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Freeman White Blondell
ca 1881

Freeman White Blondell


    Freeman White Blondell

    Freeman was born in 1861 to Theodore Alexander Blondel and Sarah Countiss.  3  On September 23, 1882 he married Nancy Kilbourne in Wise County, Virginia.  In 1906 he served as a city official of Appalachia, VA., which is in Wise County.  He was also a carpenter and real estate investor there.
    While it appears that Freeman White is in itself an unusual name it is highly possible that Freeman's father named him after the Freeman and White families who resided in Maryland near where Theodore Alexander was born.  There is a reference to a Freeman who married a White there and named their child Samuel Freeman White.  Here is a link to that site record:  Samuel Freeman White
    While in Appalachia he decided to relocate to Canada. 2 Freeman's wife, Nancy had family members living in Calgary so they decided to join their Canadian relatives in the Canadian province of Alberta.  However, family references state that while Freeman was involved in the city government of Appalachia he was accused of  what may have been imprudent and illegal land speculation.  His accusers attacked him by saying that in his official capacity in Appalachia he had unlimited access to the courthouse and land deed records and that any time he found a piece of land that did not have a deed he simply made one out to himself.  Other family opinions are that these accusers were simply political enemies and their accusations were unfounded.  So, it may or may not have been with concern for his possible legal entanglements that Freeman hired two box cars for his family's property and left for Canada.  In Calgary, he built a home and continued raising his family.
    Even so, the original founders of the town of Appalachia all have family members buried in the Blondell Cemetery  and the Kilbourne Family Cemetery.   Some of their graves are very near to T. A. Blondel and Sarah Countiss Blondel's graves. History reflects alliances between the Appalachian Blondell families and the other families that chose to make their homes there, and not animosity.
    There are some old family letters that describe Freeman as a cruel and over-bearing man and state that his children refused to allow him to be buried next to his wife Nancy Amanda Kilbourne.  Yet other letters excuse his behavior as that of a man who knew where he wanted his family to go and that he wanted them "all" to get there.  Whatever his leadership style and methods may have been, we do know that he prospered in a harsh environment in what some would, even today, call the "mountainous wilderness" of Oregon.  In any event, we believe that he did the best that he could do, and whom among us has been without error in our lives and relationships.  At any rate we should consider the nature of the situation.  Freeman's sons loved their mother dearly and she was not well.  Her health was steadily declining and she was living in a harsh environment without medical attention.  She certainly would have known that her own family was living in wealth and comfort in Virginia.  This certainly created a conflict . . .  and perhaps assignment of blame.  Perhaps Freeman's pioneer nature was foreign to most of his family.  They had lived in Appalachia where they were regarded as a founding family and prominent citizens. We can scarcely judge the man now, and in fact choose to salute his courage and fortitude.  Even so, we also salute his wife Nancy, for her courage and strength in the midst of pain and declining health -- she is the matriarch of the West Coast Blondell family.
    In Virginia, Freeman was accustomed to wealth and political power.  His wife, Nancy was in her own right from a wealthy family.  She had been raised in a home that enjoyed household servants.  It must have been very difficult for them to adapt to a life in Oregon that was without question, a primitive and hostile environment.   Freeman's father, Theodore Alexander Blondel was without question a successful businessman and a real estate investor as well. 2 We know that Theodore had an impeccable reputation as an honest and trustworthy man.  There has been some speculation that since there was much land that passed from Theodore's holdings to the next generation that all of the land holdings of all the Blondell's were just and proper and that the accusations against Freeman was based solely on jealousy and an unjust determination to destroy an honest and caring family man's reputation.  There were never any charges filed against Freeman.
    From Canada he returned to Virginia for a few days, then moved cross country to Oregon.  One of the Blondell women in the family stayed up all night before the family left for Oregon.  Her time that night was spent sewing Freeman's money into his clothing so it would not be stolen on their trip.3 Freeman left Virginia a a wealthy man.
    One interesting thing he did during that journey was when he came upon and met the parties involved in the ongoing feud between the "Hatfields & McCoys".  Ironically both sides hired him to build coffins for family members that were killed in their infamous battles. 1, 2,3
    One of his sons, Clarence John Blondell, who was an adult at the time, remained in Virginia and did not accompany his father to Canada.  But he rejoined his father in Oregon at a later date. One of the things that Clarence said concerning his decision to join his father in Oregon, (whom he loved deeply) was that he wished to be near his father, but that he also did not wish for his own sons to be killed in the coal mines in Appalachia.  Ironically, Clarence's oldest son, Curtis died in the Oregon woods working as a timber faller.  Family verbal history records the fact that when Clarence himself broke his back in the coal mines, and was not allowed to work in the mines, he worked to support his family by raising truck gardens -- even before he was well enough to walk, the determined man crawled between the rows of vegetables to weed them, and in doing so said it was a small thing he had done because of his goal, though he was handicapped, was to support his wife and children.  Clarence's sons, Curtis, Ralph and Everett quit school during this time to work in the vegetable fields and also supplemented the family income by cutting railroad ties.
