Monday, October 14, 2013

Christopher Columbus ... Brown

C.C. Brown in about 1925 with his second wife
Dayse and daughter Dorothy
When my great-great-great-grandparents William and Amanda Brown had their second son in February 1862, they were influenced enough by what they knew of history to name their child after the infamous explorer Christopher Columbus.

My great-great-grandfather Christopher Columbus Brown was born on February 8, 1862 on his parents’ farm on McAdoo Creek in Montgomery County, Tennessee. This farm was in a rural area southeast of the city of Clarksville. Both of his parents came from relatively humble origins and were of Scottish and German heritage.

Although he was named after the explorer, he rarely went by his name. As a youth, he went by the name Columbus but as an adult was either called “Lum” or “C.C.” He attended a local school as a child and afterwards began working on the family tobacco farm. Although Columbus had relatively simple origins, he quickly availed himself and became quite successful. Eventually he went into a tobacco business with his father and brothers called Brown Bros. Later, he joined with a man named James Adams and operated a tobacco factory under the firm Adams and Brown.

C.C.'s first wife Georgia Current (my great-great-grandmother)
Columbus quickly gained financial success from his tobacco farming. He continued to enlarge his tobacco farming enterprise and became a large landowner in Montgomery County. Eventually, he turned his success to the financial industry. In about 1903, he helped to found the First Trust and Savings Bank of Clarksville and served as its vice president for about 35 years.
C.C. Brown's house in Clarksville, TN that he purchased in 1902 and that
burned down in 1927.

Even though he had attained financial success and was quite wealthy, Columbus did much for his community. Many people remembered that he was very kind and generous to the local poor; often buying groceries for them or paying their rent. One year he apparently financed several hundred poor farm families who could not get assistance anywhere else. He was apparently a jovial man who had a good sense of humor and was often known to tease people.

In 1894, Columbus married a young woman from the city of Clarksville named Georgia Current. They apparently had a happy marriage and he was devoted to her. Together, they had three children: Pauline, Irl and Newell (my great-grandfather). Sadly, Georgia died in 1910 from a short bout with pneumonia, leaving three teenage children. Then in 1914, he remarried to Dayse Dalton, by whom he had one more child: Dorothy.

C.C. and his family first lived on a farmhouse in Montgomery County. Then in 1901, they decided to leave Tennessee and moved to Duarte, California (near Los Angeles). For whatever reason, they did not like California and returned to Tennessee the following year. In 1902, C.C. purchased a beautiful plantation home near Clarksville where he lived with his family. Sadly, the house burned to the ground in 1927 while he and his wife and daughter were eating breakfast. After this, they rebuilt a house on the same location where the family continued to live. That house – at 1410 Golf Club Lane in Clarksville – is today part of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

C.C. was still living in the house when in early October 1938, he suffered a stroke and fell in his bathroom, receiving a wound to the head. He never recovered and died on October 10, 1938 at the age of 76.

C.C. Brown, his granddaughter Bettye Brown (my grandmother) and his wife
Dayse in about 1935

Thursday, August 8, 2013

banishment and an illegitimate child

My ancestor, Marye Du Trieux, was a fascinating woman.  The surviving records indicate that she
had a colorful life and was a strong and energetic woman. One researcher has summarized her life as "a woman of much enterprise, of considerable shrewdness and business ability and of some education--a woman of such persistent and daring courage as became the mother of pioneers."

1644 map of New Amsterdam, which shows the locations of Marye's
tavern and her father's land, both along the East River
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Original Settler of New York City
Marye was born in about 1617 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Her parents (Philipppe Du Trieux and Jacquemyne Noiret) were French Huguenots who had come from the area that is now the border between France and Belgium.  To escape religious persecution, they fled to Amsterdam where they were married in 1615.  The family lived in both Amsterdam and Leyden/Leiden, before leaving Europe permanently.  In 1624, they traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in the ship "Nieu Nederlandt" (New Netherland) and settled at New Amsterdam, in what is now Manhattan, New York City.  Marye and her family were among the earliest pioneers and settlers of what is now New York City.

Marye was raised in New Amsterdam, where her father was the Court Messenger (basically a sheriff or marshall) for New Netherlands.  They lived in a house on what is now Beaver Street on the southern tip of Manhattan.  Her father also owned a large chunk of land on the East River, where the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge now sits.  Pioneer life in New Amsterdam was not glamorous, as the settlers were frequently subject to a variety of hardships.  Sometime between 1649 and 1653, her father was murdered and some sources indicate that he was killed by Indians. 

