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Dobson Story

© David Hallam - 2006

One Family, Two Worlds - continued

After a few years running a stationery shop in Beeston, the Dobson family have decided, in 1910, to seek a new life in America.

We continue their story based on memories provided by Diane Sullivan of California, daughter of Albert William Dobson (1896-1957) and has been developed using the wide range of resources that are now available.

Very often, an account such as this would be assisted by the availability of family papers which would have survived from the family's early days in America and before - perhaps a family Bible, letters from home and photographs. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the Dobson family as all such heirlooms were lost when the family trunk, brought from England, was sadly lost in a fire.

CedricThe family, Albert Augustus Frederick Dobson, his wife Kate and their children, Kate Mary (then aged 15 - now generally known as "Katie") and Albert William (aged 14), embarked from Liverpool on 29th October 1910 on the RMS Cedric (pronounced 'Si:drik'), a passenger ship of the White Star Line - seen left leaving Liverpool. This ship was the second of the line's Big Four, this one built in 1902 - Albert's brother Joseph had crossed on her fourth crossing in May 1903 after her maiden voyage from Liverpool had arrived at New York on 20 February of that year. This was the era of competition for size and luxury in passenger ships and, at the time she was launched she was the largest ship - in fact, the largest moving object - ever built. Along with her sister ships, her reputation for steadiness in rough weather made her among the most preferred for a North Atlantic crossing. Her accommodation provided for 365 First, 160 Second and 2352 Third Class passengers.

Albert's brother, Joseph Foster Dobson, his wife Alice and their three children - William Ralph, Dorothy May and Alice N - had also made the decision to emigrate to America and had made the crossing earlier that year, arriving at Philadelphia on the SS Haverford on 6th April, en-route to Salt Lake City in Utah. In contrast to Albert's family, Joseph's family had travelled steerage. However, by the time his brother and his family were ready to make the crossing, Joseph and his family were already settled into their new home at 113 Rosella Avenue in Salt Lake City, Utah and Joseph was working as a carpenter. No doubt Albert and Kate had been encouraged by this early success achieved by his brother - and their decision to travel Second Cabin Class on the more up-market ship was probably the result of reports of a less than comfortable crossing by Joseph's family.

So, after eight days at sea, travelling at 16 knots, the Cedric arrived at New York on 6th November. Like all arrivals, they were subject to Immigration controls and were recorded in the ship's manifest that now survives in the Ellis Island records. As Second Cabin passengers, however, it is not likely that they would have been required to be taken to Ellis Island for processing but would have been allowed to simply leave the ship after it docked at Manhattan. This would have been in sharp contrast to the steerage and third class passengers who would have been ferried to Ellis island for medical assessment and an interview by Immigration officials before being accepted as immigrants.

Salt Lake City c1920 The family's arrival in New York was not, by any means, the end of the journey. As they were heading for Salt Lake City, in the State of Utah, they still faced a train journey of over 2000 miles. First they would have headed for the rail terminal in New York, itself in the midst of change and using temporary facilities while the famous Grand Central Terminal was being built - this was not completed until 1913. Then there would be a journey of up to three days, full of new sights and not a little apprehension, taking the family to Chicago and onward to its destination. There, no doubt. Joseph's family would be there to greet them, show them around their new home, compare experiences and discuss the latest news from back in England - before settling down to the realties - and excitement - of establishing a home and earning a living. They had arrived in the middle of a period of fast growth for the city when building was booming, and it was fast developing its trolley car system and other services and civic amenities. In the period 1900 to 1930 the City's population was to nearly triple - from 53,000 to 140,000. The picture on the right shows how much it had developed and matured by 1920.

