My grandparents were the ones who lived from the 1880s and 1890s into the 1950s and 1970s. They chose, for different reasons, to settle in San Diego and San Francisco. They saw the two world wars, and the new 20th century modern world. Automobiles, trucks, and aeroplanes struggled to replace railroads and horses. Country roads became paved highways, then interstate freeways. Movies and radio and telephone and finally, television, shaped their planet into the huge techno-village which their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have inherited.
My grandparents are also where this personal genealogy begins and ends. Their children, i.e. my uncles, parents, and aunts, and their grandchildren, my cousins, and our children and grandchildren, shall all remain private in these pages. Hopefully, dear friends and relatives, you already know who you are, and can fit yourselves into the vast plan that begins here and stretches back more than a thousand years into the past.
my mother's parents: Margaret and Charles
My grandmother Margaret Amelia Holsinger was the daughter of Flora May Gandy (1856-1935) and William Henry Holsinger (1853-1930).
She was born 17 June 1889, in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.
Married 25 November 1914, in San Diego, California, to Capt. Charles Elfrey Payne (1879-1947).
Died 10 February 1984, in San Diego, California.
Here she is in an old snapshot, sitting on an early airplane at Rockwell Field, where husband Charles worked a number of years as a supply officer. This photo probably dates from around 1914.
Click here to see the picture larger.
Margaret was a Kansas girl who moved out west to San Diego. She was the youngest of five, having three sisters and one brother who survived beyond infancy (her parents lost several babies):
She herself, and others in the family, taught me all those ancient nicknames for my great aunts and uncle. I never learned what her childhood nickname was, but suspect it was either "Maggie" or "Peg" (the latter being one of her favorite old songs). Occasionally she would admit she favored the French form, "Marguerite" as an alternative to her given name.
- William Edgar Holsinger ["Bun"] (1878-1915)
- Jeannette Ioa Holsinger ["Nettie"] (1880-197_)
- Mary Ellen Holsinger (1881-1881)
- Leah Holsinger (1882-1882)
- George Walter Holsinger (1883-1883)
- Florence Elizabeth Holsinger ["Lizzie"] (1884-197_)
- Arabella Doris Holsinger ["Pickie"] (1886-1978)
Margaret was born in the little town of Cottonwood Falls, in Chase County, in the center of the Flint Hills region of eastern Kansas. Because of the rolling land and stony soil, it has always been mostly ranching territory, with few of the giant farms one sees elsewhere in the Jayhawk state. The small town of Cottonwood is famous for its old courthouse and surrounding buildings, and north of the town, into the hills across the river, you can now find the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Back on the south side of the river, just east of town along the road toward the State fishing lake, you will find the old cemetery, where a number of Holsingers and Gandys were interred. Their stones were still legible when I last visited there. Sadly enough, there were several stones for babies who had died, victims of infant mortality. With the advances of medicine and germ theory at the end of the 19th century, my grandmother was among the first generations to break free of that ancient curse of parenting.
Margaret was the last, youngest, child in the family, and the story is that she believed that she was the unwanted one. Supposedly her father and mother were fixing to take a trip to Europe when Mama got pregnant and could not go.
Sometime in her childhood – perhaps when, or before, she was ten years old – the children got sick and Mama decided they should all go out west to San Diego, California, for their health, and visit Mama's father Asbury and family who had all moved out there. Many years later, Margaret occasionally told me about that trip, and how her mother brought big baskets of food for the train. Later, when Margaret was a young woman, she would move to San Diego and stay briefly with her aunt Mary (Mama's younger sister), before setting up on her own. I believe she decided against becomming her aunt & uncle's unpaid guest/servant, and got work for Western Union and stayed at the YWCA.
She joined a group of young ladies associated with the YWCA, who went rowing on San Diego bay. Rowing was at that time a very popular and acceptable sport for girls and women.(Creative Commons License, no rights reserved, from http://www.archive.org/details/HenryBurr-)PegOfMyHeart1913columbia78rpm)
Like many young middle class women of that time, Margaret had some musical skills. She played the piano, and in her later years, the organ. Some of her favorite songs were "I don't want to play in your yard," "Many brave hearts lie asleep in the deep," and one of her most favorite, "Peg of My Heart." Here is a performance by Henry Burr, singing (in 1913) that song.
One of the favorite destinations for the young women rowing on San Diego bay – like the YWCA group my grandmother had joinded – was to cross over to North Island and visit the pilots in training at the Curtis school of aviation. That was how Margaret met her husband, Charles Payne, a supply officer at Rockwell Field. In 1914, on Thanksgiving eve, they married.
