Making Long Lost Ancestral Connections

In 1881 two brothers left Dingwall, Scotland for Liverpool, England to emigrate to the USA. William Rose Frew, my great-grandfather, was just 21 years old and his older brother, Thomas MacNaughton Frew II, was 23 when they made the great voyage. According to William’s naturalization papers, they landed near Chicago and ended up in Canada.

A year later, records indicate that William had made it as far west as Dillon, Montana, where he opened up a photography studio at a time when photography was in its infancy. He opened it with another man by the name of Nesbitt located near the Dillon Tribune newspaper office.

William Rose Frew I Bozeman, MT abt 1884
William Rose Frew


Thomas MacNaughton Frew II, Dillon, Montana Photo by William Rose FrewThomas temporarily parted ways with William while still in Canada and headed to Michigan where their mother’s brother, Uncle William Alexander Dallas Rose, owned several lumber mills. Thomas worked as a blacksmith for Uncle WAD for a year or so but then he eventually ended up joining his brother in Dillon, Montana where the photo of him by William Rose was taken.

William Rose fell in love with the daughter of the Editor of the Dillon Tribune, Hiram Brundage.Hiram Brundage

Her name was Nancy Anne Brundage. Nancy Anne Brundage


By November of 1883 William Rose and Nancy Anne were wed in Dillon, and a year later my grandfather, William Rose Frew II, was born in the frontier town complete with covered wagons.



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Thomas also fell in love with a woman named Evangeline Lilly from Wisconsin. How they met I’m not quite sure but after their marriage in Wisconsin in 1890, they traveled back out west to Sacramento where their first child was born. William Rose with his wife and son also traveled down to California, met up with Thomas and they all settled on homesteads in the Antelope Valley near Lancaster in Southern California.

Unfortunately, within 2 years, my great-grandfather, William Rose, died from a fall off of a windmill at the young age of 32, leaving his widow and children alone in the desert. She was pregnant at the time and made the decision to return to her family in Montana rather than stay in California.

His brother, Thomas and his family, however, stayed put in California and by 1900 had relocated to Newhall where he bought a blacksmith shop. The business prospered and endured for another 40 years after his death in 1934.


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Thomas and his family lost all contact with his brother’s widow, Nancy Anne, and William’s children when they went back to Montana. Consequently, the descendants of the two brothers had no contact with one another for 126 years until just recently!

My sister, Sue, shares my interest in genealogy, and she also enjoys visiting Scotland and places where our ancestors are from almost as much as me!  When she heard that I had made contact with Thomas MacNaughton Frew IV (our great-grandfather’s brother’s grandson) this last winter through DNA result matching she was excited. She got even more excited when she also learned that I had plans to go and meet him and asked if she could join me!

I spent a good part of the spring and early summer this year visiting Holland and Scotland as you well know if you’re following this blog. During the winter, while I was planning that wonderful trip I had the good fortune to make connections through DNA results in Ancestry with Tom Frew IV (my long lost cousin, and my great-grandfather’s nephew from Newhall!) It was the first time those two lines of the family had talked in over a hundred years! We were both so excited! We talked on the phone a few times and soon decided it would be great to get together once I returned from my trip abroad in mid-June.

Little did I know, however, that once I got home from Scotland, I would sell my house and move north to the Portland, Oregon area to live closer to my own granddaughter, and great-granddaughter within two weeks’ time! By the 4th of July, I had relocated and was actively looking for a new house to buy. This unexpected move waylaid my plans to travel south to meet Tom in August, but I promised him I’d make it down to California by Halloween.

On October 5th, I started my 1,000-mile drive to Southern California to meet my long lost cousin Tom.


Along the way, I stopped at Fort Bragg, California to pick up my sister Sue, (Point B above), and we continued on as far as Monterey where we spent the night and enjoyed a wonderful harbor side seafood dinner at sunset. She enjoyed King Scallops and I had the Rock Cod. Yum!


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The following day before leaving Monterey we enjoyed a local Parisian Bakery and it’s delightful assortment of delicious pastries before we toured the famous “17-Mile Drive” in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pebble Beach.



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Afterward, we drove US Hwy 101 south towards Santa Barbara and Ventura, stopping off occasionally to take in the beautiful seaside vistas. We even chanced upon a pod of California Brown Pelicans roosting on the cliff sides and gliding in the air around us!


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IMG_7908Not long afterward we were arriving in Camarillo and we would meet our cousin for the first time! Even though we had never met one another, he cordially invited us to stay with him in his lovely home and we spent many hours during the rest of the week, visiting, sharing photos and stories and getting to know one another! He is quite the character, a gracious and generous host and definitely one of our own! We all hit it off wonderfully.


He shared so many wonderful old photos of his grandparents, his parents and life growing up in Newhall.


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The Frews were prominent and active citizens in their hometown and played a big part in their community over the course of decades, including the 4th of July parade every year with their entry floats.


