Sunday, January 17, 2016

Harry Melville Thornally (1879 – 1936) My Maternal Granduncle on My Mother’s Side

Harry Melville Thornally was born in San Francisco on June 8, 1879. He was the third child of Mary and William Thornalley and the second son. When Harry was 5 years old his family left San Francisco and relocated to the East Bay taking up residence in Fruit Vale. Their home at that time was at 1409 15th Avenue. They remained there until 1887 when they moved to “Brey Avenue” near the “County Road.” Today Bray is 34th Avenue and the County Road is Foothill Boulevard.

Fruit Vale School in Oakland where Harry likely attended school
Harry attended grammar school in Oakland and probably attended Fruitvale Elementary School as his younger brother John had. After finishing school Harry went into the trades as his father and older brother William “Bill” had done. Harry’s first job was working as a machinist for F.I. Matthews at Bay City Iron Works – a foundry and machine shop located at Third and Washington Streets in downtown Oakland.  By 1906 he had been promoted to foreman. City directories show Harry as continuing to work at Bay City Iron Works until 1906. Then he went to work for United Iron Works – the same place his younger brother John worked. In 1918 when he completed his draft registration he was a machinery salesman at Berger Carter Machinery Company.  Berger Carter was another machine shop located at 400 Mission Street in San Francisco.

Harry & Blanche on their wedding day
When Harry was 24 he married Blanche Wimble the daughter of Thomas Wimble and Fannie Francis Edwards. Blanche was born on October 24, 1875 in Oakland. They were married June 17, 1903 at Blanche’s sister’s home on Fruitvale Avenue.  Harry’s best man was George Taylor, which is somewhat surprising – I would have expected him to ask one of his 3 brothers to fill that role. An article published in the Oakland Tribune on May 30, 1903 announced the pending wedding and noted that “Harry is the son of the Sanitary Inspector and one of the most popular young men in Fruitvale”.  According to another society page article Harry and Blanche spent their honeymoon in Monterey, Santa Cruz and Catalina Island. These are the same places that Harry’s niece Lottie and her new husband Ed went on their honeymoon in 1939. 

After the honeymoon, Harry and Blanche moved into their first home on Liese Avenue in the Allendale neighborhood of Brooklyn Township. I found a public notice in the San Francisco Call of Harry having purchased a lot on Liese Avenue for only $10. He bought the property from Josephine E. Bruguirre. The parcel was part of the Sather tract in Brooklyn. This purchase was made shortly after he and Blanche were married. 

In 1870, Brooklyn annexed the adjacent town of Lynn. Then in 1872 voters approved the annexation of Brooklyn into the City of Oakland. The 1909-1911 city directories show the couple living at 1315 38th Avenue in the heart of the Fruitvale neighborhood. In 1918, the address shown on his draft registration was 1233 38th Avenue. On the 1920 census, when Harry was 40, they’d moved a whole block and were residing at 1427 39th Avenue. They were still at this address ten years later for the 1930 census. So, Harry and Blanche spent their entire married life living in the same neighborhood of Oakland.

Harry Wimble Thornally
In 1908, Harry and Blanche’s only child Harry Wimble Thornally, Jr. was born on April 21st.  He attended the University of California at Berkeley at the same time as his cousins Ralph and George Thornally who were sons of William Thornally Jr.  Harry Jr. was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He was also a member of the Hammer and Coffin and Pi Delta Epsilon, journalistic honor societies and the English Club. After graduation Harry Jr. married Gladys Pauline “Paula” Leach (1910-1940) who was born in Chicago, Illinois. She is the daughter of Harry Milton Leach and Pauline Hazel Dejarnatt. Harry and Paula were married on June 19, 1936 in Grace Cathedral in San Franciso and lived in Berkeley. From 1937 to 1939 Harry worked as a clerk at his father’s business. The 1941 Oakland directory listed his occupation as “artist”, and in 1944 he was teaching. Harry Jr. and Paula had two sons – Gilliat Leach born in 1942 and Frank in 1944.  Harry Jr. died on June 7, 1944 shortly after the birth of his son Frank. He is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

Bay City Iron Works machine shop

Harry seniors’s mother died in 1912 when he was 32, and his father died the following year on March 11, 1913.

