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My main focus has currently been on early Whittell history and even before George Jr. was born.  Why?  Not only because I love the history behind it all, but understanding where he came from can give us a better idea of why and how he became the man he did.  All of us who are familiar with Thunderbird Lodge and George Whittell Jr., know he was unique and the more I have been digging in the family history, the more amazing people I am finding.  His life was filled with remarkable influences, which makes this house and his story come even more alive.

<<Whittell Jr., the man who had Thunderbird Lodge built, as Jr.  When I refer to his father, you will see Sr.>>>

So coming into the family history and what makes Jr. tick, I wanted to find out more about the Whittells.  Now Sr. had a fairly public life and I am able to verify his later years very easily.  What intrigued me was Hugh (Jr.’s grandfather).  It is reported he made his fortune off of the Gold Rush.  However, that immediately drew questions as his children were all born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. from 1849 to 1858 (soon to be changed from 1849 to 1847).  This makes it a bit tricky.  I also have many ship manifests for Hugh that I can pin him in New York and Liverpool just as often as I can California, if not more, during the years the world rushed into California.  So then, what was he up to with all that travel?  That I am not sure of that…yet…but then that led to me his wife, Adeline.  This would be Jr.’s grandmother.  In the current TLPS records, all that was noted was her name “Adeline L. Duncombe” and not much else.  Then I came across this photo in the archives:


The penciled note on the back was A.W., Jan 1891.  Note that the studio is in Mt. Vernon, where we know that Sr. and his siblings were born.  So we know that Hugh’s ex-wife lived there until her death.  I decided I needed to figure out more about her and goodness, there is a lot!

Adeline’s father was Alfred Hall Duncombe.  Here is a great NPS article about him:


So as you can see, he was extremely well off!  The Adeline in the article is Jr.’s grandmother and she seemed to be a very lively lady. However, I was still not 100% sure this was our Adeline; it can be so easy to mix folks up when you trace through such lines and finding things on the internet.  I kept searching and found her grave:


Now take notice of who is noted  on the other side of the burial marker:


A Whittell!  But wait, which Whittell is this?  I have no record of an Alfred Whittell that fits those dates, we know of Alfred Whittell as Jr.’s younger __________ brother.  Who was this?

At this point I felt like I was truly doing detective work…this is what we love as historians!

Tomorrow I will post Part 2.

– Jesse