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Tom Frew III inherited the business from his father and carried on the business.

IMG_7686Over the years they built a new shop next to the old one which had now become quite dilapidated.  Of course, they built the framing for the new structure out of steel and welded it together for strength and durability!


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Tom IV inherited the family business from his father as well, but times were changing and Tom also had other interests in life he wanted to pursue so he closed the shop and followed his dreams, just as his grandfather had before the turn of the century.

Although he is retired now, he gave a lot of his time in service to his community by serving as Docent at the Historical society for instance. He is also a very creative man and has quite the imagination and ingenuity.  One of his favorite things to do was to host extravagant and well-planned parties for his family and friends.  One year he turned his house into “Castle of the Oaks” and hosted a medieval event called “Midsummer Moonlight Madness!” Below is a copy of the proclamation scrolls he had printed up as invitations!IMG_7783

It took him a very long time to create the right atmosphere so the parties happened every couple of years. He is very creative with cardboard. He built the entire castle walls out of cardboard which were painted grey and then stamped with painted styrofoam templates to make it look like rock walls.


He also created thrones with ordinary lawn chairs by adding cardboard. Guests ate meat, cheese, and bread off of wooden planks branded with the “King Frew” coat of arms and drank their ale from specially purchased medieval mugs!


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On another occasion, he created a circus complete with tigers, acrobat performers, a tattooed lady, and his aunt Vangie came as the bearded lady!  What fun! He even had tickets, posters, and press releases printed up for it!  Naturally, he came as the Ring Master and made his grand entrance on an elephant!


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Suzie and I had so much fun getting to know our long lost cousin and we thoroughly enjoyed looking at all of his photo albums chock full of memorabilia from his life while he relived and shared his adventures and events in his life with us. During the week we spent with him there was never a dull moment from all the stories he had to share.

One day we traveled about 45 miles from Tom’s house in Camarillo to his hometown of Newhall (now part of Santa Clarita) so he could show us a number of things he thought we would be interested in seeing.

Our first stop was at the Santa Clarita Historical Society where the second home his grandfather built is located and sits on a piece of property which adjoined the estate of a famous silent movie cowboy star, William S. Hart. We parked the car and walked over to his grandfather’s house. All the while, Tom reminisced about being a young boy visiting his grandparents in this house.


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As we were leaving a Park official came round the corner to ask us if we needed any assistance in any way. We explained who we were and when he found out he was talking to the well-known and highly respected Tom Frew IV, he was delighted!  He had heard so much about him. He invited us into the office, and although the rooms in the house have been transformed into park offices, we could still see traces of how the family lived, what their kitchen looked like, etc.  I could just imagine Tom with his grandparents in this house.

Tom wanted to take us up the hill above the historical society to visit William S. Hart’s house. The Frew’s and the Hart’s were longtime friends and neighbors and I suspect Tom’s interest and work in the movie business stemmed from this association. The Park was hosting a Pet Fair that day, so the park official we met decided to personally escort us up the hill to the mansion through the road barricades and crowds!


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We enjoyed the free tour of the house thanks to William himself. Upon his death, he bequeathed the house and property to the historical society IF they maintained it and let people visit it for free!

Many famous movie stars visited and stayed with William in this mansion on the hill and their pictures graced the halls, and one particularly good friend that William had was Emelia Earhart!


The interior was stunning and full of western cowboy artifacts, handmade Native American rugs, movie props, and all sorts of interesting memorabilia.


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On the way back down the hill to the historical society, we came upon the herd of buffalo and had a great view of the town below.


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We pulled up to the old train station that serves as the museum. Tom used to serve for many years as the Docent here.


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The current Docent got so excited and downright giddy to see Tom when she found out he was in the building visiting. They had a wonderful and happy reunion while Suzie and I checked out the museum.


Before leaving town Tom took us in the old downtown of Newhall where his grandfather’s blacksmith shops had been near the corner of Market & Main Streets. The “newer” shop is quite distinctive because of the arches on the roofline, although it now houses a different kind of business.


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Near the end of our week-long visit, Tom had arranged for several other family members to join us for an afternoon meal in Camarillo. They traveled from various places in Southern California (Atascadero, Goleta, and Westwood in Los Angeles). We felt quite honored that they took such trouble to come to meet us and welcome us into this side of the family.

In the photo below, from left to right – Suzie Frew, Claudia Frew, Judy & Don Nason (Don is Tom’s cousin), Tom Frew IV, Nick & Mary Arnold (Mary’s maiden name is Frew and is also Tom’s cousin), Liana & Tom Frew V (Tom’s eldest son). Suzie and I were fortunate to meet not only one Frew during our visit, but 3 more as well!  What a genealogy treat!


We had such a great time with all of these wonderful and delightful new family members.  By the end of the week, we hated to leave and say goodbye.

