Category Archives: Family Stories

The SIFT for April 2019

The Sift is a periodic omnibus of significant, but smaller, snippets of history, genealogy, and news, received behind the scenes & sifted daily at Stray Leaves.



Adina Brown Speaks of Diversity & Belonging

Adina Brown is a James descendant. Her mother and grandfather are Elizabeth Lee “Libby” James and the late Sgt. Robert Lee James of Midland, Texas. See “Our American-Aboriginal Family – The Love Story of Robert Lee James & Susan Ann Syron.”

On the side of her father Craig Onan Brown, Adina descends from the original Aboriginal people of Australia. Both sides of this family treasure education.

At present, Adina is attending the University of Canberra. From UC, Adina talks about discovering diversity and what it means for her.

Adina Brown at the University of Canberra

“Belonging means feeling comfortable to be yourself in the environment or group around you. It is to feel welcomed and feel as if any of your differences as a person are overlooked or accepted and appreciated. I call Western Sydney home and I was born and raised in Penrith. My siblings and parents still live there so it’s a massive change moving away, but a big reason why I feel like I belong to UC is the diversity of the students and community. Everyone appreciates you for you and is so welcoming and kind. As I got accepted, I found out that my Uncle was the first Aboriginal to graduate UC, so it made me feel as if I was meant to be at UC and be a part of the community. I feel like I can be myself a UC because of how supportive everyone is around, most first year students are in the same shoes with beginning university and living away from home. Staff are very helpful, they not only point you in the right direction for services but are happy to give advice and listen to any you may have.”

– Adina Brown
Adina Brown with her mother Elizabeth Lee “Libby” James Brown

Lawsuit has Implications for Con Artists & Identity Thieves Engaging in Historical Photo Fraud

We’ll be monitoring this lawsuit most intently. Its outcome could put an end to the proliferation of fake photos of Frank and Jesse James. The lawsuit also could end the identity theft of the Jesse James family.

Tamara Lanier is suing Harvard University for wrongful expropriation of historic images she says depicts two of her ancestors. Her lawsuit petitions for Harvard to turn over the subject photos, to acknowledge her ancestry, and payment to Lanier of an unspecified amount of damages.

While Lanier’s ancestry is not stated, Stray Leaves suspects she may be related to the Jesse James family. Many of the Lanier family share kinship with the James, including music legend Quincy Jones and famed American playwright Tennessee Williams, aka Thomas Lanier Williams III. Thomas Stratton Lanier and spouse Margaret Sallee turned out to be the original owners and builders of a 1903 Victorian home in Danville, Kentucky, once owned by Stray Leaves’ publisher Eric F. James.

If Lanier wins her suit, Harvard’s images must be returned to Lanier as property due to heirs. This outcome would have an enormous impact on the number of fraudulent photos now in circulation that are claimed to be Frank or Jesse James. If Lanier is successful in her lawsuit, the James family could accept the false claims of hoaxers, con artists, and profiteers of historical images as true. The James then could lay claim and collect the images as being property due to heirs. In the end result, the James could take the fake images out of circulation.


Happy 100th Birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti

On today, March 24, 2019, I make an exception to my policy of not celebrating birthdays. A 100th birthday is a milestone of passage in eternity’s time frame. Few people achieve it. Even less reach the marker while still being an influence in so many lives.

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of his City LIghts Bookstore in San Francisco

When Ferlinghetti’s second centenary arrives, you and I will be gone and forgotten. But Ferlinghetti still will be here and relevant. This was perceived decades ago by Charles Michael James of our James family. C.M. was among the first to publish Ferlinghetti’s work at his Fantome Press. The archives of Fantome Press can be found at the University of Ohio. You can find Lawrence Ferlinghetti in his bookstore.


Stray Leaves Contributes to Pocahontas Descendants Initiative

Recently Stray Leaves made its own contribution to the Pocahontas Descendants Initiative sponsored by the Community Engagement Dept. of Gloucester County, Virginia. The program is described in this article.

Matoaka “Lady Rebecca” Pocahontas 1595-1616/1617

The report which Stray Leaves provided identifies over 3,000 known descendants, some of whom are James relatives with Pocahontas ancestry.

If you have Pocahontas ancestry, we urge you to submit your own contribution.


Do You Qualify for Chickasaw Citizenship?

With the recent discovery of the James ancestry of Susannah James and her lines of Chickasaw descendants, we now learn that today’s living descendants in those lines – if there are any – may be eligible for Chickasaw citizenship.

If anyone pursues this, please inform the rest of your family at Stray Leaves.

Who Says Nonsense Like This?

We think it is solely kooks, crazies, and con artists who promote fake photos and bogus history about Jesse James. Not so.

In this article, Brian Haines falsely claims:

“Through the years, the [James] gang amassed hordes of gold and buried it for safekeeping in a number of places in Kansas and Nebraska. Survivors of the gang claimed to have not known where James hid the gold. According to a number of Old West historians, the gold is still hidden in the ‘hidey holes’ where it was buried so many years ago”

Brian Haines, Executive Director of the McLeod County Historical Society & Museum in Hutchinson, Minnesota

Who is Brian Haines? Brian is the Executive Director of the McLeod County Historical Society & Museum in Hutchinson, Minnesota. He holds a BA in History from St. Cloud State University. You think he would know better than to promote fake history, or even play loosey-goosey with it. Unfortunately, not so.

We particularly liked the comment to this post by Chuck Rabas:

“I’m not going to address all of Mr. Haines’ ill-informed claims, but only the two that were unforgivably ignorant:

1. ‘When the Civil War broke out in America in 1861, James and his brother, Frank, joined a group of Confederate guerillas [sic] known as Quantrill’s Raiders.’

