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Monday, May 27, 2013

In Memory of My Fallen Military Ancestors

Whatever your plans are today, Memorial Day, please remember to honor the sacrifices of America's fallen military heroes. 

The photo above is of my fourth great-grandfather, Major John Bennett Dickson (1793-1876), who served in the War of 1812 under General Andrew Jackson, first in the 1814 Creek War and then at the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, the final battle of the War of 1812, where he was wounded. Had he been killed, I wouldn't be here.

This painting of the Battle of New Orleans is by the lithograph firm Kurz & Allison

Born in North Carolina, he moved to Bentonville, Ark., as a young man and became a prominent businessman. He later moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and helped establish the square in what is now that city's historic downtown district, where he owned a successful mercantile business. A widower, he raised several of his 12 children in Fort Worth.

Two of his sons, my third great-grand uncles Dempsey Powell Dickson (1843-1862) and Ephraim Albert Dickson (1840-1862), followed in their father's footsteps and volunteered for military service. They enlisted with the Texas Confederate Cavalry during the Civil War.

Dempsey, having enlisted upon leaving college in 1861, was killed in the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March 1862. 

This painting depicting the battle is by Andy Thomas.

When John Bennett Dickson learned that Texans slain on the battlefield had been rolled in their blankets and buried apart from other soldiers, he sent a relative to have Dempsey's body exhumed and moved to the Dickson family cemetery near Bentonville, Ark. 

On July 8, 1862, Ephraim, who was his father's business partner, was shot through the head during the Skirmish at Paroquet Bluffs in Arkansas, which was also part of the Pea Ridge campaign.

He was buried at Paroquet Bluffs with other Texan soldiers, and later his father had his body moved to the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

Crippled by grief due to the loss of his two youngest sons, John Bennett Dickson closed his mercantile store and spent the rest of his life as a recluse on a farm near Fort Worth.

* * *
This photo is of Elizabeth Gaines Easley (1818-1894), my second great-grandmother, who was married to my second great-grandfather Joseph Easley Jr. (1805-1883). (Easley is my maiden name.)
It is difficult to imagine their reaction and subsequent grief upon receiving word that two of their beloved sons, my great-grand uncles Hamilton Easley (1837-1862) and William Easley (1841-1862), had been killed while serving side-by-side on the same day during the Battle of Perryville -- Oct. 8, 1862.

This sketch of the Battle of Perryville by Henry Mosler appeared in Harper's Weekly on Nov. 1, 1862.

Hamilton and William had enlisted in the Union Army together in August 1862. They served as privates in the 15th Regiment, Company B of the Kentucky Volunteer Infantry.

Hamilton's military records state that he stood 6 feet tall, had a light complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. There are no records of his burial; he is presumed to be buried somewhere at the Perryville Battlefield.

According to William's military records, he stood 6 feet, 1 inch tall and also had a light complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. He is buried in the Easley family cemetery near Harrisonville in Shelby County, Kentucky.
Hamiton's and William's brother, my great-grandfather Edward Merritt Easley (1846-1903), survived the Civil War, which is why I am here. He served in the Union Army's 20th Regiment, Company B and as a corporal in the 30th Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Company G.
He fought in several Civil War battles and skirmishes, including the Battle of Lebanon and the Battle of Shiloh.

This drawing of the Battle of Shiloh appeared in Harper's Weekly:

Before the Civil War Edward Merritt Easley was a successful real estate agent.
After the war, he began showing signs of what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder and could not do much more than manual labor.

These kinds of disorders were misunderstood back then, and no treatment was offered by the U.S. government. He was still exhibiting behavioral issues when he married my great-grandmother, Ellen May Crouch Easley, in 1881 in Linn Creek, Missouri (they settled in his hometown of Lebanon, Mo.). She was only 16 and he was 34. She and their children simply had to put up with these ongoing issues, which became worse over time.

Finally, in 1902, he was admitted by court order to the Federal Soldiers Home in St. James, Missouri.

From there he was admitted to State Lunatic Asylum #3 (a horrible name) in Nevada, Missouri, where he died in 1903.

May Easley became a widow at age 39 with five children to raise, including my beloved paternal grandfather Jesse (Jess) Harper Easley (1891-1983). 

Jess served in France during World War I on the Western Front at Belleau Wood and Château-Thierry. Thankfully he survived -- another reason why I'm here.

This photo of American troops at Hill 24 at Belleau Wood is in the National World War I Museum:

There are many other stories of people in my family line who served in wartime, from the American Revolution to World War II.

I won't tell all the stories now, but I'm glad to have an opportunity to honor a few of them today.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three Milestone Events and 1,550 Miles Later...

I shot this photo while crossing over San Francisco Bay via the San Rafael Bridge.

My niece Tara's graduation from Humboldt State University was last Saturday in Arcata and my granddaughter Kimberly's big bridal shower was the next day in El Cajon followed by my grandson Steven's 18th birthday that evening.

I tried to make it work with a multicity flight, but United -- the only airline that flies in and out of Arcata/Eureka Airport -- didn't have a schedule that would accommodate my timeline.

So I drove 1,550 miles to get to both events!

I spent the first night in Clovis, where I stayed at the home of my daughter Becky and her husband Mario.

It was my second time visiting with my great-granddaughter Addison, who is three months old and the daughter of my grandson David and his fiancée Nashell. I took some photos of her with my cell phone camera and we reviewed them together.

