George Faulkner McMurry, part I

Today’s post will be my first look into the life story of George Faulkner McMurry, one of the two brothers adopted by James Miller McMurry and his wife Grace Aitken. My cousin Crystal turned me on to this story, and if you haven’t read her post on George, you should go read it now!

Crystal learned that George and his brother Douglas survived a shipwreck that killed their parents. The brothers were then adopted by James and Grace McMurry in Port Townsend, Washington. She also learned that George was married briefly, and that he was murdered in San Francisco in June, 1945. All tantalizing stuff!

In addition to this story having a lot to recommend it on its own, I suspect that the story of George and his brother may shed light on Grace Aitken’s family in New York, and that it may help explain why widower James McMurry moved in his later years to Sutter County, California, where he apparently had no family. Continue reading

Vernon’s WWII family photo wallet

For this Veteran’s Day post, I’ll be looking at an artifact that illuminates the early relationship between two veterans in my family—one who served during WWII, and one who was still two decades away from serving and was too young to understand the sacrifices his father and his family were making.

This post is about a wallet of loose photos that my grandfather, Vernon C. Black, carried with him during World War II to remind him of his family back home. My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black, took the photos, captioned them, and mailed them in letters she sent almost daily (most of which still survive and will undoubtedly be the topic of a series of blog posts in the future). She also cared for the wallet and photos for decades and thoughtfully left a note giving a brief history of the wallet.

This photo wallet was carried by Vernon Curtis Black with these pictures in it during WWII (carried in his right hip pocket.) —Dorothy R. Black

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James McMurry’s letter to the “grands”

Today’s post is about a letter that James Miller McMurry wrote to his “Grands”—presumably his grandnephew Arthur (Art) and Art’s wife Ezelpha. I received a photocopy of this letter from my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry Black—Arthur’s first cousin. I saw the original letter in 1990 when visiting Art, and I’m hoping someone in the family still has this letter.

I hadn’t read this letter in over 25 years, and upon re-reading it I discovered a bounty of new information: I learned of another two relatives who fought in the Civil War, including one who possibly died at Shiloh. I realized that the recipient was my cousin Arthur Edgar McMurry, not my great-great-grandfather Arthur Webster McMurry. I learned a bit about James McMurry’s wife Grace Aitken and her life before she and James met. I learned a bit more about the timing of the McMurry’s move to Arkansas, and the location of their land there. I got a bit of description of the area around James’ last home, in Sutter County, California. I also learned a bit more about James’ adopted son and his latest sailing voyage. Continue reading

Keith Black’s early childhood (1942-1949)

Keith at 16 months

This series of posts will provide a chronological overview of the life of my father, Keith Black (1942–2016), who passed away on March 8, 2016. My aim in this first installment is to give an overview of his first seven years, from his birth and early childhood in Washington state to his entering elementary school after his family moved to Santa Barbara, California.

If you have any stories to share about my father, whether privately or stories I could share publicly, I would be grateful. Please do so by leaving a comment below (comments stay private until I publish them).

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G.I. Prettyman (1887–1977)

George Irvin PrettymanGeorge Irvin Prettyman (or G.I. Prettyman, as my grandfather told me he liked to be called) was my grandfather’s uncle. I recently learned that a cousin was looking for some information on G.I. and his wife Frances, and I discovered that while I had some new information for him, a lot of what I had was contradictory and could use some dedicated research. For instance, my grandfather William Prettyman once told me that his uncle G. I. Prettyman didn’t make it past the fourth grade, as he was needed to help out at home on the farm. However, according to a contemporaneous biography (Minnesota and Its People, 1924, by Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist),

[G.I.] “was reared and educated in Hewitt, attended the grade and high schools of the town, and then took a course in a commercial college at Little Falls, Minnesota. He was then sixteen years old and after completing his education entered the banking business and continued in it until 1911…”

I’m hoping that relatives reading this summary of what I’ve learned about G.I. Prettyman may be able to contribute considerably more than I’ve presented here. Please leave a comment below if you have additional information or stories about G.I. Prettyman or his family.

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In memoriam: Keith Black (1942-2016)

Details on my father’s memorial service will be posted here in the coming weeks.

You can also sign Keith’s guestbook and see his obituary here.

I’m writing a series of posts on the chapters of my father’s life. Links to these are below. One thing I’m realizing as I write these is that I know little or nothing about large chunks of my father’s life. If you’d like to share any memories or stories to help fill holes in my father’s story, whether privately or for inclusion in a biographical post, please do so by leaving a comment below.

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To Kansas in 1941 (part 1)

Dorothy enters WyomingIn a recent post, I shared photos from two trips to Kansas in the mid-1950s that my grandparents Vernon Black and Dorothy (McMurry) Black made with their kids, Keith and Gary. In today’s post, I’ll be sharing some photos I just discovered of a much earlier trip back to see Vernon’s family, a trip taken in 1941.

This morning I was going through an old photo album that my grandmother Dorothy (McMurry) Black put together in the early 1940s. I had quickly skimmed through it a few years back and made a mental note that it was a photo album of their wedding and of their newborn son Keith. When I went through it today, page by page, I discovered that, sandwiched between the pages devoted to those two events, there were several other “chapters,” each documenting an adventure of the newlywed couple.

One of these adventures was their cross-country road trip back to Kansas in May, 1941. They had been married for about five months, and this may have been the first time that Dorothy got to meet Vernon’s family. It was certainly the first time she saw where he had grown up.

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