“When the war broke out? Frank joined the Centerville Home Guards in May, 1861. He was captured shortly after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and later paroled. After the war, he stated that he first met Quantrill in May of 1863. Frank was named as one of the guerrillas led by Fernando (or Ferdinand) Scott who took part in a raid at Richfield (now Missouri City), Missouri on May 15, 1863. Jesse did not join the guerrillas until the spring of 1864, and then it was the band led by Wm. T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson.

2. ‘Through the years, the gang amassed hordes of gold and buried it for safekeeping in a number of places in Kansas and Nebraska.’

“In the 15 years from 1866 through 1881, the total amount taken in robberies in which Jesse has been implicated was approximately $250,000 — an average of between $16,000 and $17,000 per year. (Sources vary, so I’m using the highest amounts I’ve seen cited.) Most of that amount was paper — currency, bonds, etc., with only a small percentage (a VERY generous guess would be 10% to 15%) in gold. If one takes into consideration that the loot from each robbery had to be divided among the participants, and factors in Jesse’s expensive passion for horse racing, there’s scarcely ‘hordes of gold’ left to bury.”


More Jesse James Kinship Than Anyone

I invite you to spend an hour out West with Hayden Calvert “Bud” Cooper. Bud is the founder, former mayor, and now museum keeper of Myton, Utah.

At age 92, Bud has more family connections to Jesse James than anybody I have found.

Bud is a grandson of Hayden Calvert & Sallie Morgan of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. This makes Bud a 6th cousin of Frank James’ cohort John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn of Harrodsburg. Bud also is a 1st cousin to Nicholas Dorsey. This makes Bud a 6th cousin also of Frank & Jesse James. Bud is even related to Frank’s wife Annie Ralston. His other kinship connections are too numerous to mention. Enjoy Bud Cooper now. He is living history.


Graves Family Reunion – 2019

GRAVES FAMILY cousins are returning to Kentucky. Everyone is invited.

From Fayette County, Kentucky, Mary Jane Graves & Lloyd J. Goodwin are the 3rd great grandparents of actor Steve McQueen:
Lloyd J. Goodwin & Mary Jane Graves
. Elizabeth Elenora Goodwin & Pike Montgomery Thompson
.. John William Thomson & Julia Franklin Graves
… Lillian Mae Thomson & Victor Lee Crawford
…. Julia Crawford & Terence William McQueen
….. Terence Stephen “Steve” McQueen

Confederate Statues Removed

The statue of John Hunt Morgan, that once graced the entrance to the Fayette County Courthouse, now resides in Lexington Cemetery.

This statue of John Hunt Morgan formerly stood before the Fayette County Courthouse in Lexington, Ky. There, it was in view of the Second National Bank of Lexington, founded by David Hunt James who served with Morgan together with his brother Richard Skinner James. Following the recent brouhaha over Confederate statues, Morgan’s monument now stands in Lexington Cemetery where all of these warriors rest.

The Second National Bank of Lexington founded by David Hunt James. The bank is the building to the right with the arched entry. The width of the building is less than 25 feet giving the bank its nickname of “the hole in the wall.”
The statue of John Cabell Breckenridge also has been removed to Lexington Cemetery.

The Morgan’s Men Association has announced, there will be a memorial service at the Morgan equestrian statue in Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, KY at 3 PM on June 2, 2019. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Order of Confederate Rose, and Morgan’s Men Association will participate. All are welcome to come to honor General Morgan and the Confederate Veterans.



Losing a Parent Changes Us Forever

How many more stories are yet to reveal themselves from within the Stray Leaves‘ genealogy database?

Genealogists always consider the fact of a demise as raw data. How many of us, though, consider the physical and emotional effects of that demise upon those left behind? That life continues to live after death.

Losing a parent changes us both psychologically and physically. Scientists now say, there’s proof. To more fully comprehend what is family, hereditary health demands that we look beyond what is evident in raw genealogical data.

Have you shared your story with Stray Leaves of what happened to you when your parent(s) died?


Second-born Children Are More Likely to Make Trouble

If Jesse James had a psychiatrist, he may have heard about this in therapy. We know, he did not.

That leaves the rest of the living James family to consider the principle. So, listen up, second-borns!

Read this article. Then leave us your story, reactions, or comments.


Old Jesse James Con Artists Never Die. They Just Propagate the Next Generation.

Daniel J. Duke

Daniel J. Duke is the son of the notorious Betty Dorsett Duke.

You remember Betty. She’s the one who accused the Leaf Blower of trying to murder her. Then she went to the FBI with her complaint, because police authorities in Texas wouldn’t act on her complaint. She proudly touted the fact the FBI was investigating the Leaf Blower. After the FBI did, the FBI shut down Betty Dorsett Duke and her false claims.

Then surprisingly, Betty died. Exposed by her own family for the factually true identity she denied, and exposed for her true identity as a con artist, Betty Dorsett Duke had nothing to live for.

None of that has stopped young Daniel J. Duke from following in the path of his mother.

Daniel falsely claims, as his mother did, that he is a descendant of Jesse Woodson James. Like his mother, Daniel has written a book based on his own childish fantasies and wishful thinking about Jesse James. To promote the book, Daniel J. Duke pulls in all his mother’s old bogeymen, like Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr.

After all, Texas is the progenitor and safe harbor of Jesse James hoaxers. Most all come from Texas. They still do.