My grandfather Capt. Charles Elfrey Payne was the son of Sarah Harwood (1845-1881) and Lewis Cass Payne (1846-1894).
He was born 20 January 1879, in Jackson, Van Buren County, Iowa.
Married 25 November 1914, in San Diego, California, to Margaret Amelia Holsinger (1889-1984).
Died 28 June 1947, in San Diego, California.
Charles grew up in the rolling farmlands of Van Buren County in southeastern Iowa on the Des Moines river, some forty miles upstream of where it flows into the upper Mississippi, roughly 150 miles north of St. Louis.
Charles had one sister:
Mary Oletha (1876-1926)
His mother Sarah died when he was two years old, and Charles was four when his father re-married, on 22 October 1883, to Hannah J. Pender (1849-1920). His father died scarcely eleven years later, when Charles was barely 15 years old. It is said in our family that Charles was very attached to his stepmother, who raised him from a toddler to a young man. She died two days before his second child was born in San Diego, and in memory of his family, he and his wife Margaret agreed to give the middle name Oletha (from his sister) to the new baby.
Like so many of my ancestors, Charles was the child of a farming family. To the best of our knowledge, he did not graduate from high school, but had learned to read and write. Otherwise, he was a completely self-educated man.
His own parents' folk had come from New York and Ohio one generation before, settling in Van Buren County, Iowa. Charles did not know it at the time but he was living nearby where his future wife's ancestors had settled, until they moved on to Kansas. It still gives me "small world" deja vu chill to contemplate the fact that all those ancestors were living in the same southeast corner of Iowa, without realizing that one day two of their grandchildren would meet far away in San Diego, California.
The family lore is that Charles and his friend decided to give up farming and go join the army when they were about 16. This would have been around 1895. Being too young to do this on their own, they forged each other's parent's signatures on the enlistment papers. The Spanish American war began in 1898, three years later.
According to family lore, Charles served in the signal corps in the Philippines, and then became a civilian contractor with the new government there, most likely involved with telegraphy or supply services (which he later specialized in). He returned to the United States and rejoined the Army, rose to the rank of Captain, and was stationed at Rockwell Field when he married his wife, Margaret, in 1914. He was thirty-five, she was twenty-five.
Margaret and Charles, married life continues.
The next year, 1915, Margaret and Charles were forced to go east, when Charles was ordered to service at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, in support of the invasion of Mexico. That was when the U.S. Army, led by General Pershing, went chasing after Pancho Villa (they never caught him).
Here is a photograph (printed on a postcard) from that time period, labeled "35 Motor Trucks delivering supplies to U.S. Army in Mexico" – notice no windshield, and, apparently, plenty of dust. I do not recognize my grandfather as being either of the two men in the first car. Click here to see the picture larger.
While Charles was in Texas, Margaret stayed with her parents in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. It was there that my aunt, their first child, was born. For all her life she would lament that she had not been born in San Diego. To which my mother would later mutter, under her breath, "Oh yes, but remember... you were conceived here."
Eventually they returned to San Diego, in time for my mother to be born here in 1920.
With the downsizing after the Great War (aka World War One), Charles was reverted to warrant officer, attached to Rockwell Field army air field on North Island. He and Margaret bought a small house in a new section of North Park, near 30th and University. Both daughters would grow up in that house.
Charles was a beekeeper by avocation, and kept several hives both at their house, and on some country property he homesteaded out in Lawson Valley, in the back-country twenty some miles east of the city of San Diego.
Many weekends he would go out to work on his little ranch, building a cabin and tending the bees. Once, when the entire family of four was returning from Lawson Valley, a large and potentially dangerous fire had broken out in the hills, and the police (sheriff? highway patrol?) were stopping cars at roadblocks and drafting all able bodied men to go fight the fire.
"Now just you girls all be quiet," he said, "I will handle this."
When the official approached their car, Charles informed the man that he was Capt. Payne of the army air corps and was required to be on duty the next day at North Island. The man waved them on through the checkpoint.
Another story tells how one day my grandmother was complaining because it was cold and my grandfather was not building a fire in the fireplace fast enough to suit her.
"Now, Margaret," Charles said, "you can't just say 'wood in the fire'."
My mother remembers how after the death of President Warren G. Harding, Charles was wearing a black armband in honor of the fallen commender in chief. The ugly black band disturbed her so that she tried to take it off her father's arm. "No, darling," he told her, "that must stay."
