Through Any Given Door

1.12 Sketches of Chatfield Clan

My grandmother ruled the roost and her word was law. There was no question about it. As a result of her righteous positions, she was on the outs with most of her children throughout her life—and the higher she stood on her moral ground—the lower her family descended.

Brief sketches, pictures, a diary, and clippings of Charles’ and Nellie’s ten children:

1. Charles Joseph “Charlie” Chatfield
Born: Nov 18, 1895 in Fruita, Mesa Co., Colorado
Died: Aug 6, 1986 (age 90), heart attack; Paradise, Butte Co., California
Married: Apr 30, 1927, Velma Avis Turnbull (1905 –1991)
No children; raised nephew, Buster, for a year or so
Military: WWI, U.S. Army, Sergeant, served in France
Occupations: Rice farmer, Chico Ice & Cold Storage Co., restaurant owner, steelworker

Charlie kept a diary for most of his life:
September 1920
Wed 1  Awful hot. Worked 11 1/2 hrs. Got paid for last week. Went to show with Lura.
Thur 2  Awful hot. Worked 13 hrs. Went to town for supper.
Fri 3  Pretty hot. Worked 11 1/2 hrs. Got gears torn out in my car and fixed, cost $16.45.
Sat 4  Pretty hot. Worked 10 1/2 hrs. Got a shave and hair cut. Went to dance in Durham.
Sun 5  Pretty hot. Went to church and to church twice with Lura to her church. Went to Richardson Springs.
Mon 6  Colder. Run around Chico all day. Went to a show in Chico. Back to Gridley to a show with Lura.
Wed 8  Awful cold all day. Worked 12 1/2 hrs. Up town for supper.
Thur 9  Pretty cold. Worked 9 3/4 hrs. Went to show with Lura in Gridley.
Fri 10  A little warmer. Worked 11 hrs. Went up town for supper.
Sat 11  Pretty warm. Worked 10 hrs. Went to Chico with Lura to a show and supper with her.
Sun 12  Pretty warm. Went to Church in morning and in evening with Lura and to a show and riding with her.
Wed 15  Awful warm. Worked 8 hrs and quit. Went to Chico and to church with Lura.
Thur 16  Pretty warm. Worked all day at home on my car.
Fri 17  Awful hot, Took Lura home from school and went to church with her. Asked her if she would be my wife and she said yes.
Sat 18  Pretty warm. Run around all day. Leo came up and bought him a car. Went to a show and a dance in Durham.
Sun 19  Cooler. Went to church in morning and out to Lura’s in afternoon and to church with her in evening.
Wed 22  Colder. Took Lura home from school.
Thur 23  Cold and windy. Laid around all day. Got my batteries back.
Fri 24  Warmer. Took Lura home from school and went to a social with her.
Sun 26  Warm but cloudy. Went to church in morning and in evening with Lura. Went riding and to a show with her.
Mon 27  Pretty warm. Went out to Chico Rice to go to work but have to come back Wed. Went to a show and took Lura home from school.
Tues 28  Awful warm. Went to a show and out to Lura’s, took her home from school. Laid around all day.
Wed 29  Pretty hot. Left for Chico Rice to go to work. Worked all day.
Thur 30  Pretty hot. Worked all day. Howard’s wife came home from Los Angeles.

Charlie’s diary reads pretty much the same through January 1924: It was pretty cold, pretty warm, or awfully hot, and he was still courting Lura. There were two years of prior entries of “delivered ice today” when he was working for Chico Ice and Cold Storage or “laid around all day” when he wasn’t. If you want to know what the Chico weather was on any given date for the five years up to 1924, I can look it up for you in Charlie’s diary.

Lura must have gotten bored with Charlie as she was seen around Chico with another fella. Roy informed Charlie, for his own good. The brothers had a huge knockdown drag-out fight at the Boucher house, fists and furniture flying and Grandma fussing and crying at them to stop. Charlie didn’t believe Roy. Until he saw for himself. Lura no longer made it as an entry in his diary.

In 1927 in Oroville, Charlie married Velma Avis Turnbull. They had no children, but their nieces and nephews visited and when need arose lived with them. Some have fond memories, some don’t. They were notorious penny–pinchers, accounting every cent spent on a hand-written ledger. Velma even noted how much the parking meter cost. When Charlie questioned her expense on a daily entry she assured her husband she sat in the car for the six minutes and waited for the meter to expire.

They traveled the west, visiting America’s dams, herculean monuments to this country’s ingenuity and hubris, taking reel after reel of black and white eight-millimeter movies of the panoramic views without any people in them, Velma constantly instructing Charlie how to use the camera, “push the red button, Charlie, push the red button.” At seventeen, he worked on the Cody Dam in Wyoming; along with the weather, dams were his lifelong interest. The Chatfield Dam on the South Platte River in Colorado is named after his grandfather, I.W. Chatfield. He belonged to a camera club where members viewed one another’s home movies. He had more than 100 reels of black and white film of dams throughout the United States—and one reel of the family. Charlie and Velma later retired in Paradise, a small town 14 miles east of Chico in the heart of the Sierra Nevada foothills. At the age of ninety, on August 2, 1986, while watching a televised baseball game, Charlie jumped up in the middle of a play and had a heart attack. He died where we would all like to end up—in Paradise.

