Wednesday, April 3, 2013

And Suddenly…A Great Silence

Why Samuel Bean seemed for several years to be the darling of editors in search of the just-right warm-fuzzy story, and then disappeared from view—for years—has me puzzled. True, I’ve discovered my error in limiting my search parameters to California alone. Despite changing that aspect, though, there is a gap of time in which I cannot find many substantial mentions of Sam, his wife, or his family.

On the other hand, I do find later articles which seem to repeat the same themes of lauding him for his accomplishments despite handicap. Sometimes, I wonder about the motive behind publishing these same comments over the decades. I clearly have more research to do to develop any lines in this story.

What I will share with you in the next week are items regarding Sam’s later years, in which he evidently garnered widespread acclaim for his prowess as a chess player in the Bay Area. I’ll also delve into the various permutations of his occupational pursuits—everything from his dreams to his awards.

What I frankly wonder about, though, is what became of his wife. At the first, she apparently served not only as the usual accompaniment to domestic life of the 1920s, but as Sam's business partner. She was the mother of his two sons.

And then? She disappears from all records.

I’ve been able to find an entry in FamilySearch—warning: spoiler alert!—showing that she died young in 1933. That discovery, though, was hard-earned after a tedious hand search through the California Death Index—what FamilySearch euphemistically calls “Browsing”—because nothing was coming up in all the usual other online resources.

As for Sam’s early married years, the arrival of his two sons, his quest to be acknowledged for his literary efforts, and his determination to provide financially for his family, there is little to nothing to be found. Perhaps it was just a case of “getting on with life.” The practical side of living can take quite a bit out of anyone—let alone someone trying to make his way in the world of the seeing and hearing. There isn’t really anything “newsworthy” about living life like everyone else. Maybe “no news” is good news.

And yet, in looking at newspaper reports from Sam’s later years, I stumbled upon one of those messy little articles mentioning a woman seeking a divorce from Samuel W. Bean of Alameda County. This same Sam. Not the same name I’ve known as his wife’s name.

Obviously, there is much more to the story. While I’m still hoping the newspapers will tell that story for me, it will involve adding to my arsenal of historic newspapers through other resources as well as by broadening those parameters I mentioned the other day. Like piecing a mosaic together by assembling shards of broken colored glass, retracing the history of this man’s life will require almost the same painstaking approach to overcome the silence that seems to envelope the middle section of his narrative.


  1. It seems to me, that despite the silence in the middle - his story was covered pretty well in the papers, after all, I don't think I've been in the paper more than a couple times (Nor do I think I really want to be!)

    1. Yes, Sam did get way more that his allotted fifteen minutes of fame! I guess with all the easy access to contemporary reports, it was a real inducement to become lazy in research. On the other hand, what a gift of insight into who the guy might have been. Much more multifaceted than just having the usual vital statistics! There is more, of course--at the other end of his life...just left a hole in the middle.

  2. If they had two sons (that's a happy surprise) and then died young in 1933, that might take care of a good span of the "no news" time. Perhaps she declined for several years. I was heartened to learn that Sam was even able to begin a "normal" life with wife, children, and an income. I forget when he died, but there could well have been time for another (less understanding) wife.

    1. Mariann, you are so perceptive! I suspect that is indeed how things worked out. Focusing on raising a family takes an inordinate amount of energy--time which no longer gets spent attending to public relations efforts for the latest project. As for Maud, while I don't yet know exactly what was in her limited future, I have some guesses. And of course, all the while, Sam's mom, Ella, was in the background, enabling the couple to lead as "normal" a life as possible.

  3. Your persistence paid off! Sometimes family history research can be very tedious--yet also very rewarding.

    1. The interesting thing about all this research, though, is that the "tedious" part even seems captivating. One thing leads to another, and it sometimes is hard to stop at any given point on the trail.

      Sheryl, thanks for stopping by and commenting. By the way, I just loved the timing in your own blog, where you were able to include a photo of your grandmother at just the right spot. Lovely picture!


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