Pioneer Businesswoman
Aside from being a pioneer settler of New York City, Marye was also one of its earliest female business owners.  For most of her adulthood, Marye was a tavern keeper.  She continued to own and operate her tavern, even after being married to two different husbands.  Marye is first acknowledged as a tavern keeper when her tavern was shown on a 1644 map of New Amsterdam.  She was then a 27-year old married woman with at least three children. Marye's tavern was on the east side of the southern tip of Manhattan, on what is now Maiden Lane.  She continued to operate her tavern until at least the 1660s.

In addition to running her tavern, Marye also worked as a trader with her first husband Cornelis.

The surviving records infer that Marye kept quite a rowdy tavern in New Amsterdam.  As early as 1646, she was frequently in trouble for how she ran her business.  Some of her offenses included selling liquor after hours (9 pm), selling liquor during prayers, selling liquor without a license and selling liquor to Indians.  The authorities had finally had enough and in 1664, Marye was fined and banished from New Amsterdam.  It is not known if she ever returned.  She asked for remission of her sentence and for leave to move to Fort Orange (Albany).  She eventually moved to Schenectady, New York, where several of her children had settled.  She died there at an unknown date.  Later, after her death, several of her family members were wounded or killed during the Schenectady Massacre of 1690.
Illegitimate Child
Marye was married twice.  She married her first husband, Cornelis Volkertsen Viele sometime before 1642, when she was in her early 20s.  Cornelis was a trader and tavern keeper, and she continued to do business on her own after their marriage.  In 1650, after the death of Cornelis, Marye married her second husband Jan Peek. (The city of Peekskill, New York was named after him.) Jan had died sometime prior to 1664, when she was banished from Manhattan.  Marye had four known children by her first husband and four known children by her second husband. 

Additionally, we have record that Marye had an another child that was born illegitimately by neither of her husbands.  In a 1642 court record, a man named Pieter Wolfersen Van Couwenhoven acknowledged paternity of a daughter named Aeltje that he had with Marye Du Trieux.  In the document, he agreed to raise the child as his own.  Interestingly, both Pieter and Marye happened to be married to other people.  At the time, Marye was married to Cornelis Viele and had one son by him, who was born in 1640.  Pieter had a wife named Hester who he married in 1640, but they did not yet have any children.

It is not clear whether Pieter and Marye's child Aeltje was the result of an affair or whether the child was born out of wedlock before either of them were married.  Interestingly, I also happen to descend from Pieter Van Couwenhoven through his marriage to Hester.
My descent from Marye Du Trieux:
Marye Du Trieux md. Cornelius Volkertsen Viele
- Cornelis Cornelisen Viele md. Suster Bouts
-- Jannetje Viele md. Johannes Dyckman
--- Maryke Dyckman md. Lourens Knickerbocker
---- Maritjen Knickerbocker md. Ruloff White
----- Jane White md. Thomas Butler
------ Hannah Butler md. Peter Thurston
------- Reuben Harris Thurston md. Mary Brooks
-------- Irvin H. Thurston md. Lydia Dunham
--------- Julia M. Thurston md. Henry W. Bixby
---------- Neil F. Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
----------- Patricia J. Bixby md. Ben T. Plymale
------------ Barbara A. Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------------- Ryan J. Wadleigh
My descent from Pieter Van Couwenhoven:
Pieter Wolfersen Van Couwenhoven md. Hester Simons
- Annetje Pieterse Van Couwenhoven md. Anders Olaffson Stille
-- Jacob Stilely md. Rebecca Springer
--- Jonathan Stilley md. Magdalena Vandever
---- Jacob Stilley md. Anne French
----- Rebecca Stilley md. John Bouseman
------ Maxamillia Bouseman md. William H. Riddle
------- Artinecia Riddle md. William H. Merriman
-------- George F. Merriman md. Mary E. Murray
--------- Vera V. Merriman md. Benjamin H. Plymale
---------- Ben T. Plymale md. Patricia J. Bixby
----------- Barbara A. Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------------ Ryan J. Wadleigh

Saturday, July 13, 2013

a secret marriage?