Leo and Charlie

2. Leo Willard Chatfield
Born: Oct 23, 1897 in Ten Sleep, Big Horn Co., Wyoming
Died: Jul 20, 1956 (age 59), heart attack; Grass Valley, Nevada Co., California
Married: 1938, Ethel Helen (Stirewalt) Zorens (1908 – 1985)
Two stepchildren, no children of their own
Military: Mexican Border War, WWI, AEF U.S. Army, Private
Occupations: Rice farmer, Veteran of WWI, miner, forest ranger, lumber company

Leo, child number two, was born in the small town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming. The name came from the Indians of the area, as it was located ten nights travel between two other towns. Along with his brothers, Leo worked with his father in the rice fields around the Sacramento valley.

1917, Chico Enterprise, Chico, California:
HAS ENLISTED TWICE: Is Still Under 20 Leo W. Chatfield, son of Mr. And Mrs. C.H. Chatfield, who have been residents of Chico for the past year, has enlisted in the quartermasters department. He left for Angel Island yesterday, and from there will go to Rockford, Ill. He expects to leave for France immediately. Although Chatfield is not 20 years of age, this is his second enlistment having served with Company I of Red Bluff on the Mexican Border. Chatfield’s brother, Charles H. Chatfield is now with Co. H. 160th Infantry at Camp Kearney.

After fighting in the Mexican Border War, Leo enlisted in WWI as a private in AEF United States Army. The ship Leo was on was bombed off the Irish coast by a German U-Boat. Wounded, he was confined to a military hospital in England to recover.

A letter from Leo to Nellie, from Liverpool, England:
January 28, 1918, My Dear Mother,
I thought I would write a few lines again today hoping that some of my letters will reach you in time. So far no more mail has come in for me and I don’t know how soon it will be, but soon I hope anyway. Am feeling fine and will be glad when the next two days go past so I can get back to work again. This laying around sure gets my gut for fair.

Last night was the coldest night we have had in England so far and tried to snow but didn’t amount to much and the sun is trying to shine for a change. How it will make out is hard to tell. Tomorrow I am on KP again. All we have to do is go to the kitchen and get the food, bring it to the ward and wash the dishes up afterwards. Sure is great to sleep on a real bed again after sleeping on the floor for about 4 months. The first 3 or 4 nights will go kind a hard but I will get used to it again.

How did the folks at Princeton make out with the rice last fall, and how do things look this spring, for if this reaches you it will be about the first of March. I would like to be there by that time but there isn’t any chance I guess. Tho when I do start for Calif I will have plenty company all the way back, for there are sure lots of Calif boys in this battalion, but most of them are from the southern part of the state. Can’t think of anything else to write so guess I will close for this time.
With love to all,

Leo Chatfield

At the age of 41, Leo married a divorced woman with two children, Ethyl Stirewalt. He wouldn’t tell his mother. He didn’t dare. It slipped out, years later.

Obituary: CHATFIELD GRAVESIDE RITES HELD July 22, 1956–A veil of sorrow fell over a shocked and grief-stricken community Friday evening with news of the sudden and untimely death of Leo Willard Chatfield, who died at a Grass Valley hospital with a heat ailment following a sudden illness of only two days. He was born at Ten Sleep, Wyoming, October 23, 1897. He came to this community over 25 years ago, first following mining, later being lookout for the forest service at Alaska Peak station, and then being assistant ranger of the Camptonville District of Tahoe National forest, which post he held for a number of years. For the last few years, he has been a log scaler for Cal-Ida Lumber Company. He was a veteran of World War I and a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Chatfield was a man of fine reputation and sterling character, of kind and charitable disposition and has a host of friends throughout this section. He was an outstanding citizen and took a prominent part in the affairs of the community, always willing to do his part for the good of the place in which he lived. He recently built a new home on upper Main Street and spent much time in beautifying the premises with orchard and garden. His passing will leave a vacancy that cannot easily be filled.

He is survived by: a wife, Ethyl; stepson; stepdaughter; four sisters, Mrs. Nellie McElhiney of Mission San Jose, Mrs. Verda Day of Chico, Mrs. Ina Fouch of Yuba City, Mrs. Noreen Clemens of San Jose; three brothers, Charles of South San Francisco, Arden and Roy of Chico.

3. Howard Francis Chatfield
Born: Jun 13, 1899 in Eldora or Loveland, Boulder Co., Colorado
Died: Jan 16, 1953 (age 53), heart attack; Chico, Butte Co., California
Married: Dec 27, 1919, Evelyn Alice Wilson (1901 –1969)
Children: six daughters (one died at three days)
Occupation: Rancher, farmer, Diamond Match, Union Ice Company manager, butcher

On December 27, 1919, Howard eloped with his sweetheart, Evelyn Alice Wilson, a 17-year-old English girl who happened to be three months pregnant. They fudged the marriage certificate to read 1918. When Grandma found out her son married Evelyn in the Episcopalian Church, she demanded that the couple remarry in the Catholic Church or he’d never set foot in her house again. They abided by his mother’s wishes, but Howard seldom set foot in her house again anyway. The only reason he saw Nellie was because Evelyn insisted he see her on Mother’s Day and her birthday, with card and gift in hand. After all, she was still his mother.

