1902 - 1974
Jan. 1, 1973
The interest we humans appear to have about our forbears may be universal.
In my case it didn't occur until I was in my 50's, perhaps because I was so busy scratching out an existence to care much about who or whom preceded me in my immediate family strain.
This effort may give solace-or have the opposite effect -on those for whom it is being written, namely those members of the family who follow me.
In any event, and in summary fashion-here's the Frank (Francis Michael Joseph Patrick) Sullivan background:
My father, Thomas A. (for Angus) Sullivan was born somewhere in Michigan about 1877, the son of a grand old Irish lady who came from County Cork by way of an East Coast Canadian port (St. John's Newfoundland), then migrated westward and set up a habitation in Michigan, most likely in the 1860's.
As for my paternal grandfather, I recall no conversation about him. He, I presume, was dead that cold February 27, 1902 morning I arrived at a residence in Cloquet, Minn., (second floor, rear bedroom right side of house, as I was told in later years).
My mother (whom I don't remember) died about 1904 or 1905-and perhaps in 1906-so did my brother Earl. TB took both of them. My mother, Julia, was the daughter of Delphean Daly George (?) who was born in Paris and one George Gaskill, who gave the family strain a bit of historical perspective.
Grandma Rafferty (my father's mother) married again after bearing seven or eight sons from her first marriage. She told me back in 1932 shortly before she died that the Sullivans were good stock in Ireland. She mentioned being raised in a castle and noted some other high faluting things about her and my background. Families rise and fall like the tides. I wasn't impressed.
Grandma Rafferty used to immerse me with scholarly sayings, a trait I apparently inherited from her. For in later years, I made notations from readings of a thousand or more sayings, paragraphs, sentences, etc., which titillated my fancy. You'll find some of them in the basement today.
My mother, Julia, had a more interesting background. I used to visit with Grandma Gaskill when I was a small boy and was fascinated by her. She was a Frenchwoman, born in Paris.
Her husband, George Gaskill, was quite a gay blade. As the story goes, he left (in fact, deserted) his wife and a profitable business about the time of WWI in Cloquet, Minn., where, incidentally, I was born) to run off to Canada with "that other woman". Subsequently he returned and my grandmother rejoined him. I presume the other woman vamossed. I remember back in the late 1910's and early 20's my grandmother tried to attract me to Canada where the family ranch took all afternoon to traverse on horseback at a trot. I figure, being an old cavalryman, that the ranch (in Alberta) was about the size of the city of Norfolk today.
By that time, however, I was in the Cavalry on the Mexican border and enjoying it. Had two horses, was payroll clerk for the regiment, and if need be, I could have concentrated all month's work within a period of two days. Played basketball. We were post champs. I was team captain. I was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, and a nickel streetcar fare from Juarez, Mexico (in the state of Chihuahua) which I visited at least 100 times during a three-year enlistment. Turned down an opportunity to go to West Point. Was recommended on three occasions for commission in event of hostilities.
To get back to my mother's family, it was not until sometime in the 1950's that I nostalgically called an old uncle, Bob Gaskill, in Duluth, Minnesota.
v He was surprised to hear I was in Norfolk, remarking that his grandfather wouldn't have like it a bit-being in Confederate country.
He mentioned that his grandfather (my great grandfather) had been a Yankee captain, Quaker, who had made local history in Minnesota by leaving his plow in the field without any notice to his family and going off to the Civil War. Uncle Bob by phone enlightened me on the Gaskill family background which he traced back to Scotland. Our original forebears (in the U.S.) were run out of Scotland following the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charles at Culled back in 1746, and escaped to France or Holland before coming to America. My Uncle Bob says he (our forebear) was a personal aide to Bonnie Prince Charles. My subsequent research of Bonnie Prince Charles doesn't leave me too impressed, but then back while I was in the 8th U.S. Cavalry I was sorely tempted (a screwball idea) to "go over the hill" and join revolutionary forces in Mexico. If I had succeeded in deserting with a machine gun in my possession, I could have made the grade of captain in the Mexican revolutionary forces.
Before this tale begins to sound too unlikely-and I'm relating the circumstances of family background as they were given to me-I'll quickly refer you to a summary of a story I once started to write about the Frank Sullivan experience. Some day, I may relate that experience, which, in the light of what I've read biographically about some fellow citizens, could be made interesting.
It's not a distinguished background, but varied. I have been a cavalryman (wrote the history of the regiment, the division first cavalry which had quite a career in Korea and Indo-China and is currently in Vietnam), sailed the Great Lakes as a deck hand in my younger days, was a White House correspondent during President Coolidge's summer stay in Wisconsin, washed dishes, was a busboy, laborer, miner, spent two winters in Hollywood, helped to open Reno in 1928, and at one time (during the prohibition era, of course) was well acquainted with the various Mexican border points of entry from Guars on the East to Agua Caliente (or Tia Juana) on the West Coast.
In summary, I have had a somewhat discordant, but lively, existence until, at 39, I became the helpmate of one Rosa Lee Saied whose story, if she will ever put it on paper, might be just as interesting. I also became the father of three lovely girls who gave me at and after age 39 an excuse for existence. That's what counts.
Jan. 1, 1973
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