Thursday, August 25, 2016


Many years ago I remembered  reading about a fellow surnamed DOBBINS who was killed when a boiler on a steamboat blew up.  At the time, I had no interest in genealogy, but the article caught my eye because my maiden name was Dobbins and I wondered if maybe he had been related in some way to us.  But I soon forgot all about this....until recently when I read an item that indicated explosions on steamboats were just one of the hazards that befell folks as our nation grew toward the west.

When this long-forgotten Dobbins death came to mind recently, I asked Google to do something my mind couldn't do -- and sure enough using the few words I put into its search engine, it brought up the very Dobbins that I was looking for.

Here's the article from the the Quincy Daily Whig, Illinois 1854-06-01:



An extra from the office of the Oregon Spectator, published at Oregon City, dated April 8th, received in this city yesterday, from Thos. Pope, Esq., contains the following:
The Wallamette Fall Co.'s new steamer Gazelle left her wharf this morning at 6 o'clock, and had just landed at Canemah at 15 minutes before seven, when a terrible explosion of her boilers blew her into atoms, killing twenty persons and wounding many others.
Probably a more heart-rending scene has never occurred on the Pacific coast. As soon as the smoke cleared away a little, hundreds of citizens, who were ready to assist the dying, gathered on the wreck, and the work of aid commenced.
 The newspaper article went on to name the dead, and describe the gore of both the dead and the  injured. It indicated that CRAWFORD M. DOBBINS lost a leg and ultimately died.  

His family was from Illinois, but he was on a boat in Oregon.  Since he is not a member of my family, I have not researched him, but I can tell you that he has a large tombstone in the Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, and from what is written on it, he died four days after the explosion. 

In 40 years of genealogical research, I have never found that any of my Dobbinses were in Oregon. But now after finding Crawford Dobbins for a second time, I don't want him to be lost again.  And for researchers, he also appears in Findagrave. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Image result for FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS Graphic

A building boom has hit hard in the rural area south of the city of Ontario and in the north-western part of Riverside County.  What used to be farm and dairy land is now turning into wall-to-wall housing.  But along a street named Belgrave, there is a long stretch that has been waiting for its turn at the building boom.  It is a fairly isolated street, not very well lit and is one of those streets where kids like to drag race.

Late one night in August of 2006 four young men lost their lives when their speeding car hit a semi-truck hauling grapefruit.  The details aren't important here except to say their car ended up wedged under the the truck.  Two boys were killed outright, two died later at a hospital. 

The young men were Kevin Limbaugh, David Barros,William Barefield, and Jonathan Hopson; all were either 19 or 20 years old. 

The north side of Belgrave in the area of the accident is lined by a white wooden fence that surrounded the property of a former ranch, now vacant and waiting for its turn with the bulldozer.  More houses would be built on that land.  But after the accident, the part of that white fence nearest the crash became a shrine dedicated to those young men.  For days, then weeks, then years, wreaths of fresh flowers, home-made crosses and posters with the boys' names were placed on that fence.  The details of the accident were immaterial; what mattered was that their family and friends – and the drivers who used Belgrave in their regular travels – were always reminded of the tragedy that happened that night, when four boys out having fun, were lost forever. 

Now eight years after the accident, the land is being readied for houses.  As I often use Belgrave, I have seen the fence come down, where the remnants of the shrine could still be seen if I looked hard.  I thought it would be nice instead of having a house on that site, a couple of acres could be turned into a park as a remembrance of those four kids.  But no, I can see it is not going to happen.  And I wonder, who will remember?  And will the people who buy that house know what happened so long ago on their very property?  Time passes, and people forget.

So for the families of these kids I say that the best I can do is to name them as ImmortalNobodies.  Mothers and fathers know that it could have been one of our children.

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.