succumbed to Scarlet Fever, the author, on working sabbatical in Hermosa Beach, California, more than 400 miles south of his northern California home, strolled into a cemetery in the next town over. It was Easter Sunday. He missed his fiancée, he missed his four stepkids. Easter services at the small Baptist church he'd recently begun to attend would not begin for another hour. He had to kill time.
After walking aimlessly for a little more than twenty minutes, the author discovered he had inadvertently wandered into the children's section. He became entranced and saddened. The markers, most, nothing more than grey rectangular slates punched into the overdue-to-be-cut grass, presented a litany of young death; some children lived but two days.
One marker stood out to him. It was Thelma's. Born in 1890, the girl lived only 13 years. The inscription at the base of her headstone suggested she suffered from some protracted illness. The author was strangely moved. "She was only a year or two younger than my teen stepdaughter-to-be, Emily." He suddenly wanted to know everything about this teen girl; her hopes, her aspirations, who she loved, and who she intended to become. But as he set out to uncover her life, he decided it would be far more meaningful to...give her back her life.
And that's when things got weird.
-- inscription on Thelma M. Barnes' headstone
A few facts on Thelma...
(source: 1900 Census and Geneaological experts)
-- According to separate records, Thelma was born either in October 1889 or 1890 in
Red Bluff, California.
She died from Scarlet Fever in 1903. The Census report for 1900, when Thelma was 10, indicates that her birth year was 1889 but Thelma's headstone is inscribed '1890-1903.'
-- In 1900, Thelma lived with her 29-year-old 'widowed' mother, 'Reita L. Barnes,' in a downtown L.A. rental house but also lived and attended school 14 miles away in Redondo Beach. Thelma and her mother took the Red Car trolley to and from downtown L.A.
Toward the end of her own life, Reita took residence and lived alone in an ornately appointed Los Angeles hotel. The historic building still stands though it is no longer a hotel. Reita reported that she was 'widowed,' but this may have been a cover story to protect her and Thelma from a dangerous man, who recent evidence suggests,
tried to assassinate Reita as she borded a train.
-- Thelma was enrolled in The Redondo School, one of the first schools built in Redondo Beach.
-- Thelma's mother, Reita, was born in Northern California in the Red Bluff/Dunsmuir area and moved with Thelma to downtown Los Angeles where she worked as a stenographer.She also was a published short story author. Rieta's parents were from New York (Reita's father) and Pennsylvania (Reita's mother).We've just learned that Reita died a few years after the death of her daughter, but we have not yet determined why Reita took her daughter out of school and back to downtown Los Angeles a few weeks before Thelma died. Thelma is buried beside her mother in Redondo Beach.
-- Thelma's father was allegedly born in Georgia. We are 90% sure of his name but for many disturbing reasons, we have decided against releasing it.
-- In addition to Thelma's untimely death, there were many unfortunate occurences in the Barnes family in advance of Thelma's birth, but out of compassion and respect for the family, we have elected not to release this information.
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Professional Genealogist, on the mission, sit back, and watch how she zeros in on her targets with electron microscopic precision. There's little she won't uncover. But prepare -- sometimes what Linda discovers will shock you