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Michael S. Cole, M.D.

Tradition About
William John COLE

    The descendants of my grandparents William and Mellie COLE are all known to me. Information passed orally and in writing to me from my grandmother (who died in 1980 when I was 25 years old), my father, and his sister is included below.

We have been unable to authenticate any of this information.
Matter of fact, we've disproven most of it.

    William COLE was born at Fremont, Dodge County, Nebraska, on 18 September 1885. His parents were killed at a railroad crossing when he was only a baby. He was raised by his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. John TUMA. He believed that his last name was TUMA until age 18. At that time he found that he was supposed to inherit money from his parents, but his uncle and aunt had already spent it. This caused him to forever alienate himself from the family who had raised him. Or so that's the way the story went.

    According to my Grandma Mellie, William "spoke often of Ravenna, Nebraska." He was a school teacher in Nebraska. He was elected to the Nebraska Legislature. He married Inez PARKHURST on or about 17 April 1909 at Ord, Valley County, Nebraska. We have a handwritten poem, supposedly by Inez, about their first child being stillborn. They had a daughter named Elsie, who was born in 1911. We have one photograph of Inez. We have one photo of Elsie when she was a young girl standing next to a tricycle in front of a white house. Inez died in 1916 and was buried in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Elsie married James O'DONNELL. She may have been a nurse and died in 1932 after she accidently drank poison, thinking it was water. [As a physician, it sounds like suicide to me, though I never considered that when I heard this story as a child.] It is believed that she was buried in Colorado Springs next to her mother. A highway project required that this cemetery be moved. It was thought that James O'DONNELL was a physician in the United States Navy and was lost in the Battle of Midway during World War II. James' mother lived in Colorado Springs.

    Before moving to Colorado, William was supposedly the mayor of a city in Idaho. He worked in construction in Colorado. He moved to Claremont, California, where he was a building contractor.

    Mellie, his second wife, told me that she once saw a savings account book of his, from before they were married, with the name "William COLEMAN."

    Besides the concrete evidence of the poem and the photos, nothing in this section had been proven or disproven before July 2000.

Claims Pertinent to Genealogy
from William John COLE's
Writings and Other Papers

(or "Inherited Misinformation")

    Two pages, found among William COLE's papers after he died, appear to be a summary of his family tree beginning with Thomas COLE in 1698. Since every point that I have tried to verify on the pedigree is incorrect, I must assume that nothing in this "family tree" is true, though I cannot understand why it was written.

    A page from Daniel F. STENNARD supposedly contains three newspaper articles from the Fremont [Nebraska] Weekly Tribune reporting the birth of William COLE in 1885 and the death of his parents at a railroad crossing.

    The address of William COLE "before the reception" at Fremont Normal was supposedly in the Fremont Tribune on 29 March 1913, according to his speech in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1952.

    In one of William's letters (or speeches) he said, "[in the] Spanish-American War, I did my bit as a youth of 16, exposed my breast to the dangers of Spanish bullets, in the tropical jungles of Cuba ..." [No TUMA or THUMA fought in the Spanish-American War.]

    The most peculiar "evidence" is a letter I have that is addressed to "W. J. COLE" in 1912 from the Nebraska Public Library Commission. This letter appears to be authentic, as you can see for yourself.
    On 12 July 2000, Margaret Harding, Executive Director of the Nebraska Library Commission Archives in Lincoln, Nebraska, kindly explained in the following e-mail message why she believes the 1912 letter appears authentic.

These are the pieces of information I can verify for you:

First: The letterhead is compatible with style that was used by the Commission around that time, although actual placement of elements varied somewhat from time to time. The list of the Board of Commissioners and the Commission staff is accurate for that period. The "Lincoln" appears to be printed and the date typed. That was usual for examples I do have from the early years. I do not have an example of stationery from 1912 to verify its authenticity.

Second: The report mentioned in the first paragraph would most likely be the 6th report for 1912. It was due to be published after April 23, 1912 (Commission minutes, 1901-1933, p. 33).