Like others in his family, Howard worked early on for the Diamond Match Company. Howard and Evelyn lived in Orland where he worked as a manager for the Union Ice Company, delivering ice in a horse-drawn delivery wagon. The horse knew the route and except for moving the ice from the wagon to the porch, could have delivered it without Howard. He was a small man—small enough where he rode trick horses in a circus; his friends thought he should be a jockey. Howard moved to Chico to raise their family. He worked two jobs, belonging to the butcher’s union and tending bar at night for the Elk’s Club. He was fastidious and came from the butcher shop at lunchtime every day to change his shirt and apron. He kept his shoes polished, his sock drawer orderly, and his slacks carefully folded in a drawer rather than hanging them; he didn’t want a hanger mark on the legs.

Howard had five daughters, and he kept the women in his family well dressed, well fed, and well cared for. Every year at Christmas he borrowed $1,000 from his banker on a handshake so he could give his wife and daughters a good Christmas, and every year it took him six months to pay it back. He never wanted them to be without.

His obituary of Jan 16, 1953 reads: Howard F. Chatfield, Chico resident since 1915, died at his home Friday after an illness of several months. Chatfield was born in Eldora, Colorado, June 13, 1899. He was educated in Chico schools after coming here with his parents. He was employed at the Union Ice Company for 15 years, then became a butcher after learning the trade at the Chico Meat Company.

Chatfield is survived by his wife, Evelyn; his mother, Mrs. Nellie Chatfield, Chico; and five daughters. The following brothers and sisters also survive: Leo Chatfield, Nevada City, Arden and Roy Chatfield, Chico, Charles Chatfield, San Francisco, Mrs. George Day, Chico, Mrs. Carl Clemens, Sonora, Mrs. James Fouch, Yuba City, and Mrs. Nellie McElhiney, Oakland. Mr. Chatfield was an active member of Chico Lodge 423, BPOE, and Local 352 of the Butcher’s Union.

Rosary services will be conducted Sunday evening at 8 o’clock at Bruise Funeral Home. Mass will be said for the repose of his soul at St. John’s the Baptist Catholic Church. Interment will follow in the Catholic section of the Chico Cemetery.

4. Roy Elmer Chatfield
Born: Mar 20, 1901 in Rifle, Garfield Co., Colorado
Died: Jul 11, 1978 (age 77), heart failure; Chico, Butte Co., California
Married: Aug 1, 1956, Josephine Elizabeth “Jo” Chambers (1900 – 1982)
No children
Occupation: Rice farmer, Union Ice Co, Diamond Match lumber grader, Grey Eagle Lumber

Roy was like a piece of white paper. When people came around he blended into the wall or disappeared into the woodwork. Most of the women thought him a mama’s boy; spoiled, selfish, and bratty. The men’s notion of him wasn’t any better; behind his back they referred to him as tight (he was a great saver of money) and called him a dandy. He was childlike and childish, particularly with his nieces and nephews. He’d pinch or push them when Grandma wasn’t looking, and say snide things to them when her back was turned.

Grandma protected Roy and enjoyed his company. Teasing her, he’d tip her back in her slide rocker and she’d get a kick out of it and say, “Oh Roy, now cut it out.” When they were the last two living in the house, the only other chair in the green-painted, wainscoted, ivy wallpapered kitchen was his. He had nervous “fits” and Grandma slid a piece of wood under his tongue until it was over so he wouldn’t swallow it. Other times when he was out partying or off with friends and could tell when one was coming on, he’d lock himself in the closet until the spell was over.

He was shy around everyone except Jo Chambers. They skated, skied, and had snow fights. On Saturday nights they drove to Paradise to dance with their friends. They did the Charleston to the Big Bands, along with the shag and swing. They were the best of friends, more like brother and sister than a “couple.” Jo was a friend of the family, too, so always around. She was gracious and seemed years ahead of her time. Everyone wondered what she saw in Roy. He proposed to her when he was eighteen and she nineteen, and they were engaged for 38 years.

Roy promised his mother he wouldn’t marry until she died. In return, Nellie promised him she’d leave him the house. Keeping his promise, he waited six month after his mother’s death to marry. Jo had also promised her mother she wouldn’t marry until her mother died, and though her mother had died some years before, she honored his promise, too. On August 1, 1956, in Reno, Nevada, Roy, at age 54, married Jo, age 55. They spent the next twenty-three years in the Boucher Street house until Roy died of heart failure at age 77. The Boucher house, though originally intended for inheritance by Roy’s siblings, passed on to Jo.

