Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: June - Russell Andrew Bennett (1896-1969)

I’ve decided to join another blogging challenge, as Crestleaf.com’s new challenge “12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds” caught my eye and interest. I enjoyed the weekly challenge I did last year, but it proved too much for me to continue it. I am excited by the idea of participating in a monthly challenge, and sharing with you the fascinating stories I am able to dig up about my ancestors and their family members.



Russell Andrew Bennett, 1896-1969, My Grand Uncle

I never met my grand uncle (any of them), and I don’t know much about Russell Andrew Bennett, my grandmother Anna Mae Bennett Henn’s next oldest brother, but I know that he’s the author of at least one book, and I found it! True, I found it more by luck than skill, but it is still a fantastic family find.
I had heard mention, once or twice, that one of grandma’s brothers had written a book, but as I’ve been doing this family research I found that not all family rumors are factual, so the first thing I did when I decided I wanted to look for it, was to start looking for a copyright registration. I found one in a 1956 catalog of copyright entries, for “The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett, pseud, of Russell Bennett, Greenwich Book Publishers.”

Climbing My Family Tree: Copyright registration for The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett, pseud of Russell Bennett
Copyright registration for The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett, pseud of Russell Bennett
Click to Make Bigger


After that, I found “The Passing Parade” listed in the Library of Congress online catalog:

Climbing My Family Tree: Screenshot of Library of Congress entry for The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett, pseudonym of Russell Bennett
Screenshot of Library of Congress entry for The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett, pseudonym of Russell Bennett
Click to Make Bigger


About that time, my Dad’s sister told me that she had a copy of the book and asked if I would like a copy (YES!). My aunt was in the process of moving from Alaska to Tennessee, and it took a while to find things and get a copy made. I was impatient to see it and decided to check with AbeBooks.com (a great site for hard to find books) to see if I could find a copy. I did! I bought it! Ironically, the photocopied pages from my aunt and my purchased copy arrived on the same day.

The picture below is of the copy my aunt sent:

Climbing My Family Tree: Photocopy of The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett cover, sent me by my Aunt
Photocopy of The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett cover, sent me by my Aunt
Climbing My Family Tree: Photocopy of The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett cover, with inscription to my grandmother, sent me by my Aunt
Photocopy of The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett cover, with inscription to my grandmother, sent me by my Aunt
Click to Make Bigger


The copy my aunt sent, was inscribed to my grandma and grandpa, “Dear Ann, Carl & family, I hope that you will enjoy reading this my first book although I’ve had several short stories published. Of course some of these stories are fictitious but most all are true stories. It has been many years since I have seen you and I’ve really missed all of you. It was not that easy to be so far away when Blanche and Margaret passed away but the years have a way of healing one’s life. Would so much like to see you and your growing family. May God bless all of you. Love, Russell. Gordon is my pen name.”

This is the book I bought; it is inscribed “To my brother Thomas, Russell”:

Climbing My Family Tree: The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett, pseudonym of Russell Bennett
The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett, pseudonym of Russell Bennett
Thank you Dad for taking the picture and for learning how to email Iphone pictures to send it to me
(I had loaned the book to my Dad & asked him to send me pictures when I decided to write this.)
Click to Make Bigger
Climbing My Family Tree: The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett pseud Russell Bennett) inside inscription and part of flyleaf
The Passing Parade by Gordon Bennett pseud Russell Bennett) inside inscription and part of flyleaf
Thank you Dad for taking the picture and for learning how to email Iphone pictures to send it to me
Click to Make Bigger



Thomas was the youngest child in the family. Yes, the copy I found and bought also used to belong to my family! An amazing coincidence! The Passing Parade is a book of short essays, mainly character sketches and/or inspirational pieces, many of them touched with his faith in God’s mercy. It is written in the style of the time, which is a bit flowery for today; but they are nice, well-told vignettes, and many of them are or seem to be based on incidents in the author’s life.  

The transcription of the inner flyleaf is as follows:

The Passing Parade
By
Gordon Bennett

For those who are familiar with Gordon Bennett’s national magazine articles, no introduction is necessary to this heartwarming book. THE PASSING PARADE is a collection of some of Mr. Bennett’s most popular essays, together with many new stories written in the same gratifying spirit.

