Legacy of romance: children of two worlds

Candace Wellman - Contributed photo
Candace Wellman
— image credit: Contributed photo

Historian Candace Wellman will talk about what U.S. Army officers and other public officials left behind when they ventured East to Civil War battlefields in a lecture entitled: “American Officers, Indian Families and the Civil War”, Saturday, Aug. 10, at San Juan Island Library.

The presentation gets under way at 7 p.m.

Wellman’s talk is the fifth in the summer program series, “Connections: The Far West and Civil War”, which explores the relationships between the American Civil War, the San Juan Islands and Pacific Northwest.

All programs take place at San Juan Island Library, except for the Life and Times of General George Pickett, at San Juan Community Theatre, Aug. 7.

Wellman’s talk explores the lives that American Camp officers such as James W. Forsyth, and George E. Pickett and what they left behind: namely First Nations and American Indian wives and the children they fathered. She utilizes nearly two decades of meticulous research to tell a poignant story of these relationships and legacies that remain to this day.

George Pickett, for example, married a Northwest Coast woman (tribe unknown) with whom he had a son, James Tilton Pickett.

When his wife died a few months after childbirth, Pickett gave the boy to a mainland family while he went east on leave and then came to San Juan Island during the boundary dispute.

He left the child behind for good when he departed for Virginia and eventual brigade and division command in the Army of Northern Virginia.

After his death in 1875, Pickett’s third wife, LaSalle Corbell Pickett, with whom he had two children, deeded Pickett’s Washington Territory properties to James Pickett. But in so doing she claimed that she and her surviving son, George Pickett, II, were the only legitimate heirs, which James disputed in Whatcom County Superior Court documents.

Wellman will also discuss Forsyth’s descendants, some now members of the Lummi Nation, as well as Indian descendants of other Northwest Boundary Survey officials, such as Dr. Caleb Kennerly.

The program is free. Call San Juan Island National Historical Park, 360-378-2240, ext. 2233, or the library, 360-378-2798, for more information.

Writer, historian and conservationist Bruce-Brown will conclude the Civel War lecture series Saturday, Aug. 17. All programs are free of charge, thanks to a $500 grant to the library from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.


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