Obituary: R.E. Chatfield Rosary will be recited at 8 p.m. Thursday in the chapel of the Bruise Funeral Home for Roy Elmer Chatfield, 77, of 1542 Boucher Street. Chatfield died Tuesday at a local hospital. Born March 20, 1901 in Rifle, Colo., to Charles H. and Nellie Chatfield, he received his early education in Los Molinos. He came to Chico in 1915 where he was employed by Union Ice Company for 15 years, then later by Grey Eagle Co. for approximately 10 years. Chatfield was a 50-year member of Modern Woodmen of America and St. John the Baptist Church. Survivors include his wife, Josephine of Chico, two brothers, Charles of Paradise and Arden of Chico, and three sisters, Verda Day of Chico, Ina Fouch of Yuba City and Nellie McElhiney of Martinez.

5. Nellie Mary “Nella May” Chatfield
Born: Mar 11, 1903 in Rifle, Garfield Co., Colorado
Died: Nov 21, 1983 (age 80), stroke; Martinez, Contra Costa Co., California
Married: April 1926, Edward Waldon McElhiney (1905 – 1972)
Married: circa 1931, Louis Lee Mote (unkn – unkn)
Four children
Occupation: Diamond Match, night shift Moore Dry Dock Shipyard WWII, Sears & Roebuck food concession, cook/housekeeper for priests

There was a time my grandmother worked at Diamond Match, employed as a wrapper, a floor lady, and then as a supervisor. In 1926 and 1927, my grandfather worked there too. So did some of their children: Howard, Verda, Nella May, Gordon and his wife, Hylda, and Roy and his sweetheart, Jo. Diamond Match was one of the largest manufacturing companies in America. The railroad line skirting the Chico plant carried lumber directly from its Stirling mountain operations and stored the dry lumber in the Chico yard until processed. The largest employer in Chico until its doors closed in 1958, Diamond manufactured wood matches and matchboxes, doors and sashes, veneer and plywood, wooden produce boxes, apiaries and bee-keeping supplies. Much of the timber went to build the stately homes in San Francisco. It was a huge enterprise that included a machine shop, a foundry, and mill works along with an employee social hall, baseball diamond, and badminton courts. The west end of 16th Street led directly into the 133-acre site, and was within walking distance of the Chatfield home on Boucher Street.

It was in 1920 that Nella May, at sixteen and the eldest Chatfield daughter, worked there. She made good money for the day, spending most of her salary on stylish clothing. A clotheshorse, young and single, she had an extensive wardrobe, $5,000 worth of fancy brimmed hats, winter wool coats tied at the waist, long calf-length plaid skirts topped with cream-colored blouses featuring velvet ribbon running through the neckline, sashed blouses tied to the side in streamers, and sheer blouses cinched just below the waist with a big side bow that fell straight to tunic length, camisoles underneath. She was generous with her pay and bought her sisters clothes too. Ina never liked what her sister chose, but she couldn’t complain; it would hurt Nella May’s feelings, as she was so good, kind, and true.

Nella May was a looker, small boned and delicate, just over five feet tall. At twenty, she entered a beauty contest with all the ladies standing behind a curtain, showing only their legs. She won; the prize, silk stockings. In 1923, silk stockings were a rare luxury every woman appreciated.

There was a group of free-spirited beauties working at Diamond Match. Dressed in their uniforms, bloomers tucked inside their knee-stockings, hats protecting their hair, they stood together boxing matches. Before the final wrapping, they carefully wrote their names on small white cards and inserted them inside the boxes. Men often wrote back to them in care of the match company, enclosing photos of themselves and their friends. Usually just pen pal letters, but some of these correspondences blossomed into romances. When they could, the eligible young men arranged to meet the girls at the dance hall in Paradise, a half hours drive from Chico. Everyone danced at the dance hall in Paradise.

In April, 1926, Nella May married Ed McElhiney, the first marriage in the family since Howard married Evelyn eight years prior. McElhiney wasn’t Catholic, so no mass was said at their wedding ceremony, a fact her mother never let Nella May forget. Nella May was also pregnant, but she was just getting started collecting black marks in her mother’s book. Her husband worked for Southern Pacific railroad and they lived in a boxcar from April through November. Eight months pregnant, and too cold to cook outside, she tried to cook a chicken for dinner in their makeshift living quarters, and he laughed at her. Nella May, though on the quiet side, and tiny, just over five feet tall, was not a woman to be laughed at.

She left her husband and moved back home to her mother’s, where she gave birth to her firstborn, naming him after her older brother and St. Joseph. Roy Joseph McElhiney. They called him Buster. Shortly after, word came to Chico that McElhiney was killed in a train coupling accident.

In 1930, Nella May moved to the Bay Area, borrowing money from Roy and giving him her wedding ring, a round-cut, single-carat diamond between two inlaid rubies, outlined by a ring of deep-blue sapphires and smaller diamonds, as collateral. Moving to Oakland, she married a second time to Louis Lee Mote. It wasn’t until she was married to Mote that word came to her about McElhiney. Turns out he hadn’t been killed in a train accident. It was a case of mistaken identity; her first husband was still alive. Oops.