COMMENTS FROM FACEBOOK:

  • Colleen Campbell Taylor Is he the son that she always said looked just like Jesse James? NOT!
  • Chuck Rabas When Betty was working on her second book about her absurd claim, she contacted me by phone. I was a bit surprised, as I had made my opinion of her inane claims quite clear on a number of internet forums. In the course of our telephone conversation, she indicated a desire to use some of my comments made during the conversation in her upcoming book. I informed her that if she used any of them in a context that would in any way appear that I supported ANY of her claims, I would sue. I was among those she subsequently insisted were hired by Eric James to destroy her.
  • Matthew Schmidt Yup and a lot of fake Jesse W James, Wyatt Earp, Billy The Kid daguerreotypes seem to show up for sale out of Texas as well?! Cons… all of them. IMHO.

RELATED: Murder & Betty Dorsett Duke

El Paso del Robles & La Panza Rancho of Drury Woodson James

“Rodeo scene taken on the LaPanza Ranch about 1893.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

On May 22, 1971, Mary Louise James-Burns dictated her memory of her father Drury Woodson James and his La Panza Rancho. Her dictation was taken and put in writing by Mary Louise’s granddaughter Mary Joan Malley-Beamis.

_______________________________

Paso de Robles Grant

 

While the story of “Drury Woodson James by His Daughter Mary Louise James-Burns” briefly outlines what Mary Louise James recalled about her father’s connection to the fabled La Panza Rancho, much of the rancho’s history was left untold.

Today, history can fill in the saga of this legendary land that reveals so much of California’s most colorful past.

As La Panza Ranch stands on the brink of new ownership, La Panza affirms the true treasure it is. The worth of La Panza far exceeds any amount that it costs.

This is the history of the La Panza Rancho.

Mission San Miguel, Arcangel

Mission San Miguel, Arcangel was founded in 1797 by Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, who succeeded Fr. Junipero Serra, the founder of a chain of missions spanning California from north to south. The era of the missions compelled the Native-American population of the area either into isolation or into cooperation.

In 1842, Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena granted to Pedro Narvaez nearly 26,000 acres of the El Paso de Robles Rancho.

El Paso de Robles Claim of Petronilo Rios

Plat of Rancho Paso Robles

Historian Wallace V. Ohles, who attended and spoke at the 2002 family reunion of the Jesse James family in Paso Robles, California, wrote in his book The Lands of Mission San Miguel that in 1852, Petronillo Rios filed a claim for El Paso de Robles. His claim would take 14 years to be patented!

When California became a United States territory, and later a state, outstanding land claims had to be settled. The Board of Land Commissioners, sitting in San Francisco, rendered a decree of confirmation in favor of Rios in 1855.

Rios did not have clear title to the land he then sold to the brothers Daniel D. and James H. Blackburn with Lazare Godchaux in 1857. Rios received $8,000 from the Blackburns and Godchaux. Rios transferred the land, fully disclosing his receipt of the land from Pedro Narvaez and Gov. Manuel Micheltorena.

Rios did not receive his land patent until 1866. It was granted by President Andrew Johnson. That year Thomas McGreel [alternately McGreal] acquired one-half of the rancho for $10,000 from Daniel D. Blackburn. McGreel then sold his interest to Drury Woodson James for $11,000.

in 1860, D.W. James and John G. Thompson had purchased 10,000 acres of government land for $1.25 per acre. They stocked it with 2,500 head of cattle. This was the nucleus of the La Panza-Carissa Ranch, which in time grew to 50,000 acres.

“On Duty-Taken on the La Panza about 1900.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

The Paunch

La Panza – In Spanish, the word means “the paunch,” the belly and its contents.

The vaqueros of old Rancho La Panza used belly parts of slaughtered cattle as bait, to trap, lasso, or poison the California grizzly bear. From the bear hunting country surrounding the rancho, the captured bear was shipped north to battle bulls in the gaming arenas of San Francisco.

The Still House

“Home of Dr. Still-LaPanza Ranch. Post Office was here. Photo 1892.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

“The picturesque old stone building is still called the Still House, although no gin or red eye was ever distilled there. It is the sole surviving member of a complex of buildings owned by Dr. Thomas Still, a pioneer at La Panza.

“Dr. & Mrs. Thomas C. Still. My grandparents came into the LaPanza mines in 1879-about 5 miles from LaPanza Ranch house. Land adjoined LaPanza Ranch.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

 

“Still, a physician born in Tennessee in 1833, brought the family across the plains in 1863 in an ox-drawn wagon, wintering at bleak Honey Lake in northeastern California. He first settled on a claim near Mt. Diablo, then moved to Sebastopol, where a sawmill accident almost cost him his hand [hidden in this photo]. Luckily his wife had bandages and pine oil handy and this rude treatment kept the fingers attached.

“From Sebastopol, he took his family to San Luis Obispo County in 1867 and to Palo Prieto (later Annette) in Kern County in 1872. The news of the gold rush at La Panza caused him to pull up stakes again in 1879. He went to La Panza, then a ‘lively town,’ and mixed the practice of medicine with farming and stock raising.