My great-great-grandfather Oscar Wadleigh in 1887
Through the course of my research, I have discovered that my great-great-grandfather Oscar Wadleigh had what was apparently a secret relationship (and possible marriage) with a woman other than his wife. This post explores that connection and the paths I have taken to discover it.

Oscar Wadleigh

My great-great-grandfather Oscar S. Wadleigh was born in 1865 in Sanbornton, New Hampshire. As a young adult in the early 1880s, he left his hometown and moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he began working as a traveling salesman. In about 1885 he moved to Franklin, New York. It was while living there that he met and became engaged to a woman named Charlotte Winters who lived in the nearby village of Cannonsville, New York where she worked in her father's general store. They were married in 1887 and afterwards moved to Buffalo, New York where they began to raise a family. They had two sons: Odin and Gerald.  They lived in several locations in New York state until 1912, when they moved to New York City, where they lived first in Brooklyn and then in Queens. Oscar was a prominent and successful book publisher, and was a founder and executive of several publishing companies.

Oscar and Charlotte were married from 1887 until her death in 1924. According to the story handed down in the family, Oscar remained a widower until his own death just 8 years later in 1932. In reality though, there was much more to the story.

The Mystery Relationship

The first clue was the 1930 census. In the federal census of that year, there were two different Oscar Wadleighs enumerated in households in New York City. In one, a 63-year old named Oscar S. Wadleigh was living in the household of his son Gerald in Queens. His marital status was listed as widowed. In the other, a 58-year old Oscar S. Wadleigh was enumerated in a household in the Bronx. He was married to Lucy Wadleigh and they lived with Lucy's sister Victoria Michelin. Despite the similarities, I figured that it was a coincidence and did not think about it any further.

It was only after doing further research and collecting additional records that I began to suspect that these two Oscar Wadleighs were actually the same man. In the 1925 state census, Oscar was also enumerated twice; with his son Gerald in Queens and with this woman named Lucy in the Bronx. In city directories between 1925 and 1931, Oscar was variously listed either in Queens or in Bronx.

Finally, I received Oscar's 1932 death certificate in which Lucy Wadleigh was clearly listed as his wife. Then in Oscar's 1932 probate records, Lucy was listed as his wife and Gerald and Odin were listed as his sons. Clearly then, our Oscar Wadleigh was married to Lucy at the time of his death. Why then was no mention of Lucy ever made in any information passed down to Wadleigh descendants? Why was Oscar enumerated separately in two different censuses? Why was he listed as a widower in his son's household? Why was there no mention of a surviving spouse in any of his four obituaries? Additionally, after extensive research I have been unable to find any proof that Oscar and Lucy were ever actually married.

According to the censuses and city directories, Oscar and Lucy began living together in about 1924, not long after the death of Charlotte in February 1924. They were apparently married at about this time, but there is no record that they were married in New York City or in any of the surrounding areas.  Perhaps they eloped and married elsewhere. Or maybe it was a common-law marriage. There is nothing especially remarkable about a man getting remarried after the death of his first wife, until I realized that there was even more to the story.

The situation became complicated even further when I discovered that in 1915 (long before the death of his wife Charlotte), Oscar purchased a vacant lot in the Bronx from Lucy. It shows that Oscar and Lucy knew each other during the lifetime of his wife and must have had some sort of relationship before Charlotte's death. The fact that Oscar and Lucy began living together (and were perhaps married) soon after Charlotte's death seems to show indecent haste. The situation may have been entirely innocent, but if that was the case then why the apparent secrecy about the relationship? And why was their relationship not acknowledged by Oscar's children? One possible explanation is that Oscar was having an affair with this woman during the lifetime of his wife.

Another twist is that when Oscar and Charlotte moved to Queens in 1914, their house was purchased only by Charlotte and remained solely in her name until her death in 1924. Although there could have been many different reasons for this arrangement, I can't help but speculate why this happened. Charlotte had inherited some money from her father who died in 1911, but there is no reason that Oscar could not have been put on title to the house even if she was responsible for financing it. Perhaps Charlotte was aware of the possible affair(s) and wanted to secure the house for herself (and her sons) in case her husband divorced her or she died.

When Oscar purchased the vacant lot from Lucy in November 1915, he listed his address as his old apartment in Brooklyn, rather than the house that his wife Charlotte purchased in Queens in April 1914. This may be an indication that Oscar and Charlotte were briefly separated during the mid-1910s, even though the 1915 census and city directories indicated that they lived together (in Queens).