Nella May and Buster

She left Mote soon after. It was just as well; he was a drinker who slapped Nellie around. When Buster got between them to protect his mother, who was now pregnant with her second child, he ended up on the other side of the room after a swing from Mote. It was time to pack up and leave. Mote ended up in the Philippines. He had an eye put out by a broken beer bottle in a drunken brawl, then went blind in the other eye. He spent the rest of his life somewhere up in Texas, or maybe it was Utah, in a home for the blind.

At eight or nine, Buster was sick with a lung infection. He went to Del Valle Arroyo, a tuberculosis hospital near Vallejo. He was there a year, quarantined the whole time, so he wouldn’t catch TB. And the whole time he was there, not one person came to visit. He was too far away, his mother had little money, and she didn’t drive. Few people had cars in the mid-30s; they walked everywhere: to church, to school, to shops. Alone, he spent his time reading volume after volume of the Wizard of Oz. After Buster recovered, Uncle Charlie and Aunt Velma drove Nella May to pick him up. His mother was still living in Oakland and had just had her third child and second daughter, with no father in sight.

Buster was a handful, and Nella May didn’t know what to do with a young boy. Left to fend for himself, he’d be gone for two or three days, off exploring, doing whatever he wanted, sleeping wherever he could. His mother didn’t ask him where he’d been. It was even harder now for her to raise Buster, so Charlie and Velma took him into their home in Lodi for about a year and a half. He was happy there. But one summer day, when he was working in their fruit stand, bucking their authority he told them, “You can’t tell me what to do–you’re not my parents.” Her younger sister Ina took him for a while, and then he went back to his mother.

Then a fourth child came along: at eight and a half pounds, it was a huge baby for someone as tiny as Nella May, and the birth didn’t go well; they should have taken her by cesarean. Nella May tore badly and was in a convalescent hospital with her new daughter for three months. Her three other children stayed in a foster home until she could get back on her feet.

Nella May was living on Chestnut Street in Oakland, 35 years old with a son and three young girls. She kept her first husband’s last name and gave it to her four children. Who the two youngest girls’ fathers were, no one knows; their mother kept those affairs private. Maybe McElhiney came back into her life. A man turned up on her doorstep once, wanting to see her, but she refused, saying he’d caused her enough trouble. She never talked about the bad side of life, including her own. Once, and only once, her daughter asked her about her past. Nella May’s response was, “What, are you trying to give me a migraine?”

Twenty years later, Nella May paid Roy the money she’d borrowed and went home to collect her wedding ring. Roy had given it to Grandma for safekeeping. The ring did not get brought up until it was time to go, and as Nella May and her daughters were ready to leave, she asked that it be returned. Grandma knew the ring was the reason she’d come, and had it hidden it in a pocket of her bloomers. She left the room to remove the ring in privacy, walked back into the front parlor, and sternly plunked the ring in her eldest daughter’s out-stretched hand, snapping, “This ring has caused more trouble in this family than it’s worth.”

Nella May was Nellie’s fifth child, but her first girl, and throughout her childhood she protected and coddled her tow-headed wisp. Nella May and Roy were Nellie’s favorites of all of her children, and she spoiled them both, terribly. And though Grandma may have been partial to Nella May as a child, she certainly hadn’t any partiality for her since that fancy diamond, ruby, and sapphire ring appeared on the scene.

6. Gordon Gregory Chatfield
Born: Dec 20, 1905 in Casper, Natrona Co., Wyoming
Died: Nov 19, 1948 (age 43), complications from WWII injuries; San Francisco, California
Married: abt 1927, Hylda Pauline Hughes (1909 – 2000)
Divorced: bet 1939 and 1940
No children
Military: WWII, U.S. Army Air Force, 306th Airdrome Squadron
Occupations: Farm laborer, Diamond Match, mattress manufacturing, furniture finisher

A letter from Gordon to his mother:
Aug. 12, 1943
My Dear Mom,
Well here I am at Ginger Field, Washington. I am in an Airdrome squadron and we are supposed to be across by Xmas, I hope. An Airdrome squadron moves in on an enemy airdrome. As soon as they move out, we fix it up and have it ready for our planes to land on. Also we are the infantry of the Air Force. We all get rifles and sub-machine guns and pistols and they are making sure we learn how to use them. That part comes very easy to me, thank goodness.

Next week we are going up in the mountains above Spokane to a place called Seven Mile. We are going to sleep in Pup tents and live on regular battle rations, go through regular battle maneuvers, crawl through barbed wire over the ground and have real machine guns shooting over us just 40 inches above the ground, so believe me, I am sure going to keep my little fanny way down. Also we are going to get rifle practice and more rifle practice, as our Major told us today. It looks like all are well.
With love to all,

Your loving son Gordon

Sometime around 1927, Gordon married Hylda Pauline Hughes, a young beauty who also worked at Diamond Match. They lived in Chico during their marriage, and had no children.

During the war, Howard was injured in a fall from an open airplane bay and walked with a limp and a cane thereafter. Living on his pension, he worked some as a carpenter and upholsterer. Like his brother Roy, he too, had a mean streak. Whenever either of his young nieces walked by and no one was looking, he’d swat at them with his cane. They learned pretty quickly to go around or run past him to avoid being his target. When he denied doing anything, everyone took his side; they felt sorry for him because of his injury. His accident in the service contributed to his early death in Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco, and he died a month short of turning 43, three months after I was born. He’s buried in the Presidio Cemetery in San Francisco.

