Dot’s last letter from her father

While Christmas is often the happiest time of the year in our family, it can also sometimes be one of the saddest times. While today’s post is about one of those sad times, I promise that a more upbeat Christmas post is coming after this one.

This week has been a sad one for our family, so when I came across this letter, written 94 years ago today, it seemed an appropriate subject for today’s post. My great-aunt Dot (Dorothy Mary Bailey) had just married Clarence Humphrey Bailey in Fort Collins, Colorado, just two days before this letter was written.

Dot’s father (my great-great-grandfather) William Noble Bailey was suffering from diabetes and was too ill to travel to see his youngest daughter get married. In fact, he was so ill that he died just a week after writing this letter, on December 31, 1923, at his daughter Lucinda (Bailey) McMurry’s house in Olympia, Washington. Continue reading

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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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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