Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Missing Link

…is still missing.

What appears at first to be the smoking gun conclusively connecting this Denver guy we’ve been researching—Harry A. Sullivan—with the family of our Kelly descendant, Julia Creahan Sullivan, ends up with a frustrating twist of details.

Chalk it up to another in a long line of aggravating journalistic errors—and believe me, I’ve found many to complain about over the years—or see it as proof that I’ve been, yet again, barking up the wrong family tree.

Either way, there is one single word in this April 26, 1919, Denver Post article that provides me no end of frustration.
            One of the happiest family reunions witnessed Saturday at the station was that of the Sullivan family, who welcomed home their son and brother, Lieut. Harry Sullivan, a former semi-professional baseball player of Denver.
            Mrs. Katherine Sullivan of 817 East Tenth avenue, the mother, was the first to catch a glimpse of her son, and she lost no time in edging thru the crowd and throwing her arms around the happy soldier. Regina and Florence, his two younger sisters, were next on the reception committee to cry a little and smile a whole lot over the return of their loved one.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Where’s Harry?

In trying to locate any information on Harry Sullivan, son of Julia Creahan Sullivan of Denver, Colorado, it seemed fairly uncomplicated—up to a point. At first, finding his name in the various documents and reference volumes at the beginning of the 1900s was straightforward. Right off the bat, we could see nine year old Harry in his mom’s home in the 1900 census. In the 1910 census, there he was again—albeit listed with an age that had not advanced commensurate with that ten year time span—still in Julia’s household.

By the time we had taken a peek at the 1913 city directory, looking for this possible Kelly descendant, it was easy to see Harry was still in the household of Julia C. Sullivan at the same Grant Avenue address that was showing in the 1900 census.

Whether we had found the right newspaper articles for this Harry Sullivan or not, there was a steady stream of mentions in the local papers—a regular showing, in fact, until right up to that last mention in the Rocky Mountain News on Monday, June 26, 1916. While I had shared just a section of the report the other day, here’s the full article:
The O’Fallons defeated the McGinnity All-Stars yesterday at the sunken gardens by a score of 14 to 6. The features of the game were the hitting of Trout, Gaut and Richmond for the winners and the all-around playing of Harry Sullivan, who lifted out three timely hits and made several great catches at the short field. Sullivan leaves today for a brief vacation in the mountains.

Apparently, the “brief vacation in the mountains” to which the News referred was not an idyllic getaway for Harry. While he did end up heading to the mountains, he was going on business—a different kind of business. After all, this was 1916. There was a war going on—although the United States did not embroil itself in the conflict until April, 1917.

Given the number of Harry Sullivans I had been finding in Denver at the time, I was hesitant to believe the next newspaper entries were for the same man. Gone were the fan-pleasing kudos for the popular baseball player—although there were indications that the military Harry was one and the same as the baseball Harry. Apparently, at just about the same time as that June 26, 1916, article was printed in the Rocky Mountain News, Harry was heading for training camp as part of the Colorado National Guard.

It didn’t take the News long to follow Harry’s trail. The July 7 edition that year carried a line drawing of the man, captioned:
One of the best known and most popular baseball players in the state, a member of the Colorado National guard, now at the Golden rifle range, who has been promoted from private to sergeant major of the First battalion, Sullivan, alert and shrewd, a lad who can always be depended upon, is making quite a hit with the “higher ups” at the range. He joined the guard at the first call for men, and his rapid promotion is the talk of the town.

He was up in the mountains, alright—up at Golden, Colorado—and was already beginning to see a rise in his new status in the Guard.

Harry was gone from Denver for the rest of the summer playing season and well into the winter, judging from the next appearance of his name in any Denver papers. The News promised on January 15, 1917, that
Harry Sullivan and Shorty O’Connor, well-known local ball players, who have been stationed with the national guard, expect to be back by March 1.