The Other Woman: Lucia Michelin

Lucy's brother Antonio Michelin from his 1921 passport application
Lucia Margarita Michelin was born in 1878 in Vicenza (near Venice) in northern Italy. In 1902, at the age of 24, Lucia came by herself to America. She lived briefly in Pennsylvania before settling in Manhattan in New York City in 1903. Within the next 4 years, three of her younger siblings (Antonio, Rosina and Victoria) came over from Italy and joined her there. They lived in several different apartments in Manhattan before moving to the Bronx in about 1911. After moving to America, Lucia usually went by the English version of her name: Lucy.

I have not been able to locate any photographs of Lucy. The only description is from her naturalization paperwork in which she indicated in 1918 that she was 5'5", weighed 150 pounds, had brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion.  I do though have a photograph of her brother Antonio (right), taken from his passport application.

Throughout her adulthood, Lucy always worked in the garment industry. Her occupation has been listed as: silk spinner, designer and embroiderer. Her sister Rosina moved back to Italy, but her remaining siblings Victoria and Antonio continued to live with her. Other than Lucy's possible marriage to Oscar, none of them ever married or had any children. In 1911, Lucy purchased a vacant lot of land in the Morris Park neighborhood of the Bronx that she subsequently sold to Oscar Wadleigh in 1915. Why did either of them own this land? Did they know each other before their 1915 real estate transaction? As early as 1900, while Oscar still lived with his family in upstate New York, he frequently came to New York City on business trips. Perhaps he originally met Lucy (or other women) on one of these business trips.
The signatures of Lucia and her stepson Odin in 1932, signing the
administration of Oscar's estate over to her other stepson Gerald.


When Oscar died in 1932, Lucy received one-third of his life insurance policy, which amounted to about $425 (the other thirds going to his sons). At that time, she also signed the administration of his estate over to her stepson Gerald Wadleigh, who subsequently inherited the rest of Oscar's property including the house purchased by Charlotte in 1914.  
After the estate was settled, she and her siblings returned to Italy, where they lived for a few years during the mid-1930s.  They returned to the Bronx before 1939 and remained there.  Lucia continued working as an embroiderer.  She never remarried and used the last name Wadleigh until her death.  She died of natural causes in 1957, at the age of 78.
It is entirely possible that Oscar's sons simply didn't approve of their father's choice in a wife or didn't approve of any woman who would replace their mother. The sad reality is that it would have been unusual for an Anglo-Saxon professional like Oscar to have been in a relationship with an Italian immigrant. Perhaps simple ethnic prejudice was the cause of the lack of acceptance by his family. It is also possible that Oscar somehow kept his relationship a secret and his sons didn't even know about her until his death.

One suggestion was that because Lucy was an Italian immigrant, Oscar may have married her (or pretend to marry her) to assist her in gaining citizenship. This possibility was ruled out though because Lucy became a US citizen on her own in 1922.

After all this research, there is really more questions than answers. What we do know is that after the death of his wife in 1924, Oscar began living with Lucy Michelin and that they considered themselves married. They knew each other since at least 1915, but the circumstances of their relationship are not known. After Oscar's death in 1932, Lucy was not acknowledged as his wife, except under strictly legal circumstances, and she was effectively forgotten by his family. What then was the extent of Oscar and Lucy's relationship? A true love story? Or something else?

Perhaps surviving records from Lucy's family might shed some light on this mystery. Unfortunately, her sister Victoria had died in 1941 and her brother Antonio returned to Italy where he died in 1958. At the time, the only surviving relatives were two nephews who lived in Italy. Perhaps they, or their descendants, may have some information or knowledge about this relationship.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

silent film actress: Rhea Mitchell

Rhea Mitchell was born in 1890 in Portland, Oregon.  Her mother, Lillie Ross Mitchell, was the first cousin of my great-grandfather Ben Plymale of Medford, Oregon.  Rhea's grandmother, Elizabeth Plymale Ross, was the sister of my great-great-grandfather William Plymale.