7. Verda Agnes Chatfield
Born: Aug 23, 1908 in Sanders, Rosebud Co., Montana
Died: Sep 26, 1978 (age 70), heart attack; Chico, Butte Co., California
Married: Mar 27, 1927, George William Day (1898 –1954)
Two stepsons
Four children with George
Occupations: Diamond Match, ran college boarding house in Chico, ran dress shop and motel

Verda married George Day in 1927, a non-Catholic who converted the day before their wedding. Grandma wasn’t happy about the union. George was ten years older than Verda, who was only 18, and he was a widower with two small sons (a two-year-old and an eight-year-old) who married Verda less than a year after his first wife’s death from a botched abortion. He drove a brand new Jordan, which cost a fortune, also a strike against him in Grandma’s eyes. Any one of those facts was enough to raise a mother’s eyebrows. He was also the nephew of a bootlegger, but Grandma didn’t know that. Actually, George was in business with his Uncle Louis, distributing slot machines and punchboards (stand-up, lottery-type gambling games) to taverns and country stores, along with dispensing a little liquor on the side. Liquor was sold in mason jars and whenever a raid took place, the innkeeper bumped the jar of white lightening with his elbow, knocking it over, any evidence disappearing down the drain. Bootlegging was the country’s most profitable industry and gambling was the real great American pastime. George’s 1927 Jordan was a beautiful touring car with a California top of a leather-covered hardwood roof, sliding plate glass windows, and a hood ornament that was a block away from the steering wheel. In 1926 a Jordan Playboy cost $1,845, and in 1930 a Model T sticker was $300.

George was a slight, wiry man, high-strung and unpredictable. A one-time semi-professional bantamweight boxer, he never weighed much more than 120 pounds, and could lift twice his weight. He was a drinker whose his stomach problems eventually kept him away from alcohol, and he smoked a pack of Luckies a day.

Verda insisted that George drive the family to church even though he refused to attend. Every Sunday he asked why there was no breakfast, and every Sunday Verda reminded him they were going to communion. And every Sunday, George, who never left the house before eating breakfast, offered the same rant and opinion on the Catholic claim of going to hell for eating before communion, and on the priest who served it. “That sonofabitch. He’s not only had breakfast—he’s had a couple of shots of wine before it!” George waited in the car under a shade tree while his wife and daughter attended Mass, and God help them if they were the last ones out of the church. With his history, George already jeopardized his opportunity of getting to heaven, though with his language, I don’t think he had much of a chance anyway.

Carl Clemens, George Day

George and Verda had five children, but lost a daughter the year before her second child, Marceline, was born. George was a manager with Union Ice Company for 25 years, starting in Watsonville where Dad first worked with him, next in Vallejo, and then in Redwood City. Before refrigerators, people had iceboxes in their kitchens or on their porches and the icemen delivered 50 or 100-pound blocks to homes on a regular basis. After WWII electric refrigerators were being built and within a few years the local delivery of ice to individual households ended; the only delivery left was of ice cubes and crushed ice to bars and restaurants until ice-making machines hit the market, spelling the doom of the Union Ice Company. When George retired in the 1950s, the family moved to Chico, and for several years he and Verda ran a girls’ boardinghouse for college students.

Sep 26, 1978, Chico Enterprise, Chico, California:
VERDA DAY Rosary will be recited at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday in the chapel of the Bruise Funeral Home for Verda Agnes Day, 70, of 123 Henshaw Ave. Mrs. Day died today at a local hospital. Born Aug 23, 1908, in Sanders, Mont., to Charles and Nellie Chatfield, she moved to Chico with her family at the age of three and was educated here. She married George W. Day in 1927 and moved to the Bay Area, living in Watsonville and Redwood City, before returning to Chico in 1950. Mrs. Day was involved with college housing until her retirement in 1972. She was a member of the Catholic Ladies Relief Society, AARP, Senior Citizens organizations, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Our Divine Savior Catholic Parish.

Survivors are her four sons; two daughters; two brothers, Charles Joseph Chatfield of Paradise and Arden Chatfield of Chico; two sisters, Nellie May McElhiney of Martinez and Ina Fouch of Yuba City; 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Father Edward O’Hara of Our Divine Savior Catholic Parish will act as celebrant of the mass at 9 a.m. Thursday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Visitation will be between 5 and 9 p.m. Wednesday in the chapel of the Brusie Funeral Home.

8. Arden Sherman Chatfield
Born: Aug 29, 1910 in Sanders, Rosebud Co., Montana
Died: Oct 3, 1981 (age 71), heart failure; Chico, Butte Co., California
Never married, no children
Military: WW II, U.S. Army, Private, cook
Occupations: Farm laborer, Chico Ice Company, butcher’s union, cook, waiter, dishwasher

Arden was the wanderer in the family, a vagabond of sorts. He traveled the country by hitchhiking and railway, seeing every state except Oklahoma through his dark glasses. Even on the road he was immaculately dressed, favoring light-colored slacks and shirts, his shoes always shined. Story has it that he wore two shirts, two pair of pants, and two pairs of socks so he could travel empty handed.

