Monday, April 25, 2011

OJ Humphrey and teddy bears -- 1907

I found a bizarre news story about OJH Sr. today. It seems that at the height of the Teddy bear craze (named after then-President, Theodore Roosevelt), OJH Sr. had two bear cubs shipped from Alaska. He is quoted in the article as saying, "I'm going to send these East for a friend of mine, E.H. Harriman, for his private garden."  When asked if he didn't think that teddy bears would prove better playthings for Harriman's children, he said, "Bears are better than the imitations....if the children play with (the bear cubs), they won't learn to be destructive as they do with dolls when they tear their clothes and thros them around. They will learn to care for something which needs to be fed regularly.  The cubs will teach any child who plays with them to be brave, watchful, quick,  strong, to endure pain and not to meddle with what they know nothing about."

Yikes!  My grandfather, OJH Jr., had just been born and Aunt Bobbie was not due for another two years but the Captain did have two older boys from his first marriage.  What kind of father was he?  It's clear from this what characteristics mattered most to him -- bravery, watchfulness, strength, ability to endure pain (!) -- but my goodness, what incredibly poor judgement, to keep bear cubs as pets.  I'm think he was an absent father, at best, but this makes me wonder about the worst.

And what a publicity hound!

This is from the 1907 Placerville Democrat for November something....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Aunt Win and Dappap birth records

One of the cool things about being deeply rooted in one place, Seattle, is coming across odd coincidences of family history.  My grandfather, Omar James Humphrey, Jr. and my great-aunt on my grandmother's side, Winifred Ross Heiser, were born 2 days apart in Seattle and they are listed on the same page of the Register of Births in Seattle.

Two things I love about these entries, in addition to the fact that my grandfather and my great-aunt are both listed on the same page while the two families would not meet for another twenty years.  One, I love that OJH Sr identifies his occupation as capitalist.  That's awesome. And two, I love that my other great-grandfather, Rex Ross, identifies himself as a rancher.  He would go on to attend medical school in Philadelphia (with his wife and three children in two) and become a surgeon.  But in 1907 -- he was a rancher? Where? In Ballard?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Omar J Humphrey -- 1880 in San Francisco

In 1880, OJH Sr. was about 24 years old. I'm fairly certain that by this time, he had moved to San Francisco (or Oakland).  I was searching around on Ancestry last weekend and found three separate listings for him in the  SF City Directory from 1879-1881.  The results made me laugh -- and give me a sense of the go-go boom years in San Francisco with everyone scrambling to figure out how to capitalize on the gold rush.

All three listings share the same address: 328 Montgomery, Room 20. 

Room 20 must have been bustling. All three list Omar J. Humphrey as "Secretary" but each has a different business name. The three are Lodi Mining Co. (with headquarters in Esmerelda, NV), Paul's Dry Process Co. (I looked this up on Wikipedia and it seems to be a process for refining metal ore), and William Penn  Mining Co. (with headquarters in Lyon Country, NV).

I love this! What an enterprising young man! It also shows his early interest in mining -- which I'm sure drove him to Alaska a little later in life.

I would love to find how he first got to San Francisco. I know that his father (James Joseph Humphrey of Yarmouth, ME) captained ships bound for Asia so it may have been on one of those trips, but I have yet to find a source.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Omar James Humphrey Sr. -- Life in Maine

My best sources for information on OJH Sr. have definitely been online newspaper archives. It amazes me how much trivia about daily life can be found in back issues of the Seattle Times -- so and so had so and so to dinner, OJH Jr. had a party for his friends, Pansy played bridge.  The Seattle Times has a fantastic, seachable database so -- for a fee! -- I was able to find over 600 mentions of OJH Sr. and family.  Needless to say, I've only managed to get through about 50 of them.  But I'm fairly confident that when I'm through, I'll have a much better sense of his life and the lives of my much-adored great-grandmother, Pansy, and Dappap and Aunt Bobbie.

What I would love to find are articles from any newspaper in Maine but so far, it's been tricky to find online databases. has some but not all issues and it's seach capabilities don't seem entirely thorough. However, I did find this lovely little tidbit from the June 10, 1870 Bangor (Maine) Whig & Courier:

I'd love to find more articles like this, because what I miss when looking at things like census records is the color and flavor of their lives. It must be the American Studies major in me!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Omar J Humphrey Sr. -- From Maine Sea Captain to....Congress?!

OJH Sr. poses mystery after mystery. Born in Maine in 1856 to an old seafaring family, OJH Sr. somehow made it to San Francisco, made a home there, and then seems to have been deeply involved in the trade with and travel to Alaska....which seems to have brought him to Seattle. He apparently lived in both SF and Seattle from around 1900 until 1905 and then seems to have moved permanently to Seattle with his third (!) bride, Eugenie Allison O'Connell (my great-grandmother).

I have to admit that I am utterly fascinated by him. Every new article turns up some new company he was involved in, all in industries particular to the development of the Northwest.  I'd say he was a complete wheeler-dealer! I will try to put together a timeline of his home and wives and companies and children....but in the meantime, I thought the below news article was fantastic!  When Alaska was lobbying for statehood, OJH Sr. was a territorial delegate! The article says that the election -- which took place in Seattle showing just how much the fates of the two states were linked at that point -- was extremely heated. OJH was a dark horse but squeaked through. He didn't last long....or at least Wikipedia never caught his name!

The following article ran November 22, 1905 in the Seattle Times.