The Post Office

“He was also Postmaster of La Panza from November 4, 1879, when the post office was set up, until June 15, 1908, when it was discontinued. Actually, his wife, Martha, and daughter carried on as Postmistresses, for the sawbones was away on cases. Re-established April 29, 1911, the Post Office continued until April 20, 1935, when it was closed for good and mail delivered to Pozo instead…

Gold

“La Panza is a country of many legends and little (written) history. Old-timers will tell you of Mexicans and Indians mining gold there long before the 1878 rush. Today, Do La Guerra Canyon – once people with 250 miners – cannot even be located. In 1882 a prospector named Frank H. Reynolds mined on Navajo Creek but he is a ghostly figure…

“The Painted Rock about 1890. Paintings were along inside walls which can be seen at right.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

The first official report of gold production was not made until 1882 when $5,000 was reported taken out. By 1886 the region was producing $9,164 a year bit it dropped to $1,740 in 1887. In 1888 and 1889 the sum of $3,000 and $6,200 respectively and the following year it was $8,800. Another drop occurred in 1891 to $1,785 and it continued to $1,097 in 1892 and a mere $600 the next year. Then it was $1,200, $3,000, and $3,000. In 1897 the figure was $2,500 as, ‘on account of the limited water supply the mines were worked only in the rainy season.’ It was an even $1,000 for the ‘Year of the Spaniards.’ No reports were made in 1899 or 1900, but in 1901 a puny $300 was mined. A revival in 1902 and 1903 brought it up to $2,399 and $1,840, then another slump sent production to only $630 in 1904 and $300 the following year. The last two years’ worth reporting showed but $316 taken out in 1907 and $124 in 1913.

“Inside of Painted Rock about 1920.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

Cattle Country

“…After the gold rush petered out, this land reverting to sheep and cattle country again…

“Jim Jones and Jake Schoenfeld bought the ranch from D.W. James and added the Carissa Ranch to it, operating both spreads as one. With the death of Jones in 1903, the partnership was dissolved. His heirs took the Carissa Ranch and Jake kept the La Panza Ranch.

Jake Schoenfeld Residence, La Panza Ranch. Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

“Frank Fotheringham, who was born in Sutter Creek in 1861, came to La Panza after grammar school training in Sacramento and high school education in San Francisco. He found it a great sheep and cattle country already, going to work for his brother-in-law, Jacob M. Jones, who owned about 25,000 acres. Frank worked as foreman until he was 30. Then he became superintendent of Schoenfeld and Jones’ twin ranches, the Carissa and La Panza.

“When the ‘NO Fence’ law went into effect Fotheringham had to bring in enough wire from San Looey [San Luis Obispo] to circle 45,000 acres. He did a tremendous job in stringing it in only 6 months. In 1897 he leased different ranches to tenants, but after 2 years turned back into cattle range. As early as 1886 he had raised and fattened herds of cattle. He would ship them in feeders from Mexico and Arizona by the trainload. He would turn them out in a year ‘fat and fit.’ His own Durhams and Herefords were veritable butterballs, too.

“In the old days around La Panza, Frank used to see more deer, mountain lyons, coyotes, and grizzlies than human neighbors. And a few of his two-legged neighbors were anything but neighborly. Perhaps they wanted to imitate Joaquin Murrieta or Tiburcio Vasquez, both of whom hid out in San Luis Obispo’s backwoods. In any case, Frank first visited Los Angeles in 1883 at the tail end of a long chase of horse thieves who had raided his La Panza remuda and gone south with the stock. In 1916 Fotheringham finally bade La Panza adios, resigning from the ranch to go to Santa Marguerite to live.

“Rodeo scene on the LaPanza Ranch about 1892.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust

“When the ranch was sold to Henry Cowell of the Cowell Lime & Cement Company of Santa Cruz & San Francisco around World War I, Walter Dunning became for many years foreman of the La Panza Ranch. When he died, his wife, Dolly Dunning, became foreman until Clarence Jardine took over. The ranch is now a 34,000 spread, eased by Jake Martens and Bill Vreden. Jake Martens is the managing resident partner. It is partly farmland, partly grazing land for cattle. Irrigation and alfalfa have been introduced but otherwise, it is pretty much the way it looked when whiskey men in muddy Levis were working with sluice boxes, rockers, and gold pans along La Panza Creek.

La Panza in 1960

“Still’s Dairy. Stone building on Still Ranch-LaPanza Post Office in background-Photo about 1910.” Joan Beamis Archive, James Preservation Trust.

“La Panza is pretty quiet now. Dr. Still’s inn, stage stop, and post office are gone, leaving only the old stone dairy. It is hard to realize that the road which winds past…was once one of the most heavily traveled stage roads between the Coast and the San Joaquin. Marica’s Saloon, the gathering place for the old-time California cattlemen and American Chinese and Mexican miners, is no more. It is gone with the miners and the outlaws. Tales of violence cling to the stones of the old house at La Panza, however. There is believed to be a grave in the long-forgotten graveyard where an outlaw was buried after losing an argument with one of his peers. And several miners are said to have been murdered for their caches of gold, their belonging scattered about their corpses and their tents or shacks torn up…

“Or O.M. McLean will tell you of the night his grandfather, Dr. Still, was called to the door by an urgent incessant knocking. When he opened it, a man asked him to come with him quickly to treat and wounded friend. When the physician asked him what happened, the visitor blurted out, ‘I shot a man.’ He quickly changed it to ‘A man has shot himself,” however. The wounded man was in bad shape and condition, but Dr. Still operated, successfully removed the bullet, and then warned the man’s friend that the gunshot wound might prove fatal if he were moved. Nevertheless, when the Doctor returned the next day to see how his patient was doing, he found that both men, on the run from the law, had disappeared afraid that he would report the incident to the sheriff.”

Excerpts from “La Panza” by Richard H. Dillon, The Grabbon Press, San Francisco, September 26, 1960

La Panza Today

The Carrisa Plains portion of historic La Panza:

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La Panza Ranch

Mary Louise James Tags Early Buildings of Paso Robles

El Paso de Robles Hotel

End of an Era – The Undoing of Drury Woodson James

Paso Robles Inn Today

Drury Woodson James Slide Show

When Charlie Chaplin Put Dan James In The Movies

The outlaw Jesse James agitated Daniel Lewis James Sr. a great deal. D.L. could not make up his mind. Was cousin Jesse really an outlaw and criminal? Or was Jesse James something more? D.L. wondered, was Jesse more like D.L.’s son, Dan James Jr.? – A champion and warrior for social justice.