Mom also remembers how my grandmother would take her and her big sister to the movies at the Egyptian theater on Park Boulevard, a trolley ride away down University Avenue through North Park. My grandmother had a particular fondness for Gary Cooper. The trips with just the three of them to the movies would have been when my grandfather was away, either out of town with army medical concerns, or when he was off by himself working on his homestead ranch in the hills. (Eventually, in the 1940s, when his declining health prevented him going there, he would sell the land. The location FYI was roughly to the west of Standing Rock Road and Lawson Valley Road.)
Through the 1920s and 30s, Charles kept an eye cocked toward the growing threat from Japan. As vast amounts of scrap metal were being sold to the Japanese, he occasionally remarked that one day we would see that metal coming back to us in the form of artillery shells. When the war broke out, he tried manfully to be accepted back into the service, believing he could do some good duty at least at home if not overseas. But because of his age and medical condition (chronic hypertension), his request was denied.
Indeed, in years before the second world war, the army doctors decided to make a particular study of his blood pressure problems, and even flew him to San Francisco for an extended stay in presidio hospital. At that time, research into hypertension was in its infancy. My mother remembers writing to him while he was away.
As the parents of two daughters, and no sons, Margaret and Charles were supportive of their children's needs and opportunities for education. When their eldest daughter separated from her first husband after getting married and pregnant at 18, her parents took her back into the house, supported her attendance at secretarial school, and helped care for her young son (who spent a lot of time with his grandfather). My aunt eventually became an executive secretary in state government service.
Here are Charles and the supply depot crew at Rockwell Field. Grandfather is the one in the suit on the right. The picture is labled 1925, which would make sense for him in the suit, as he had been forced to go civilian after the great war ended. I believe that the girl is neither of his daughters. Click here to see the picture larger.
Grandmother Margaret would live on in the house in North Park for thirty years after Charles' death, until, in her late 80s, dementia and other manner of failing health forced her removal to a hospital facility.
Charles and Margaret had two daughters (private), both had issue who have issue with some further issue.
Both Grandfather Charles and Grandmother Margaret were interred at Fort Rosecrans cemetery on Point Loma, a site with spectacular views across the bay and the city. My grandfather used to joke about how he would end his mortal days at some of the finest real estate in California. And so he was, in 1947. My grandmother followed him in 1984.
my father's parents: Nell and Morris
My grandmother Nell Jane Cogswell was the daughter of Mary A. Burgess (1851-1926) and Frank Cogswell (1846-1912).
She was born 16 July 1890, in Lincoln, Kansas.
Married, 1915, in Seattle, Washington, William Morris Thomas (1888-1950).
Died 5 July 1963, in Alameda, California.
Nell had two brothers and one sister who survived beyond infancy:
Caroline Dustin Cogswell (1882-1970) Robert John Cogswell (1884-1966) Daniel Burgess Cogswell (1887-1951)
My grandmother Nell was the youngest child of four who survived to grow up in Kansas, Wisconsin, and Washington State. Her father, Frank, was evidently a restless sort, for he would settle in one area for a few years and then go off to another. Around 1900 he and his wife Mary and their children spent a few years out west, Frank even (according to tales told by my great aunt and uncle, and confirmed with a little online research) served as Mayor in Oaksdale, a wild west town out in the eastern badlands of Washington State.
Nevertheless, by the time Nell was born, they had returned to the simpler life of country doctoring in and around the town of Lincoln, county seat of Lincoln county, Kansas.
But they were back in Seattle in the early 1900s, my great aunt marrying a young professor of German at the University of Washington, and my grandmother meeting a sailor – a medical corpsman, in fact – who had great hopes of becoming a doctor. This was William Morris Thomas (1888-1950), born in Ontario, but enlisted into the U.S. Navy in Detroit.
My grandfather William Morris was the son of Martha McCauley (1852?-1920?) and John Japheth Ebenezar Thomas (1848?-1930?).
He was born 18 January 1888, in Chesley, County Bruce, Ontario.
Married, 1915, in Seattle, Washington, Nell Jane Cogswell (1890-1963).
Died 24 July 1950, Alameda, California.
Morris had two (known) sisters:
____ Eleanor, schoolteacher in Kansas city, her obituary can be seen (here).
Grandfather Morris grew up in farming country in County Bruce and County Grey, in Ontario, around the port town of Owen Sound. I am not sure exactly when, but the family appears to have crossed over into the United States sometime before or after 1900, and took up residence in Bessemer, Michigan. I believe Morris joined the U.S. Navy in Detroit, served a few years as hospital corpsman, and was honorably discharged in 1914. I also believe that because he was married, and with a child when the United States entered World War I in 1916, he did not re-enter the armed services.
