Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Colemans & Dwyers: Kathleen Coleman In America

This is the eighth post in a series about my Coleman and Dwyer ancestors.

Kathleen Coleman, center, on board the ship to America.  Her friend Florence is beside her.

At the age of nineteen, Kathleen Coleman found herself essentially orphaned. Her mother was dead and her father was incommunicado in South Africa. Her younger brother, Albert, had died years earlier. Kathleen and her sister, Maggie, were left to fend for themselves. We know very little about what happened during the years between 1905, when Mary Dwyer Coleman committed suicide, and 1919, when Kathleen sailed to America. I believe that Maggie Coleman died sometime in these years, but I have not found a death record for her. I'm continuing to work on this.

Kathleen Coleman sailed from Australia to Canada in 1919, arriving in Vancouver in October of that year. Photos of her voyage show her nicely dressed and lounging on deck with a group of smiling friends. In this group was her best friend, Florence Cornish, with whom she shared a strong and lasting bond.   Florence and Kathleen traded photos and letters regularly for the rest of their lives.

After arriving in Vancouver, Kathleen sailed to Seattle. The ship’s manifest lists her as a bookkeeper whose final destination was San Francisco. On the manifest, Kathleen states that she has no family in the country of her origin, but does say that her mother was Mary of Melbourne. However, Kathleen did not settle in San Francisco. She headed south to Los Angeles, where she met her future husband.

Kathleen Coleman and George Beck on their wedding day. Los Angeles, 1921.

On September 21, 1921, Kathleen Coleman married George Beck (formerly Gerhardus Marinus Beukenkamp), a Dutch immigrant, in Los Angeles, California at City Hall. Kathleen’s friend Florence Cornish was a witness at the ceremony.

Kathleen and George's marriage record.

 Kathleen and George settled in Eagle Rock, California, a town located just northeast of Los Angeles. They had two daughters, Margaret Florence Beck and Jeanette Mary Beck. George first owned a used car lot and then was the owner and operator of a hardware store. With the advent of World War II, George could no longer get materials to stock the hardware store. In 1943, he sold the property and moved with his family to Fallbrook, a small country town in northern San Diego County.

Kathleen with daughters Margaret and Jeanette in Eagle Rock.  Around 1928.

In Fallbrook, George bought twenty-three acres of land and an adobe house. In 1955, he sold the upper five acres, including the home, to his daughter Jeanette and her husband David Lacey. George and Kathleen moved to Del Mar. Kathleen became ill in 1970 and was sent to Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside. From there, she was transferred to a convalescent home in Fallbrook, where she died on February 27, 1970. George lived in Del Mar until his death on July 2, 1973.

For all the turmoil and heartbreak Kathleen encountered during the years of her childhood, she seems to have been amazingly resilient. Those who knew her recall her warmth, humor, and devotion to her daughters. If she had not made the brave decision to cross an ocean alone and start a new life in a foreign country, none of us would be here.

Next, some final thoughts on the Colemans and Dwyers, plus information about the relatives who remain in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.

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