Friday, October 28, 2016

Prof's Progeny

In our earlier post, 20th Century Callin Clan, we recounted the colorful lives of the children of Civil War veteran John Henry Callin and his wife, Amanda Walker. This week, we will take a look at the descendants of their eldest son:

Byron Herbert "Prof" Callin (1874-1933) was a complex character. Studying his life, and tracing the records he left behind, it is clear that he was driven by ambitions and desires that conflicted with each other. His choices drove him to abandon his family - more than once - and led to his untimely death. There are a lot of questions we won't be able to answer, and I will try to stick to the facts; but know that there are some parts of this story that are still contentious, and the implications of what we know happened may provoke some strong opinions among his survivors.

Byron Herbert "Prof" Callin
Byron was a precocious student, and a well known teacher from the time he received his teaching certificate at age 16. His nickname, "Prof," came from his identity as a teacher, and it seems clear that he inherited his love of learning from his father. Prof seemed to have ideas about how the family name should be pronounced ("Collin," with the round "ah" sound instead of the flatter "a" of "Callin"), and later in his life, he seems to have preferred to be called "Herbert" instead of Byron, feeling that Herbert was more refined.

He married his first wife, Frances Edith "Fanny" Muir (1873–1946), on 18 July 1896, when he was 21 years old. She was the daughter of one of the Scottish settlers that gave Scotch Ridge its name. John D. Muir (1841–1920) was the son of James Muir, and served as a commissioned officer in the Civil War.

Byron and his father-in-law both featured in the local history of Wood county published in the late 1890s, each receiving their own hagiographic sketch. The impression this gives me is that Byron, as the son of one Civil War hero, felt some societal pressure to marry the daughter of another such war hero. The couple's fathers may have put them together; and the connections between the Callin and Muir families through the United Brethren Church may have also added to that pressure.

Byron and Fannie moved to Dayton, where Byron was teaching in 1900; but not long after that, Byron took a teaching job in South Dakota, and left Fannie in Ohio. They had no children, and it seems to me that either Byron felt the Pull of the West (and Fannie did not), or the couple thought that after some time apart, he would return to her. Regardless of their intentions, Byron was living in Aberdeen, South Dakota in 1905; and by 1910, Fannie Muir was divorced, and living in her father's home in Webster township.

Ruby Mary Cole Callin
Byron soon remarried. His second wife was Ruby Mary Cole (1885–1973), and it was during their courtship that Byron was injured by his shotgun during a hunting trip. As the story goes, he and Ruby were riding in a buggy, when the horse became spooked. In the subsequent furor, the gun that he had in the front of the buggy discharged and struck him in the right side of his jaw. He carried a terrible scar on his face for the rest of his life - and in the portrait above, you will note that he keeps his right side turned away from the camera. According to Truman Matcham, Byron's nephew, the family was always suspicious of the story and felt there was more to it than Byron would admit.

Ruby was born in Shabbona, De Kalb county, Illinois, where her parents met. Her father, Elijah Cole, moved the family to South Dakota when she was in her teens. While it isn't clear how long Byron was in South Dakota before he divorced Fannie, he and Ruby were married in 1906 - and they had three daughters in their household by 1910.

Byron was very much on the move during these years. His children were each born in a different state - Opal in Minnesota, Elda in South Dakota, and Pearl in Montana. In 1915, the family was settled in Middlefield, Otsego county, New York - known today as the site of Cooperstown - and they remained there for several years.

Byron stayed put until 1923, when he moved the family to Reading, Pennsylvania; after that, it isn't clear where they went, but probably by 1925, Ruby and the children were living back in Ipswich, South Dakota, and Byron stopped appearing in the records.

     I. Opal Leota Callin (1907–1978) was born in Solway, Beltrami county, Minnesota. Her mother and siblings had moved back to South Dakota, where she married Nicholas Clarence Blanksma (1895–1988) on 8 December 1926. They had five children, two of whom are still living; two sons and three daughters. They also took in their niece, the daughter of Nick's brother, Jacob P Blanksma (1897–1988), after her mother died.

Violet Lucile Blanksma (1923-2011) was less than two years old when her mother, Francis Marie Gibbons Blanksma (1904–1925), died at 21 years of age. Violet would marry twice: first, to Herman Lester Mills (1912–1991) on 12 November 1941, with whom she had a son and a daughter, still living; then Willard Fredrick "Bud" Eppler (1924–1992) in 1967. Violet loved living on the farm, and raised her family there.

       A. Ruby Agnes Blanksma (1930–2009) married Otis Jess Jacobsen (1925–1994) - twice, if I read the records correctly! The Blanksma family moved to Washington state between 1935 and 1940, and Ruby and Otis were married on 2 April 1947, and again on 11 October 1986 - both records appearing in different Washington marriage record databases. I don't believe they had children of their own.

       B. Dean Herbert Blanksma (1931–1983) married three times; he had no children of his own but he helped raise 5 step-children.

       C. Bonnie Jean Blanksma (1934–1992) married Elvin R Fetch (1927–1993) in Coos Bay, Oregon, on 26 August 1952. As far as I know, they have two sons, still living.

     II. Elda Geraldine Callin (1908–1969) was born in Ipswich, South Dakota, and returned there in her early teens after growing up in Otsego county, New York. She married Delbert Clyde Triplett (1904–1954) in September 1928, and returned with him to his native Kansas. They raised two daughters, who are still living.