Although the two Dobson families would, no doubt, have been close and supportive in the early days, it does appear that they soon developed separate, parallel lives. After Joseph took a job as a carpenter on the railroad, it seems that he moved his family in response to the demands of the job. By 1920 they were naturalized American citizens (1919) and were renting their home at North Grant Ave, Bannock County, Idaho and by the time of Joseph's death in 1930, they had moved to Los Angeles, California where they had bought a home at Harvard Street, Covina. Their son, William Ralph Dobson, who was about 18 when the family arrived in America, quickly obtained a position as a clerk with the railroad. This employer was probably with the Oregon Short Light Railroad Company for which he stated he was working while staying at the YMCA in Pocatello, Idaho in June 1917 when he registered for the Draft. Later in that year he married a girl from Illinois and they had a son, also named William R Dobson, born in 1918, in Montana before settling again in Salt Lake City and taking a job as a bookkeeper with an oil company. He died there in 1936 at the early age of 44.

Albert Dobson Soon after Albert and Kate arrived in Salt Lake City with their two children, their son Albert started an apprenticeship with the local firm of Utah Litho which - among other things - specialised in the printing of share certificates. This was significant achievement for a newcomer and must have reflected the qualities he had already demonstrated when he won the awards in the latter part of his time in Beeston and the training for life that had given him, alongside that provided from his family. The photograph of him on the left, aged about 20, shows a very well dressed young man and a credit to his upbringing and personal standards. Pass your mouse pointer over the image to see him about 10 years later, when it had lost none of his sartorial elegance.

Kate Dobson In many ways, the family's progression in America - at least in the early days - was a reflection of Albert junior's progress. For the time being, they continued to live in Salt Lake City, at 807 Washington Street but, in 1919, Albert junior took a better job with a San Francisco printing firm (over the years he was to work for both the firm of Carlisle and Schwabacher Frey) and moved to Oakland, California from where he took the ferry daily. Once settled, the family soon followed, at first renting at Telegraph Road before purchasing a home at 5904 Canning Street, Oakland. Albert senior took a job as a salesman in a dry goods store and daughter Katie became a corsetiere. Then, the family's new settled life was shaken by the death of Albert senior; he was only 58 and had been in America only 13 years. This left Albert junior the family's main breadwinner, particularly when, in 1924, his sister married William G Hansen and moved to Chicago. Albert junior and his mother (shown left) then moved to 159 Jules Avenue in San Francisco.

Madeleine Marie McGovern was the older daughter of Dr Francis Patrick McGovern - son of an Irish immigrant father - and his wife Kathryn Elizabeth (nee Feeney), daughter of Irish immigrants. Francis, as well as his two brothers, Albert Dobson followed his father into the medical profession, graduating top of his class from the University of Iowa School of Medicine in March 1887. The couple had married in 1902 in San Francisco where they had then brought up their family and it is there that Francis had practiced as a doctor until his death in 1927. Although 10 years younger than her husband and only 53, his wife died three years later in 1930. Madeleine would probably have known Albert by this time and the couple may have been engaged to be married but delayed their marriage for a year to respect a mourning period of a year following her mother's death. During this time Albert converted to Catholicism - he had been raised as an Episcopalian - and the couple married at Old St Mary's Catholic Church in San Francisco on 2 February 1932. A photograph of Albert from this era is shown left. The photograph below right shows him in 1948.

Albert Dobson With both her children now married and left home, their mother Kate lived on for a while at her San Francisco home. Her daughter Katie and her husband, meanwhile, bought a chicken farm in Hayward, California but later sold it, moved to the Richmond District of San Francisco and Katie went to work as a corset seamstress at Hittenburger's in the city. After her husband William Hansen died in 1940, Katie met George Earles, who had been born in London, England. They married in 1943 and lived in the same apartment building as Kate for about 20 years until they bought a house in 22nd Avenue in the Richmond District when Katie's mother moved in with them. Both mother and daughter lived into their 90s.

Like his father before him, Albert William Dobson, died comparatively young - on 24th May 1957 at the age of 60. His widow, who married for a second time some years later, was to live until 1996 when she was 92.

Now Albert's medallions, awarded all those years ago in Beeston, remain to provide a treasured reminder to his descendants of those formative years spent in Beeston and lives lived across two continents.

Click to read about the family's early life in Nottingham and Beeston

or - Click here to go back to the beginning

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