For several years in the mid to late 1950s my father Keith Black and my uncle Gary Black had a foster brother named Richard Bearden. You may remember him from the post I did on my family’s visit to the opening day of Disneyland in July 1955. Where he came from before joining our family and where he went to after leaving our family have been a mystery to me. My grandparents never spoke of Richard to me other than saying “oh, yeah, that was Richard Bearden” when I asked who the mystery boy in the photo was. Keith and Gary had little to say about Richard. The unanswered questions have bothered me ever since I learned about the existence of this foster uncle (?) of mine.
Who was Richard Bearden? Who was his birth family? How did he come to be a foster child in our family? What was he like? Where did he go? Why does no one talk about him?
I recently found a letter from Vernon Black to his mother and stepfather Catalina and Frank Black, dated February 13, 1955, that answers many of these questions. Vernon realized that his parents would have just the same sorts of questions I have had. Understandable questions, I think, when a new family member suddenly appears. For today’s post I’d like to share that letter with you.
This is the fourth and final post of this series. In part 3 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired before the Armistice, until he celebrated Christmas in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation. In this, the conclusion of Clarence’s World War I story, I’ll present his journey from Mayen back to the United States.
In part 2 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Camp Lewis in Washington until he arrived in Colombey-les-Belles, France. Until this point, Clarence had been seeing the war from well behind the front lines. He had experienced bombs dropped from German airplanes and being shelled by German artillery, but he had not yet been in the front line trenches or gone “over the top” to charge towards the German front lines. Until now. In part 3, I’ll present Clarence’s journey from Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired on Armistice Day, to his Christmas spent in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation.
In part 1 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when the U.S. entered the war until the end of his training at Camp Lewis, Washington. In part 2, I’ll be presenting his cross-country rail journey to Camp Merritt, his transatlantic voyage to France, and his journey east across France to Colombey-les-Belles.
Clarence Humphrey Bailey was the uncle by marriage of my grandmother Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black. He married his third cousin, Dorothy M. Bailey, who was my grandmother’s maternal aunt. I was lucky enough to get to know Clarence somewhat when I was young, as he lived until late 1982, when I was 16 years old. When I was 13, we bonded over our love of Shakespeare (mine was shallow—I had just discovered Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet; his was deeper—he read the bard while serving in World War I). That said, I regret not getting to know Clarence better. Despite he and his wife Dot only living two hours away, I only remember visiting him about a dozen times in my life. To my teenaged self, he always appeared intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful, and sensitive. Now that I’m learning more about him by reading the many letters he sent home, I realize my teenaged impression was spot on (although there is a lot more depth to the man than I would have guessed as a teen).
This series of posts represents my first attempt to present all of the documentary evidence for Clarence’s life from just before until just after World War I. There is almost certainly additional documentary evidence to be found, and when I do find it I’ll post an update.
As I was going through and organizing a series of letters home from my great-great-uncle Clarence H. Bailey while he served in Europe in World War I, I came across one letter that was not from him. Instead, it was a letter to his future wife from a man named Byron O. Seeburt.
Rather than set the letter aside and focus on Clarence’s letters, and risk Byron’s letter being forgotten or lost with time, I’d like to briefly spotlight it here. Perhaps by doing so, Byron’s descendants or family may one day find it.
Byron’s letter is a century old, having been written on December 17th, 1918. The letter itself is just three pages of cursive writing in ink on ruled paper, held together in the top left corner by a straight pin.
In his letter to Dorothy Bailey (“Dot”), Byron refers the Spanish Flu epidemic, to trench warfare, to time spent with Dot and her friend Olive in Tacoma, and to all the food that a home-sick American soldier dreams about in the trenches.
A little over twenty-six years ago (December 12, 1993) I wrote a letter to my great-aunt Anelia (Shearer) Hayes asking her what she knew about her father Ray Shearer’s family history. Anelia was my grandfather Vernon’s sister. My grandfather was old enough to remember his father Ray Shearer leaving their family, and he went to lengths to distance himself from his birth father, including unofficially but permanently changing his last name to that of his mother’s second husband, Frank Black.
Vernon’s sister Anna Cornelia (she preferred “Anelia”) was born around or just after when her father left the family. Unlike her brother, she kept her father’s surname and she went on to develop a deep interest in family history. Anelia was the one who compiled the “Edell Family History” in 1991 and hosted the Edel/Edell family reunion.
Today’s post is about the response Anelia sent to my letter of twenty-six years ago. When I received her response, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new fascinating information she provided to me. To this day, the letter she wrote is still the sole source for many pieces of Shearer family history that might otherwise have been lost forever.
Exactly one hundred years ago today, my great-uncle William Alonzo Bailey (the boy in the header photo above) wrote the following letter home to his mother, Ellen Caroline (“Carrie”) Severson Bailey (the older woman in the header photo above).
Will was serving in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. The Dorothy he mentions is his sister, Dorothy Mary Bailey, from whom I inherited this and dozens of other letters from World War I. The Cambrai he refers to is the Battle of Cambrai in France at the end of November to early December 1917. Continue reading →
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 →