Deus Fortitudo Mea

Filed under: Family Events,Family History,Family Places,St Louis History — Chamberlain @ 4:22 pm
No. 225

Memorial Day weekend was the occasion of a momentous gathering of the Chambers’ tribe. We will try to capture the flavor and scope of this hugely successful event. Such a Herculean labor of love on the part of so many precludes giving appropriate thanks to all that deserve it, but in this posting we will try. We will inevitably miss important contributors, for that we apologize. A big ‘Thank You’ is owed to everyone that attended and worked to make it such a memorable celebration of the Chambers Clan.

Before we begin we must provide some important background information. Given that Bepaw’s company was the Harris Polk Hat Company, we felt it was fitting to commission a souvenir that tied into that history and also into a theme of Making Chambers Great Again. But a confession is appropriate up front. Sad. Our family classicist (belatedly) pointed out a grammatical error in our hat logo. The logo should have read “Deus Fortitudo Mea”. Instead we have the word “Meo” (as in “Hold the Meo”), which does not agree in gender with the female noun fortitudo. Horribile dictu! I’m certain that everyone noticed the error but charity precluded any critical comments for which I am very grateful. Anyhow here is the offending item:

Anticipating the inevitable weaseling from Iowa, the answer is: “No, despite this minor error, there will be no discounts nor refunds.” Indeed in the philatelic realm, errors such as this increase the value of the item. Hence management is contemplating raising the price of the hats accordingly. We will let you know the final decision about this shortly.

Thanks to Katherine Law and Bill Cromie we have lots of reunion photos to share. The Salters, Quicks and Dunns kicked off activities on Thursday May 25th with a visit to the family grave site at Calvary Cemetery followed by a visit to the chapel of the Pink Sisters for a prayer for our clan, especially those recently departed family members including Claiborne Pentland, Ray Salter, Bill Hollo and Ralph Kalish. They were sorely missed throughout the weekend. A luncheon at the City Garden featuring its many whimsical sculptures followed. On Saturday evening, May 27th, Bobby and Mary Dunn hosted a spare rib cook ‘in’ (owing to inclement weather) at the newly renovated Moone Athy farm house (hat tip – kitchen update thanks to the planning efforts of Jennie Quick, Susan Cromie, Eleanor Withers, Katherine Law and Helene Tatum). Danny Cromie once again stepped up to the plate to provide delightful vocal and instrumental entertainment for the clan’s enjoyment that evening. Flying Chinese Sky Lanterns were a special treat after dark. On Sunday sleep in was made possible thanks to Fr Gerard Garrigan of the St Louis Abbey who very kindly agreed to travel to the farm to say Mass midday. Captain Charlie Skinner noted how extraordinarily beautiful the ceremony was in our outdoor setting. Many thanks to Fr Gerard! Sarah Fehlig provided the Cantor’s duties with vocal and guitar accompaniment. Following lunch, many participated in a nature walk through the Jack Cromie trail. A late afternoon sing-along in the Quick room capped Sunday’s events featuring Sarah and Ed Fehlig’s recently donated Yamaha digital piano – thanks Sarah and Ed! We must note that numerous meals throughout the weekend were provided and prepared by Cynthia and Bill Cromie – many thanks to them both for these! Memorial Day itself centered on the clan’s Florissant roots. The day started with a trip to Cold Water Cemetery, considered to be the oldest Protestant Cemetery west of the Mississippi still in use, for a Memorial Day ceremony. We regrouped next at Taille de Noyer where we were hosted for a private tour of the historical family homestead by family relative Jean Hilmer. Here Alicia Salter and those of her generation shared their recollections of their time there as children. Finally we moved on to St Ferdinand’s Church where again we were given a wonderful tour of the shrine where St Rose Philippine Duchesne lived and taught as she founded the first convents of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the United States. Bill and Karen Skinner then treated the family to a delicious picnic lunch on the grounds of the shrine. Thus it was appropriate that we culminated the wonderful weekend on the stomping grounds where the family took its St Louis origins.

Weekend photographs starting with the visit to Calvary Cemetery:

A Visit to our Family Gravesite

Salters at City Garden
25 May 2017

A few snapshots from the Saturday night cook in:

Sunday May 28th. Mass at Moone Athy followed by baseball at Kalish Field and the Jack Cromie trail walk:

Memorial Day at Taille de Noyer and St Ferdinand’s shrine:

This last photo from Katherine Law pretty well sums up the Memorial Day Reunion – doesn’t get much better!

High Livin’

Let’s hope there’s another Making Chambers Great Again event in our future!


Celebrating St Louis and Other Things Too

Filed under: Art,Family History,Family Places,Kudos — Chamberlain @ 2:41 pm

St Louis this year celebrates the 250th year of it founding. As a part of this celebration, Washington University, The Association of Yale Alumni, and the Les Amis organization together are sponsoring a day-long symposium on Friday, February 14th, at the Missouri Historical Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd, St Louis Mo 63112. Sign up and mark your calendars because this promises to be a fun opportunity for us to get together and learn more about our rich cultural heritage.

The program will feature discussions about our city’s founding by historians from across the US with expertise in our French and Spanish heritage. Included in the list of participants will be Yale’s Jay Gitlin PhD and our own Clay Skinner PhD from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Attendees will include European and Canadian ambassadors and Chief Red Eagle from the Osage Tribe. Luncheon at Washington University and/or dinner at Windows on Washington will be provided to registrants.

René Auguste Chouteau, Pierre Laclede, and John and Bryan Mullanphy are but a few of the prominent figures in our city’s history with whom family members and friends have a connection. So this should be a fun and informative event and we hope that some of you will take the opportunity to attend. For reservations you may contact Diane Morrissey at, or call her at 302-432-1946. You may also register on line at

Another THANK YOU CYNTHIA is due to Cynthia Cromie whose most recent Walnut Tally has just arrived in the mail. This is a huge undertaking, beautifully done, that is an indispensable desktop tool that the whole family relies upon. What a gift. Included in this year’s mailing is another gem, Camp Runamok Games. As Cynthia notes in the preface,

“In Cromie family folklore, Camp Runamok is convened whenever and wherever there are more people who have an urgent need to run around than people who do not”.

As can be imagined, this condition pertains more often than not in the Chamber. The history of Runamok is detailed in the publication for your edification. A classic, full-fledged Runamok was recently experienced at one of the family haunts, Hessel MI. Link here to witness first hand a Runamok, and you’ll quickly get the (painful) idea. This booklet provides all the rules needed to set up and, more importantly, referee multiple diversions for the youth so as to fully realize a Runamok for yourself. Thanks Cynthia for your Sisyphean efforts on all our behalf.

To cap things off we have another terrific success by Gin Cromie. Her movie, The Square, which we noted in a posting previously here,
is now available on Netflix. As noted in the Netflix write-up:

“Nominated for the 2014 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature, this critically praised documentary chronicles the history-making revolution in Egypt that captivated the world with scenes of courage and freedom in the face of violent opposition.”

This of course is big. We now have an Academy Award nominee in our midst. We’ll claim her, no problem. Congratulations to Gin!

Happy New Year All!

Remembering Polky

Filed under: Family History — Chamberlain @ 10:57 pm

Today we celebrate the birthday of William Julius Polk Jr, born October 1 1911, affectionately known by all as Uncle Polky. It was 10 years ago that many of us gathered at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the dedication there of a commemorative plaque and bronze relief given by the family in his honor.


Poppies for Polky


Kate Dunn Smith did the artwork which was generously subsidized by the family at large. It gave Polky a great deal of pleasure, and it was wonderful to be able to acknowledge his generosity to us while he was still alive.

On this anniversary of his birth it seems fitting to share with the family the rich set of recollections that Uncle Polky recorded in a series of interviews with the journalist John W. Curley. These were made during Thursday afternoon luncheons between January and November of 2000. They formed the basis of the small book “Uncle Polky, Memories of St Louis” (Virginia Publishing Company, 2002). Over the past year we have saved these 14 some odd sessions in unedited form and they will be in our family blog library for anyone who would like to hear his voice again. They contain much that was not included in his book, and indeed for those interested in not only family but St Louis history, they are a treasure. If you are patient as Polky slowly collects his thoughts, and waits for the sirens of the passing ambulances to die away, you will be rewarded. We owe a debt of gratitude to John Curley who so carefully explored these memories with Polky. John died at age 50 in July 2003, just two months after Uncle Polky, so this was his last effort – we are so glad that he undertook it.

Here then are the Luncheon Conversations… I hope you will enjoy them. Happy Birthday Polky!


Radio Dublin Interview

Filed under: Family History — Chamberlain @ 5:28 pm


“Mrs. Polk, let us first deal with your husband’s blood, since you, as a woman of great Irish background, condescended to marry a man of Saxon stock…”



Today’s audio installment dates from 22 September 1965. A colorful Eoin ‘Pope’ O’Mahony (center in the photo above – pardon the watermark) interviews Old Granny at 4969 Pershing. O’Mahony’s career as a politician, genealogist, radio commentator, and historian of the Irish diaspora (especially that of the aristocrats) is summarized here. This 30 minute tape contains some interesting details about the Polk and Chambers’ ancestry, and, as a bonus, comments from Grizelda Skinner. The “mellifluous Cork accent” of Pope O’Mahony is evident.

Diversions for a Snowy Day

Filed under: Family History — Chamberlain @ 12:11 pm

“I have always found that when I see snow descending, my spirits rise.”

Thus does Uncle Polky begin a series of taped, autobiographical sessions with the Post-Dispatch journalist John Curley in Jan 2000. Ultimately these tapes were distilled into the delightful essay “Uncle Polky – Memories of St Louis” (Wm Julius Polk and John W. Curley, Virginia Publishing Company, 2002). I have been meaning for some time to archive digitally the unedited recordings of these interviews. This post provides below an audio link to the first installment. It is wonderful to hear Polky reflect on his family, his childhood, his days at Barat Hall, and his city. His lucid recollections and wry self-deprecating humor are more accessible here than on the printed page.



John Curley and W Julius Polk, Racquet Club, in 2000


We owe John Curley a posthumous debt of gratitude for his work in doing these recordings. John died of lung cancer in July 2003. His obituary can be found here.

During the next year I will attempt to archive/post all 14 sessions (recorded Jan – Oct 2000). It seems somehow appropriate to have his voice preserved “in the cloud”. Stay tuned…


Mullanphy News

Filed under: Family Events,Family History — Chamberlain @ 2:00 pm

Here are updates regarding the Chambers/Mullanphy tribes that you may find of interest. First, the Fourth International Reunion of the Ó Maolanfaidh extended family is being held this June in London Ontario. Here is Ninian Mellamphy’s announcement of the event – I am remiss in not posting this earlier:

“Dear Members of the extended Ó Maolanfaidh family:

I thought that the Feast of all Saints would be an ideal day to write a note of invitation to the fourth international reunion of the Ó Maolanfaidh family, which will take place in London, Ontario, Canada on the first weekend of June, 2011 (June 3-6).

Many of us will remember that one of the first of our namesakes to be mentioned in early medieval documents was the founder of a seventh-century monastery at the mouth of the Blackwater river in Ireland (near modern Youghal, Co. Cork) and was venerated as Saint Maolanfaidh. God knows how many of us—Malamphys, Molamphys, Molanphys, Melanphys, Mullamphys, Molumphys and at least 30 other English-language derivatives of the Irish name—claim direct descent from him.

The three earlier reunions took place in Frederick, Maryland (2001), the next at Coolbawn Quay, County Tipperary (2005), the third in Waiheke Island, New Zealand (2008) and all three were happy gatherings of people from various parts of Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, as well the USA and Canada. We look forward to meeting additional cousins from South America and, let’s hope, South Africa, as well as the old reliables.

Please find attached a proposed plan for the activities of the weekend—a plan that is very preliminary indeed. In the weeks and months ahead we look forward to getting suggestions from you about events and activities you might like to have added.

In order to help us develop plans for the reunion, would you be so kind as to let me know by Christmas if you are tempted be here in June – or by the feast of Saint Maolanfaidh, January 30,
at the latest?


If any OurRumpians are interested in attending this event contract me here and I will forward current lodging information that Ninian has sent us. This sounds like a very well organized outing that would be fun for the genealogists amongst us.

In similar vein, Jennie Quick has forwarded a fascinating link that provides family history about the Charles Chambers and John Mullanphy families. It appears in the July 1908 edition of The Messenger, page 59, which can be accessed here. The title page of this Fordham University publication is shown below.


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