They were back—although a little later than March first, as promised—but not for long. The March 18, 1917, News gave his fans a glimpse of what Harry had been up to in the past few months.
Hail, hail: the famous boys are here! Harry Sullivan and Shorty O’Conner, the best-known players of corner lots, are scheduled to arrive in town today. They have been at the border with the Prides of Colorado, at the Brownsville (Texas) military camp.

Perhaps Harry remained in Denver for a few months, for the News mentioned him once again on May 23, 1917, as part of an article on local military developments:
            Two squads of women, each with eight members…gave a finished exhibition of preliminary army drills at the third meeting of the Colorado woman’s regiment at the Brown Palace hotel last night.
            Under the direction of Capt. Charles H. Doke of the first separate battalion of infantry, drill master, assisted by Sergt. Harry Sullivan, the squads of young women easily acquired the drill and gave promise of becoming first-class soldiers….

Not long afterwards—on July 24—yet another promotion was announced in the News for Harry:
Sergt. Harry Sullivan has been promoted to second lieutenant….

By June September 7, 1917, it seemed that life was returning to normal for Harry—almost. He was back to playing ball in Denver, according to the News:
Headed by Lieut. Harry Sullivan, a baseball nine composed of some of the best players at Fort Logan will play the American Beauties at Thirty eighth and Wyandot street Sunday afternoon.

That, however, seemed to be short-lived. There was another mission on the horizon for Harry. He made one more visit to Denver, mentioned in the News on June 12, 1918—this time from a military post in California. Perhaps this provides the explanation why we couldn't find this Harry in the Denver city directory for 1918:
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who has played ball with many different clubs on the lots of Denver, is here on a visit from Camp Kearny, Cal. He will miss many of his team mates as pretty nearly all of them are in Uncle Sam’s service.

What became of Harry Sullivan after this point, in terms of his participation in the war, was not clear—until after the war was over. Even after the armistice on November 11, 1918, no further mention of Harry appeared in the paper until two articles printed in May, 1919.

One of those two mentions appeared in the Denver Post on May 18, and gave a glimpse of where Harry had been, and what business obligations still awaited him.
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who just returned from France with the 157th division, is leaving Denver today for Salt Lake City, to help the Mormon City in their Victory Drive there. They are away behind Denver and Harry is going to show them what they should do.

The other article, short and sweet, provides us with—almost—just the familial connection which we were all hoping for.

Photograph: Panoramic view of Camp Kearny, California, taken in January, 1918, about the time Harry Sullivan may have been there in training; courtesy Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Denver: Doppelgänger City

Have you ever gotten so mired in your research, so unsuccessful in seeking ancestors from one particular city, that you began to feel like you had entered some type of twilight zone?

When it comes to Sullivans in Denver, that’s how I’m feeling right now. With multiple Thomas Sullivans to mask any success in finding either the father or the eldest son of the family I'm seeking, along with several false leads concerning the mother, Julia Sullivan, such quirks of the population are certainly making me apprehensive about jumping for joy just because I’ve found an entry for anyone with those names in early-1900s Denver.

Could it be any different, now that I’m seeking Julia’s son Harry? What are the chances that this Kelly descendant would be mom to a successful local athlete?

After that run of enthusiastic newspaper reports about semi-pro player, Harry Sullivan, I had to take a step back and assess everything else that could be found. Wedged in between all those other newspaper accounts of the much-liked all-round sports guy Harry, there were indicators that didn’t add up to the dates and details I knew about the Harry who was Julia’s son.

Take this July 17, 1915, entry in the Rocky Mountain News, sandwiched in right after the remark about the “most popular player of the Cottrells”:
Harry Sullivan, the popular and well-known lawyer of our town will appear in a Colonial uniform Sunday.

Note: that wasn’t a sports uniform being mentioned in the paper—at least I think it wasn't. Nor was this man popular for his sports accomplishments: he was a lawyer.

