Frank Allender


My grandmother, May Allender, passed away in the Fall of 1977.  I was fortunate in that I had just started into genealogy a few months before and had the opportunity to interview her about her father before she passed away.  So under the suspicious scrutiny of her second husband I did just so.

My grandmother only saw her father once.  In about 1917, so goes the story, she and my grandfather took a trip to LA with their new daughter, my aunt Margaret, to go see her father.  She said her father was some kind of professional as he had diplomas or certificates on the wall of his outer office.  Only my grand mother was allowed into his inner office.  Her husband and daughter waited in the outer office area.  She did not tell me what they talked of as she was meeting her father for the first time, but she never saw him again after that brief visit.

Frank died in 1926 due to an outbreak of small pox in the LA area.  He was buried in the Inglewood Cemetery the very day he died.

My mother wrote to the California bar and got a copy of a card that stated Frank had passed the bar in 1901.  I was fortunate to live in southern California in the 1970’s.  So I took a day to go to downtown LA and search the Los Angeles Law Library for records of Frank.  You’d think as a lawyer there would be reams of files on him--- nothing.  But I did find they had city directories that told me his law office was but a block or so from the law library.  After leaving the library I walked down to his office building - it was a park in 1978.

City directories told me he was in LA as early as 1890 and stated his profession as an elocutionist.  From 1892 through 1997 he disappeared from LA, returning in 1898 as an attorney - yes, I guess in those days you could practice before passing the bar.  He was even a partner of Holcomb, Allender & Hughes.  He eventually formed his own firm in 1899.  Around 1903-4 he married Clara Graham in New Mexico, it is said.  She was a music teacher, accomplished pianist, suffragette, and a sharp rifle shot.  She also was nationally know for becoming a criminal lawyer, passing the California Bar in 1907 with the top score and by 1910 having the reputation of having never lost a case on appeal.  There is even a story that she came into the court room when Frank was suffering the closing argument of an impossibly lost case.  She gave a passionate closing statement and cited a technicality that got the defendant acquitted.  But you have guessed right, aside from the brief mention of her husband, I know nothing of Frank’s career.

But the problem at hand is the birth of my grandmother in 1894.  At the time her mother was 42 and Frank was 28.  My grandmother’s mother was a widow that had previously had 8 sons.  In 1891 she is listed as Mrs. M. A. Englehart in the Modesto city directory.  From directories I have found there is no listing for her in the years of 1895,6,8 or 9.  But in 1900 she is listed in Stockton as Mrs. May Allender.  By 1905 she is listed as the same, but the widow of Frank.

However, Frank was alive and kicking - even more than kicking.  Frank shows up around the turn of the century where his mother (divorced from his father) gives an affidavit to help his father claim his military pension from the Civil War.  Then in 1897 he is in Santa Barbara marrying Nellie Fitzmier.  His half sister, Marie, said of that marriage, “it didn’t last very long”.

I cannot determine if Frank ever married my great-grandmother.  You may ask how do I know for sure?  When my grandmother died, my mother found on a closet floor a photo of Frank as a young man - it was labeled on the back.  In the 1990’s I did some random calling and found Frank’s half sister by his father’s second marriage.  She was in her 90’s and for the brief period I knew her we corresponded.  Her family knew nothing of our family, but she readily accepted my explanation.  We exchanged photos of Frank.  She sent me the one at the top of this page and another copy of the same photo my mother found on the closet floor.

Where did Frank meet my grandmother?  His mother lived with her second husband in San Francisco.  My great-grandmother had a sister, Eliza, who also lived in San Francisco at the same time - and a few blocks from Frank’s mother.

If they did marry, it was most probably in San Francisco, but all records were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire.  From the directory listing giving her as the widow of Frank, it seems highly unlikely - why make that up?  Besides, in 1907 Frank did a hand written will stating in most certain terms only Clara was to inherit his estate. 

At this time Frank is still a difficult study.  His father, whom I found quite accidently, is another story for another day.

© Ken Piper 2016