He habitually disappeared for a few days, occasionally for a few weeks, often for a few months, and sometimes for a couple of years. One early Sunday afternoon he got up in the middle of a conversation with his mother, walked out the front door, and no one saw him again for three years. When he returned, he walked back in, sat back down, and finished his sentence as if he’d never left. Years before he’d been hit on the head with a fifty-pound block of ice while working at the ice company. It must have affected him.

Arden broke the rules—and sometimes he broke the law. He was once hauled into court in front of a local judge who had lost all patience with him. “You, sir,” the judge shouted, “are a bum,” implying Arden was someone too lazy to work and wasted his life wandering. “I, sir,” Arden replied with dignity, “am not a bum. I am a hobo.” My mother’s brother had deliberately chosen a wandering life.

To the embarrassment of his family, he sometimes made the local paper:

1930s, Chico Enterprise, Chico, California:
TRANSIENT BOOKED Arden Chatfield, a transient, is scheduled to appear in police court tomorrow following his arrest at 7:15 p.m. last night at Humbolds road and Mill streets on a charge of vagrancy.

1935, Chico Enterprise, Chico, California:
BANDIT SUSPECT FREED BY DEATH Because death wouldn’t take a holiday, Arden Chatfield, a 25-year-old youth, yesterday escaped a robbery trial. Chico authorities were notified by the police that the complaining witness died two weeks ago and prosecution would be useless. Judge Carraghar sentenced Chatfield to 30 days in the county jail for technical vagrancy. He was arrested by Sergeant Lee Parker, who testified he found several cans of marijuana in Chatfield’s pockets.

Obituary: October 1981, Chico Enterprise, Chico, California:
Arden Chatfield. Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday at Brusie Funeral Home for Arden Sherman Chatfield, 71, of Chico. He died Saturday in a local hospital. Born Aug 29, 1910, to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Chatfield in Sanders, Mont. His family moved to Chico when he was five. He was reared and educated here. He served in World War II and worked as a farm laborer for 30 years. He retired when he was 65 years old. Survivors include two sisters, Ina Fouch of Yuba City and Nellie McElhiney of Martinez; and a brother, Charles, of Paradise. Burial will be at the Chico Cemetery.

Ina made the arrangements for her brother’s funeral. Arden had money in the bank to cover his burial costs; the Veteran’s Administration paid for his headstone.

9. Ina Chatfield
Born: Feb 24, 1913 in Sanders, Rosebud Co., Montana
Died: Feb 1993 (age 79), heart failure; Yuba City, Sutter Co., California
Married: May 22, 1932, James Leroy “Jim” Fouch (1909 – 1984)
Three children
Occupations: Golden Eagle Cafe (Colusa), butcher dept. at Safeway and Purity markets

Ina was small, cool and calm, and very private like Nella May. Both were sensitive, and their voices were identical too. In 1932, Ina married Jim Fouch, the only son-in-law other than my father whom Grandma liked. From a car accident in high school, he had a crippled foot and one leg shorter than the other. He was a draftsman for the Division of Highways, a surveyor for Yuba County, worked construction, and was a fisherman and a hunter. He loved pheasant and geese hunting up in the beautiful Butte Meadows, and deer hunting around Chico, Madera, and Colusa. His hunting dog, Timberline Shorty, was always at his side. Whenever he was in the area, Jim stayed with Grandma. He enjoyed visiting her, and said she was a darn good cook… this from a man whose mother was the best cook in the world. Jim got along with Grandma; he was Catholic. He smoked, but out of respect for Grandma, he always smoked outside.

Jul 24, 1932, Colusa newspaper, California:
Jimmie Fouch, Ina Chatfield, Wed in Nevada
Ina, 19-year old daughter of Mrs. N.C. Chatfield of this city and James Fouch, Jr., 23-year old son of Mr. and Mrs. James Fouch, well known residents of Colusa, surprised their friends yesterday with the announcement that they were united in marriage at noon Sunday in Reno, Nev., by Father J. Graves. The newlyweds returned to Colusa Sunday afternoon and “Jimmie,” as he is familiarly known, was at work in the Public Service store here.

The couple left for Colusa about 9 o’clock Saturday night by automobile. They encountered a snowstorm beyond Auburn and did not reach their destination until 6 a.m. Sunday. Ed N. Anfinson drove the couple to their destination. Steele Houx and Miss Margaret Anderson were the other members of the bridal party. Although the Chatfield family recently established itself in Colusa the members have made many friends, particularly the bride, who brings many virtues to the new home for Colusa. Young Fouch is a Colusa high school boy and has scores of friends to wish him well in his new venture.

