Week 52: #52 Ancestors – Resolution
By Eilene Lyon
Katie Davis, my first cousin 2x removed, grew up near Kendrick, Idaho. She was the second child of Charles A. Davis and Minnie Holcombe. Charles was the older brother of my great-grandfather, Sterling Price Davis.
Katie and her sister, Sarah, were less than two years apart in age and looked almost like twins. They grew up in rural circumstances in the early 20th century. Sometime after 1910, their family relocated to Pasco, Washington, possibly for Charles to find better farming opportunities.
When Katie was 22 in 1918, she worked for a farmer named Walter Silver Kirk and his family on a homestead outside Pasco. There, she met a fellow laborer named George Owen Barlow. George had been drafted, but at Fort Lewis they determined he was unfit to serve, having a double hernia. He returned to Pasco.
The following year, Katie’s father passed away in May. Five months later, she married her sweetheart, George. Their first child, Howard, came along the following July. Five more children followed in the next seven years. Two others came later for a total of eight.
George Barlow came from a rambling family. His father, George W. Barlow, was born in Massachusetts, and his mother, Hattie, in Illinois. They met and married in Arapahoe County, Colorado, in 1882. By 1893, the family lived in Wyoming, which is where George Owen was born in 1897. By 1900, the family had relocated to Florida, where George W. worked as a carpenter.
Then the family settled for a time in Seattle. It’s unknown how George Owen ended up in Pasco, but his mother and siblings continued moving around while his father went to Kenai, Alaska, to work as a carpenter for the railroad.
As Katie and George began their married life and grew their family, George struggled to find steady work. His mother, Hattie, passed away in 1923, and it’s possible his father was still in Alaska, so turning to his family was probably not an option. Instead, they went to live with Katie’s uncle, Sterling Davis, on his farm near Moscow, Idaho.
Life on the Moscow farm proved difficult, particularly in winter, so George decided to relocate to sunny California when spring rolled around. He had siblings living there and hoped to find better employment opportunities.
He purchased a Model T and loaded it with their possessions, plus Katie and four kids. According to Howard, Katie had a single dress to wear on the journey. Nothing about the trip went well. They had very little money and Howard had to give up his wagon in order to make ferry fare. The car broke down often.
Getting to Los Angeles took six weeks, and frequently the family went hungry. George sold off some of his own possessions, including tools, to feed his family. But he resolved that they would make it, come hell or high water. The Ford quit for good just as they reached Beverly Hills. George’s brother-in-law had to come tow them the last 20 miles to Glendale.
George went through a succession of jobs: trucker, carpenter, handyman. Then he was hired at a large orchard in Strathmore. The living quarters there were so dismal that Katie, already used to impoverishment, said to George, “Don’t bother to unload the truck, I’m not staying here one minute like this.” Despite that, she was persuaded to stay.
When the orchard owner went out of business, the Barlow family relocated to Lindsay, California, living in the poorer section of town. George bought a hand-powered mower for 75 cents and began going door-to-door looking for lawn-mowing work. Someone hired him to build some shelves for a grocery and he parlayed that into a job working there as a clerk.
The store folded in 1929, just as the Great Depression loomed. George finally caught a break, getting a position as an officer with the Lindsay police department. Though he now had steady work, the large family still struggled to make ends meet. Howard got a couple paper routes to help out.
Things were looking up for the Barlows until September 20, 1935 when George received a call in the wee hours about a domestic dispute. The location was only a few blocks from his home. He interviewed the wife, who had fled to the next door neighbors’ home. After hearing her story, George went to speak with the husband.
He didn’t see the man standing on the porch in the dark, until a muzzle flash revealed his presence. The 22-caliber round struck George in the upper abdomen and spun him around. He pulled his service revolver and fired five times in the direction of the flash, killing Monford Tackett instantly.
George knew a doctor lived across the street and the physician had already been awoken by the gunfire. Dr. Bowen got him to the hospital where they discovered the bullet had pierced his liver and colon. While trying to recover from these serious injuries, George developed pneumonia. He breathed his last on October 1.
How Katie persevered in the face of this disaster is hard to imagine. But she had as much resolve as George had had when he decided to move to California. She received a small amount of insurance compensation, and an early-day incarnation of “crowd-funding” brought in a significant sum, enough to purchase her a house. The children worked a variety of jobs that paid the bills when the insurance ran out.
In a tribute to her father, written nearly sixty years after his death, George and Katie’s daughter Lois said that it “still hurts because he was a good dad.”
Feature image: Officer George O. Barlow and Katie (Davis) with seven of their eight children: Howard, Charles, Joseph, Lois, Gerald, Frances, and Billy. (Courtesy of F. Bennett)
Memoirs of Howard Barlow (unpublished, courtesy of F. Bennett).
Edwards, Leland. “A Tribute to Officer George Barlow” in Los Tulares No. 182, December 1993, pp. 2-3.
Census and marriage records on Ancestry.com.