The two brothers, Thomas and William, who emigrated to the USA before the 20th century each had families. Although their respective families drifted apart about a decade after their emigration, it’s so nice to have them reunited once again although we are quite spread out across America.

Thomas’ family pretty much stayed put in the same general area of California, while William Rose’s descendants have scattered across the United States.  Some still live in California (my sisters, Sue & Phyllis and some other cousins), I live in Oregon, and we have cousins that live near Seattle & Bellingham, Washington, some still in Montana, and others who live in Idaho, North Carolina, and along the gulf coast of Florida!  Two family members also live in Dublin, Ireland! My cousin’s son Ben, and Tom Frew IV’s younger son Erik!  I wonder if the two of them have crossed paths on Dublin’s streets not knowing they are related to one another! It’s interesting following the family lines throughout history and seeing where they started and where they’ve ended up.

Speaking of which, remember the mention earlier of my great-grandfather, Hiram Brundage, the newspaper guy?  Well… speaking of where people in my family ended up…


Suzie had done quite a bit of research while I was traveling this summer. After he retired from the newspaper business in Dillon, Montana, he also traveled south to California with his second wife and family and bought a lemon grove in Montecito, near Santa Barbara.  Since Sue and I were in the general area while visiting Tom Frew IV in Camarillo we decided to take one of the days we were visiting to see if we could find out any more about our great-great-grandfather, Hiram.

Every town Hiram lived in, starting in Virginia City, Montana he not only started a newspaper business, and built a house, but he was also a founding father of the local Episcopalian church in town! Montecito was no exception. Suzie had made arrangements to visit the “All Saints By The Sea” Episcopal Church in Montecito that he helped build near the turn of the 20th century and to also visit with the archivist there.


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Hiram served as the Senior Warden under the first Vicker, Melvyn Moore. So we were looking at yet another well-built and still standing example of our great-great-grandfather’s handiwork!

One lady greeted us and gave us a tour of the interior with all of its beautiful woodwork and stained glass.


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Then we met with the archivist and she brought out old record books of Marriages, Baptisms, & Births which she had marked ahead of time with pink post-it notes where Hiram or his family were recorded.  She also produced documentation of Hiram’s contribution to the Pew Fund when they needed pews to replace the folding chairs the church used early on and a receipt from the lumber yard that Hiram had purchased the original timbers and supplies from the local mill with which to build the church!  Amazing!


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She also showed us old photographs of the church when it was first built and used before they had the luxury of new pews. I wonder which chair my great-great-grandfather liked to sit upon during services.


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The various people at the church we met were so helpful, informative and quite happy to meet a couple of the descendants of one of their own founding fathers. They presented us with a lovely book about the history of the church and we felt so honored. You meet the nicest people when exploring ancestral and genealogical ties.

After visiting the church we headed for the Santa Barbara Cemetery less than a mile away to see if we could find Hiram’s gravestone and family plot.


We drove to the office and found a plot map. Due to Suzie’s exhaustive research, she had discovered the plot number and it was just a matter of finding it on the map of the cemetery with the help of the receptionist.  Not long afterward we were standing right in front of it.  In the picture below, I have drawn a pencil line to outline the family plot where Hiram, his wife, Mary Jane, and their children are buried.IMG_7864_LI

Hiram and Mary Jane’s headstone were made out of sandstone and have consequently eroded beyond recognition over the decades. Their children’s headstones are still intact.


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The view from Hiram’s resting place is also not too shabby!


My sister and I had such a wonderful trip but it was time to head back to our respective homes so we headed back the way we came early driving through the miles and miles of endless acres of fertile agricultural lands filled with all manner of food for the world; including all sorts of fruits and nuts, orchards, lettuce, artichokes and garlic until we reached San Francisco!


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We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and continued north to Fort Bragg.

The following morning I continued on my way toward Oregon driving along some of the most beautiful and scenic sections of the northern California coastline which includes lots of trees for miles and miles, including groves of giant Redwoods!


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In the Willamette Valley of Oregon just south of Portland, farmers raise grass seed, and this sight was welcome as it meant I was almost home!


It was a wonderful journey and a very educational one as well. As usual, it far exceeded my wildest dreams in so many aspects and even held a few surprises which I always enjoy but it’s always nice to get back home so I can start planning yet another adventure and keep my eyes directed toward the horizon for more.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am ever so thankful that my sister Sue shares my love of family and genealogical ties and that we are able to travel together and share the discoveries with one another.  I am particularly grateful for all the legwork and research she conducted to find out information ahead of time about our great-great-grandfather, Hiram, while I was busy traveling earlier in the year in Scotland. Thank you, Suzie! In addition, I must admit I agree with Sue that we are both extremely grateful for the quality ‘sister time‘ the two of us got to share. After all, it all boils down to making memories with the ones we love, isn’t it?!