Tuesday, March 25, 2014

52 Ancestors - #12 Pearl Burris - A Gold Miner with Diamonds in her Eye Teeth

Pearl Burris was born on March 5, 1888 in Tuscumbia, Missouri. Her parents were Burrel Williamson Burris and Rosetta George.  Her sister Opal (born September 9, 1891 and died July 7, 1892) and her brother W. Edgar (born March 9, 1889 and died March 1890) did not survive past one year of age. Her younger sister Ruby (my paternal grandmother) was born April 24, 1902 in Pueblo, Colorado and was 14 years younger.
 Pearl with Friend

Pearl married Charles W. Pardew on December 24, 1906 in Howell, Missouri when she was 18 years old and he claimed that he was 21 even though he had been born in 1888 also. They were divorced some time prior to October of 1912. He remarried on October 21, 1912 while he was living in Viola, Arkansas. Pearl and her parents had lived for three years in Viola, Arkansas after her sister Ruby’s birth in Colorado in 1902 so that must be where Pearl met Charles.

On February 28, 1913, Pearl was staying at the Metropolitan Hotel in Springfield, Missouri. On August 5, 1913 she was sent a postcard c/o Colonial Hotel in Springfield which was then forwarded to Richland, Missouri. 

In Kansas City, Missouri on March 21, 1914 Pearl B. Burris Pardew married Neal Christ Toft. She was 26 years old and he was 20.

On February 9, 1916, Pearl Toft was living at 762 Euclid, St Louis, Missouri.

Pearl’s mother Rosetta was very ill and in the hospital in Chicago where she died on August 27, 1920. Pearl and Neal Toft were living in Chicago, Illinois when they applied for US Passports on December 20, 1920 to leave the United States through the Port of New Orleans on January 1, 1921. On the application she obviously felt that the US Government did not need to know how old she was because she claimed that she was born in 1892. This was not true according to my grandmother and father and not possible according to the 1900, 1910 Censuses.  

At the time she applied for the passport she was 5’ 4” tall, had a high forehead, straight nose, medium mouth, round chin, oval face, fair complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. 

Pearl's passport photo

She is shown as returning by herself on the SS Governor Cobb to Key West, Florida from Havana, Cuba on March 18, 1921 – and she is listed as single.

In 1930 Pearl is living in Jackson, California and Neal is living in Missouri. She was still living in Jackson when her father died February 3, 1934.

In 1936 Ruby, her husband and three younger children left Missouri and moved to California so Pearl could help them out. My father was out with his dog hunting raccoons on Christmas Eve; they left while he was out and he came home to an empty house. His Mitchell grandparents took him in. Ruby and her family then moved to Seattle and Pearl helped them get a place and purchased the necessities for the family.

In the late 1930’s Pearl had a gold mine in Alaska that she worked. She would often answer her sister Ruby’s tearful pleas for money in 1938 with checks of $50 to $100.

The caption on the back of this picture was written by Pearl: At entrance of mine. Note miners cap and lamp I have on. Front of cap.

On the fifth of November 1945, Pearl married Walter Turner in Ketchikan, Alaska Territory. Pearl was 57 years old and Walter was 49 years old.

According to my grandmother Ruby, Pearl also did not feel that the US Government had any business knowing how much they made on that claim and she left the Alaska Territory with her money in a money belt (a theme on both sides of my family) prior to Alaska becoming a state in 1958. Pearl also left the Alaska Territory with a lot of nice jewelry – diamond watches and rings, and a ring with a gold nugget on it. Pearl must not have trusted banks either because she kept part of her money in bags of gold dust and diamonds. Pearl also had diamonds put into her eye teeth. 

Pearl owned several homes in California including one in Indio. Pearl and her husband had purchased property in Mexico and had moved a lot of their money there in preparation of permanently moving to Mexico. 

Pearl and Walter were killed in a horrible car/semi truck accident in Imperial, California on June 2, 1960. Pearl was 72 years old and Walter was 64. They were most probably heading to or returning from their home in Mexico. The medical examiner determined that Pearl had outlived her husband by a few minutes. There was a will leaving her sister Ruby $1, but it was unsigned and since Pearl had never had children Ruby inherited everything. Ruby spent a lot of time tearing out walls and searching for hidden money. There was no record of what they had in Mexico and Mexican officials could “find” nothing.

Ruby would come to visit us in Portland and let my sister and I wear the diamond rings and watches when we were 8 and 9 years old. And yes, Ruby managed to spend every dime in a few years – as her sister Pearl had feared.

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