Third: Miss Williams was the public librarian in Geneva in 1912. (Nebraska Library Association program from the time.)

Fourth: The $5000 appropriated by the Legislature mentioned in the letter was reported in the Commission minutes, April 11, 1911, p.31.

Fifth: Miss McMahon was at the Girls' Industrial School in Geneva as reported in the 6th Report, p. 11.

Now as to the rest. I can only speculate about the reason such a letter was written. The Commission always looked for fiscal support from the Legislature. It would not have been out of order for a member of the board to write such a letter. I do not have any examples of Mr. Haller's signature to compare to for verification.

More speculation: I don't know what purpose would be served by forging the letter. If it were forged, it would have to be by someone with access to both the minutes and the report. The report would be available publicly. I do not know if the minutes were published.

I have looked through the House and Senate Journals for the year 1913. A Mr. J. S. Foulon was representative from the 41st District and a Mr. J. F. Weston was representative from the 43rd District. Both districts represent Fillmore County where Geneva is located. I could find no mention of a Mr. Cole or Coleman in any other position. The thought occurs that there could have been a contested election and Mr. Cole[man] was not seated, or perhaps he left the area before taking office.

    William had a ledger, which he used like a scrapbook, with many newspaper clippings pasted in or loose. Most of them pertain to politics, are not dated, and the names of the newspapers are lacking. Most of the clippings seem to me to be from the 1890's. Several articles praise William Jennings BRYAN (who moved to Nebraska in 1887 and ran for U.S. President in 1896, 1900, and 1908). North Bend, Nebraska, is mentioned on the back of one newspaper clipping. The back of another has an advertisement from ____t West Printing and Stationary Co., Pikes Peak Avenue. (Perhaps this was in Colorado Springs.) One clipping is from a newspaper in Ord, Nebraska. One is dated 15 June 1900, Valley County [Nebraska] Times. Another is titled "Whitewashing the Negro," mentioned again later. One clipping is from National Watchman, 28 Feb 1901. There are two complete pages from The Commoner, published in Lincoln, Nebraska, on 13 May 1904. Also found are pages 3-6 from Home-Rule, published by Burton Publishing Co., Abilene, Kansas, on 20 Feb 1908. There is also found, among William's papers, the title page to "The Loud Bill," a speech of Hon. John J. LENTZ of Ohio, House of Representatives, 21 March 1900, Washington.

    William's name is printed in none of these articles. [My grandmother claimed she had seen an article which mentioned his serving in the legislature in Omaha, Nebraska, and an article announcing his marriage at Ord, Nebraska, to Inez PARKHURST, which stated, "So that's why he had been coming to Ord."]

    In one letter or speech found among William's papers, he wrote that he moved away from Nebraska in early 1914. (That statement may actually be true.)

    Also found among William's papers is a speech (not a published article), "Address of Wm COLE of Claremont, at San Bernardino, 17 Sep 1932," in which he was very critical of the Republican Party, blaming their policies for every financial depression. The speech was also very supportive of the organized labor movement.

    The preceding information is included here to give clues about where William was living before 1933. I have seen no newspaper clippings which show William COLE's name in print before he married my grandmother.

    Among some other papers are several retyped, short news articles allegedly about William COLE. All have been reproduced in the Documents section of this Web site. The earliest, from the Rocky Mountain News in 1922, is about his speech, "White-Washing the Negro," which was plagiarized from the clipping in the ledger I mentioned in a previous paragraph. The next article of historical interest claims to have come from the Los Angeles Herald which mentions that William was a carpenter and a representative of the American Federation of Labor in 1926. Then there are a few articles allegedly from various California newspapers in September 1933 regarding a Labor Day speech of William COLE. The final article pertinent to genealogical/historical research supposedly came from the San Bernardino Sun in 1933 and referred to a speech at Pomona College. (I have been unable to substantiate even one of these "articles." Most of the newspapers were contacted, but they would not search their files or simply told me they had nothing on file.)

