these generational things, it is easy to get confused --  but less so as one becomes more familiar with genealogical research.  I didn't know Agnes herself, but early on in my hunt for "family" I was fortunate enough to come into contact with Joe Cullen, also a relative of Agnes, and he shared with me a paper she had written about her ancestors – all of whom were my family too. 

     Like all of us who deal with "oral" or "written" histories, some of what is written is true and some is close but not exact.  Half the fun of genealogy is "proving" what one finds – and then absorbing it into one's understanding of the family.  Here's what I mean:

1.  Agnes wrote that one of her ancestors had seen George Washington and that the Indians could not shoot him, because they believe he led a charmed life.  Arrows could not touch him either

     I wondered where this idea had come from.  From a bit of research I learned that during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) at one point Washington advised  General Braddock not to march into the wilderness because of the Indians.  Braddock did it anyway and the outcome was known as "Braddock's massacre."  It was in later testimony regarding Washington's warning that for the record it came out that the Indians did, in fact, think Washington was bullet-proof, because they had tried many times to shoot him, but to no avail. 

2.  Agnes wrote "In her childhood Mama had seen the chemical match and baking soda introduced."

     In research I learned that "Strike anywhere" matches were first developed by John Walker and Samuel Jones in England in the early 1830s, and "Safety matches" were not invented until 1844.  Agnes' mom, Jemima, was born in 1842 and it's likely that starting life out in Western Virginia she did witness this arrival of the match.  Agnes also said her father struck fire with a flint and steel, and that the first stoves, called "step-stoves," made their appearance.  In an oral history by Dellie Norton (1898-1993) she writes: "We cooked with one of these old kind of step stoves…It had four eyes on top and a little apron out in front.  And just a place where you put your bread in.  And really, it was very small, but you could cook good on them.  There was a door there at the little apron where you put your wood in.  You don't ever see none of them no more."

3.  Agnes wrote that her grandma Corel "remembered the fall of the stars.  They thought it was an omen.  Scientists have since found the cause."

     This refers to the great meteor storm of 1833.  During the 4 hours which preceded dawn on Nov. 13, 1833, the skies were lit up by thousands of shooting stars every minute.  Newspapers of that era reveal that almost no one was unaware of the shower.  If they were not alerted by the cries of excited neighbors, they were usually awakened by flashes of light cast into normally dark bedrooms by the fireballs.  Many people believed that it was the end of the world.  Some people ran out to watch, and other people crawled under their bed or ran into the closet.

4.  Finally Agnes told how her family left Tazewell County, Virginia, in the late 1840s.

     "Henry Corel, my mother's father, and brothers and families, their stock, etc., came to Kansas from Virginia by flatboat down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  The boat foundered and they unloaded at Wyandotte and drove by schooner to Westport, Missouri using ox teams.  Mama was seven years old.  Kansas City was not started then.  They began a homestead on Little Blue, now Kansas City's famous Cliff Drive.  But finding themselves in slave territory, they moved on to Lawrence, the main seat of anti-slave activity.

                                *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

     This paper of Agnes Salathiel Hall, even with its little errors, is what has me putting Agnes herself into the Immortal Nobody category.  Look what she left me and all her other descendants!  How would I ever know that these things happened in my family?  That historically they even happened?  And she could not imagine that in 2017 someone would be blessing her for this little paper.  

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Kansas State Historical Society
February 6, 1897

Toussaint La Hay settled in Douglas County before I came to Kansas and built a nicely finished pine house of three or four rooms, plastered, painted, and on a raised foundation.  His claim was half a mile east of what is now known as Sigil Bridge, a little post office at the crossing of the Wakarusa, eight miles from Lawrence.  Gabriel Markle, who married a daughter of La Hay, still lives on this place.  The house was one of the nicest ones in the country at that time, and was perhaps put up in 1855.  Mr. La Hay had a wife, two sons, and two or more daughters.  His boys were pro-slavery and rough and always ready to fight.  I think he owned one or two slaves.  His boys were both large enough to hold claims, and I think there must have been two or three quarter sections of land in the family, good bottomland.  La Hay was a man of wealth and influence among his people.

Sometime in 1856 a party of free-state men, supposed to have been residents of the vicinity, but whose identity I never learned, robbed his house of furniture, clothing, etc., and burned it to the ground.  La Hay was not intimidated by this outrage, but immediately put up a log-pole hut with dirt floor, when he lived for some time and until he built a better frame house than the first.  I think he left our neighborhood shortly before the war, going south.  I think his daughter married Mr. Markle about the time he left.

I felt indignant when I heard of the robbing and burning of La Hay’s house, although I was a free-state man and had come to Kansas with the intention of doing my part in the struggle.  I remember of calling on La Hay early in our acquaintance and expressing my desire that we should be neighborly.  I told him that it was only the circumstances of our bringing up that made me an abolitionist and him proslavery; had he been residing north and I south, our views would have accorded with our environments.  He seemed greatly pleased with my overtures of friendship, and we always got on well together.  My wife and I attended the marriage of one of his daughters during the time the family lived in the log house.  The young man whom she married worked in my saw mill.  (Claims, 1861, p. 1536).

I had another neighbor by the name of Geo. W. Ward, who had been a member of the first border ruffian legislature.  He had a comfortable double log house.  For reasons of personal safety he left home in the fall of 1856, leaving his wife, a woman of perhaps sixty years, in charge of the premises.  On the night of September 7th, some free-state men in our neighborhood, Alfred Curtis, A. E. Love, and one other man I did not know, went to Ward’s house, and not finding him at home proceeded to carry away bedding and clothing.  Then they piled the furniture together and set fire to it.  They had ordered his wife to leave, but she would not go until the fire drove her out.  They took some cattle, hogs, and chickens.  The cattle they killed and offered it for sale in the neighborhood.  Some time after the fire Mr. Ward returned and rebuilt the house, remaining a year or two until he could see it, going south before the war.

The men who committed these depredations were our free-state neighbors.  I told them that it was our duty to behave ourselves.  If we acted as badly as the Missourians, plundering and murdering, our friends in the east would have no sympathy for us, and would leave us to our fate. (Claims, 1861, p. 1735-1737.)

Permission to use this document courtesy of Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society

Friday, October 20, 2017


February 25, 1931 - April 14, 2014 

            Meeting Major Chester "Chet" Danielson was my introduction to The Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army had a church in the little city of Ontario, California, and when my family moved to that town in 1965 and got our kids enrolled in school, we became acquainted with Chet, his wife Vicki and their five kids, who also went to the same school as mine.  So we really knew him through PTA before we learned anything about his "job" as the pastor of The Salvation Army Corps (Church.) 

            About a year later the position of Secretary at The Salvation Army Corps became available and Vicki suggested that I apply for it.  I did, and this really was my learning time about the wonderful organization and its founding.  The Salvation Army's International Headquarters says this: "The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
            His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the pews of most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship. Booth decided to found a church especially for them."
            Working in the church office with Chet and Vicki was to see Booth's mission in practice.  Chet was a pastor who loved his flock.  Each Sunday morning he drove the Church bus in a wide sweep of the poorer sections of town and brought in every child and every adult who wanted to be in Sunday School and Church that day.  He took them back home at the conclusion of the services.  He did that for evening service too.  He did that again for Wednesday night prayer meeting.  He provided musical instruments and taught willing children how to play them, so they could provide music for the church services.  Clothing was available for those in need; food was furnished for those who needed it.  Children often came without shoes, but they went home with them.  Sometimes the police brought people to The Salvation Army for help – and Chet and Vicki, with the money that was donated by the Community - used that money to help people in our local community.  The Danielsons were ministers of love.
            Just as in the regular Military Service, officers are moved from place to place, and after 5 or so years, the Danielsons were moved to a new town, and they ended up their career teaching at The Salvation Army's Officer's Training School in Palos Verdes, CA.  I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at their retirement service, and I was proud to do so.  We kept in touch.
            I was sad to learn of his passing.  I hold so many good thoughts of him and Vicki.  Really good people they were.  In my opinion (and I told him this), his only foible was that when it was time for his sermon, he looked out at all those people in the pews that most of society didn't want in their churches – many unkempt, some unemployed or unemployable and mostly uneducated – and solemnly pronounced:  "Let us commence." 
            The congregation may not have understood what "commence" meant, but they all knew what was next:  Our Major was going to preach!

Monday, October 16, 2017


Charles M. Cowan, MD

     I was diagnosed with a heart problem when I was 4 years old.  That was in 1939 and there wasn't much in the way of diagnostic tests at that time.  The cardiologist my parents took me to said don't play any running games, don't go above 4,000 feet altitude, sit on the sidelines during recess, and come back in a year.  I did what they said.  I had a different kind of childhood and my schooling was always different from all the other kids.  It made me an odd child.  But I always carried with me the idea that I could cause my heart to kill me if I was didn't do what the doctor said.   

     When I married, the doctor, not a cardiologist,  said childbirth will give us a good idea of what your heart will do.  Although I eventually had 4 children, I had no heart problems, but I still always had doctors who focused on my heart.  And I always had a cardiologist.

     In 2000, doctors began saying no, I didn't have a heart problem.  I didn't believe them.  After all, I almost lost my childhood over my bad heart, and something had to justify that. 

     When I turned 65 and retired  I chose a Senior Advantage medical plan and selected my Primary Care doctor.  I also found a new cardiologist, Dr. Charles M. Cowan, and made an appointment to see him.  I had all my records sent to him.

     At the first appointment I told him my woeful heart story.  He said he wanted to review my records, ordered an echocardiogram (my first) and told me to come back in a month.  He did, and I did.  When I saw Dr. Cowan again, he took my hand and in a kind, sweet voice he said, "Honey, your heart is perfect except for 3 very tiny little holes that just never grew together as you grew up.  They are so tiny that together they make a funny noise, but that isn't a heart problem.  You don't need me.  You need to go home and live a normal life.

I was stunned.  I finally got him to agree to let me come once a year so he could listen to my heart -- just to make sure.  He laughed and told me to book an appointment for a year.  There was something about him so reassuring that I finally believed what I was told.  Yes, I saw him the next year, and he again assured me my heart was fine.  It was his kindness and the fact that he listened to me that made me so fond of him.

     But after that second appointment, I never saw him again.   In 2008, he and his wife, along with a friend, were killed in a plane crash.  He was the pilot, it was his plane, and it malfunctioned on takeoff from the airport at Catalina Island off the Southern California Coast.  I also learned from the newspaper article of the crash that his first wife had been shot and killed in a car-jacking some years prior to my initial visit to him.  She had stopped to pick up donuts for his office staff when this happened. 

     I think of Dr. Cowan often when I'm getting my aging body refilled and restored by my "now" doctors.  I have yet to find another doctor who is as friendly, encouraging, comforting and genuinely interested not only in my health but my feelings about my health as he was.  I was lucky to have him for a doctor, even for such a short time. 


Friday, August 25, 2017


William Stevenson Dobbins
April 28, 1821 to January 25, 1847

            As a genealogist, I often run into people from the past who seem to have left very few footprints to follow.  They exist on paper in a minimal way, and except for the genealogist, might very quickly move past the "Immortal Nobody" category. 

            That is the way I would describe William Stevenson Dobbins, born in Ohio in 1821, who was the youngest child of Robert and Catherine Dobbins, the youngest brother of 7 siblings, and  eventually the husband of Sarah Brand. 

            He did nothing important enough to get written up in a county history book, although if he hadn't died at the young age of 25, he might have distinguished himself in some way.  In fact, many researchers have wondered if a William S. Dobbins was even a part of the family.  He was not given any property by his father like all the other children received; and he was not mentioned at all in the Session Minutes of the Bennington Presbyterian church, whose membership list included every member of the Dobbins family and whose pastor was his own father.   

            Some researchers wondered if perhaps he was simple-minded, thus not in a position to be treated like all other family members.   He was buried in the Dobbins Cemetery, but the stone was silent.

            In my research I found two important issues:  In an old Family Reunion paper dating from 1911, this story was handed down. " It was customary then to have wood cut for Sunday use on Saturday by the boys.  At one time, when he was away on one of his long trips, the boys failed in this duty.  The father returned on Saturday and sent his son Will out to chop the needed wood.  He did not hear the axe, and went out to see what was the trouble and overheard the following soliloquy:  'R. B. D.  Roaring Big Devil – this is a hell of a work.'  To the boy’s astonishment, the father appeared, saying, 'Tut, tut, tut.  I’ll teach you to take your father’s name in vain – to the woodshed we’ll go.'" 

            In all my research done over the last 40 years on the Dobbins family, this is the only time William was ever given a body and a personality, albeit one of a bratty teenager.  In a county history book there is a single line that said a William Dobbins married a Sarah Brand, but no documentation of that fact in the county courthouse marriage records turned up.

            William remained an immortal nobody for a long time because another researcher and I, both on the trail of this young man, failed to move on a probate file in the county for what appeared to be a person by the name of William L. Dobbins, not Willian S. Dobbins – in spite of the fact that sometimes old handwriting "L"s and "S"s are confused with each other.   

            When I finally decided to try one last time to either "rule in" or "rule out" this man by taking this final step, I sent for, and received, a William Dobbins' probate records.  One paper showed that his widow, Sarah Brand Dobbins, turned over her appointment as executrix for her husband's estate to Robert B. Dobbins.   And in this probate material it became obvious that William's middle initial was "S" -- for Stevenson, his grandmother Dobbins's maiden name – Elizabeth Stevenson Dobbins.

            William is truly an immortal nobody.  He will not be remembered for anything he did – except act like a brat and be so immortalized in an unpublished family reunion paper and sent to me by a Dobbins still living in Illinois.  But he did acquire enough worldly goods by farming the land that there was need for probating his estate when he died at age 25..  He left a wife, but no children.  His tombstone is in the Dobbins Cemetery (now the Clemens Cemetery) in Fulton County Illinois. 