On his draft form Harry was described as being of medium height and build with brown hair and blue eyes. The paperwork also noted that he was blind in his left eye. It did not give the cause of the blindness but one can image an injury while at work in the machine shop.
Letterhead from Harry's business. Note H.M. Thornally at top right. This sketch of the building matches my photo above.
The 1910 census noted that Harry was “working on own account”. On the 1920 and 1930 censuses he was identified as the owner of an iron works. The city directory listings note that he worked at Bay City Iron Works during the early part of his career between 1899-1907. From 1908 to 1921 he was at the United Iron Works. But in 1922 he was back with Bay City Iron Works and remained there until his death. Apparently he purchased the business sometime prior to the 1920 census.

United Iron Works built by Harry's brother Will
Thornally Jr. 3rd & Washington, Oakland
During my research I was given a piece of letterhead for Bay City Iron Works from Ed Thornally dated April 9, 1926. The letterhead shows H.M. Thornally in the company logo. The letterhead includes a drawing of the building and a lot of information about the company. It tells us they were millrights, engineers and machinists. It even lists the equipment they owned which included: Rockwood paper motor pulleys, Dodge wood and steel split pulleys, complete line iron and pressed steel hangers, shaft bearings, couplings, collars, etc. cold rolled steel shafting, etc. and they had leather and rubber belting carried in stock. This particular receipt was for “picking up a steel door at the library at 14th and Grove Street and making adjustments”. The charge for the work was $4.50. This library was Oakland’s second library built in 1900 – a recipient of a Carnegie grant. From 1902 – 1951 it was known as the Greene Library and served as Oakland’s main library. It was heavily damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and was closed for a few years prior to being rehabilitated. The library reopened in 2001 as the African American Museum and Library. My firm PGAdesign was the landscape architect for the rehab.

A news article published December 9, 1905 reported that Bay City Iron Works was destroyed in a fire. According to the article most of the block between 2nd and 3rd Street, Washington and Clay was destroyed. Accusations were made and charges demanding that Fire Chief Engineer N.A. Ball be dismissed. A machine shop owned by Robert Brand at 621 Third Street was also destroyed as was a coal dealer at 620 Third. George E. Randolph who owned the United Iron Works spoke in defense of the Fire Chief claiming the chief “had arrived within seven minutes.” The primary witness was John J. Conlan, battalion chief of San Francisco who testified that Chief Ball had the fire “well stopped” by the time he arrived on the scene.
Snapshot of a Harry Thornally family camping trip from Lottie Pattillo's albums

 In 1924-25 Harry’s Brother William – a local general contractor designed and constructed a new Bay City Iron Works building that is located at 320-380 Washington. It is a poured-in-place concrete structure with industrial sash windows. The exterior has a stucco finish and some ornamentation.  On the interior there was a half-floor mezzanine that was probably used for offices. William included four skylights for natural light. The building was renovated in 1995 and is still in use as of 2016.
Harry's home on 35th Avenue as it looked when
my sister Kathy and I visited in January 2016

The 1930 census shows that Harry and Blanche owned their home on 39th Avenue which was valued at $6000. They also owned a radio. It confirms that Harry was not a veteran. None of the Thornally sons served in any branch of the military.

According to Lottie (Thornally) Pattillo, Harry was badly injured on the job. His doctors advised him to have his leg amputated but Harry could not agree to have the surgery. Regrettably his leg became infected. He developed gangrene and that caused his death when he was only 57 years old. Harry died on October 28, 1936 and is buried with his wife Blanche in the main mausoleum at Mountain View Cemetery, as are his brothers John, Sam and William Jr. and their wives.
Harry Thornally's signature

Harry & Blanche's tomb in the mausoleum at
Mountain View  Cemetery, Oakland

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