03 April 2009

Home Again: Whose Father Was He? Part 4

Part Four of this compelling and detailed story in the New York Times continues as writer Errol Morris gets into the not-so-nice happenings at the Homestead. This installment also includes many photographs, documents, maps and family trees.

There's Rosa J. Carmichael, whom he calls Cruella de Vil of the Homestead, of children being punished, of other children acting as informants. The horrible goings-on were exposed in an 1876 series of newspaper articles that detailed denying the orphans food, clothing and education; that they were beaten and subjected to leg irons and hobbling chains.

Dr. Bourns was charged with embezzlement in 1877, including mismanagement, waste of property and violation of trust. In 1878, the sheriff seized the property and the contents were auctioned.

Morris asks author Mark Dunkelman about Bourns' character, and Dunkelman points out what he calls "Jekyll and Hyde aspects to Bourns' personality," which included acts of altruism (reproducing the photograph, raising funds, establishing the orphanage), but then things seem to have gone wrong and he's not sure if it was greed or financial difficulties.

Amos Humiston's daughter Alice was quoted in 1914 in a story about her effort to recover the ambrotype from Dr. Bourns. He refused to return it.

Morris also talked to Amos Humiston's great-grandchildren: archaeoastronomy expert David Humiston Kelley and retired salesman Allan Lawrence Cox.

There's more on Kelley's claim about having traced some family branches back to King David, which will interest genealogists, as as well as the note that he's working with Bennett Greenspan of FamilyTreeDNA.com on this.

And Kelley chimes in with more on Dr. Bourns' personality, as well as a large portion on Kelley's own research of ancient peoples, research on the Mayans and their calendar, the date of the end of the world (in 1220) and the possibilities of recovering ancient history.

His conversation with Allan Cox concerned letters passed down by Humiston's widow Philinda to her son Fred, to Fred's daughter and then to Cox. The originals have vanished but photocopies exist. There are quotes from 14 of Humiston's letters to his wife.

Read the complete article at the link above, to make sense of this all.

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