From the cab of a locomotive, on the stormy North Atlantic and in lonely desert settlements, in historic New England villages and on the moiling streets of San Francisco and New York, Gordon Bennett has watched the Passing Parade – the surging stream of humanity. He has met Warren G Harding, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison; several presidents and commercial magnets. And other, unknown men, like Silas Benson of East Berlin Iowa. He has seen the boys go away to three distant wars – often to return on the same train in flag-draped coffins, their supreme sacrifice performed. He has known isolated sheepherders who embodied the teachings of Jesus, and obscure recluses whose days were spent in conducting missions for the lost souls of the waterfront districts. Everywhere he has sensed the Divine Spark, a friendliness and compassion in the hearts of his fellow men that needs only to be tapped. In the most unexpected places and at the strangest of times, Gordon Bennett has found striking evidence that we live in a world where God’s mercy is never absent. At bottom, the humblest and mightiest of men are alike God’s children, and never forget there is central humanity. We are all, truly, a part of one another.

THE PASSING PARADE sums up the wise, sincere reflections of a long and productive life. Here is a book rich in incident, rewarding in its deep insight into human nature. It will go far to bolster your faith in God and in the essential goodness of your fellow Americans everywhere.

__________________________________
Greenwich Book Publishers
489 Fifth Avenue, New York 11

Since Russell told my grandmother in his note to her that most of the stories in the book were true, despite the disclaimer at the front of the book which states “the names of all the characters in this book, with certain obvious exceptions, are fictitious. Any resemblance suggested by their names between these characters and persons living or dead is purely coincidental,” the potential for family history clues in this book is good – if only I can sort out what is fiction and what isn’t.

I don’t know whether the “About the Author” piece on the end flyleaf for The Passing Parade is accurate for Russell Bennett or whether it is fictionalized for “Gordon Bennett”. If it is true, it could provide clues to fill in a number of missing years I have for him, if I could figure out how to search to confirm the details given (I’ve not had a lot of luck with that yet; but have not given it much time to date).

Climbing My Family Tree: 'About the Author' flyleaf for The Passing Parade by Gordon Russell (pseud of Russell Bennett)
'About the Author' flyleaf for The Passing Parade by Gordon Russell (pseud of Russell Bennett)


The “About the Author” flyleaf reads as follows: “Gordon Bennett was born in Michigan at the turn-of-the-century. His people were pioneers, and when they came to the Midwest they reversed the procedure and arrived in a covered two-horse sleigh instead of the proverbial covered wagon. His first schoolteacher was a Civil War veteran who told him thrilling stories of the original settlers in that area.

At an early age Mr. Bennett became a railroad man, and a major portion of his life has been spent in the cab of a locomotive. He has also been the chairman of his union, has served as a labor conciliator, has produced and directed one of his plays on the radio, has written a human-interest column for a West Coast newspaper, has had many articles published by national magazines, and is an elder of the church where he and his family worship.

Mr. Bennett describes his personal creed as follows: “I believe that all men are born in the image of God.… I have sympathy for my fellow man, for the reason that when sorrow has visited me my fellow men have been sympathetic to me. I have faith in my fellow men, for even the Almighty gives evidence of His faith every time a new born baby comes into the world. I believe that nothing can be accomplished of lasting importance without a sincere belief in God and love of one’s country.”


*******************
I don’t know that much about my grand uncle Russell Andrew Bennett. In fact, I have a gaping hole of about 20 years in the middle of his life. Let me tell you what I do know, in case anyone who knows more than me is reading this, and might be willing to help fill in the blanks, or perhaps read the book, and help me figure out which parts are real.

Russell was born on January 26, 1896 in Brown City, Sanilac County, Michigan to Andrew Bennett (1858-1925) and Anna Gregor Bennett (1858-1929). He was their fifth child and third son. His siblings (all born in Brown City, Michigan) were: Benjamin Gregor Bennett (1886-1970, m. Florence Catherine Short), William John Bennett (1889-1960, m. Mary Kalbfleisch), Elizabeth Grace Bennett (1891-1920, m. Arthur Bernard Martin), Blanche Maude Bennett Huston (1894-?, m/dv. William John Huston), Anna Mae Bennett Henn (1898-1977, m. Owen Carl Henn), Margaret MacFarlane Bennett (1900-1935), and Thomas Edison Bennett (1906-1969, m. Lenore M Griffen).

He left home at about 20 years old to begin a career working on the railroad. For the first few years, he worked as a locomotive fireman on a line that ran from the United States into Canada, and there are several border crossing records for him between 1916 and about 1920, which reference him working on the railroad. Shortly after President. Woodrow Wilson signed the selective service act requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the military in May 1917, Russell registered for the draft for World War I at age 21. On his registration card he stated that he was a locomotive fireman for the Ann Arbor Railroad Company, and was employed out of Owosso Michigan. He claimed exemption from the draft for “stomach trouble”. He was single and no one depended on him. He was of medium height and build, and had auburn hair and blue eyes.