    Freeman's daughter Molly, remained in Canada and married a Canadian citizen, and wheat farmer, Mr. McGinnis.  Molly often visited her family in their new Oregon home. 2 Their son, Hugh McGinnis later built a home near Agness and raised his family there.
    The reason Freeman decided to return to the United States was an indication of his love for America.  While he was living in Calgary the First World War began.  He was not happy about his sons being involved in a war at all,  but if he had a choice of what country they would serve, Freeman wanted them to fight for the United States.  So, he returned to the "States."
    When the family arrived on the Pacific Coast they lived in a hotel in Crescent City, California.  While in Crescent City his sons registered for the draft 9 and did serve as soldiers in the war in Europe.  It was also while in Crescent City that Freeman began shopping for land.
    He purchased property in Agness, Oregon which is located about ten miles upstream from the town of Gold Beach which is at the mouth of the Rogue River.  He built a beautiful home at the point where the Illinois River merges with the Rogue River.  He operated a dude ranch there and entertained East Coast guests.   That home was destroyed by a flood sometime close to 1965.  In that same Rogue River, Leonidas Deutz Blondell, who was Freeman's youngest son, drowned while he was a young family man.
    Even today that stretch of the Rogue River has a reputation for being treacherous, wild and untamed. As seen in the photograph 4on the left, which is of the Rogue River very near Agness, the river is navigated by jet boats, albeit mostly on a seasonal basis. The mail is still delivered to Agness via boat.  The river is known to have "Level 8" white water areas, in contrast to the "Level 3" white water present on the North Umpqua River, which is also in Oregon. Many people of today familiar with the North Umpqua River consider it to be rugged and dangerous.  Yet, here we had men and women who lived and worked on a river that was much more severe and much more unforgiving than the North Umpqua and thought it not unusual, yet it was and is -- to the extreme end of the scale. Even so, the entire area is well known for its peaceful splendor, rugged beauty, unspoiled wilderness and frontier reputation.  It is rich with Indian artifacts, history and legend.  In fact one of the stories that Uncle Lynn (Leonard) Blondell used to tell us while we were sitting in his cabin on the banks of the Illinois River and listening to his free violin concerts was how the Indians used to ride into the Illinois Valley on their ponies and take vegetables from the Blondell Family gardens -- but in return the Indians would leave a freshly field dressed deer or even an elk to pay for the vegetables.  Occasionally our family packaged corn or other vegetables and fruit and took it to the Indians.  A kind and harmonious existence caused both races to thrive in peace and respect of one another.  A famous song, popular in the 1970's, and named the "Rogue River Ballad"  proclaimed some of the legend  of a Rogue River Indian maiden whom our ancestors say they knew and the mystical history that surrounded her. 
    The famous author Zane Grey visited the Gold Beach area and was found fishing on the banks upstream on the Rogue River often. 8  His famous book, "Rogue River Feud" is about a conflict between sport and commercial fishermen.  He is in the photograph on the right fishing from the banks of the river.
    The photographs below are identified as follows:  The following top two photographs 5 of the Rogue River were taken and submitted by Richard H. Lathrop.  Richard may be contacted at  rickl@uci.edu  or visit his web site at http://www.ics.uci.edu/~rickl/
    The photographs 6 in the middle two frames were submitted by  Cristalen and she may be contacted at cristalen@cristalen.com  or visit her web site at www.goldbeach.org/  and here is what she has to say about Gold Beach:
    "Located on the magnificent coast of Southwestern Oregon, the history of Gold Beach stretches back more than a millennium. It is the story of several Native American cultures, Spanish explorers, European fur trappers, Indian wars, pioneers, settlers, ranchers, miners, loggers, commercial fishermen, mill workers, and town folk building their lives in a natural paradise at the mouth of the mighty Rogue River."
    The photographs on the bottom two frames is of the Illinois River and was submitted by: http://www.siskiyourivers.org/tour/rivers/f.stm   This is what they have to say about the Illinois River: 7 "The Illinois River is the largest tributary of the Rogue River. The 981 square mile Illinois watershed has no dams and no hatchery program, making it an ideal refuge for native, naturally reproducing salmon and steelhead trout."  Certainly many Blondell family members have frolicked in the warm summer waters of the Illinois and Rogue Rivers, hunted in the surrounding mountains, and fished in these abundant waters.
    Certainly this is Oregon -- not too far in the distance, on the coast of California the metropolitan areas of San Francisco and the surrounding cities and towns loomed -- but here was the coast of Oregon and when our ancestors arrived, it was still a wilderness and one of the "Last Frontiers."

" Oh, indeed the beauty of Oregon is unsurpassed "


    Leonard, Bert, and Claude Blondell  2 remained living on or near the original property until their deaths.  Edward settled in the Roseburg area and Clarence John Blondell lived in the coastal areas of Oregon  and near his brother Edward.  Clarence retired in the state of Arkansas and died there in 1969. 2
    And to Freeman and Nancy, we, your descendants salute you both and thank you for the sacrifices you made on our behalf, the courage your lives have shown  and for giving us the gift of life.  We pray that God has taken away any of your pain and hardships and rewarded you with life in a much more beautiful place than Oregon!


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