The next morning I was off to Arcata where several family members converged for the graduation, which was preceded the night before by dinner in the very nice restaurant (with great views) at the Cher-Ae Heights Casino in Trinidad, Calif.

I took this photo of beautiful Humboldt Bay out the window of the restaurant.

After dinner some of us gambled and gave the winnings to Tara as an additional graduation present:

The next day, she graduated with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry and Wildland Resources. That's her dad, my brother Rick, next to her.

She made a mosaic of a tree on her mortar board for the occasion.

She'll do an internship this summer with the U.S. Forest Service in the Eldorado National Forest.

After the graduation, a friend of hers hosted the family for a celebration. Left to right are my second-born nephew Mark, Tara's brother Brandon, Tara, Rick, my brother-in-law Bill, Tara's maternal grandma Shirley, yours truly, my sister Charlou and Tara's mom Tammy.

Unfortunately I couldn't stay long. I had to hit the road to make it through the long and winding Redwood Highway before nightfall.

I arrived in Tracy, Calif., about an hour east of Oakland, at about midnight and set the alarm for 4 a.m. for the drive to El Cajon in San Diego County.

The bridal shower was at the home of Kimberly and her fiancé Steven and was planned with her paternal aunt Brandy.

Cupcakes formed a wedding dress (note the pretty blue bow):

Of course my daughter Jessica, mother of the bride-to-be, was there!

It was women only for fun shower games, lunch. . .and champagne!

When it was time to open the presents, Steven took part in the festivities.

I gave them Oneida flatware.

In true bridal shower tradition, she posed with all the bows from the presents.

These are her flower girls: her cousin Makena and Steven's niece Abby.

And finally the third event, which took place that evening in Jamul: a belated birthday dinner for my grandson Steven, who turned 18 on May 17.

On the actual day of his birthday he went fishing with his buddies at San Diego Bay, where he caught this huge halibut:

 When I arrived on Saturday evening, he was taking his blue iguana for a walk -- on its own leash!

The birthday dinner was surf and turf -- ribeye steaks and halibut ceviche, all made by Steven himself. He's our favorite chef! That's my foster grandson Johnny next to him. Also at the party were my daughter Jessica, her sweetheart Trina and Trina's mom Carrell.

I couldn't bring myself to give him a grown-up, manly card quite yet, so I spoofed with this little boy's card that included a pop-out airplane. I also gave him a Bass Pro Shops gift card. I imagine he'll buy fishing gear, but who knows?!

He decided against a birthday cake and instead did chocolate-dipped strawberries and bananas with homemade whipped cream and his awesome homemade blueberry ice cream.

I'm allergic, so I got chocolate-dipped blueberries along with the rest of the goodies.

Steven is the youngest of my four grandchildren and I love him so much!

I went back to Kimberly's house to spend the night, then came back to Jamul in the morning for breakfast with Jessica and Steven before heading back home to Pasadena.

After 1,550 miles, my car and I were ready for some rest after our incredible adventure!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mystery History -- Solved!

Roberta wins with her 10:58 a.m. Tuesday guess "Pasadena Playhouse with College of Theater Arts students?"

In the circa 1957 photo above, actors take a break from their classes at the Pasadena Playhouse.

It all began when Gilmore Brown had a vision for a community theater in 1917.

The Community Players offered performances in facilities throughout Pasadena.

In 1924 the cornerstone was laid for the new Pasadena Playhouse. This panoramic photo shows the ceremony. Notice the huge megaphone on the right. Vo-dee-oh-doh!

Four years later, Brown established the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts, famously known as The Star Factory. Students earned bachelor's and master's degrees in acting, directing, production and more.

World premieres of plays by Eugene O’Neill, William Saroyan, Noel Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams helped cement the Pasadena Playhouse's identity as one of the finest live theaters in the nation.

Here are two early photos of the interior (note the painters in the first one):

From the 1930s to the 1960s, dozens of actors were discovered by Hollywood while they were students at the Pasadena Playhouse, including Eve ArdenErnest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Raymond BurrRobert Young, Sally Struthers, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and many more.

In 1937, due to the fame it brought to California as a center for dramatic arts, the Pasadena Playhouse was named The State Theatre of California by unanimous vote of the legislature.

The building itself has been designated as a historic landmark.

The College of Theatre Arts closed in 1969 but the Pasadena Playhouse lives on as a world-class theater that features plays and musicals, many of them bound for Broadway over the years, and still starring renowned actors.

Most recently, a revival of Cole Porter's "Can-Can" that premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse will debut on Broadway next year.

Here it is on the Playhouse stage:

Many thanks to the Pasadena Playhouse and Pasadena Museum of History.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mystery History

Where are we? And what's happening?
The first person to guess correctly will win lunch with me -- I'll buy yours and you'll buy mine.
Remember, leave your brief guess as a comment on this blog but don't try to give the entire back story (that's my job).
I'll have the full scoop on Thursday. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mystory History -- Solved!

Wanda wins with her 12:26 p.m. Tuesday guess " Central Library in Library Park?"

In the photo above, demolition is underway of the Pasadena Public Library.

The next photo with the bicycles in front of the library is well known to many of us, but I found this one printed on a piece of cloth in the Pasadena Museum of History archival file.

The library was located at Library Park, now called Memorial Park. The building is in the left background in this photo:

An interior shot:

I did a related Mystery History post on my Pasadena PIO blog in 2009, so you can see more there, including what's left of the building.