Climbing My Family Tree: Draft Registration, Russell Bennett, WW1
Draft Registration, Russell A. Bennett, WW1

In 1925, his father died. In a 1928 border crossing record, Russell indicated that his occupation was “air man”, so he might have switched industries by then (by the 1920s, airmail existed and was cutting into the profits of the railroad industry, and, in 1927 Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic). About two weeks after he had gone to Canada, the his mother died. At this point, I lost him for about 20 years.

I do wish to note that during my black hole period, certain trees on ancestry.com indicate that Russell married Edith Guesman or Guseman on June 26, 1928 and that they divorced in 1931 (unsourced). I haven’t been able to verify that, so it is not included in my tree. (I found that she had taken out a marriage license with Frank Rathmell in 1925, and was married to Harry Craig by 1940. She remained with Harry Craig until he died and remained single thereafter.) If anyone can point me to proof that she married him, I'd appreciate it greatly.

Russell Bennett moved to California in approximately 1941, according to his death certificate.
On December 30, 1950, at age 54, he married Olive Gertrude Ranney Glover (1924-1992) in San Mateo California. In 1955, a city directory for Sacramento, California, shows that he and his wife Olive lived on 2239 Marconi Ave., and that he was a technician for KFBK, a radio station in Sacramento. In 1956, his book, The Passing Parade, was published under the pen name Gordon Bennett through the Greenwich Book Publishers; he registered the copyright on February 7, 1956. The Greenwich Book Publishers were a small press in New York City that advertised for submissions in the back page classifieds of such magazines as Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and the Rotarian, in ads such as those below.

Climbing My Family Tree: Greenwich Book Publishers ad, Popular Science magazine, 1955 p 85
Greenwich Book Publishers ad, Popular Science magazine, 1955 p 85
Click to Make Bigger

Climbing My Family Tree: Greenwich Publishers ad The Rotarian 1957 p 62
Greenwich Book Publishers ad
The Rotarian 1957 p 62
Click to Make Bigger
Climbing My Family Tree: Greenwich Book Publishers ad Popular Mechanics 1955 p 67
Greenwich Book Publishers ad
Popular Mechanics 1955 p 67
Click to Make Bigger



I then lost him again until he died on July 23, 1969, at 3:45 AM, in San Francisco, California. I found a detailed certificate of death from the California San Francisco Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985, records collection at Ancestry.com. I knew it was my Russell Bennett because his birthplace was indicated as Brown City, Michigan; birthdate January 26, 1896; age 73; father: Andrew Bennett, born in Canada; mother: Anna Gregor, born in Canada; citizen of the USA; and the name of surviving spouse was Olive Gertrude Glover. The death certificate further stated that he and his wife Olive lived at 2241 Lincoln Way, San Francisco, CA prior to his death. His last occupation was as a longshoreman for the Pacific Maritime Association, a shipping company, and he had held this position for 21 years. He had lived in California for 28 years. He died in St. Joseph’s Hospital, at Park Hill and Buena Vista Ave., East, San Francisco. Dr. J. A. Driscoll, of Fox Plaza, indicated that he had died of acute myocardial failure as a consequence of [?] Myocarditis due to ASHD [arteriosclerotic heart disease]. There was an autopsy performed which confirmed the cause of death. He was buried on July 25, 1969 at Skyline Cemetery in San Mateo California; the funeral director was N. Gray & Co.

Climbing My Family Tree: Death Certificate for Russell Andrew Bennett, dd. 23 July 1969
Death Certificate for Russell Andrew Bennett, dd. 23 July 1969
Click to Make Bigger


I'd love to hear from anyone with knowledge of Russell Andrew Bennett’s missing years who would be willing to share it, or just more about him in general. You may contact me through the email address in my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below this post. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can



---------------------------------

U.S. Census for 1900  and 1910; 6 documented border crossings from the Border Crossings: From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935 database at Ancestry; WW1 U.S. draft registration card; 1955 Sacramento City DirectoryCatalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series 1956, Vol. 10, Pt.1, "Books and Pamplets, Including Serials and Contributions to Serials", Jan - June 1956;Library of Congress Online Catalog (http://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/holdingsInfo?searchId=6936&recCount=25&recPointer=5&bibId=10272635); California Marriage Index 1949-1969; California Death Certificate, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985;California Death Index, 1940-1997; Social Security Death Index [ & for Edith Guseman: U.S. Census for 1910, 1920, & 1940; PA County Marriages 1885-1950 database, FamilySearch.org; Rootsweb Obituary Daily Times Index; Ohio, deaths, 1958 - 2007; USA & PA Find-a-Grave memorials ]

2 comments:

  1. Absolutely fascinating story! And, I think it's wonderful that you have BOTH books! I hope you are able to fill in those missing years. And, that you are able to sort out 'fact' from 'fiction'!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too! Thanks for stopping by and reading, Dana. If I find out more, I'll do another post and update you!

      Delete

Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread.