The Chauncey Milton St. Johns – Senior and Junior, Co-Ancestor No. 30

Continuing now with the sordid stories that clung like cat hair to the otherwise impeccably turned-out Nellie P. Watson St. John Snetsinger Schlosser during her short life.

Included in the San Francisco Call’s recap of the notorious Guatemala Affair was a mention of a teenage dalliance on her part, foiled by her father, followed in fairly short order by a wedding in March 1879. A glittering affair, to be sure – and one you’d think Oakland would not soon forget.

STJ Wedding

Chauncey Jr. was born in 1882, and the divorce was finalized in 1884. Dad moved across the Bay to San Francisco, and apparently the boy stayed in Oakland. Dad had an esteemed career and was a member of the hoitiest of toities, the Bohemian Club.


Naturally, immediately after Nellie’s return from Guatemala there was a custody battle over Chauncey Jr. – and given the social standing of the parties, there was plenty of news coverage. This from the Oakland Tribune, 30 Nov 1892.

StJohn Custody 30 Nov 1892

(Miss Ellis was a schoolteacher who rented a room in the Watson home.)

Chauncey eventually won custody, and Nellie was allowed to visit the boy. All well and good, right? Except Chauncey Sr. appears to have made it virtually impossible for any such visits to take place. The 1900 Census finds 18-year old Chauncey Jr. “At School” – that is, living with the Benjamin Boswells at their mineral springs resort deep in the forests of Douglas County, Oregon. Nasty business.

Fast-forward: Nellie moved to San Francisco, married Mr. Schlosser, survived the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, but died the next year. Chauncey Junior married Elizabeth Moore, they had daughter Beatrice. Chauncey was killed in a traffic-related accident of some kind, Valentine’s Day 1913. (Some blame a motorcycle, some a rearing horse. Personally, I give up.)

And now in 1917, Chauncey Senior has just died, a couple weeks shy of his 58th birthday. So in fine Shakespearean fashion, our drama’s principal characters are all dead, and the third act concludes with everyone else talking about them. But they do so as if they’d never ever heard any of these stories before. Ever.

StJohn-Watson Strange Romance

As I mentioned before, Elizabeth’s maiden name was Moore, not Carpentier, as reported above. But the daughter Beatrice’s middle name was Carpentier. Odd? There IS an explanation… coming in the next breathtaking installment!!


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