PenderBlog From The Pender Islands Of Canada

January 31, 2009


Filed under: Ramblings — Jocko @ 9:38 pm

 Submitted by ‘Rocky’:

POSTCARDS :   ” A Sea Captain, an Irish Lass, Adventure and a Family Reunion ”

In an age when snail mail reigned supreme and few had access to a phone, postcards were a major means of keeping in touch with friends and family. There is a story behind each one, but after 100 years most have been lost and those that remain are meaningless to the reader. If only we could put together the pieces.
In these historic cards is revealed a gem of a story – one that comes full circle at the end.


The first (above) is of the original CPR Hotel Vancouver as it looked at the turn of the last century – mailed from Vancouver 100 years ago in February 1909. Note the stamp of King Edward VII .
It was written by a sea captain, Charles Wall, an englishman originally from Birmingham, to his intended, an irish lass, Mollie Courtney, from Killarney, Co. Kerry.
Mollie was an adventurous soul, being the first of her siblings to leave the farm and emigrate to America in 1900, all the way to the gold fields of Nome, Alaska, “the ends of the earth”, as her father described it in a letter entreating her to return home.
Fortune she did not find, but while there she was befriended by a member of the Imperial Russian Court, a certain Prince Vladimir, Count Baranoff who had stayed in Alaska after the American purchase who lived in the tiny community of Golovin, [ current population 144 ] and visited Nome on occasion.
Her brother Cornelius, followed by brothers James and Denis, were despatched to find her, but by the time they arrived the gold fever had turned to dust and Mollie had headed south to warmer climes in San Francisco, where they were reunited. None was ever to return to their native land.
The small house at 349 Precita Ave where Cornelius, his wife Julia and small family were living still stands today. Next to the school, opposite the park overlooking the Mission District.
Note : The term “The City”, to describe San Francisco is a common term used in northern California  to this day.


The second postcard (above), an excellent early example of commercial art by the Campbell Soup Company was also written by Captain Wall in August of the same year [1909]  by then to his new wife, Mollie. In the meantime they had married in San Carlos, then a small community south of “the city”. and she was continuing in domestic and housekeeping work with many an address change involved apparently.
He writes ” Got your letter. Am sorry you feel so bad. Such is life being a wife. Will write more soon…”  Hmmm…
The presumption is that he was enroute across the continent by rail from Seattle at the time and had reached Minneapolis where he posted the card.

Of their life together, little is known. They had no children. He died in the 1940’s, and she in the mid 1950’s after retiring as Head Housekeeper of the [now Four Seasons] Clift Hotel on the slopes of Nob Hill in San Francisco.

For reasons no one alive knows, the families of Cornelius, James and Denis completely lost contact with each other until this January 27th – the birthday of Cornelius’ daughters, Rose and Marion – when Roses’ daughter Norma was contacted “out of the blue” by one of James’ great grandchildren to see if there was a connection between their families. Coincidence or….?

After 100 years, Mollie would be overjoyed!


The author recently found an interesting website to visit if your forebears came from the emerald isle.

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