There is a family story about my grandmother, Edith (Newman) Campbell taking a train trip with her first born son. While stopped at a station, Grandma asked a woman if she would mind holding baby Robert so she could use the facilities. As she retrieved the baby, the realization that she had just handed him to a complete stranger, and thoughts of all that could have gone wrong struck her. This postcard she wrote home reflects that event, even though it’s not spelled out in detail.
Postmarked July 11, 1922, addressed to Mr C M Campbell, Camden Arkansas
Having a lovely trip. We are stopping here for 10 minutes. Baby is just fine. Love Edith
Baby Robert was my father. That postcard was amongst the piles of papers and pictures I was going through after his death in 2007. His baby book and more photos were in the mix, and with this new information, I was able to get a better idea of the timing of the trip.
Born May 24th, 1922, Robert was just a month or so old when he and his mother boarded that train in Arkansas, and they were on their way to California, where, according to the stories, Edith’s father Algernon Newman had moved from New York City to try to start a new restaurant at a resort. Other documents confirm that the Newmans weren’t in California very long, and they had returned to New York in time for the 1925 New York state census, so the assumption was that the business didn’t work out. But the bigger question—why in the world in 1922 would a new mother with her infant leave her husband for a couple of months and travel from their home in Arkansas to California? There were no marital problems, and it just seemed odd.
Recent discoveries have uncovered a logical explanation.
I have not had a lot of luck in tracking Algernon Newman’s sisters—Daisy, Kate, and Annie. Snippets of information here and there have helped, but no real documentation uncovered to give me a solid picture. Daisy was especially illusive. Kate and Annie stayed in the New York area close to their parents, but Daisy had dropped off the map.
Last year, a cousin gave me letters that her mother had stored—treasures! In the stacks of papers was a list identifying friends and relatives and the gifts they had given to celebrate the wedding of my grandparents, Edith Harriett Newman and Charles Milton Campbell. Although the last names for relatives weren’t written, they were identified as Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin.
Also in these papers were letters to Edith from her sister Alice Collins on the occasion of their father’s death in 1932. One letter mentions that Daisy flew in for the funeral. The comment was made that it was a surprise since times were tight.
On a whim, I did a quick search on Daisy, using all the names I had for her. I got a hit in the California Death Index for Harriett Daisy (Newman) Odlin, father’s surname Newman, mother’s maiden name Redly. Close enough to Ridley, my great-great grandmother’s name. But in California? I didn’t recall any family stories about a Newman sister in California. And I had never heard the name Odlin.
Armed with a death date, I searched for an obituary. One of the commercial newspaper sites had this from the Daily Independent Journal in San Rafael, California, 8 January 1952, Page 12. Copied from the OCR text:
Mrs. W. H. Odlin, Hikers’ Retreat Owner, Dies in M.V.
Mrs. Daisy Harriet Odlin, 75, for more than 40 years a resident of Mill Valley, died in a Marin hospital yesterday after an illness of several years. Mrs. Odlin, who was active in club work, operated, for many years the Hikers Retreat on Throckmorton Avenue. Hikers from San Francisco and elsewhere came to retreat, changed their clothes, left their children, and then went hiking on Mt. Tamalpais. When they returned they had showers, donned dressier clothes and went home. Her husband, William H. Odlin, a San Francisco tailor, died in 1922, and her daughter, Mrs. Daisy Wisler, died in 1939. She is survived by a nephew, Arthur W. Newman and two friends, Mr. and Mrs. Mel Pedersen of Stockton. A native of England, Mrs. Odlin had made her Mill Valley home at 25 King Street. Funeral services will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. from the memorial chapels of Russell and Gooch, Mill Valley. Interment will be in Woodlawn Cemetery.
More searching found the information on her husband’s death. On Saturday, April 29th, 1922, the Sausalito News reported that two men, W. H. Odlin and James A. Todd were instantly killed in an automobile accident that had happened the day before. Passengers Mrs. W. H. Odlin and her nine year old daughter Daisy were badly injured.
This tragic accident happened less than a month before my father’s birth.
So Daisy has been found. There are still questions to be answered, but Daisy now has a story.
In the letters that Alice Collins wrote to Grandma Campbell when their father died, she mentioned that Daisy would be returning home, but that Aunt Annie would be taking little Daisy for an extended time. This confirmed that Daisy had a daughter named Daisy.
And on the wedding gift list?— a silver cake plate from Aunt Daisy and Uncle Will.
Little Daisy was the only child of Daisy and Will Odlin, and she died April 10th, 1939, less than a year after her marriage in June of 1938 to Russell Irvin Wisler, Jr.
I now have a better explanation for why my Grandma Campbell took her new baby on such a long journey at such a young age. No doubt the family gathered round to help Daisy after the death of her husband. Perhaps Edith had hoped that her mother would be able to come to Arkansas to help with baby Robert. Instead, Robert got his first visit to the West Coast to meet his East Coast grandparents!
For my sibs: Harriett (Daisy) Phillips Newman Odlin was our great-great aunt on our father’s side. Her daughter, little Daisy, was our first cousin twice removed.