Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Family Stories: RJ and Uncle Leon

Any interesting family stories? 

Interesting family stories ...   Hmmm.  I suppose the most interesting story is probably how your great great grandfather John worked his way up from a poor kid from a broken family to become a very successful businessman and has a building named after him at Notre Dame.  I'm sure your mom knows that story.  My mom points out that John's father, Francis, must have put a very high value on their Catholic faith and on the importance of education, since he struggled so hard to send his son to Notre Dame, that Catholic school so far away.  Look around at your cousins and aunts and uncles and you can see that these are values that have been passed down to us from them.  The whole family is like a story, too.  Learning about your family is like taking a personal walk through history, which makes history a lot more interesting for me.  I think the story of Francis and his trouble with the law is interesting.  You can see that on my web site.  There are some small interesting stories.  Your aunts would probably have some good stories.  Some of my more interesting tidbits are about your great great grandaunts (great great grandfather John's two sisters, Kate and Mary).  Actually, about their husbands ...

Kate married Leon Jenkins, a Portland police officer who later became the Police Chief and then the Commissioner of the Portland Police department.  I recently found out that Uncle Leon was a very innovative  Police Chief who was responsible for modernizing the Portland Police.  He was the first to use a new technology called radio for police communications back in the 1920s.  Later he tried organizing Police Chiefs around the country to agree on how to write police reports so they could understand crimes in other cities and this work later led to the founding of Interpol, a famous international police department.  But Uncle Vin remembers taking the train from Chicago to Portland to visit, and Uncle Leon would meet them at the station with a paddy wagon (a big police truck where they can lock up lots of trouble makers and take them to the police station) and the kids would get locked in the back while Uncle Leon would turn on the siren and the flashing lights and take them on a ride through town.  I'll bet they were the only ones that enjoyed being locked in a paddy wagon!

Mary married Roderick MacKenzie, oldest son of the so-called King of the Canadian Railway, Sir William MacKenzie.  Sir William (with a partner) was responsible for building the transcontinental railroad across Canada.  Roderick managed some of the railroad construction, but it sounds like he was kind of a wealthy investor who lived much of the time in the United States.  The family story is that Mary (Mary Elizabeth, aka "Lizzie") used to sell flowers at a stand in front of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, where Roderick used to stay, and they met there.  Roderick (or RJ) loved horse racing and used to travel around the country racing his horses.  After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, he bought lots of property and in 1908 he bought the Pleasanton Racetrack and renovated it into one of the most famous race courses in the world.  He led the effort to make the racetrack the centerpiece of a new Alameda County Fairgrounds.  (I think it's still there.)  After a few years, he sold the racetrack.

Well, that's probably much more than you wanted to read.  I hope there's something in all those words that you can use for your report.  I assume you know that my family history web site is at .

BTW, your great great grandmother Harriet Webber Cushing was a Webber.  The Webbers are one of the oldest American families, here since at least 1650, more than 100 years before the United States!  You can read about them on my web site, too.

I'm sending you a genealogy of the Cushings from Ireland down to you.  I've included your closest Cushing cousins to make it more interesting to you.  Genealogy charts and reports are pretty easy to make, so maybe you and/or your mom can tell me if you want something different.  You might also need to tell me if I made a mistake somewhere.

Good luck with your report.

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