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Blackburn Family History 1909-1949

Obviously this is not the entire Blackburn family history, just a portion of it. The information revealed here could embarrass some people, and for that I apologize. My intention is not to embarrass but to preserve an oral tradition that was given to me by my mother. All members in this narrative have now passed on. Only their children may find this story interesting or important.

My mother told me these things in confidence some time after her parents died. She probably also told my siblings parts of the same story, and their version may disagree in points with mine. Nevertheless, I'm sure what I relate is true to what she told me.

My mother's name was Anne May Blackburn. She married Joe Henry Brown, Jr., her one husband until death. My mother grew up being called Anne ("Annie"). My dad always referred to her as May, her middle name. Therefore I only knew her as "May" during all my growing up years. After dad died, she began using her first name again for business and new acquaintances. It felt very strange for me to refer to her as "Anne" when I knew she is really "May".

Mother's parents were Joseph ("Joe") Blackburn and Frances Vietta ("Vi") Cockwell.

Joe married Vi July 21, 1909, in York, Ontario, Canada. They had five daughters, for which Joe never forgive Vi because he wanted a son and thought she had given him only daughters to spite him. Four of the daughters were born in Canada and the youngest in the United States.

The daughters are: Josephine (always and only "Jo"!), b.1911; Lillian ("Lily"), b.1913; Doris, b.1918; Anne May (my mother), b.1920, and Grace, b.1926. The Blackburns moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1921.

Joe entered The Great War (WW 1 1914-1918) and was poisoned by German gas when Kaiser Wilhelm II embarked on chemical warfare. He was sent home and never fully recovered his health, although he did live until 1968, making him 81 years old.

Vi said her husband was never the same (mentally or emotionally) since he returned from the War. (I understand that because I served during the Viet Nam war and, although never seeing direct action, I was involved in indirect action and I was changed too. Even today I start crying when I am around war memorials, a thing quite contrary to my nature. I didn't even cry when my parents passed away. But enough about me; back to the story.) Jo and Vi were vibrant and committed Christians before the War. After the War, Vi said "He was no longer the same person I married." Vi remained a strong, committed Christian for the rest of her life.

In approximately 1927, when Anne was 7 years old and Grace was 1, Jo became pregnant at age 16, a great disgrace to the 1920s family. Joe had her pack her bags and put her, Vi, Anne (and perhaps all, I don't know), into the car and drove to a nearby town. There he dropped her off on a street corner, presumably in front of a home for unwed mothers. Remember, this is my mother telling me, and at the time she didn't know why they were dropping off Jo in another town. Anne didn't find out why until about 1989, her 50th wedding anniversary.

When Anne was approximately 16 years old, Joe decided to move to Tampa, Florida. Two daughters, Jo and Anne, decided to stay in San Antonio and the rest of the family (Joe, Vi, Lily, Doris and Grace) went to Florida. That would make Grace about 10 years old. I only know the approximate dates for these events.

Shortly after moving to Tampa, Joe started molesting his youngest daughter Grace. Lily stepped in and told him he must not touch Grace, and she offered her own body in order to save Grace. Thus Joe began having relations with his daughter Lily.

Lily had her father committed to an insane asylum (as they were called at that time) for awhile; I don't know if it was for days, weeks or months. Joe blamed his wife, Vi, for sending him to the hospital. He never forgave Vi and soon thereafter divorced her.

In about 1942, Lily contacted Jo in San Antonio for help and Jo (now in her 30s) went to Tampa and asked her father to allow her to take Grace back to San Antonio. Joe agreed on the condition that Jo also take Vi, his wife, with her. He was getting a divorce.

Jo, Grace and Vi (my grandmother) returned to San Antonio. In 1944 Joe Blackburn divorced Vi and married Pearl Dozier.

Lily joined the Salvation Army and remained unmarried for the rest of her life. She obtained the rank of Brigadier (1-star general in the United States), the highest rank a woman ever obtained until that time in the Army.

Grace met and married Melvin Beeler, moved to Montana and had four children.

In 1989, the daughter that Jo had in 1927 contacted the Blackburn family, introduced herself and wanted especially to meet her half-sister, Patty, Jo's second daughter. Jo's eldest daughter, Nancy, had already died of cancer in 1955. I don't remember this woman's name; my apologies for that lack.

Grace died first in the family, of cancer, in 1961.

Jo also died of cancer in 1961.

Frances Vietta Blackburn died in 1968, two months before Joe.

Joe Blackburn died in 1968.

Doris died approximately in 2006.

Lily died at age 95 in 2008.

Anne died at age 90, in 2011.