    I also have copies of two speeches he made in Harrison, Arkansas. The first was in 1941 when he spoke on unicameral legislature. A speech on 17 October 1944 quotes much from his Labor Day speech of 1933 in Ontario, California.

    The most fascinating document found among William's papers is a letter dated 9 May 1950 from the Census Bureau to Arkansas Congressman TRIMBLE. This letter was my only positive clue for his genealogy. I strongly suspect the letter was fabricated so William COLE could obtain a pension. Though presumably the supporting documentation for this 1950 letter, all of the 1890 Nebraska census was destroyed by fire in January 1921, and it did not include the detail reported in the letter. However, the people listed did exist. The entries compare nicely with the 1880 census of Maple Creek Precinct of Colfax County, Nebraska, page 201B, dwelling #16:

THUMA, John   33 M   Farmer   Bohemia    Bavaria   Bohemia
   Katie      29 F   wife     Moravia    Moravia   Moravia
   Josephine   6 F   dau.     Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   John        4 M   son      Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   Emma        2 F   dau.     Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   Joseph      1 M   son      Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
   Frank   2 wks M   son      Nebraska   Bohemia   Moravia
(It took about 20 years after discovering this census record before we had proof that the 4-year-old John THUMA was my grandfather William John COLE.) This family could not be found on the census of 1885 in Maple Creek Precinct, Colfax County, Nebraska.

    Does anyone wish to speculate about how this 1950 letter was compiled or how a fabricated letter helped him get a government pension? [I wonder if William may have received a letter from the government which contained information from the 1880 census. Since that would be before the time of his asserted birthdate of 1885, perhaps he retyped the page to match his fantasy, before allowing my grandmother to see the letter.] (In 1995 the History Division of the U.S. Census Bureau informed us they have no employee record for James REDFIELD, the stated author of the letter.)

    The following data found on one sheet was handwritten by William without any other information. We knew nothing about any of these people, except those previously mentioned in my narrative.
Josephene PARKHURST (1868-1912) m. Daniel McINTYRE
Mabel McINTYRE (1885-1949) m. Beverla DODSON
Inez PARKHURST (1889-1916) m. William COLE
Elsie COLE (1911-1932) m. James O'DONNELL
Fanny WOLCOTT (1871-1947) m. Oliver O'DONNELL

    In an envelope postmarked November 1951 from St. Louis, Missouri, is a copy of the Missouri One-House Legislature Amendment. As mentioned earlier, William COLE allegedly spoke before the Unicameral Association regarding this amendment in 1952.

    William's speech before the Unicameral Association in St. Louis is about a dozen pages long. I do not plan to reproduce it online. The few comments from the speech that pertain to genealogical research are mentioned forthwith. In the speech he stated that his maternal grandparents came to St. Louis in 1848 to escape persecution in Germany. He said his mother was born in St. Louis in 1862. He supposedly quoted from an article in the Fremont [Nebraska] Tribune, 29 Mar 1913, but the article did not exist according to a letter I received in 1976. During his speech, William claimed to quote excerpts regarding himself from the book, The Fighting Liberal, by Senator George W. NORRIS. Except for references to himself, the speech is historically accurate as it discusses unicameralism and is very convincing of the merits of the unicameral system of state government.

    Another carbon copy found is a letter to David LARKIN, St. Louis, Missouri, chairman of the Unicameral Association, dated 2 June 1952. William COLE wrote that he anticipated that the Unicameral Amendment would fail to pass in Missouri and gave several reasons.

    William John COLE died in Boone County, Arkansas, in 1959. I have a copy of his death certificate which records he was born on 18 September 1885 in Nebraska. Father's and mother's names are listed as "Unknown."

    This Web site contains everything I knew in Spring 2000 that might benefit further genealogical research. (More recently discovered information has been added.) Attempts to clarify discrepancies between known and supposed history had made genealogical investigation nearly impossible before the discovery on 4 July 2000 of a list of descendants of Inez (PARKHURST) COLEMAN posted on the Internet.

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