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Home: Surnames: Gitchell Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: George Nelson Gitchell Descendants
Posted by: Robert Butler (ID *****9728) Date: January 12, 2008 at 07:53:31
In Reply to: Geroge Nelson Gitchell Decendants by Teresa Hill of 102

Hi Teresa - I am a Gitchell descendant, have just recontacted Jim Eubank and looking forward to adding some more details to my data on these lines. But I was amazed to read about your having this scrapbook. I suspect it might have belonged to Raymond Charles Franchi (b. 24 Jul 1905, d. 19 Mar 2001), whose mother was Bertha May Gitchell (b. 7 Mar 1885, d. 29 Feb 1988 at age 102). I visited cousin Ray several times, and know that he had much Gitchell memorabilia. Sometime after his wife Lucille died (Alma Lucille Reed, but Lucille may have been spelled with only one L, not two - I'll have to check my files), Ray moved from his East Bay home to a rest home, where he lived by himself, and died there. Neither I nor my cousin Jeannine (Gitchell) Davidson were aware that he had passed away. All his effects were disposed of somehow, apparently not by relatives, and I heard that some were sold on Ebay. Perhaps this scrapbook belonged to him as well. If so, it is a wonderful thing that someone was thoughtful enough to save it and put in your hands.

Ray Franchi's grandfather George Nelson Gitchell was an accomplished musician, as were George's two daughters Josie Bell and Bertha May (always called May), who were both expert cornet players. They were once pictured in an advertisement for Conn cornets. I have George Gitchell's violin, given to me by Ray Franchi. When George and his family decided to move from Michigan to California, they formed the Gitchell Comedy Company, hired a comic, and set out for CA by wagon. They put on entertainments - short plays and music - in small towns all along the way. Ray Franchi had many mementos of that trip, including playbills and the recipe for Dr. Gitchell's liniment, which George sold to make extra money on the trip. In San Francisco, George opened a grocery store which was successful until it was burned in the fire following the 1906 earthquake. They escaped the fire with only what they could stack on their Singer sewing machine and roll down the street. I understand that George also led an all-girl band in the Bay Area, and perhaps his daughters were in it. May (Gitchell) Franchi was for many years the high school band director in Los Banos, CA, and I believe the first female band director in CA. All of George Gitchell's brothers were musicians as well, including my g-gfather Wallace Calvin "Joe" Gitchell, who was a fine trombone player. Many of their descendants were also musically inclined - Ray Franchi played in the Cal band, but was also a life-long educator in California; he taught in India for a time and was most proud of the biography of Ghandi he wrote, titled Burning Sandles. I think Ray had met Ghandi while he was in India.

Perhaps the scrapbook you have reflects some of this history. If not, maybe it belonged to someone else in the Gitchell family. I would be interested in knowing more about its contents, and perhaps obtaining copies of some of them. I was afraid that these things had been lost to us forever, but perhaps this is not the case.

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