Thursday, July 21, 2016


I was turning 7 years old, and this was an extra-special birthday party.  I am the somewhat disheveled little girl with the sagging belt in the back row.  The girl to the left was a neighborhood friend, whom I have long forgotten  The dark curly-headed boy on the right, the woman in the photo and the little boy in short pants were honored guests -- Gail Stegall and her sons, Virgil Eugene  and Michael. They were at our house in Long Beach, California on a visit from Denver.  The last two girls were my sister Ginnie Lou with the doll, and my cousin Shirley, kneeling.  Gail and my mom were best friends, and after high school had shared an apartment while they set out on their first jobs.  But marriage made a change in that, and "Virgie Gene" (as we knew him) was born in 1934 and I was born in 1935.  I was given the middle name of Gail, after his mom.

Looking at this picture,from my baby book reminds me that as a small kid, I always intended to marry Virgie Gene.  However, my sister made claim to him also, simply because in this picture he had his arm "around" her.  My sis and I had many squabbles over which one of us this darling boy was going to marry.

This next picture, also from my baby book, was taken at an earlier time.  Mother noted that it was my third birthday (June 26, 1938) and that we were in Denver, visiting the Stegalls.  Mike had not yet been born. Virgie is the sailor.   (Note:  I think I had the hug this earlier time.)  

As the demands of motherhood grew more involved, the vacation visits ceased, but mother and Gail wrote each other faithfully through the years.  In those days, one didn't make long distance calls to chat; the cost was too high.

So it was a surprise when mother got a call from Gail in the summer of 1946 from Denver.  The news was not good.  Virgie Gene had unexpectedly died.  As I recall, he had played in a softball game, and at the conclusion drank a lot of water.  And he died shortly thereafter.  That may not be the story at all; but it is what I remember my mother telling me.  Those were the polio years; there was some speculation as to whether or not that played a part in his death.

I am sure mother eventually found out from Gail what the cause was, but we kids never knew.  And life goes on.  Mother and Gail communicated until they each passed away in the 1980s.  My sister didn't treasurer her baby book like I treasured mine, and I doubt if she ever gave Virgie Gene a thought. But quite often I have occasion to delve into mine - either by way of reminiscing, or to confirm something genealogical, or even to use as an illustration when I give a talk on "Writing Your Family History." When I do this I always see little Virgie Gene's pictures, and I remember how important he was in my life, -- as a future husband, I hoped!

He is buried in Denver, and his name is inscribed in the lower left hand area of his father's tombstone. It is a bit hard to read when looking at the photograph on  But it's there.

1934 - 1946

And it's here, too, as an IMMORTALNOBODY.

Saturday, July 16, 2016



I never met Wilhelmine, because she died the same year I was born.  But even so, I felt like I knew her because at Colorado Springs High School she was my mother's best friend.  By the time my sis and I got to be maybe 6 or 7, we were very active in wanting to know all about our mom...when she was born (Colorado), where she lived (on a farm), did she have brothers and sisters (yes, a lot), and who were her friends in school, (and she always named Wilhelmine as her best friend in high school.)

I suspect part of the lure of having mother answer all these questions was that we had never heard of such a name as Wilhelmine had.  I can't say as my mom's family had very common names - a brothers Nevalyn, Byrd and Hugh, and sisters Florence, Marie and Margie.  Mother was Virginia.  All name of that time but not very common for us little girls.  But for some reason we were totally taken by Wilhelmine's name, and not only that first name but her good German last name, too.  

Perhaps this is why at age 81, I still remember Wilhelmine, and how mother always told us she was very nice, very smart, and very friendly - always the attributes she expected from us.

The years passed.  Mother died in 1982.  I began researching my family tree as a result of my mother's death: I realized there was no one left who could provide me with answers as to my family in those early years.  I began by researching in Colorado, pre-Internet times.

