Friday, June 24, 2016


Cathryn Ottun Marcellin


I met Cathy in college.  One year behind me, she was the hit of the class that entered little George Pepperdine College in the fall of 1954.  She was one of the most personable girls I met in that class and when she walked into a room, the room simply lit up with her bubbly, confident, and cheerful self.  She liked everybody, and everybody liked her.

We quickly learned that she was from Bishop, California, and while being in a small college near downtown Los Angeles was, on the one hand, a real treat for her,  on the other hand not a day went by that she didn't miss Don Marcellin, her boyfriend, who was "back home."

She gave a great deal to the music department at Pepperdine, which is where I met her.  She had a versatile singing voice, capable of doing wonderful things as solos, in trios, and in the full choir.  She had a true talent and a stage presence of a professional.  Hearing her sing was a real treat.  I was lucky enough to sing in the trio with her and became her good friend.

She made sure that even though her heart was in Bishop, she didn't waste time moping around in college.  She carried a full load of classes and for social life, pledged a sorority but didn't attend events that required a date.  "It's ok," she'd say.  "I've got Don waiting for me."

Shortly before the school year ended, she decided she'd had as much time away from Bishop as she wanted and would not return to Pepperdine the following year.  For a long time, we kept in touch via Christmas cards and then eventually we lost contact.

It was during my genealogical research a few years ago that I found her name listed on the Social Security Death Index, and I was able to locate her oldest daughter, Sandy, via the Bishop library and the internet.  Sandy told me that she had been unwell for some time; heart problems ran in her family, and Cathy died quite suddenly, probably because she didn't want to slow down from spreading the gospel to anyone who would listen.  Cathy had become a Christian early in her adult life, and in her obituary I read, "Mrs. Marcellin's family says she never hesitated to share her faith with those around her, and it didn't matter whether she knew you or not."  As to the time of her death, Sandy wrote me that "she'd asked a friend to read to her Ephesians 1, out of her 'wordy' Bible (the Amplified)."  It was at this time, at the young age of 63, that she passed on.  She left two daughters, Sandy and Kelly, a son, Doug, grandchildren and other family members.  Her beloved Don preceded her in death.

Cathy is a good example of my idea of an IMMORTAL NOBODY, and I am reminded of a bible verse that  certainly applies to her:  Matthew 25:21 "…Well done, thou good and faithful servant"

Thursday, June 9, 2016



 In the family stories told to my sister and me when we were growing up, it was always James Sellers Dobbins (my dad's grandfather) who was oh, so famous.  According to the stories, he was one of Kit Carson's Scouts, was at one time captured by the Indians, and was given one of Kit Carson's rifles at some point in the relationship.  Now, for two little girls growing up in the 1940's, amid all the radio and movie cowboys - Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger, Red Ryder, and so many others, having a real life great-grandfather (though long dead) who not only was a cowboy in Kansas and Colorado but also a Scout with the famous Kit Carson, was a real thrill.

As the story went, the gun was ultimately passed on to Jim Dobbins' son Robert Gaston Dobbins and thence to his son Percy, who was my dad's cousin.  We girls had never met any of these Colorado Dobbinses but my dad and Percy were buddies growing up; undoubtedly the gun story was passed around between them.  My sister and I were very impressed and were true believers in what we were told.

And so it was that when I turned about 40 years old, I became interested in genealogy and the first family I researched was the famous James Sellers Dobbins.  Was I in for a surprise!

When my mother turned over to me the few Dobbins family documents she had been given by her mother-in-law Maud Dobbins, I saw first of all the picture above, which was old and a bit faded -- and certainly didn't look like the handsome dude in the top photo, although it was the same person.
I learned that Jim Dobbins spent his life after the Civil War raising stock out on the dry prairie of eastern Colorado.  Dry, dust, hard work: that pretty much sums up what the "real" picture of Jim looked like.

But still, I wondered about him being one of Kit Carson's scouts.  Below is part of what was written on the back of that "Hawes" photograph by Maud.  Typescript is below:

Fought in the Civil War, Union side 1863.  Was Indian Scout in Kit Carson's Brigade patrols to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Santa Fe, N.M. over the Santa Fe trail.  

Now it is true that Kit Carson spent a lot of time around Ft. Lyons near Las Animas where Jim Dobbins, his wife Nannie, and sons Robert Gaston and Scott Walter Dobbins lived.  But Kit Carson died in 1864, which was long before Jim and his family moved to Colorado, which happened in 1875.  As to the gun, Percy Dobbins, son of Robert Gaston Dobbins, gave it to a museum in New Mexico and they authenticated it as belong to Carson.  However, in the pile of material my mother had, there was also an old article that said one of Carson's attendants in his latter years was given the gun, and as he aged, he in turn passed it on to Percy.  

Within a few weeks of researching my now "not so famous" relative, I was convinced that what my family handed down was like that old game we used to play as kids - with telling a story to one person and having that story repeated from person to person and seeing how changed it was at the end.  

Jim Dobbins in 1860 left Kansas for the Colorado gold country and went back empty handed.  In 1863 he did fight in the Civil War in the 11th Kansas Cavalry.  His regiment was sent out to settle some Indian problems around the various forts.  And as nearly as I can prove, he did once own a rifle belonging to Kit Carson.  But a famous Scout?   I think not.

Best I can do for him is an IMMORTAL NOBODY. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


In Istanbul there was a cemetery with a tombstone for Paul D. Peltier.  However, I learned there some months after he was buried, his body was sent back to his mother in New York for final burial there.

What I learned about him while I was researching in 1992 those Americans who were buried in the Ferikoy-Istanbul Cemetery and had tombstones there.  Paul's name was on one of them.

Here's what I learned from a book "Story of the Near East Relief (1915-1936) New York, Macmillan, 1936, page 136.  Author James Levi Barton."

Paul, of New York, a pioneer Near East Relief worker, died on 1 Apr 1919 at Eskisehir, Turkey, following a railroad accident while he was on his way from Constantinople to the interior.  Mr. Peltier was among the first group of relief workers commissioned after the armistice.

From the College Park Branch of the National Archives I learned the following:  His mother was Mrs. Frederic Desnoyers Peltier, 144 E. 36th St. New York City.  In a letter of 27 October 1919, she wrote to the Consulate: "Can Paul's body be shipped to us soon?"  Consulate later replies the body is ready to ship on Black Arrow about 27 Nov. 1919.  This was found on Form 192 - Report of Death of American Citizen, original copy in State Dept. RG59, Decimal File 367.113 (1910-1929).

In 1975, the Consul General in Istanbul asked the Secretary for the American Board of Missions if he could prepare a list of Americans buried the Ferikoy-Istanbul Protestant Cemetery.  The Secretary, Melvin Wittler, created an up-to-date list and noted beside Paul's entry that he may have been interred in the cemetery originally and then later the body was removed for shipment to the United States.

The above information has been in my book "A Fine Place of Rest: Americans in the Protestant Cemetery, Ferikoy-Istanbul, Turkey" 1992.

Through the years that I was researching (all before the internet was available) I wondered what these people looked like, as well as what tidbit of information I hadn't found that would make them more "real" to me.

Tonight I ran Paul's name though Google Search and discovered this:young man had graduated from Columbia University, Class of 1918.  Here's what else I found on that website:

Lt. Paul D. Peltier, U.S. Army, died in Eskishehir, Turkey, on April 1, 1919, as the result of an accident.  He was sent to Turkey as a bacteriologist for the American Committee for Relief in the Near East.  

Yes, he belongs to the group of Immortal Nobodies, don't you agree?                      

Friday, May 13, 2016


We all know the famous Muhammed Ali, formerly known as Cassius Marcellus Clay.  Not everybody knows that he was a junior, named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay.  But I'd wager that very few of us knew that there was a Cassius Marcellus Clay even farther back in time…a fellow born on October 19, 1810 in Kentucky, who became a major figure in the abolitionist movement during the Civil War and was not in any way related to the man we know.

This early Cassius was the son of General Green Clay and Sallie Lewis Clay.  According to Wikipedia, General Clay was an early explorer of the American wilderness and an acquaintance of Daniel Boone.  He lived in Kentucky and was a wealthy man who owned many slaves.

Cassius was highly educated, and at Yale in 1832 he heard William Lloyd Garrison speak against slavery.  This influenced him to take a stand that was at odds with his father's beliefs and practices.  However, he was more attuned to being an emancipationist, which meant that he favored the gradual ending of slavery through legal means sanctioned by the Constitution, rather than the more direct abolitionist actions.

He was elected to the Kentucky state legislature twice in the 1830s, in spite of his stand against slavery.  In 1844, he freed all his own slaves.  From that point on he was active in the anti-slavery movement and supported Abraham Lincoln's candidacy for President.  Later on, he was appointed an Ambassador to Russia, a post he held twice. 

According to various sources, he had some "foibles" in his life that were quite unusual; one writer described him as having a great deal of conceit and very little sense.  "Ridiculous" was also applied to some of his actions. 

Be that as it may, the man did accomplish much in his life to be proud of, and certainly the good overshadowed the bad. 

Undoubtedly his role in abolitionist movement is what encouraged the parents of Cassius Marcellus Clay (Senior) to name their child as they did.  And of course that name was carried down another generation and given to the man we all know now as the famous "Muhammed Ali."

I have been unable to find any earlier Cassius Marcellus in history.  Seems to me there might be another Immortal Nobody hanging around.

I found this story, sketchy as it is, so very interesting.  I was simply reading the book "Washington, A History of Our National City" by Tom Lewis and came upon a short bit about the Legislator Cassius Marcellus Clay.  A little snooping told me a lot, and from that point I knew he would be one of my Immortal Nobodies.  And all of you who love American History, let me tell you that Tom Lewis has written ONE GOOD BOOK.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Chet Danielson, was my boss and my pastor for three years in the late 1960s.  He was my boss first, choosing me to fill in as office secretary at The Salvation Army Corps in Ontario, California, and then bumping me up to what we casually called welfare worker when that position opened.  I just wanted to work there, and I really just did whatever needed doing.  In rank, he was a Captain, and with such a small office as we had, he most of the time answered to "Cap."  After about a year, my husband and I began attending the Ontario Corps, feeling that our ministry should be there, too.