When Charlie Chaplin put Dan James into Chaplin’s movies, the answer became clear. In the House on Un-American Activities Committee, America blacklisted Chaplin and Dan from movie making.  The U.S. Government assassinated Charlie Chaplin and Dan James …just like Jesse James.

 

Frank & Jesse James – Warriors for Social Justice

“All For the Underdog”

An Excerpt from Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma and Silence, by Eric F. James

Fresh from his graduation from Andover, Dan James Jr. clerked briefly in T.M. James & Sons in Kansas City. But beyond the door of the family store, social reform summoned him.

The era of the post-Depression was a turbulent and violent one. Workers were losing jobs. Families were losing homes. People were starving.

Dan read the writings of Karl Marx. In Texas and Oklahoma, Dan organized field workers, while working the oil fields, hauling truckloads of number six pipe. By the mid-1930s, he joined the Young Marxist League. Participating in a public demonstration in Kansas City sponsored by the League landed Dan in jail, about the same time his cousin Barbara James-McGreevy was jailed for demonstrating on behalf of birth control.

Bailing out Dan from jail, D.L. suggested Dan commit his politics to paper. Father and son collaborated on a play, titled Pier 19, about the General Strike of San Francisco in 1934, known as “Bloody Thursday.” Dan had worked with the longshoremen’s organizer, Harry Bridges, as an errand gopher. Shortly thereafter, Dan realized, “I was not supporting myself, and it was time to join my comrades in the working class.”

Finding himself with Charlie Chaplin, who was a neighbor on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood and occasionally a guest at Seaward, the James family retreat in the Highlands above Carmel-By-The Sea in northern California, Dan James and Chaplin authored the movie The Great Dictator.

Dan observed the improvisations of the British mime upon a draft outline, taking detailed notes at every turn. The two collaborated on the story. More important to them both were the themes of the story. The process was repeated until Chaplin was satisfied his story and message was captured on celluloid.

In Chaplin’s new talkie, Dan provided distinctly American verbiage that the British born Chaplin could not. Dan embedded his own themes. The film opens in Dan James’ words, spoken by Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator

“This is the story of the period between two world wars, an interim during which insanity cut loose, liberty took a nose dive, and humanity was kicked around somewhat.”

Giving voice to America’s most beloved mime, Dan James broke his family heritage of silence to openly challenge governmental authority, once more in the name of liberty.

Just as his cousin Jesse James had done against unjust authority. Just as his great-grandfather’s band of rebel preachers had done with federal government. Dan James challenged no less than the tyrannical governments of Germany’s Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini.

The collaborative relationship between Chaplin and Dan James was close. In Chaplin, Dan James found his mentor. He called Chaplin his surrogate father. At extended lunches between filming, the two argued strenuously over social issues.

At night, the Communist Party provided Dan a social life, filled with fundraising events for numerous social causes. Chaplin has been regarded historically as being a member of the Communist Party, although Dan’s daughter Barbara states Dan never saw Chaplin at meetings.

“He did not know whether Chaplin was a communist, but from working with him closely for four years and some odd months, he doubted it very much. He thought Charlie was too sensitive to oppressive institutions to be fooled into joining the Communist Party.”

End of excerpt.

_____________________________________

The Bloody San Francisco Longshoremen’s Strike of 1934

While making movies, Dan James told Charlie Chaplin of his experience in San Francisco when Dan worked for Harry Bridges, the longshoremen’s organizer. Chaplin seized upon Dan’s story immediately and put the scene into his 1936 movie Modern Times.

In Modern Times, Chaplin’s lovable and classic Tramp, representing everyman, stumbles onto a seaside dock. He notices the dock’s shipping building is shut down. A truck passing by drops a red warning flag, from its load. The Tramp picks up the red flag, signaling to the disappearing driver. As the truck disappears, the Tramp finds himself engulfed by the striking dock workers on the march. Authorities arrive. They seize the Tramp. Based solely upon guilt by association, the Tramp disappears into the justice system and is removed from society.

______________________________________

In Chaplin’s 1940 movie The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin drew upon the extraordinary writing skills of Daniel Lewis James Jr. to present an authentic American voice of protest for social justice.


________________________________________

More from “All For the Underdog”

“The House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC] had commenced its investigations into Communism in the entertainment community and wreaked havoc with our whole world. The studios helped with their patriotic duty to expose Communist propaganda by refusing to hire anyone who did not cooperate with the Committee. This was the famous ‘Blacklist.’ People often think of the Blacklist as something the government did, but it was the ‘patriotic’ studio heads who instituted it.  The government just forced people into the position where they had to deal with it. Cooperation meant recanting your communism and naming all the people that you knew were (or had been) in the Party.

The catch 22 was that you couldn’t tell the truth about yourself without being a stool pigeon. At the outset, there was no clear way to address the problem without going to jail or ratting. That was when the Hollywood Ten went to prison. They were our friends and acquaintances.”

The House Un-American Activities Committee – HUAC Second from right sits the future U. S. President Richard M. Nixon

…Under investigation in the HUAC hearings, Barbara [Barbara James, Dan’s daughter] perceived that “Pop and Mama and other ex-Commies in the same boat, got given three basic choices.

“Tell the Committee that you have a right to free association under the First Amendment, and your political beliefs are protected from government interference. People who did this went to jail for the rest of the term of the Congress in session, which was generally about 10 months.

