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August 10, 2015

The Tragedies Behind Blacksheep Ancestors

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I appreciate your deeper regard for the acts of Black Sheep ancestors. Much of what they did in the times before adequate social safety nets, early identification of learning disabilities, the understanding of PTSD, and even how the human body works, could now be avoided or mitigated. I think of the people who were addicted to alcohol and opiates who were judged "weak" and unwilling to clean up their act, among whom was an alcoholic son of John Adams.

But of course there were genuine scoundrels, one of whom was my g-grandmother's kid brother, Milton Oliver McClellan (1881-?). In Tenino, WA at the age of 32 he married the young daughter of the owner of the boarding house where he lived, the 19 yr. old Martha Sarah Pollman (1893-1964). This was on Christmas Eve 1913. On 25 Dec 1914 they had a son. By then Milton, a miner by trade, had dragged young Sarah down to Kennett, CA, a busy copper mining town flooded by the creation of Shasta Lake/Dam decades later. It was there Sarah gave birth and he either abandoned her and the infant there or he allowed her to return to her family in WA to show off the new baby and bolted from Kennett while she was gone. No one ever heard from the guy again, not his three surviving sisters, not his widowed father, none of his uncles, aunts, or cousins.

In studying Milton's timeline and those associated with him I've become more aware of the ripple effect of such betrayals. Martha held out for several years waiting for Milton to surface, possibly holding some hope he'd enlisted for WW I and would return a changed man. There's some evidence Milton's father and possibly his sisters may have hoped the same thing. In reality Milton was too old for the draft barring an actual invasion of U.S. soil, in which case men in their mid-thirties might have been called up. In reality his WW I Draft Registration Card, filled out in Sept 1918, shows he was in the last such class registered just 60 days before the Armistice was signed. There's virtually no way he was ever drafted.

But his son had to endure not only the lifelong questioning about why his father ditched him, but the unfair treatment afforded him most of his childhood and adolescence by his step-father, a man of limited mind and compassion. Forever being compared to his younger half-brother by his mother's second marriage, he grew up reckless, probably depressed based on some family lore, and became an immature man who burned through two marriages and failed to stick around to raise any of his own four children.

So one man's cowardly behavior prompted a no-doubt devastated and humiliated young mother to make and stick with a second marriage even though it disfavored her firstborn, who then went on to cause wreckage in two more families.