I loved the "helping" part of my job, and Cap taught me a lot about christian compassion, warmth, caring, and he especially demonstrated in his own life what General Booth so had intended The Salvation Army to be.  I had lots of lines drawn in my own understanding of "church" and "christians" - and it was Chet who exemplified by his life, both business and spiritual, that drawing lines are NOT what Christianity was about.

My husband and I moved out of the area in 1971, and the Ontario part of my life was over.  I was pleased when in the 1990s, I got a call from his daughter Dawn asking if I would speak at his retirement celebration.  I had a lot to say about the ministry of Chet and his wife Vicki.  It was factual and it was personal, and I meant every word of it.  Chet, by then a Major, told me afterwords that he was dumbfounded that I remembered so much and especially had learned so much.  And I told him it was all true, no flattery involved.

Chet died in April of 2014.  But here I am, myself at 80, still remembering the times that Chet ministered to the south end of Ontario, California with love and compassion, and remembering specifically the little kids and their families who came to church on the bus that Chet drove, learned about Christ through his Sunday School classes, and taught them how to play musical instruments, supplying the horns, tambourines and music books so they could join the little Salvation Army Band that went out on Sunday afternoons to witness at John Galvin Park.  What lovely memories I have.

Chet's got stars in his Crown, for sure!


Friday, April 22, 2016


In February of 1987 my pal Jerry Russom died.  He was only 51, way too young for sure!  He was taken swiftly by a rare and terminal neurological disorder, leaving a wife, two teenage daughters, his folks, his sister Patsy and a passel of friends.

Until Jerry and I headed off to different colleges, we had shared three years of intensive work in our high school journalism department.  I had been in classes with him through junior high school but it wasn't until meeting again as sophomores at Long Beach Poly High in 1951 that our friendship really jelled.  In our senior year of Poly each of us held the position of Editor of the weekly school newspaper "High Life" for a semester.  The picture below is from our yearbook.

It is certainly true that one can have a "best friend" of the other sex, for Jerry and I were inseparable, especially the last two years.  Early on we had tried dating, and that just wasn't in the cards for us.  But truly, my joys of high school happened because Jerry and I were together constantly, both in school and after school.  In the summers, many evenings a bunch of our journalism classmates got together at my house in a backyard patio  my dad had built so his "girls" would have a safe place to hang out – and each night we tried to solve the problems, big and small, of our world.  Or we would go to Jerry's house where his mom and dad (and his little sister) always sat in with us while we laughed ourselves silly over all the nonsensical thing that teenagers think about. 

Jerry and I kept in touch throughout our lives, mainly with little notes now and then.  The last time I saw him was when I was in San Francisco in the mid-1980s.  I dropped by his public relations business  downtown.  We had a good chat about our lives and once again shared that special feeling of being pals forever.

Interestingly, several years later when word of his death came down to Long Beach, I received a couple of sympathy cards from old friends who remembered our friendship – and who knew I would feel his death very personally.  I did.

In my estimation, Jerry is definitely not an Immortal NOBODY, but I figure he would laugh like old times if he knew that I was putting him in that category here.   He doesn't need me for posthumous prestige, for sure.  He "made it" himself – but it makes me feel good to know he won't be forgotten.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


1828 - ?

Timothy was the second child and first son of Stephen & Hannorah Hurley Madden, who started their lives in the Parish of Kilbrogan, the town of Brandon, County Cork, Ireland.   Their tombstones in the Catholic Cemetery of Mendota, Illinois gave me the information of where they were born.  

Their first three children were born in Ireland - Julia in 1825, Timothy in 1828, and John in 1830.  Their last child, Ellen, was born in Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts in 1834.  Ellen was my great-great Grandmother.  

In the late 1850s the family moved to Mendota, LaSalle County, Illinois.  All can be accounted for on the censuses except for Timothy.  

While I was actively researching this family and nosing around Mendota by mail, one of my letters was passed on to a fellow named Peter Donohue, who was a descendant of the Peter Donohue who married Julia Madden.  This, of course, made me a distant relative of Pete himself, and he was a gold mine of information on the Maddens.  

In one of those all-too-rare surprises in genealogical research, in the 1960s he had received, and kept, a letter from another Madden researcher (Lucille Fulton York), who descended from Ellen Madden just as I did.  Ellen was her grandmother, and Lucille remembered a lot of what her grandmother had told her about the family.  Pete forwarded a copy of her letter to me, dated from 1967, and it was there that I discovered why Timothy was absent.  There were no details, but it simply said that Timothy went to California looking for gold and was never heard from again.

Timothy Madden was a very common Irish name, and in my research I found dozens of Timothy Maddens in California during the gold rush period.  I could not find the one to whom I was related, which is not at all surprising.  

It is for this reason that I have picked him to at least be acknowledged as part of a family by appearing here --- but without a date of death.