All posts by Pamela Athearn Filbert

About Pamela Athearn Filbert

Pamela Athearn Filbert was born in Berkeley, California, but considers herself a “native Oregonian born in exile,” since her maternal great-great-grandparents arrived via the Oregon Trail, and she herself moved to Oregon well before her second birthday. She met her husband (an actual native Oregonian whose parents lived two blocks from hers in Berkeley) in London, England. She holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon, and has worked as a newsletter and book editor in New York City and Salem, Oregon; she was most recently the college and career program coordinator at her local high school.

Grafted in

Folger Johnson, Jr. and Sr. Courtesy of Brian W. Johnson

I suspect that many cities have a Facebook page called “You know you grew up in _____, when …” I am one of nearly thirty thousand who belong to the one for Portland, Oregon, and not long ago, someone posted an article there about how recent remodeling has made the back of Benson High School visible for the first time in almost seventy-five years. That was an interesting factoid just because it’s a beautiful old building, but especially so since my brother and stepfather graduated from the school. Near the end of the article, it mentioned the officially-designated architect for the school, but then also noted that contemporary newspapers credited a young architect named Folger Johnson as a chief designer for the project. Continue reading Grafted in

The game’s afoot

About three months ago, I was contacted by a man hoping I could help track down some information about someone in my family tree.

“I found something interesting about a possible past relative of yours named Helen Elizabeth Wilson. I found her in a Cornell University magazine, and she wrote an article about Sherlock Holmes which may be the first of its kind ever written anywhere in the world. I am a Sherlock Holmes researcher and would love to know a little more about her. Is this something we can discuss? I appreciate your time.” Continue reading The game’s afoot

Sailors will be sailors?

Portrait of Minoru Yasui (1916-1986), displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in 2018.

As I was driving to the grocery store recently, I saw an electronic billboard featuring a design of colored barbed wire with the date February 19, 1942. I realized instantly that this is a second “date which will live in infamy,”[1] and one that quickly followed the first. On that date President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans living along the West Coast … two-thirds of whom were American citizens.

As a young girl, I had heard a bit about what happened from my grandparents. Many neighbors of Japanese descent had been required to assemble at Portland’s Pacific International Livestock Exposition Center, where they lived in repurposed animal buildings until rudimentary camps were constructed throughout the West and Midwest. Continue reading Sailors will be sailors?

False friends

Marion E. Carl. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When my mother started down the genealogy trail many decades ago, my grandfather was quick to tell her about the famous World War II flying ace in the family, related through his aunt, Nancy Alice (Christy) Carl. She had married the oldest son of Wilson Carl, for whom the small town of Carlton, Oregon was named. (Earlier this year, I shared the surprising discovery that the Christy family and the family of children’s author Beverly Cleary both appeared in the 1880 census living in Carlton, which had only about 500 residents at the time.)

I discovered a folder of materials my mother had collected about Marion Eugene Carl, who was indeed one of the greatest pilots in the Marine Corps. Continue reading False friends

Beaver Hill miners

The yards at Beaver Hill mines. Courtesy of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Last fall I was asked to do some research for a local historical society called Oregon Black Pioneers about a group of coal miners recruited to work in Coos County, Oregon, at the end of the nineteenth century. The project was entirely open-ended, so I decided to present it in two main sections: an organized compendium of newspaper articles about the Black miners at Beaver Hill, Oregon, and an attempt to trace the history and descendants of every Black miner in Coos County who appeared in the 1900 census. Continue reading Beaver Hill miners

Real world uses

Ramona Quimby statue in Portland. Photo by Lori Collister

When children’s book author Beverly Cleary died this year on March 25 — just weeks before her 105th birthday — I was a bit surprised to see so many of my friends, near and far, share their feelings about her on social media. It was gratifying to see how many people loved her work, but I have to confess that I felt a tiny bit of proprietary jealousy, since I grew up in the same neighborhood where several of her most popular characters “lived.”

When my brother and I were quite small, we walked with our Grammy along a street that was entirely wooded on the north side for a block or so. We called it The Quiet Peaceful Street, and only found out years later that its real name was Klickitat Street … the same street where Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy, and neighboring sisters Ramona and “Beezus” Quimby lived. Continue reading Real world uses

Good neighbors

The Pacific Bank on Nantucket’s Main Street. The entrance to the cashier’s dwelling was accessed through the door with fan-light, at left, and the building as originally constructed ended at the downspout one window down from that door.

Two years ago, I described several gifts that Genealogy Santa had brought me for Christmas. In that post, I hinted at a forthcoming, very juicy story about a family member, but I have failed to follow through thus far. Then a few weeks ago, Jeff Record virtually threw down the gauntlet in search of family bank robbers … and tagged me in his post to boot! Challenge accepted.

First, a little backstory. Continue reading Good neighbors

A family of strong women

Aurelia Jane (Hargrave) (Bottom[e]s) Corker, circa 1910. Used with permission from the Durand Family Archives
This month marks one hundred years since passage of the United States Constitution’s Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote across the country. Some of my female ancestors[1] were able to vote many years earlier, however, including my great-great-grandmother, Aurelia Jane (Hargrave) (Bottom[e]s) Corker, whom I wrote about late last year. Recently a fellow descendant sent me scans of scrapbook pages and family photos, which imparted more interesting details about this indomitable ancestress.

I already knew that Aurelia was a strong woman. She gave birth to her second daughter while traveling by wagon train from Hopkins County, Texas, to Southern California. According to the recently shared newspaper clippings, she usually drove the wagon’s team while her husband attended to other duties … but I guess even she had to take a break from that during the baby’s delivery!

Around the time of my great-grandmother’s birth in March 1878, Aurelia and John Thomas Bottoms divorced. Continue reading A family of strong women

First person singular

Henry Coffin (1807-1900)

Well, for what looked like it was going to be an awesome year … even in Roman numerals (MMXX) … 2020 is set to go down in history as one of the most trying ever! When so much of what we typically learn about history is painted by textbooks in wide, sweeping gestures, it can be illuminating to read the granular experiences of individuals. I’ve seen several small museums publishing requests for their patrons to keep diaries now, and sharing items online from their collections illustrating the importance of first-person history. In this spirit, I thought I would share a few accounts written by my own ancestors who lived through momentous events. Continue reading First person singular

‘Grandpa Ewer’

Recently Meaghan E. H. Siekman shared tips for how to incorporate genealogy into at-home learning, noting that going through old photographs is a good way of introducing children to relatives who passed away before they were born.

That reminded me of a mystery in my own album of early childhood photos. It’s a picture of me taken on my very first Easter, sitting on the lap of an elderly man, and labeled: “Grandpa Ewer 98 Yrs.” Even as a very young girl, I was perplexed by this picture because I knew both of my grandfathers, and two of my great-grandfathers, and none of them had the name Ewer. When I asked my mother who this “Grandpa Ewer” was, she replied that he wasn’t really related to me. Who was he, then, and Why was he in my photo album? It was only when I started doing my own genealogical research that I found out. Continue reading ‘Grandpa Ewer’