Monday, November 12, 2012

J. Nehemiah Blackstock -- 109 W. Avenue 54

Nehemiah ca. age 65
Born in Asheville, NC in 1846, Nehemiah Blackstock (1846-1928) served in the Confederate army for four years, before moving to Tennessee where he passed the bar in 1868. About the same time he married Abigail (Abbie) Smith (1848-1930) of Newport, Tennessee. After spending a few years in Missouri, they along with their three children Mary Belle, James, and John, moved to Los Angeles in 1875. They stayed a short time before moving to Ventura (then known as San Buenaventura, which can still be seen over the City Hall doors), shortly after the organization of the county.  Nehemiah practiced law there for about 30 years, fathering seven more children, including Charles (1876-1966), Lillian (b. 1879), Laura Mabel (1880-1968), and Edward (1892-1941). In 1897 Nehemiah was appointed to the State Railroad Commission, serving for four years. The Commission held the responsibility to set freight rates throughout the state.

In 1905 Nehemiah was appointed State Banking Commissioner, which involved a move to Los Angeles. He chose to live in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. In 1910 living at the house on Avenue 54 were Abbie, now 62, son Edward, 18, and one servant. Daughter Lillian had lived there for awhile but was gone during the census. Son Edward was listed as being a newspaper reporter. Son Charles remained in Ventura County, first teaching school, then becoming the City Attorney in Oxnard. Older son James ran a grocery store in Ventura. Daughter Mabel had married Oliver Dunn in 1906, an early resident of the Oxnard area, and was living in Camarillo.

109 W. Ave. 54 in 1909
With Nehemiah's connection as State Banking Commissioner, he became associated with Merchants Bank & Trust Co. of Los Angeles as a Vice-President and Trust Officer. By 1911 he had left and formed a new company, the International Indemnity Company, located downtown.

In 1912 Mabel's husband Oliver Dunn contracted a blood disease and died two months after diagnosis, resulting in Mabel and her two children moving from Camarillo to a house in Los Angeles around the corner from Nehemiah and Abbie (then known as 5409 Pasadena Ave.).

Now when one went on international travel in the 1910's, one passport was usually enough. The only time more than one was made was when the owner had lost the original one. Mabel appeared in the passport records in both 1917 and 1919 for a different reason. As she stated for an affidavit in  applying for her new passport in 1919:

"...that while she was gone on the said trip the said passport was handled so often and so much by various officials of said countries, that when she returned the same was practically worn out and destroyed; and that not deeming it necessary to retain the same, she completed the destruction." 
...which of course required a new passport. (I liked the first photo better, I think. ;-)

Nehemiah continued on as president of his International Indemnity Company, which offered casualty insurance, from his office at 347 S. Hill St. Son Edward continued to live at home, noted as an artist in the 1927 street directory of Los Angeles. The next year Nehemiah died, and was buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale.

Abbie followed in 1930, after declaring the house being worth $50,000 in the federal census. In the house besides Abbie (listed as 82 years of age) were Mabel, her two sons Oliver and Gerald, Edward (now a commercial artist), and a housekeeper.

Mabel continued to live in the house until 1967. She died the next year, and was buried in Forest Lawn next to Nehemiah and Abbie. Sometime later the house came down. Today at the corner of Avenue 54 and Figueroa:

109 N. Ave 54 (today's address)
(courtesy of Bing maps)
Son Charles, the City Attorney of Oxnard, went on to become head of Ventura County schools, then a judge in Oxnard. In 1965 a new Charles Blackstock Junior High School was named for him.  He passed away the next year.

More info:
Bio of Nehemiah Blackstock
Grave at Forest Lawn

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