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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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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A lost history, found

GeorgeWBailey1Lately I’ve been spending a couple of hours each weekend day reorganizing our family history archives. In the yet-to-be-organized portion of the archives, I’ve got a dozen large, plastic storage boxes, each of which holds hundreds of papers, photos, mementos, and other items judged at some point as worthy of being preserved.

One of these boxes is filled with memories and keepsakes from my great-great-aunt Dorothy Mary (“Dot”) Bailey and her husband Clarence Humphrey Bailey. You may know Dot as the young girl pictured at the center of my site’s header photo. Dot and Clarence were distant relations (third cousins; although they apparently didn’t know this when they met) and had the same last name before marriage, so I can’t be sure whether Dot adopted Clarence’s “Bailey” surname according to tradition, or whether she was an independent maverick who bucked tradition and kept her own “Bailey” surname.

I was lucky enough to have known them both as a child and to have known Dot until I was a young man in college. They were incredibly thoughtful, gentle, intelligent, and modest people, but for whatever reason, they never had children. My grandmother, Dorothy McMurry Black, their niece, was like a daughter to them and she was their sole heir. Their tangible memories have now passed to me, and I’m making my way through them.

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Samuel Askew, horseman

I got an email today from Rebecca Komppa, a newspaper columnist and local historian in the Wadena county area of Minnesota. I had helped Rebecca with an article she wrote on the Arlington Hotel, a hotel that my 3rd-great-grandfather Joseph Askew built in Menahga, MN, in 1891. This morning, she got an email from a man named John who’s a great-grandson of Joseph Askew, asking for my contact details.

It turns out that he’s my second cousin, twice removed—in other words, he’s my grandmother Harriet’s second cousin. Joseph Askew had six sons, but only three lived past childhood: William Henry Askew (1864–1927), Wilfred Lawson Askew (1873–1953), and Samuel “Sam” Clarence Askew (1876–1954). John told me that Sam Askew, Joseph’s youngest surviving son, was his grandfather.

For today’s post, I want to present a couple of interesting photos I’ve scanned of Sam Askew. One is housed at the Wadena County Historical Society, and the other is in the possession of my great-uncle Gordy Askew.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 2

Detail of cabinThis post is a continuation of a post I wrote yesterday on a series of three oil paintings that are said to have been painted by my 3rd-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller McMurry (1828–1876). In today’s post, I’ll be taking a closer look at one of the paintings (the pastoral scene with boy and cattle), and looking for hints as to the date(s) and settings of the paintings.

My grandmother’s first cousin, Art McMurry, the owner of the paintings until his death twenty years ago, said that they were painted by Elizabeth while she and her husband were traveling west by wagon. If true, these canvases would have been painted at some point between Elizabeth and Luke’s marriage in 1851 and Elizabeth’s death in 1876. She never made it further west than Arkansas, but her family later reached the area near Olympia, Washington. From what I can tell from the images I currently have available, nothing about the paintings or their mounting and framing is inconsistent with dating from the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Continue reading

Luke McMurry’s journey to the Washington Territory

Luke cased image, small detailI’ve written about my more recent immigrant ancestors’ migrations from Norway in 1850 (and I’ve got an upcoming post on the Askew migration from England in 1875), but most of my ancestors have been on this continent for 300+ years, and as of yet I know little, if anything, about most of their journeys to the New World.

During the same time period (mid-to-late-1800s) that my more recent immigrant ancestors were sailing to the U.S., many of my longer-established ancestors were forging their way across the continent in search of new homes in the West. Today’s post gives some details of my research into the story of one such journey across the continent—that of my 3rd-great-grandfather Luke R. McMurry and his family.

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Dorothy Black’s WWII care packages

2013-01-20-001Sometime in the first ten days of October, 1944, a paragraph was written in The Daily Olympian about the World War II care package activities of my grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black. She and my grandfather, Vernon C. Black, were married on December 18th, 1940, in Olympia, Washington, and by September, 1943, Vernon was in the Army, receiving basic training at Camp Abbot, a now-long-abandoned training facility near Bend, Oregon.

The short item was written by Alice Adams Watts and included in her “Here and There” column, a feature of the newspaper’s section, “Department for Women.” It’s just one paragraph, but it imparts a lot of insight into my grandparents’ relationship, my grandfather’s gastronomic preferences, my grandmother’s packing acumen, World War II food rationing, and more.
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