Not that I have anything against lawyers, you understand. It’s just that I can’t see a well-known lawyer having enough free time to consume on so many athletic endeavors. Or dramatic presentations.

But I’ll take a look at it, anyway. May as well entertain the possibility. This Harry may turn out to be more well-rounded than I at first suspected.

One way to find occupational clues would be to check the census records. However, since this newspaper article was printed in 1915, it falls right in between two census enumerations. For someone as young as our Harry, anything can change in a ten year period.

As it turns out, the 1910 census showed our Harry as a clerk, just as his older brother was listed. However, though his brother Thomas’ employer was easily decipherable as “R. R. Office,” the enumerator’s handwriting was just this side of illegible. Perhaps it was hopeful thinking that led me to assume Harry’s type of employer was “Lawers O.”

Before I could figure out whether our Harry was an athlete or a lawyer—or both—I ran into this second volley of newspaper entries.

From the Rocky Mountain News on September 16, 1915, this one-liner:
            Harry Sullivan says it’s nothing to it. Why, everybody in town keeps him busy buying insurance.

What? Being a lawyer or selling insurance? This little entry printed ten days later in the Rocky Mountain News column “Athletic Salad” seems to indicate that the athletic Harry was one and the same as the insurance Harry. Does this mean we nix the attorney—or that young Harry was moonlighting?
            Salad Editor: Is Harry Sullivan any relation to the late John L. Sullivan? Did he ever milk cows in Racine, Wis.? What business is he in at present?—Just a Bug, Pueblo
            A—No. B—Not on records. C—Insurance mostly.

But a subsequent newspaper article in the December 3 Post seems to make him out to be a high school football player, though our Harry was much closer to twenty five than eighteen by this time.
            West Denver High school football players yesterday elected Harry Sullivan as captain for the 1916 grid season. Sullivan played left half for the West Siders this year and was a star performer.

Only a month after that announcement, sports columns popped up in the Denver Post, written by someone named Harry Sullivan. This couldn’t be the same guy as the high school football captain. Was the columnist for “High Kicks” yet another Harry Sullivan in town?

Just how many Harry Sullivans were there in Denver? Could the city directories give any help here?

Let’s take a look at the city directories available for Denver in that time period. I could only find two close enough to match the date of those 1915 newspaper mentions: one before the date (in 1913) and one afterwards (in 1918). Let’s see just how many Harry Sullivans there were in Denver back then.

Counting the Harry Sullivans in the 1913 directory, I found four: a plumber, a bartender, someone whose entry just showed his residence on a street called Hooker, and our Harry A., listed as a clerk for a concern known as C. W. Waterman. Judging from the many results of a Google search for the name C. W. Waterman, it’s a fairly safe assumption that Harry was working at one of Denver’s law firms. I’m just not sure that would qualify him to be labeled as a lawyer, as the Rocky Mountain News had maintained in its July 17, 1915, report. Then again, I can’t see Harry the plumber or bartender Harry being called an attorney, either.

The 1918 city directory wasn’t any more help than that. By then, the Harry Sullivan count in Denver was down to two, neither of which was our Harry—which leads to the question: what became of Harry A. Sullivan?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wild About Harry

It isn’t often, in researching family history, when we run into famous—or even noteworthy—individuals whom we can call relatives. When I run across such possibilities, my first reaction is to dismiss such a notion.

In chasing down the children of our Kelly descendant Julia Creahan Sullivan, that is exactly what I thought to do when I encountered story after story about a well-liked local semi-professional athlete named Harry Sullivan. I thought surely this wasn’t our Harry.

Just in case, though—it’s hard to walk away from potential resources right at hand, only to find later that they shouldn’t have been discarded—I dutifully transcribed the many articles mentioning this Harry Sullivan’s name. One never knows.