One day not too long ago I was on-line looking at obituaries in Colorado Springs, seeing who I could find whose name rang a bell.  I was startled to find Wilhelmine's obituary, dated 1935.  And I was sad to think that she died before she even had a chance at life.  Here's what the obit said:

Colorado Springs Gazette, 3/29/1935, page 1

Mary Meinholtz Dies At Her Home

Popular College Graduate Ill Only Few Days; No Funeral Plans

Miss Mary Wilhelmine Meinholtz, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Meinholtz, 1624 North Cascade Avenue, and popular Colorado College graduate, died yesterday afternoon at her home, following brief illness. Her condition was regarded as improving, when it suddenly took a turn for the worse and death followed quickly.

Mr. Meinholtz, who was out of the city, was promptly notified and his return was expected momentarily last night.

Miss Meinholtz, who was born in Henryetta, Okla., in February, 1911, was graduated from Colorado College last year. During the time she attended college she was one of the most popular members of the student body. She was a member of Delta Gamma sorority and the Tiger Club. Before entereing Colorado college she studied at Northwestern University and Colorado State Teachers College.

Last year Miss Meinholtz was awarded first prize in the Colorado College beauty contest.

Following her graduation she entered the employ of the Alexander Film company of this city.

Surviving, besides her parents, are three sisters, Helen and Marjorie Meinholtz of this city and Miss Lucille Meinholtz, who is a student at Lindenwood college, St. Charles, Mo.

Funeral arrangements will be made at the Law mortuary.

I am constantly surprised at the amazing things I can uncover when I research.  I am very pleased when I find somebody who I think needs to be remembered in my IMMORTALNOBODIES blog.  And frankly, at my age (81) I am surprised at the things I do remember, especially since I mostly can't remember what I had for breakfast on any given morning!  

I don't know that there are any present-day Meinholtzes who will stumble across Wilhelmine here, but should that happen, I want them to know that she has been in my mind for a long, long time - and that my mom always remembered her with great fondness.  

Photograph is from High School Yearbook.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


In an earlier entry of IMMORTAL NOBODIES I told the story of poor young Rolland H. Stevens, who was killed in a train accident outside of Wichita, Kansas.

Now Rolland, or "Roll" as he was called, was the son of Frank D. Stevens, a well-known and active man in Wichita who had made his fortune in the grain industry.  Frank had first married Lillian Humphrey, a young schoolteacher in Osage County and they had four children, of whom Roll was the first.  Lillian died giving birth to the fourth child, Frank D., and the baby died shortly thereafter.
Frank remarried and had four more children. All grew up in Kansas.  Rolland was a cousin of my grandmother; she was born in 1885 and he in 1887.  The train wreck that killed Roll happened in 1903.  He had just graduated from high school and taken his first job.

When I started my genealogy, I had a lot of information about the Stevens family, including a lovely old photo album.  But there was no family story at that time of a kid named Roll or a train wreck.  You know how those kind of stories are usually the kind that are handed down from generation to generation.  But this one didn't work that way.  I knew nothing about it until I was nosing around in Wichita's old newspapers and came up with a funeral notice.

The notice was quite straightforward, but what caught my eye was this:  Mrs. Biddle is coming from Carbondale.

I thought to myself, twenty-five years of researching and no Biddle had every shown up in any of my lines.  Who on earth was this?  Was she or wasn't she one of my family members?

After a good romp with various genealogical "tools" - Ancestry, Findagrave, etc. - I found the answer.

Mrs. Biddle, actually Mrs. Mary Biddle, was the mother of Lillian May Humphrey, first wife of Frank D. Stevens and therefore Roll's GRANDMA!

It seemed that the Humphrey family, comprised of mom and dad (John and Mary) and their two children, Lillian and Rolland D., left their native state of Ohio and came to Osage County, Kansas in the early 1870s  In 1876, John Humphrey died and was buried in Burlingame City Cemetery in Osage County.  Mary subsequently married Amos Biddle, making her.Mary Biddle.

It is obvious now where the name Rolland came from; Lillian named him after her own brother.
But more importantly, Lillian's mom was Grandma Biddle to Rolland, his sister Estelle, and Helen.

Of course Grandma Biddle would come to the funeral of her first grandchild.

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.