“Tell the Committee that you are not a Communist and that you will not tell them whether you have ever been a Communist. After the Smith Act became law, the Party was an illegal organization, so you could refuse to answer questions about people who were in the Party by citing the Fifth Amendment prohibition against self-incrimination. You didn’t go to jail, but the studios blacklisted you and you could not get work. You may wonder why the Studios invented and used the Blacklist. In one word – union busting. It was a great way to break the Screen Writers’ and Screen Actors’ Guilds, as well as to get cited as patriots.

“Tell the Committee you were a Communist; you are ever so sorry, and name everybody you know who was in the Party with you, including your closest friends. You may also wonder why the Congressmen on the HUAC were so adamant about ‘naming names.’ Politicians need publicity, and any time they could get someone to name a celebrity, they would get big media coverage. Pop was a very small fish, but I think their main object in grilling him was the hope that he would name Chaplin. They had the wrong small fish.”

The copy of Voltaire’s Candide, owned by Daniel Lewis James Sr.

…Dan James had hoped to produce his father’s first edition of the book Candide. The author Voltaire had published the book under the pseudonym, Monsieur Le Docteur Ralph. With his visual aid in hand, Dan intended to confront HUAC.

If HUAC continued to prevail in their ruthlessness, if Congress continued to deprive one’s freedom of association, and if the United States government continued to despoil freedom of expression, all writers would be forced to disguise their identities like Voltaire.

Dan was cut off. As Barbara said, “He got run over by a well-oiled train. They didn’t let him get his book out of his pocket, and he was only allowed to say that he refused to incriminate himself.” Dan James was blacklisted as a Hollywood screenwriter. In effect, his own federal government had exiled him. Just as Dan James predicted, his identity as a writer was forced underground.

…Dan James watched as his screenwriting career expired in slow motion.

__________________________________

RELATED

First Preview of a Play About Daniel Lewis James Jr.

Words Spoken by Charlie Chaplin – Written by Daniel Lewis James

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HELP! Virginia Hill Mimms Escaped!

Help is needed. Virginia Hill Mimms escaped. Do you know where she is?

The front page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel in Santa Cruz, California reported Virginia’s child burglary ring on June 20, 1940:

Burglary Ring Arrest of two young women, one the mother of two children, arrest of a third juvenile boy and ‘cracking’ of four additional theft cases, were reported yesterday by the police department as they believed a local theft ring had been broken. Ten burglaries and petty theft cases were marked ‘solved’ as the prisoners confessed their activities… Mrs. Virginia Mimms, 21, of 131 Sycamore Street, was formally charged with first-degree burglary.”

Virginia Hill Mimms was identified as the mother of two children. The two juveniles in the gang implicated the second woman as Betty Sages, age 16, who then was arrested. A total of five juveniles were identified in the gang.

A week later, the Sentinel reported:

Woman Burglar Asks Probation pleading guilty to burglary. Mrs. Virginia Mimms, a 21-year-old mother of two children yesterday asked Superior Judge James L. Atteridge for probation. The court referred her case to the probation officer who will report his findings July 17.”

After June 28, 1940, Virginia Hill Mimms disappeared. Her two children disappeared with her. Since then, nothing more is known of Virginia Hill Mimms.


Virginia Hill Mimms Dropped Out of Sight

Virginia Hill Mimms is the second of the several wives of Wyatt Leon Mimms. Mimms and Hill were married in August of 1938 in the neighborhood of Naglee Park in San Jose, California.

Wyatt Mimms is a third cousin of Frank and Jesse James. Virginia Hill also is a half 15th cousin of Frank & Jesse James herself. The common ancestor shared by the distant-cousin couple reaches back numerous generations into the royalty period with Edward I, King of England. Very likely, this remote fact of distant kinship went entirely unrecognized by Wyatt and Virginia at the time.

Virginia’s full maiden name is Virginia Helen Hill. She was born to Richard Taylor Hill 1882-1934 of Kansas and Mary “Mae” Freeman, born in California in 1880. While much has been learned about her parents and her only brother, the research does not reveal anything new about Virginia.

The brief marriage of Wyatt and Virginia produced two children. Wanda Mimms was born in 1939. Another child was born in 1940. Both children still may be living.

Virginia apparently formed the burglary gang with neighborhood children of other parents. Her own children were too young to act on their own. Wyatt abandoned Virginia. She and her children were left penniless and desperate.


A Relative in Syria Won’t Let Virginia Flee

Lilly Martin Sahiounie has lived in Syria for forty years since she married her Syrian husband. Her son, Steve Sahiounie, is a writer and political analyst. Lilly is the granddaughter of Henrietta Keller, the second wife of Eddie Bernard Mimms, the father of Wyatt Leon Mimms by a prior marriage.

Lilly Martin Sahiounie
Lilly’s son, Steven Sahiounie

For almost a generation, Lilly has sought her Mimms relatives. Her research has produced a large amount of information. At the heart of her research, Lilly wants to learn more about the missing Virginia Helen Hill Mimms.

Researching deeply into the Mimms genealogy, Lilly has assembled the following Mimms history. Information about this Mimms line never has been compiled before.


The Trail Takes Off with Drury Shadrach Woodson Mimms

Lilly’s research begins in Goochland County, Virginia, the seedbed of the Mimms family. Lilly’s focus is Drury Shadrach Woodson Mimms, the son of Robert Mimms and Lucy Poor, both migrants to Logan County, Kentucky from Goochland.

This family is well known to the Jesse James family. Drury S.W. Mimms, as he was called, is a brother of Rev. John Wilson Mimms who married Mary James, the eldest of the orphans of John M. James and Mary “Polly” Poor, the grandparents of Frank and Jesse James. The marriage was arranged by Drury Woodson Poor.

Marriage bond for John James and Mary “Polly” Poor, witnessed by William Hodges Jr.