The first mention I found about this Harry Sullivan came up in the January 12, 1913, edition of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News. It was explaining the unusual organization of this man’s sports team. This would be only the first of many commentaries on his athletic ability.
            Harry Sullivan, the popular Five Points athlete, is rounding his men into tip-top shape. “Sully” has a club at 507 Twenty-third street, which is open the year round, and nearly twenty-five boys are working under his direction.
            The Independents, as they are known, don’t make a specialty of any one sport. They go in for all of them. Basketball, soccer, baseball, football, boxing and wrestling are all hobbies of the Five Pointers, and they have an organization which is doing much to develop the boys living in that district.

A little over a year later, Harry popped up again in the Denver Post:
            With the signing of Harry Sullivan, the widely-known short stop the Page Hotel team now have one of the strongest lineups in the city and the bunch of sluggers on that team are bound to dismay many a pitcher around Denver before the season is over.

At the beginning of 1915, Harry Sullivan seemed to be of enough interest to Denver sports fans that even his personal health became part of the public record. Both the Post and the Rocky Mountain News carried stories on January 29. Here’s the take from the Rocky Mountain News:
Harry Sullivan, one of the best known members of the semi-professional baseball circles of the city, as well as one of the most popular, is in St. Luke’s hospital, where he underwent a minor operation Wednesday morning. He is resting well and at his present rate of improvement will be out shortly.

He seemed to have recovered well from his health ailment, for on June 17 of that year, the Rocky Mountain News noted:
Harry Sullivan, the most popular player of the Cottrells, is certainly playing the game of his life, hitting good and running bases great.

The next season, he was back in the newspapers again, with such positive press as “the all-around playing of Harry Sullivan, who lifted out three timely hits and made several great catches at the short field.”

Whether this was the son of the Julia Creahan Sullivan I am seeking, I couldn’t yet tell. There were, after all, some other entries about this Harry Sullivan that made me wonder. Maybe there was more than one Harry Sullivan being mentioned in the Denver newspapers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Like Mother, Like Son

Sometimes, it takes a monumental effort to get back on track and resume genealogical research. Besides outside catastrophes, there are so many other ways to lose focus on the task at hand.

That task—in case it’s been so long, you’ve also suffered from that amnesia—was to find what became of Kelly descendant and Lafayette, Indiana, native, Julia Creahan Sullivan. We already know she moved to Denver, Colorado, and married a Thomas F. Sullivan there—following which occasion, Thomas disappears before 1900 and the trail goes cold.

About all we know at this point is that there are a lot of people named Thomas Sullivan in Denver. And a lot of people named Julia Sullivan.

Since I wasn’t sure whether the Julia Sullivan I had isolated in the limited Denver-area records available online was the right Julia, I tried working my way down her line of descendants, in hopes of finding a death record showing her maiden name. Wouldn’t you know it, there were no records of her passing available online—with the exception of the hope of a 1930 obituary I’m awaiting for a woman who might be Julia Sullivan—so the next step was to try for records of her children.

Researching the oldest—whom I presume would be Thomas F. Sullivan, Jr.—didn’t work out for the same reason I couldn’t find his namesake father: too many Thomas Sullivans out there in Denver. Trying to find any mention of Julia’s daughters in that era of the Invisible Woman seemed futile. So I thought I’d capitalize on the one remaining son: Harry A. Sullivan.

Since there are relatively few records online for the city and county of Denver—forget that, how about the entire state of Colorado?!—my first move was to scour the online newspaper resources to see what could be found. After all, GenealogyBank does include a selection of newspapers published in Denver up through the early 1920s.

Just as I had found for Julia, however, I now discovered for young Harry. While you may share my misconception that Harry is not a common given name, that misconception will be quickly disabused by the pages upon pages of hits for that simple search at GenealogyBank. There are, apparently, even more Harry Sullivans in 1900s Denver than there were Julia Sullivans.