            I do believe that is enough for William Stevenson Dobbins to take his place here in my Immortal Nobodies blog.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Feb. 28, 1934 - Jan. 1, 2017

            Shirley and Marv Abrams were, first of all, Jerry's friends; I "acquired" them after marrying Jerry in 1975.  Over the next 30 years we saw the Abrams socially many times – most often at Temple affairs but also at dinners when one of us felt the need to "get together to eat and catch up" on our busy lives.   I was very fond of both of them, and our get-togethers were always just super!

            We were saddened when Marv died in 2014 after a long illness, but we were shocked, as well as saddened, when Shirley died suddenly on January 1, 2017.  It wasn't until I read her obituary that I had any idea of what I DIDN'T know about her.  She never talked about herself.

            Her "other" life, besides being a wife and mother, had started out as a PTA president. Later she took leadership roles in the local United Way, Heart Association, the Jewish Federation, and the County Education Coordinating Councils.  She often received "Leader of the Year" awards from these groups.  Her volunteer efforts became so valuable to the LA County Dept. of Education that they created a full-time position for her at the main office in Downey.  She led vital programs on the education of the homeless and on addressing truancy in the schools until her retirement in 2011. 

            She continued her community activities as a long-time board member of the Jewish Federations of Los Angeles and the Eastern Region of Southern California, the Jewish Family Service and by serving on the prestigious JENNY Commission, reviewing the qualifications of appointed judges in the state.  She was twice invited to the White House to participate in the White House Conference on Children and Youth both in 1972 and again in 2002.

            She always made sure that family and friends came first.  She regularly met with groups of friends and prided herself on being present at important occasions in the lives of her loved ones.  She is survived by her two children and five grandchildren.

            Do I miss her?  You bet!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


          Dorothe Gould-Pratt came into my life sometime around 1996, excited to learn that I was researching and compiling material on Americans buried in a Protestant cemetery in Istanbul.  She had lived in Istanbul for many years, and we discovered we had many friends in common.  It was one of those friends who suggested that since Dorothe was living in southern California now, she should make contact with me to talk about that cemetery, which also had been one of Dorothe's interests when she was there.

          Dorothe did, and for a few years, she and I met, discussed Turkey, Istanbul, friends there, and – of course – the cemetery.  She dug into her files and provided me with many letters and research from another friend of hers, "Charlie", who had been financially supporting this Protestant cemetery.   What she put in my hands was material that I never would have known of otherwise. 

          Meeting Dorothe was one of the most delightful things that I could experience.  At the time, she was living in Santa Barbara, and when I met her for the first time, I saw a very small and artsy woman, a jaunty tam on her head, a longish gauzy coat flowing in the winds off the coast of that lovely town, and a walking stick, helpful to both her legs and her image.  Her personality was as warm and inviting as her appearance.  And like women who instantly form a bond, we talked our heads off every time we met.

          We talked almost exclusively about what I needed for my book – not only did she give me some ideas of where I might find additional information on those people in the cemetery but also on the visual look of the book – layout, graphics, etc.  It was always over lunch – indoors or outdoors but always in some cute little nook that she had discovered in the short time she lived there.   We never talked about ourselves: the subjects were Cemetery, Istanbul, and book.  

          She ultimately decided to go back up north; I published the book in 1998.  Later I heard that she had died in 2000.  She was 88.  It wasn't until just recently, in searching the internet for someone to use in my Immortal Nobodies blog, that I googled her name and found an obituary.  Here's what I missed:

          She was the daughter of a Ukiah farmer, and studied art at Oakland's California College of Arts and Crafts, and also at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts in the 1930.  She had lived in New Orleans, LA, New York, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Rosa, as well as in Turkey.

          In 1961 at the age of 50, she boarded a freighter from New Orleans to Turkey in what would become a 23 year journey into the Middle East.  She worked a while for NATO, hosted a radio program called "Dorothe Learns Turkish", and found her lifetime interest in Turkish wood-block printing.  She used her artistic talents in many ways with this art form, from providing displays in museums, to creating hand block-printed scarves and other clothing for fashion lines out of New York.  Her business expanded to Australia, Beirut, Italy, England, Puerto Rico, to name a few.

          Although I didn't know it, at the time she moved north after we met she was already working on new designs and fashioning new garments until a few days before her death.  She left many cousins and many more devoted friends.  She is buried in the Old Rural Cemetery in Santa Rosa.

            I am so sorry I missed out on knowing what all she had done with her life.  I have never looked at the cover of my book without thinking of her as I knew her.  Now I look at it and regret what I didn't know.