Drury S.W. Mimms operated a mill on Whippoorwill Creek. He did so with the help of two slaves. One was 53 years old. The second was only 17. Drury also farmed 112 acres on the Logan County border with Robertson County, Tennessee.

In 1857 when Drury S.W. Mimms died, his widow Elizabeth M. Rose Mimms asked her brother James B. Rose, the executor of Drury’s estate, to sell Drury’s mill. With no immediate prospects of a second marriage in sight, the widowed mother was desperate to receive the income from the sale to provide for her children Gideon M. and Virginia R. Mimms, as well as for herself.


Gideon Mason Mimms in Logan County, Ky.

Gideon Mason Mimms was only a year and a half when his father died. For almost a decade, his mother struggled to provide for Gideon and his sister. When Gideon was eleven, his mother married John Joseph Pope of Robertson County, Tennessee. Gideon acquired an instant family of six step-brothers and sisters. He also gained some family stability. Unlike his distressful early childhood that followed his father’s passing, the few years left in his childhood were relatively comfortable.

When Gideon was twenty-two in 1876, he married Lou Ella Riley of Lickskillet. Gideon’s new father-in-law, James Albert Riley, had a harsh reputation for extreme cruelty and frugality that was downright stingy.

 
From: Freedom, a Documentary History of Emancipation, Series II the Black Military Experience, Ira Berlin, Editor, Cambridge University Press, p.706

On the eve of the Civil War, a slave woman who had acquired her freedom through the Freedman’s Bureau escaped with a child slave who James Riley claimed to still own. Riley overtook the woman, beat her senseless with a club, and took the child back to Lickskillet. When searched for, Riley disappeared. He did so, he later stated, “to put the child out of reach of the damned Yankees.” Shortly afterward, Riley shot a Negro soldier. Once more, Riley disappeared to escape arrest. In due time, Riley was apprehended in Tennessee. He was tried for having “maltreated” Catherine Riley and found guilty. He was fined $100, almost half of which went to the freedwoman Catherine.

 

Gideon Mason Mimms and youngest son Eddie Bernard Mimms

In time, James Albert Riley returned to Lickskillet to operate his mill. When the Bethany Church sought him out to acquire land for their house of worship, Riley sold the church one acre plus precisely an additional twenty-nine hundredths of an acre. Riley attached a caveat to the transfer that should the church convert the building to some other purpose or relocate, the land would revert to Riley.

 

Lou Ella Riley-Mimms Returns to Logan County

A pregnant Lou Ella was visiting her brother in Kansas Territory in Crawford County in the town of Girard. Although Lou Ella suspected she would give birth to twins, she was pregnant in fact with triplets. Around midnight between September 9 and 10 in 1892, Lou Ella gave birth to three children. The last of the three to be born was named Eddie Bernard Mimms. 

The first and second-born of Lou Ella and Gideon’s triplets were two females named Addie and Ettie Belle Mimms. As a child, Eddie Bernard Mimms chose to call himself Bill, so there would be no confusion among the three siblings Addie, Ettie, and Eddie Mimms. The name Bill Mimms stuck with Eddie Bernard Mimms for the rest of his life.

 

Eddie Bernard “Bill” Mimms Hightails to California

Eddie Bernard “Bill” Mimms 1892-1967

Events in Girard, Crawford County, Kansas, where his uncle lived, eventually impacted the life of Bill Mimms.

The strip mines of Carbon Creek offered the only employment around Girard. The need for miners was so great, word was sent to Eastern Europe to recruit young immigrant men to come to Kansas. Girard was flooded by a wave of immigration from Balkan countries.

With the arriving immigrants came a rising tide of socialist politics. Girard attracted the luminaries of the socialist movement – Percy Daniels, the novelist Upton Sinclair, the founder of Chicago’s Hull House Jane Adams, presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, and publisher Emanuel Haldeman-Julius.

Ambitious Bill Mimms associated with the Brotherhood of Local Fireman and the American Railway Union founded by Eugene V. Debs. Bill got a job with a railroad as a fireman. Working on trains, Bill hightailed from Logan County, Kentucky to the fields of the California Gold Rush. Bill was too late, though, to strike any gold. Instead, Bill found steady work on the trains pulling logs out of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

In his late teens, Bill found himself a wife, too. He married Pearl Myone Rogers. Within a year, Wyatt Leon Mimms was born to the couple. For whatever misfortune, the marriage did not last long. Young Wyatt soon was living with his mother in San Luis Obispo, California, not too far from the town of Paso Robles, founded by Drury Woodson James. Later, Wyatt and his mother relocated to Santa Cruz, where his mother remarried.

“I know that Grandpa Bill did not like Jesse James, because of the outlaw reputation. My grandpa did have a Rebel flag always hanging in the house, and he identified with that.” – Lilly Martin Sahiounie

Six years of single life had passed before Bill met and married Henrietta Keller. Like Bill, Etta also had been married before. She brought a one-year-old child to their marriage. The child’s name was Billy Joe Martin.

The couple moved to Sultana, California. There, Bill bought a new home for Etta, paying $1,000 with his cash savings. In this house, Etta bore Bill two children of his own. The couple raised their combined three children as one family.

Visiting Mimms cousins in Russellville, Kentucky

Bill worked as an equipment operator, maintaining the county roads of Tulare County. For 32 years, Etta worked in tandem with the fruit pickers of the field worker’s movement. Etta was a fruit packer around Dinuba. With their joint income, Bill and Etta visited Kentucky in the ‘30s and later in the ‘50s, to maintain ties with Bill’s relatives among the Mimms.

