Monday, July 07, 2008

Family Ties--Doyle Cabin Reunion

I've blogged before about the Doyle cabin on Greenbriar Lake in Sullivan County (IN). It has always played a pivotal role in keeping me connected with my dad's family and with our Doyle heritage because we've gathered there annually since I was a kid. Since moving back to Indiana in 2006, I've been able to participate in two consecutive reunions, now. Its always great to reconnect with cousins, aunts and uncles you only see once every few years and to hear the family stories told under the shade of 60-year-0ld oak, pine and sycamore trees. If only those trees could talk!

My dad's younger brother, Al Doyle, has chronicled much of our family's history, recently telling us the story of Noble "Kid Chissell" Chisman who was my grandmother's first cousin. Kid Chissell, as the story goes, was a good friend of Bob Hope's and a witness to Marilyn Monroe's secret wedding which only lasted about three days. His filmography is quite extensive, beginning in the late 30's and spanning three decades. Uncle Al recalls his mother pointing out her cousin on their old black-and-white TV whenever Chisman would make a guest appearance on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.

Its funny that prior to this year, I never remember hearing the first thing about this famous cousin, or that his mother's nickname was "Toad." I'm just glad that that family name died with grandmother's generation.

It was just as fascinating to hear that a recent barrier was broken in our genealogy from the late 1700's in Pennsylvania. There was very little information about a William Doyle who lived in western Pennsylvania, until my brother and uncle unearthed some clues pointing to a John Doyle who emigrated from Ireland in the mid-1700's and was William's father. Also of great interest is the fact that one of our relatives on grandmother's side fought in the Revolutionary War, and another served as a translator for the French-speaking Indians in the lower Wabash River Valley. Grandma (Louise) Doyle's family were Dutch (Thuis) and French (LaPorte) immigrants who settled in the Vincennes area.

Grandpa (James H.) Doyle's family migrated, as many Irish working-class citizens did, from Pennsylvania westward through Ohio and Indiana. My great-grandfather, Albert Abraham Doyle, was a resident of Indianapolis and did carpentry work on the beautiful Scottish Rite Cathedral. Grandpa Doyle was born and raised here, attending Cathedral High School when it was a Catholic all-boys school in downtown Indy (current site of the diocese headquarters, I believe). After moving to southwest Indiana, he worked for Public Service utilities and built the log cabin on an abandoned strip mine.

The cabin holds many fond memories for me and is a favorite destination for my girls. That's Makenna on the tire swing, pictured at right. You can see the front (SW) corner of the cabin and the old utility poles my grandpa used in constructing the 60-year-old lakeside retreat. I am thankful that we'll have stories to pass onto my daughters, neices and nephews about this family heirloom and about those who came before us. I appreciate my Uncle Al's work and that of Sean Kern and Ryan Doyle to document our family history and thereby ensuring that the stories can be told for generations.


Anonymous said...

I admire your families passion to explore the family heritage. I find it fascinating to uncover similarities in the way our ancestors once lived and the way that we live have made me want to explore in my own heritage...

Zia said...

Great work.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris, I enjoyed your page. We are not only neighbors but "family." My husband is the Great Nephew of Noble Chisman. His maternal grandmother is one of Noble's sisters. We live in nearby McCordsville, IN. As I understand it Noble was quite a character. Noble loved his family dearly and kept in pretty close contact with them through his manly letters and postcards. Thanks for keeping his memory alive.

All the Best to you and yours,
Distant Kin

Michael J Lazell said...

Chris, and to the Anonymous above, I am also Kin of you both. Noble was my Great uncle. Noretta his sister was my maternal grandmother. I have been a performer in Vegas for many years and have told stories passed to me by Uncle Noble for most of my life. He also told me the story about being the best man at Marilyn's secret wedding and showing us pictures when I was just kid. Didn't think to much of it until years later he was on a talk show discussing it and said he had the pictures at his home in LA. Unfortunately, by the time he made it back to his house their was a mysterious fire and everything was lost including his proof of attending the wedding. I will say this Uncle Noble was one of the most honorable men I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life and lying was definitely NOT a part of his character. Everyone that knew him respected him and even though he never had huge roles in the movies, all of the major stars would stop at the studios and give a very friendly "Hi Kid"

If you are ever out Vegas way, Look me up. Would love to share some stories.
Best Regards,

Michael J. Lazell