From the third page of the Denver News exactly one hundred twenty two years ago, I discovered Harry was the victim of a crime of passion:
            Harry Sullivan, the victim of Peter Augusta’s vengeful knife, is still alive, but still has no more chance of life than was at first reported in The News. The man’s wonderful strength and vitality alone keep him alive.
            The Italian still preserves an impenetrable silence in regard to the affair.

And soon after—on May 12, 1895, presumably in the course of the court case addressing the issue—the same paper revealed just why that occurred.
            Peter Augusta’s crime…had a motive. The Italian discovered that the woman with whom he was living had Harry Sullivan for a lover. Finding him in the house, using the stiletto, he killed in cold blood the rival in the affections of the woman….

Considering our Harry Sullivan had his name listed in the subsequent census, I quickly eliminated that possibility. Still, you can see what I mean about losing focus.

Nearly fifteen years later, the Denver Post carried another quirky Harry Sullivan story. This February 19, 1910, entry—headlined, “Deserter Commits Suicide in Saloon”—provided a curious divertissement, too, in the form of a letter written by the man, himself. This, as you will see, proved to be yet another false lead.
I am tired of living. After I am gone please put my picture in the paper. I am a deserter out of the army. My right name is Lyle Commers of Louisville, Ky. I have a mother and five sisters in my home town. Goodby. (Signed) HARRY SULLIVAN
P.S.—Don’t forget to put my picture in the paper.

Apparently, the Denver Post editors didn’t see fit to include that photograph.

By the time I reached this May 26, 1911, entry in the Rocky Mountain News, I was fairly jaded when it came to such false leads. Who knows if this might be the right Harry Sullivan?
            Leah J. Sullivan has applied for a divorce from Harry A. Sullivan, charging non-support. They were married January 13, 1910.

Leah, by the way, was apparently the former Leah J. Weidensaul, whose entry in one of the few Colorado indices available online led me to another document revealing that this was for sure not the Harry A. Sullivan I was interested in. Why? Harry and Leah’s 1910 census entry revealed he was born in New York—not the Colorado native our homeboy Harry was.

It’s said that forewarned is forearmed, and at this point in researching Harry Sullivan, I realized that he, just like his mother, was one of many bearing the same name—sometimes down to the very initial of the middle name.

About this time, I also began seeing a spate of sports announcements about a phenomenal player by the name of Harry Sullivan. With these other false leads now under my belt, I was prepared to ignore everything I was finding and just focus on wedding and funeral announcements. By then, in my search, I was only up to the time period of the Great War, likely far before any obituary might appear for young Harry. If it weren’t for a sweet homecoming story in a Denver paper in early 1919, I wouldn’t have found the clue to—possibly—help connect the dots.

Monday, July 21, 2014

So, Ask!

Apparently, I triggered a volley of disgruntled responses with yesterday’s post. Of course, I could chalk that up to the inattentiveness of my senior editor—who, it was pointed out, also neglected to insert the phrase “devastatingly handsome” before the entry about the “fun-loving emcee.” Perhaps, it would have been a wiser course to simply have added quote marks around the title, “Three Things You Might Not Know About Me,” implying by those quotes the name of an as-yet unrevealed creation, rather than the promise of an action to be taken by the author. Especially an action for which some of you have expressed your expectation of fulfillment.

I am so puzzled by that revelation. I mean, here I sit, an unassuming genealogy blogger, writing my heart out, day by day. Believing in the natural process of osmosis, I figure there is much to be learned by reading between the lines. Inference is a handy skill to cultivate.

Besides, what’s there to know? I may seem to be The Intrepid Introvert, but the reality of it all is more like “Fuddy Duddy” than Fantastic. Not even close to Mysterious. Definitely not Outrageous.

Granted, I don’t mind writing the stories of ancestors who could be labeled as fantastic—or even mysterious or outrageous—but when it comes to writing about, well, me, it seems to lack that same verve. I know some bloggers see it differently, and are quite willing to fling their virtual selves across the blogosphere with abandon. Thankfully, others approach the task with a modest grace (and even a welcome touch of humor), like How Did I Get Here’s Andrea Kelleher, who has chosen to participate in the “Book of Me” meme initiated by Julie Goucher of Angler’s Rest.