Bill died in 1967. Etta followed in 1985. Etta occupied their home for all of 51 years. Today, Bill and Etta’s two children who lived in Fresno, California are deceased now. One daughter survives. She lives in Montgomery County, Alabama. Lilly Martin Sahiounie maintains contact with her on a daily basis.

Wayne Homer Mimms, son of Bill & Etta Mimms (L) & Billy Joe Martin, Etta’s first child by Joe Alfred Martin (R)

Etta’s first child Billy Joe Martin also grew up and married. The couple gave birth to Lilly Martin who is now Lilly Martin Sahiounie, living in Syria.

Bill Mimms is the only father and grandfather Billy and Lilly Martin ever knew. If you ask them, Bill Mimms is not just their biological ancestor. They continue to speak of Bill Mimms as their father and grandfather and consider him so.

Lilly’s immediate motivation for studying this Mimms family line of ancestors is to understand the relationship between Wayne Homer Mimms, a half-brother of Wyatt Leon Mimms, and her father Billy Joe Martin. The two were lifelong friends, as well as cousins. They also link Lilly and her family to the Mimms family.

It was Lilly’s father, Billy Joe Martin, who re-discovered Wyatt Leon Mimms. In Honolulu, Hawaii in 1945, Billy Joe Martin looked inside a bar-room telephone book. There, he found Wyatt listed!


The Restless Flight of Wyatt Leon Mimms

Young Wyatt Leon Mimms

Little is known about the childhood of Wyatt Leon Mimms. The boy grew up in the household of his mother Pearl Myone Rogers Mimms and his step-father. He visited his biological father Billy Mimms often. That is about all that can be said, other than, Wyatt must have been a restless person. When he grew to adulthood, Wyatt took flight.

The research of Lilly Martin Sahiounie is voluminous. It would compose a small book quite nicely. For purposes here of clarity and brevity, the story of Wyatt Leon Mimms might best be represented in the following timeline.

Wyatt Leon Mimms in Hawaii
  • 1917: born in Hooker, Oklahoma
  • 1920: living with his mother in Santa Cruz, California
  • 1930: living in Santa Cruz with his mother and step-father
  • 1936: issued a marriage license in Reno, Nevada to marry his first wife, Catherine Chilcote of Powder River, Montana, on November 10th
  • 1936: arrested on December 20th, following his marriage, in Reno for disorderly conduct
  • 1938: when he was an office clerk at the Pasatiempo Country Club in Santa Cruz, California, Wyatt married a second time to Virginia Helen Hill. He later is employed as an usher at the Santa Cruz Theater
  • 1939: a first child is born to Virginia and Wyatt. The child’s name is not known
  • 1940: their second child, Wanda Mimms, is born. Later in the years when the U.S. Census is taken, Virginia and Wanda are each identified as a “lodger,” living in San Jose, California
  • 1941: Wyatt, while on duty in Hawaii as a police officer, is witness to the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan
  • 1942: Wyatt arrives in Honolulu aboard the K.V. Japara from the Canton Island of Kiribati in Micronesia on March 20 to work with the Hawaiian Construction Company on development of the Maryknoll School in Honolulu
  • 1942: On December 31 Wyatt is mustered into the U.S. Armed Services
  • 1943: Wyatt marries his third wife, Lila Kananioehowa Lee in the Hawaii Court of Domestic Relations on May 23rd
  • 1947: Wyatt arrives in Honolulu aboard the S.S. Matsonia from Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • 1948: On the 4th of July Wyatt marries his fourth wife Josephine Ruby West of Boise, Idaho in the Central Union Church
  • 1949: Wyatt arrives in Hawaii aboard the S.S. Lurline with Josephine. Again he is employed as a police officer
  • About 1952: Wyatt marries his fifth wife Jeanne June.
  • 1953: Rodney Mimms is born to Jeanne June and Wyatt
  • 1955: Wyatt is working as an agent for the GTE telephone company, a job he will hold until at least 1970. Josephine is a clerk for Standard Oil
  • 1956: Josephine departed Nandi, Hawaii to travel to the mainland United States alone on January 23rd
  • 1957: While still working for the GTE telephone company, now as a chief special agent, Wyatt flies aboard Pan American World Airways on March 22 to San Francisco alone
  • 1976: Wyatt sells property in Hawaii that was held in the name of Wyatt and Margaret L. Mimms. The precise relationship between Wyatt and Margaret is unknown
  • 1981: Wyatt’s granddaughter, Taryn D. Brewer, is born in California
  • 1982: Wyatt obtains a divorce on May 26th from Virginia Helen Mimms in Alameda County Court in California
  • 1982: Wyatt marries Margie Belle Hunnicutt on June 6th in Las Vegas, Nevada. The couple establish their home in Visalia, California, but travel extensively “living life to the fullest.” The marriage will last 26 years. This represents the most settled and stable period of Wyatt’s life
  • 1994: Virginia Hill Mimms is recorded living in Berkeley, California, with a former residence in Sylacauga, Talladega County, Alabama
  • 2000: On October 1st, Virginia is last recorded living in Paris, Texas.
  • 2005: Margie Hunnicutt Mimms dies in a rest home on April 14th in Visalia, California
  • 2005: Margaret R. Mimms paid taxes in Hawaii on May 16th
  • 2005: Wyatt dies in a rest home on August 18th in Placerville, California
Wyatt Leon Mimms and Margie Hunnicutt Mimms in London, England, 1987

Do You Know Where Virginia Hill Mimms Is?

Nothing would be known about this Mimms family line were it not for Virginia Hill Mimms gone missing and the research of Lilly Martin Sahiounie. Virginia is last identified in 1949, living in Berkeley, California. Somewhere in the world of Mimms family genealogy, the rest of this story is waiting to be discovered.