Early Life

Rhea Mitchell was raised in Portland, Oregon, the only child of Willis and Lillie Mitchell.  Her father worked as a local shipping clerk to support the family.  In his spare time though, he volunteered as a stage hand at a local theater.  It was because of this early exposure that Rhea ultimately became involved with theater and acting.  Rhea's talents were soon noticed by her father's boss George Baker, the manager of the Baker Stock Company in Portland. In 1907, at the age of 17, she was given her first role in a local theater production.  Over the next several years, she continued acting with the Baker Stock Company in Portland, quickly going form minor to leading roles in the performances.  Her success and popularity soon prompted her boss to send her to act in theater companies in other cities.  Between 1911 and 1913, she lived and acted in Spokane, Washington; Seattle, Washington; Vancouver, BC; and San Francisco, California.  During this time period, she also switched from traditional theater performances to vaudeville acts in the Orpheum Circuit. It was while acting in Vancouver, BC that she was apparently discovered by movie scouts. 

Silent Movie Actress

Rhea Mitchell and costar Fred Stone in the 1918 film "The Goat"
Although Rhea loved stage acting, her dream was to act in the movies.  Luckily for her, she was quickly discovered and signed by a movie studio, the New York Motion Picture Company.  In 1913, she moved to Los Angeles and began her long career as a Hollywood film actress.  The height of Rhea's popularity was during the 1910s, when she was frequently the lead role in variety of silent movies.  She frequently appeared in Westerns opposite leading man, William S. Hart.  Rhea continued acting in films up until her final role in 1952, spanning a career of nearly 40 years.  Unfortunately, we do not know exactly how many films she appeared in; partly because many of the early ones have been lost and she was not credited in all of the movies she appeared in.  Estimates range from 64 to over 100. 

Surviving records infer that life as an actress during the 1910s was perhaps not as glamorous as it now is.  In a letter that she wrote in 1914, she indicated that she often had to ride on horseback to movie sets that were not accessible by vehicle.  During this time period, she had to commute from her apartment in Hollywood to the movie studio which was then located on the ocean in the Santa Ynez Canyon in Santa Monica, which at the time was very remote. (The movie studio in Santa Monica became known as Inceville.)  She indicated in her letter that her workdays often lasted 12 hours.  She wrote "I have a cunning apartment, and loads of nice acquaintances whom I scarcely have time to bow to, I'm so busy.  and when I'm not busy, I'm sleeping. Sometimes I just fall into bed, dead tired from climbing hills or being pursued through gullies."  During this time period, she gained the nickname "little stunt girl", because of her willingness to attempt thrilling scenes that other actresses avoided.  In her 1914 letter, she complained about having to "drown herself" in a stream in January during filming.

1916 newspaper advertisement for one of Rhea's movies
In her letter, Rhea indicated that while she was happy being a film actress, she missed acting on stage.  In particular she missed performing in front of an audience and being given flowers.  Because of this, she often returned to act on stage during her career as a film actress.  Rhea's popularity lessened in 1919, when she was replaced in a film by a younger woman.  In that same year, she sued her producer for $55,000 for breach of contract.  In the suit, she claimed that she had only been paid $10,000 over the course of two years for a three year contract. 

Even though Rhea's film roles lessened, she continued to act.  She also put her attention to writing.  In the late 1920s she worked as a scenarist (screenwriter) on a variety of films.  In a 1928 article, she explained that screenwriting was difficult and dissuaded "wannabe" writers from attempting it.  She explained; "It is ridiculous to say that every person is a potential author. The very drivel most amateurs write would prove it.  And "having an urge" to write is by no means the equivalent of an ability to write."

Her Murder

Rhea Mitchell in the 1915 film "On the Night Stage"
Rhea Mitchell was never married and spent the rest of her life living in a variety of apartments in Los Angeles.  After the death of her mother in 1943, she lived alone.  After the end of her film career in the early 1950s, she supplemented her income by managing apartment buildings.  On September 17, 1957, her dead body was discovered in the dressing room of her apartment in the La Brea neighborhood of Los Angeles, having been strangled by the sash of her blue silk robe.  Initially, police feared that her death was connected to a serial-killer strangler in the Los Angeles area.  Since her windows and doors were locked though, it was assumed that she knew her killer and let him/her into her apartment. 

After the discovery, police questioned the buildings' two janitors, who were the last known people to see her alive.  One of the janitors, Sonnie Hartford, failed a lie detector test and was immediately booked on suspicion of murder.  At first he denied everything but eventually confessed to the murder.  He at first explained that he did not know why he did it, and elaborated: "I liked her. She was a very decent woman."  After more time had passed though, he explained that he had made an obscene remark to her (or "complimentary" in his words) which offended her.  He then killed her so that she wouldn't tell the owner of the building.  During the course of the investigation it was revealed that Sonnie was on probation for a robbery conviction.  Eventually, in February 1958, Sonnie pled guilty to second degree murder.  It is not known what his sentence was or what eventually happened to him.  Interestingly, newspaper articles from Los Angeles during the murder investigation expressed fears that the incident would incite further racial unrest because Sonnie Hartford happened to be African American.