Feb 18, 1993, Appeal Democrat, Colusa, California:
Funeral services are scheduled at 10 am Tuesday at McNary Chapel in Colusa for Ina Fouch, 79, of Yuba City, who died Feb. 17, 1993, at Rideout Hospital. A native of Montana, she had lived in the Yuba-Sutter area 52 years. She was a housewife. She is survived by a son; two daughters; nine grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, James Fouch, eight years ago. Burial will be Colusa Catholic Cemetery. Visitation is scheduled Sunday and Monday from 7 until 9 pm at the chapel.

Ina and Jim had three children and were married for fifty-two years until his death in 1982. Eight years later, Ina, at the age of 79, died of heart failure. It was discovered after her death that her name on her birth certificate was Jacqueline Chatfield, Ina being a diminutive of Jacqueline.

10. Noreen Ellen “Babe” Chatfield
And then, there was Babe…

Family Lineage

Charles Henry “Charlie” Chatfield (my grandfather)
(6th of 9 children of Isaac Willard “I.W.” Chatfield & Eliza Ann Harrington)
Nellie Belle Chamberlin (my grandmother)
(1st of 6 children of Finley McLaren “Frank” Chamberlin & Emily S. Hoy)
Dec 26, 1894, Charles and Nellie married in Fruita, Mesa Co., Colorado
Ten children:
1. Charles Joseph “Charlie” Chatfield
1895 – 1986
2. Leo Willard Chatfield
1897 – 1956
3. Howard Francis Chatfield
1899 – 1953
4. Roy Elmer Chatfield
1901 – 1978
5. Nellie Mary “Nella May” Chatfield
1903 – 1983
6. Gordon Gregory Chatfield
1905 – 1948
7. Verda Agnes Chatfield
1908 – 1978
8. Arden Sherman Chatfield
1910 – 1981
9. Ina Chatfield
1913 – 1993
10. Noreen Ellen “Babe” Chatfield
1915 – 1968

Hylda, Gordon, Jo, Roy, Velma, Charlie

back: Velma, Arden, Charlie, Hylda, Leo, Ina
front: Ada Whitaker (Nellie’s sister), Roy, Nellie, Babe, Gordon
(both pictures taken at same time in Chico, abt 1930)

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. John Norville Chatfield, Jr says:

    I met Isaac Chatfield’s grandson at genealogy conference in Denver. His story (have copy) is in the Library there. Isaac mined in Florence, Leadville (mayor) and Smuggler in Aspen. Retired to South Platte in Denver, thus the Chatfield resevoir. Harry Chatfield died here 20 years ago. He interviewed every Chatfield he could find, and gave me three volumes of genealogy. His papers went to James Chatfield of Wolcott, NY, whom I met. I know all my GA & AL relatives descended from George Washington Chatfield who had two wives due to War 1814.

  2. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    I am so envious that you’ve been able to do this much research and fact gathering about your family!! Want to take on mine? Good job honey.

  3. What a fascinating cast of characters. You’ve brought them back to life.
    You could write a novel about each one of them! Your research is awesome.

    • I wish I’d this curiosity while they were still alive. I only met Aunt Ina and her husband Jim. I tracked down most of my cousins, which is how I got the stories. My borther and I spent a couple of years researching the family. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had.

  4. Jim Chatfield says:

    What a story of your family and you made the reader feel like they were right with you. Also learned some history when you told about the Chatfield dam there in Colorado. Always was curious about the Chatfield connection to the Dam, the resivor, and the Park.

    • Chatfield State Park History
      The area where Chatfield State Park now sits was a major thoroughfare into Pike’s Peak country since 1858. The area also supported the first lumber industry and the initial purebred cattle industry within the state. Civil War Lieutenant Isaac W. Chatfield bought 720 acres of Colorado land in 1870 where the South Platte River and Plum Creek meet. Isaac lived on and farmed the land until 1879 when he moved, but left his namesake for the reservoir and dam. During the early to mid-1900s, the Chatfield area became notorious for floods. Floods repeatedly devastated the area in 1933, 1935, 1942 and 1965. In order to resolve this problem, the U.S. Army Corps constructed the Chatfield dam beginning in 1967. The area was leased to Colorado State Parks for recreational purposes in 1974 and then eventually developed into Chatfield State Park in 1976. With such a great location, Chatfield has become a popular family park offering something for everyone. Source: Colorado Sate Parks website

      Chatfield High School in Littleton, Arapahoe County, Colorado is also named after Isaac W. Chatfield: On Tuesday, April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School massacre occurred in Jefferson County, Colorado, near Denver and Littleton. Two teenage students carried out a shooting rampage—killing 12 students and a teacher and wounding 24 others—before committing suicide. After the shooting, classes at Columbine were held at nearby Chatfield High for the remaining three weeks of that school year.

  5. It helped a lot to put things into perspective. We had a hobo too. It must have been common back in the day. We lived near the railroad tracks and hobos would often come to the door looking for a bite to eat. My Irish mother would always bring them in and set them right down at the table with us. No one would think of doing such a thing today.

  6. Families are so cool to learn about. I really enjoyed this piece Catherine.

    • Throughout the story I refer back to them and their connection to the family, so if those following along wanted some context to remember who is who, this would help. It’s confusing sorting through this Cast of Thousands…

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