At any rate, Morris and Nell married in 1915, three years after Nell's father Frank died. Morris became a traveling salesman of medical equipment – especially modern prosthetics – not quite a doctor, but working with them, demonstrating, explaining, and most likely resolving questions or concerns they had over the use of the latest technology of artificial limbs. He used to have a collection of tiny toys, elephants, and even a set of dominoes, made from the plastic utilized for those prosthetics. These items were often used as advertising samples.
A daughter was born to them in 1916, and, in 1921, a son. At that time they lived in Seattle, Washington. Not much later they moved south to San Francisco Bay, where both my aunt and father went to school, and Morris continued to travel the world – as far as Japan and China – representing the latest in plastic artificial limbs and other prosthetics. He also had extensive markets in Canada, and would usually return from a trip there with a fresh setting of "Fairy Dell" china, until my grandmother had built up quite a collection, which now sits in my mother's house, and from time to time sees family use.
Nell suffered serious injury in an automobile accident some time in the late 1920s or early 30s, leaving her neck slightly bent and and her smile with a curious little twist to it because of the scars from that event. I did not know this until many years later, but do remember the odd way she had of holding her head, slightly tilted to one side.
I never knew my grandfather Morris, but two of my older cousins have both told me they remembered how much he seemed to care for them, walking and playing with them whenever he would see them.
He was reputed to be somewhat of a racist. My father once told me a story that his father told him, how he, Morris, was waiting with several other white men to step down from the train at the upcoming stop. The Negro porter said to them, "I suppose you gentlemens will be getting off at this next stop?" At which my grandfather winked at the other white men and said, "I suppose that is a 'suppository' remark." I.e., the porter was hinting at them for a tip.
When I heard this story I felt a little door open in my heart, and a clown rushed out, laughing at me and pointing to my own family heritage. White man, white man, what'you gonna do, what'you gonna do when they come for you?
Unlike the nearly 100 letters written to Morris' mother in Ontario from 1869-1882, only one or two letters survive of my grandfather writing home to my grandmother. Hidden between the lines are hints about not drinking, being good, and just going to bed early.
I was six months in the womb when my grandfather Morris died. We were living right there in Alameda at the time. To this day I still believe I can remember that I felt the sadness and grief of his loss all around me. He was only sixty-two.
My grandmother survived him for another thirteen years, and I had an opportunity to get to know her rather well. Every summer, and most Christmasses and many Easters, we would either travel north to the San Francisco bay area, or she would come south to stay with us.
In the summer after my first, second, and third elementary grades, I flew alone by non-stop airliner from San Diego to San Francisco, and spend several weeks living with my grandmother. Those were special times for me, and, I believe, for her, also. I would play with the children of childhood friends of my father, go on outings to parks with Gramma, begging her to buy me the fifteen-cent frostie cone, not just the dime one, and sometimes we even went over to the great city on the bus and rode the cable cars. I also remember how my grandmother and I and several other friends even went on the last voyage of the great ferry Berkeley across the bay from Oakland to San Francisco.
When I was almost nine, my great uncle died in Seattle, and my great aunt Caroline and grandmother Nell began to travel a bit together, now and then, especially to see their brother Robert in Cayucos (near San Simeon).
In 1960 or 1961 they came down to San Diego, stayed for a week at a small hotel in La Jolla, and then took me with them back north on the bus. That was my first long-distance bus trip and I was surprised to discover I liked it even better than the airplane. This is a preference I have never lost since that time. We stayed at a motel near uncle Robert and Aunt Mabel's house, and then on to Alameda.
But my grandmother was failing. In 1963, the summer Nell was dying of cancer, my father and I drove up and back there almost every weekend. That was the year I first met one of my cousins, eldest child of my father's long-estranged sister. To this day I still only know five or six of them. And they, too, have serious communication problems with each other. But I digress.
It was shortly after my grandmother Nell's death that her son, my first father, began to drink more. Fourteen years later, he, too, died young, too young, five years younger in fact than his father had been when he left this mortal world.
Nell was survived by her sister Caroline and brother Robert. Daniel, for whom I was named (among other Daniels in the family tree), had died when I was a baby.
Nell and Morris' daughter and son (private), both had issue who most have issue with some further issue and again more.
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