Rhea Mitchell was 66 years old at the time of the murder.  She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Since Rhea was never married and was an only child, she had no close relatives. Her closest relatives were some cousins who lived in Seattle, who were questioned after her death. As an adult, Rhea often went by the nickname "Ginger."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Seattle History

I have always lived in or near Seattle, Washington.  Although Seattle is my hometown, my ancestors have only been living here since the 1940s.  Still, I have a variety of family connections and relatives that have been involved with the history of the city since the 1800s.  This post explores some of those connections.

Mayor of Seattle

The inaugural ride of Seattle's first street car in 1884, shown here at Yesler
and Occidental.  My relative Lascelle Struve, wife of mayor Henry Struve
 is one of the passengers in the car.
Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections

My relative* Henry Struve was the mayor of Seattle between 1882 and 1884.  Henry was a lawyer and politician who moved to Seattle with his family in 1879.  (*Henry's wife, Lascelle Knighton Struve was the first cousin of my great-great-grandmother Josephine Martin Plymale.  Both women were granddaughters of Zadock and Susannah Martin.)

Henry Struve was an influential citizen of Seattle and had many appointments, duties and activities that helped to shape the history of the city during its early years.  Henry was quite interested in education and served as regent of the Territorial University (later University of Washington).  Between 1884 and 1887, he was director of the public schools for Seattle. 

He was also highly interested in public transportation and the development of infrastructure and roads in the city.  During his term as mayor, he oversaw over $500,000 in improvements to the city, including regrading the streets.  He also helped to develop the city's first cable car system (Seattle Street Railway), which ran from downtown Seattle to the Madison Valley.  When the cable car first opened in 1884, his wife Lascelle was on the inaugural ride. 

Henry operated a private law practice in Seattle, where he represented many big clients, including railroad companies.  He also helped to develop banks and insurance companies in Seattle.  He and his family were living in Seattle during the great fire of 1889, but escaped unharmed.  The Home Insurance Company, which he co-founded, paid out large sums in claims due to damage from the fire.  The Struve family first lived in a house at 2nd and Pine in downtown Seattle (just two blocks from what is now the Pike Place Market).  Later, during the late 1890s, they moved to a house on First Hill. 


Effie Merriman Bellinger in 1887, a pioneer settler and
business owner of Georgetown, Seattle
Photo courtesy Southern Oregon Historical Society
In about 1898, my great-great-great-aunt Effie Merriman Bellinger moved by herself to Georgetown, Washington (now a part of Seattle).  Effie was a recently divorced dressmaker who had previously lived in Oregon.  I don't know why she moved by herself to Georgetown, but she probably wanted to start a new life after her divorce.  At the time, Georgetown was a small but growing town on the Duwamish River, just south of Seattle.  The town was originally called Duwamish, after the river adjacent to it.  In 1890, it was renamed Georgetown, after the son of the town's developer.  In 1904, Georgetown incorporated as an independent city.  The main impetus behind the movement to incorporate was lobbying of saloon and brewery owners who did not want to lose the right to manufacture or sell liquor if they remained unincorporated.  Georgetown was an independent city from 1904 until 1910, when it was annexed by Seattle.

When Effie Bellinger moved to Georgetown in about 1898, she opened up a dressmaking parlor in the town center, being one of its pioneer business owners.  She did not remain single for long and was soon married to Joseph Hill, a street car conductor.  Later, Joseph worked for many decades as a Deputy King County Sheriff.  Effie lived for more than 50 years in a house in the center of Georgetown, at Bailey Street and Carleton Avenue.  Their house was only a block away from the King County Hospital (precursor to Harborview Hospital on First Hill).  Their house was also very close to the Duwamish River, before the river was straightened in 1913 and the course of the river changed.  Their house was eventually torn down and the site is now covered by an onramp to I-5. 