     III. Pearl Neoma Callin (1910–1974) was born in Plevna, Montana, where her father was teaching and served as the post master for a short time. She married Emerson Wertz (1907–1999) on 28 November 1928 in Edmunds county, South Dakota. They had one son, still living, but Pearl and Emerson divorced in 1934. She remarried in 1935, this time wedding Jacob P Blanksma (1897–1988), her sister Opal's widowed brother-in-law.

     IV. Perda J Callin (1917–1920) was born in Middlefield, New York, and died there after suffering for several weeks from scarlet fever.
Found on

     V. Elsie Permelia Callin (1921–1970) was born in New York, after the death of Perda. She was still very young when her mother and siblings moved back to South Dakota. She married Carl Jacob Weber (1907–1975) on 16 May 1935, and they remained in the Edmunds county area the remainder of their lives.

       A. Mary Elizabeth Weber (1935–2010) was born in Ipswich. She attended Northern State Teachers College at Aberdeen, graduating with a first grade certificate. She taught two years in rural Edmunds County. She married Fred H. Zantow (1923–1985) on 12 August 1955, and they moved to Lead, South Dakota, in September 1956. They moved to Spearfish in 1982 after Fred retired. The couple did not have any children of their own, but helped raise their nieces and nephews.

       B. Joyce Jean Weber (1940–2000) married James Alvin Wescott (1931–2005) on 6 August 1955. They had three children: two sons, and a daughter, still living. They divorced at some point, and Joyce married Rudolph Carl Zantow (1926–1995) on 25 November 1961. They had at least two sons, one of whom is still living. Joyce has two other daughters, still living, but I was not able to tell which daughter came from which marriage. Joyce was survived by her third husband.

     1. David James Wescott (1956–1994) served in the U.S. Coast Guard for six years, from 1975 to 1981. He resided in Puyallup, Washington.

     2. James Alvin Wescott (1958–1999) as born 2 July 1958 in Faulkton, South Dakota. Jim worked as a longshoreman in Puyallup, and was survived by his wife and two children.

     3. Rudolph Julius "R.J." Zantow (1963–2003) was born in Tucson, Arizona, and died at age 40 in Springfield, Illinois.

       C. Dale Emerson Weber (1942–1992) served in the U.S. Air Force from 1959 to 1963. He married Yvonne Isabel Childress (1935–1992) on 10 July 1964, and they lived in Washington state.

       D. Diana Elsie (Weber) Geist (1946–2008) was survived by her ex-husband, and two of their three children. Her son Kevin Dean Geist (1966–1984) died at only 17 years of age.

     VI. John Elijah Callin (1923–2008) was the youngest child, and only son, of Byron and Ruby Callin. He was born in Tannersville, New York, but was still very small when the family moved to South Dakota. He married Alice Yoshiko Shimona (1929–1969) on 23 December 1954 in Los Angeles, California. Alice's parents had come to the United States from Hiroshima, Japan, around the time of the First World War, and settled in Colorado, where Alice was born. The family was interred at the Poston War Relocation Center during the Second World War.

After losing his wife and his son, John married Vivian Lucille Cook (1912–1999) in Los Angeles on 28 November 1974.

       A. Michael E Callin (1958–1973) was 15 years old on 25 December 1973, when he was accidentally shot to death by a neighbor boy while playing with a rifle that was a Christmas gift.

Those were the descendants of  Byron and Ruby, but there are still a few descendants through his third wife who are living today.

There is no nice way to say that Prof abandoned his family, but I am told that this is how they felt about it. Around 1930, he divorced Ruby. He married a girl 36 years his junior in Florida: Georgia I. Hancock (1910–1996). They had two daughters, both of whom are still living.

On 29 November 1933, there was an altercation involving members of the Hancock family and Prof. According to reports in the Palm Beach Post on 30 November:

Alva Hancock, 23, was In the Jackson county jail Wednesday night charged with the slaying of her brother-in-law, H. B. Collins, about 62, in a family quarrel at Alford. "I won't be here long," she told officers after calmly reciting details of the killing. Officers quoted her as saying she shot Collins only after he had shot and wounded his wife, who Is Alva's sister, and had also fired at her father, R. D. Hancock. A charge of buckshot struck Collins, and he died almost instantly, Coroner Douglas H. Oswald reported.

A few months later, in May 1934, the same paper reported that Alva had not been indicted by the Grand Jury, but she was under investigation for firing a shot at her sister, Georgia. In the absence of other records, it's hard to say what actually happened that night.

Georgia raised her daughters on her own, until 1942, when she married Abner Mondell Peacock (1889–1973). Georgia and Abner remained together until his death in 1973. Both of her daughters married career military men, one an Air Force technical sergeant, and the other an Air Force colonel. I hope some day to be able to add their children and grand-children to this history.

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And there you have the tragic story of Byron H. "Prof" Callin. If you are new to the blog, I'm working my way through the descendants of James Callin, and we started this journey in July 2015 with a post about James's sons in The Brothers Callin of Ohio.

If you're a descendant of any of the people mentioned in this post, then your story belongs here, too. I hope you'll reach out to me through the comments section below, through my "callintad" Gmail address, or through the Callin Family History Facebook group. (That group is for family only, so please be prepared to tell me how we're related!)

I hope you'll help me fill in gaps and correct the inevitable mistakes I'm bound to have made!

You can buy a re-printed replica of the original Callin Family History published by Byron's uncle George W. Callin in 1911 (in hard cover or paperback) from And if you give me permission, I'd be happy to include you and your family's story, and any photos you would like to provide, in the revised Callin Family History - which I will be editing for publication as soon as we get through the last of James's descendants.

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