I’ve never been one for taking up my keyboard and following memes. I’ve got too much else to write about. I sometimes find myself in a dither over the thought that, if I don’t “get this all down on paper,” all that research will somehow be lost to subsequent generations. That would be such a horrible crime.

But since you brought it up…what three things would it be that you, as reader, are seeking? If there are three questions you are just dying to ask, well, ask on! If not, then fine. Suffice it to say there are many more than three things you might not know about me—as I might not know about you, either.

If we were ever to meet, face to face, we’d discover we know very little about each other. On the other hand, if you have been stopping by A Family Tapestry on a regular basis (as I have at your blog as well), in that hypothetical face-to-face meet-up, we might discover there is quite a bit we do already know about each other. Digital life can be such an enigma.

All the more reason to someday find a way to connect.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Things You Might Not Know About Me

At the close of our genealogical society’s Spring meeting season—like many other societies, ours takes a seasonal break during the summer months—we typically host a potluck dinner. This is an informal time without speaker or business agenda. We like to use this final month of the season for a no-requirements social event.

Usually, we take this occasion to allow informal sharing in the style of “Bring Your Ancestor to Dinner” or similarly-titled event, when in round-robin fashion, each member takes a moment to talk about a favorite genealogical find of the past year. In this show-and-tell time, we’ve learned a wide variety of details about our local history and the residents who made it happen.

This year, our society wanted to add a different activity. While “Bring Your Ancestor to Dinner” helps us learn what each member has been researching for the past year, we still don’t know very much about each other. Our president, Sheri Fenley, got that revelation one day while chatting with fellow D.A.R. members. Some of the ladies—regulars at the city’s symphony concerts—mentioned their surprise at seeing one of the gentlemen from the genealogical society at the latest concert. He didn’t seem like the type to fancy classical music.

From that observation, Sheri realized there might be a lot of other assumptions each of us makes about those with whom we share only the briefest of times in our monthly society meetings. That’s when she came up with the idea for a game to launch at the annual potluck dinner.

The game was simple: each member planning to attend the potluck was asked to submit, in advance, a list of three personal details that others might not know. The list was emailed to one board member, sworn to secrecy, who would assemble the game.

Drawing up an answer key—in which each fact was carefully linked to the correct person—the facts were then separated from the answers and scrambled, to be read aloud by the event’s emcee. Each person attending the dinner was given an answer sheet with each numbered blank line provided for filling in the response. The names of all participants were printed on the reverse of the page, to help players remember everyone else’s name.

Then, our fun-loving emcee stood up and read the clues, one at a time. Participants were given time to fill in the answer after each clue. The goal: to obtain the highest number of correct matches between clues and the society members who claimed them. There would be prizes.

And oh, what clues they got. One woman had played her violin at the World’s Fair. One had learned to double clutch a truck at the age of seven. One was born in a lumber camp; another in the midst of New York City. Two had climbed to the top of Mount Whitney. There were tap dancers, cheerleaders, Girl Scouts, gardeners, crafters. They confessed their hometown love of five cent cupcakes from the downtown Woolworth's store, or escapades like rappelling off three story buildings. Some shared their travel experiences—to South America, Europe, and even to “The Center of the World”—and some divulged their childhood nicknames.

When the game was up and the right answers revealed, the amazement exploded into a volley of conversation. Each comment usually began with, “I didn’t know you….”

It’s funny how we can go regularly to meetings, sitting next to the same people every month, and yet never know much more about them than their names and the mutual passion we share over genealogy. Without detracting from our mission of supporting genealogical research—and in the guise of something as fun as a simple game—we got to learn “Three Things You Might Not Know About Me” and do a little community-building for our own organization at the same time.
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