In 1903, another great-great-great aunt Josephine Merriman Beek also moved to Georgetown, to be closer to her sister Effie.  Josephine's husband John Beek was elected City Clerk of Georgetown in 1904 and remained in that position until the city was annexed in 1910.  John was quite involved with city business and the growth of the region during that time period.  In 1909, the city passed an ordinance that closed saloons at 1:00 a.m. (they were previously allowed to remain open 24 hours a day).  It is suggested that John Beek's activities as City Clerk might have been partially responsible for the citizens electing to annex to Seattle in 1910.  In late 1909, it had become apparent that John had doctored the city's financial records. Since John ran unopposed for his position as City Clerk, there were newspaper campaigns that called on the citizens to vote for annexation as the only way to get John out of office.

The Beek family lived in a house just east of Georgetown on Beacon Hill.  In 1915, they sold their house and moved to north Seattle.  John later worked for many years as an accountant for the city of Seattle.


from the 1973 Boeing Annual Report
Courtesy University of Washington Libraries
Special Collections
In 1948, my maternal grandparents Ben and Patricia Plymale moved to Seattle from Portland, Oregon.  They were married in June 1948, and after spending their honeymoon in San Francisco, they moved immediately to Seattle so that Ben could attend graduate school.  Between 1948 and 1951, Ben and Patricia lived in an apartment in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of north Seattle (the Phinney Apartments).  While living there, Ben attended graduate school at the nearby University of Washington and Patricia worked as a secretary at the Sand Point Naval Air Station on Lake Washington. 

In 1950, Ben quit graduate school to accept a job offer as an engineer at Boeing Company.  Because Ben was now working at the Boeing plant in south Seattle, they decided to move.  Between 1951 and 1953, they lived in an apartment in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of south Seattle (now the Lake Washington Apartments).  In 1953, they purchased a house in the Mount Baker neighborhood of south Seattle, which the family owned for 30 years.  Later, after their divorce, Ben lived in the Seward Park neighborhood and Patricia lived in the Madison Park neighborhood.

Except for a brief stint (1968-1972) working in the Pentagon as an Assistant Director to the Secretary of Defense, Ben remained employed by Boeing from 1950 until his death in 1981.  He began his career as an engineer, but his brilliance allowed him to advance quickly within the company and he quickly became a company executive and an authority of strategic space systems.  He was one of the managers who developed the Minuteman missile program.  From 1972 to 1981, Ben was a vice president of Boeing. During his time as vice president, he managed the Space and Ballistic Missile Group, the company's marketing program, and the 757 and 767 airplane system integrations. 

The city of Seattle owed much of its growth to the Boeing Company, which helped to revitalize the economy after World War II and became a major local employer.  It could be argued then that Ben's high level of involvement with the company had an indirect, but major impact on the history of the city. 


My great-great-great-uncle John Beek providing his input on why the Seattle
baseball team (then the Seattle Turks) always seemed to lose their games.
From a June 4, 1908 edition of the Seattle Daily Times
I have never been interested in professional sports or identified with my city's sports teams.  Still, professional teams seem to be a source of much pride and cohesion for many American cities.  When doing my research, I cannot help but notice how much this hasn't really changed over the years.  The city of Seattle has had a baseball team since 1890.  The names of Seattle's baseball team has changed over the years and has included: Seattles, Seattle Braves, Seattle Siwashes, Seattle Turks, Seattle Giants, Seattle Rainiers, Seattle Indians, Seattle Rainiers (again), Seattle Angels, Seattle Pilots and finally the Seattle Mariners. 

Portion of the 1912 Baist map of Seattle showing the location of the Band Box
Park, which was used by Seattle's baseball teams between 1907 and 1913. 
The area shown in this map now includes the Yesler Terrace Housing
Projects, the Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, the King County Archives
and the Juvenile Detention Center

Prior to 1913, Seattle had no official stadium for its baseball team.  Before that though (between 1907 and 1913), they did play at a baseball park in the Central Area neighborhood of Seattle known as "Band Box Park".  Although that baseball park is long gone, it just happens to have been at the site of my previous workplace, the King County Archives, at 12th and Yesler.  Coincidentally, this location also happens to be in the recorded subdivision of Struve's Addition (named after the family of my relative, mayor Henry Struve).  Band Box Park was constructed at the same time (as a sister project) as the Pike Place Market.

Band Box Park was succeeded by Dugdale Field in 1913, followed in 1938 by Sicks' Stadium.  Sicks' Stadium (at Rainier and McClellan) was Seattle's baseball stadium for 38 years, before the Kingdome and Safeco Field.