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George L.P. Overfield
(1857-1921)

 

Riverside Cemetery. Courtesy Judy VanFleet

George L.P.  Overfield was born in November 1857 (or 1855) in either Barbour or Preston County, VA (later WV), the son of John Edgar and Sarah (Hanshaw) Overfield.

As an unmarried man in about 1877, when he was 20 years of age, George migrated westward to Montana to find his life's adventure and make his own way. Among George's places of residence over more than four decades in the Great West were Kansas; Fort Macleod, Canada; and Helena and Fort Benton, Montana. 

Yet he apparently returned home for periods of time. This is evidenced by the fact that the federal census of 1880 shows him in West Virginia, in his parents' household in Reedsville in the Valley District of Preston County. The census-taker recorded that his occupation was "tramping" which suggests that George came and went with regularity. But he did not stay in the east for long.

Said a newspaper, he came to Montana "to manage the firm of Raleigh & Clark in Helena," a dry goods emporium. After proving his abilities there, he "later engaged in the dry goods business in Townsend, Bozeman and Great Falls until he entered the cattle business and located at Benton being for many years one of the leading stockmen of Northern Montana."

 

Helena's main street in 1870, about the time George arrived. Signs are visible for the Belmont Saloon and Union Brewery as well as for tobaccos, cigars and beer

 

At some point in time, likely in the 1880s, George was employed by the Baker Company, which carried U.S. mail into Canada using riders and wagons. He worked at the company store in Fort Macleod in the Canadian province of Alberta, and at Fort Benton, MT Among his duties was distributing federal "annuity" payments to Indians.

 

Preston County (WV) Journal, 1890

In 1890, George made his home in Fort Macleod, a town that had been founded just 16 years before and that grew thanks to expansion of farming and development of the railroad. In September of 1890, he traveled back east to see his parents in West Virginia, with the news covered in the gossip columns of the Preston County Journal

By 1899, he had returned to Montana, and made his residence in Great Falls. That year, he was a member of the Montana Stock Growers' Association and was listed in its annual brand book and directory.

Later, by 1900, the census shows that he had moved again within Montana to Fort Benton, a town along the west bank of the Missouri River and the county seat of Chouteau County. There, he continued his work as a stockman and lived near Dahlberg's large boarding house.

In about 1901, at the age of 44, George married 28-year-old Alice Marie Dailey (1873-1950), a native of Liverpool, England. She was 16 years younger than her husband, and was the daughter of Francis and Honora Dailey. She had emigrated to the United States at the age of two and settled in Eureka, KS with her parents.

Above: the trading center of Fort Benton, MT, 1870s and below, its ruins in the early 1900s. Sketch from The Centennial History of the United States, 1874, by James D. McCabe.

 

 

George's cattle marks in the 1903 brand book
of the Montana State Growers' Association

The couple produced three children together, of whom two are known -- Alice Rhodes and David Basham Overfield. The other died in childhood during the 1900s. Daughter Alice was born in Fort Benton in 1905 and son David in Kansas in 1906.

Circa 1908-1920, when the federal censuses were taken, the Overfields lived on Baker Street in Fort Benton. George was active in the community, and served as a director of the Benton State Bank, incorporated on July 5, 1910, and secretary-manager of the Benton Electric Light Company.

He also was a member of the Benson lodge of the Masons, and was considered a "master mason" in a 1901 directory. He is mentioned in connection with the Masons in the book History of Montana, 1739-1885 (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Company, 1885).

At the death of his uncle Dr. Guy Hanshaw in 1908, George was entitled to receive 1/48 of the estate, which included lucrative oil and gas wells. He received an immediate payout from the estate of $38.54 in 1909. At intervals over the years, through 1942, he and his heirs received royalty payments from the oil and gas wells. The high point was in 1918, when he was paid $16.36. In total, he received $171.74 in inheritance.

George was employed in 1910 as a stockman on a ranch, but in 1920 had no occupation and may have been retired or infirm. They lived next to the St. Clare Hospital, also known locally as the County Poor House. 

 

George's obituary, 1921

In 1913, George was mentioned in the book A History of Montana, by Helen Fitzgerald Sanders (Lewis Publishing Co.).

Sadly, an era ended when George died at home on June 21, 1921. He was age 64. Interment of the remains was in Riverside Cemetery in Fort Benton.

The Associated Press distributed an obituary headlined "Pioneer Dead" which was published in the Anaconda (MT) Standard and perhaps other newspapers. It said he "was a native of Virginia, and came to Montana 44 years ago..." The article also erroneously exaggerated his age by 10 years, saying he was 74. [Find-a-Grave]

 

Book naming George

Alice survived her husband by 29 years. She first moved to Southern California and in 1930 lived as a widow with her married sister and brother in law Mary and August Auget in Anaheim, Los Angeles County.

She then migrated to Arizona, and lived with her daughter at 1506 West Main Street in Clarksdale, Yavapai County.

She died in Phelps Dodge Hospital in Jerome, Yavapai County at the age of 80 years, 11 months on May 5, 1950. Cause of death was hypertension. She was placed into eternal rest in St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix. Her obituary was printed in the Arizona Republic.

Many years after his death, both in 1983, George's name was published in two books printed that year -- Half Interest in a Silver Dollar: The Saga of Charles E. Conrad, by James Emmett Murphy, and The Piegan Storyteller, by the James Willard Schultz Society. The Half Interest book quotes George extensively about his work distributing funds and goods to Indians.

 

~ Daughter Alice H. (Overfield) Rhodes ~

Daughter Alice H. Overfield (1905-1989) was born in 1905 in Fort Benton or Fort Benton, MT.

As an adult, she was employed as a public school teacher in Clarkdale, Yavapai County, AZ as shown in the federal census of 1930. That year, she roomed with other teachers in a house on First Street South.

In the early 1930s, Alice married Edward A. Rhodes Sr. (1900-1981), a native of Anderson, IN. He had come to Arizona in 1926.

They bore two children, Barbara Lee Kelley and Edward Abert "Ted" Rhodes Jr.

At the time of the daughter's birth, the family lived at 832 North 3rd Avenue in Phoenix, Maricopa County, with Edward having worked as a chemist for Standard Oil for seven years past, since 1926.

They moved about over the years to such places as Anaheim, CA and Clarkdale and Ajo, Pima County. He continued his work as a chemist, retiring from the Phelps Dodge Corporation. Alice taught for many years in the Clarkdale School and Alhambra School District and retired from the position.

In the early 1980s, the family address as 2887 North 43rd Avenue. He held memberships in the local lodge of the Masons and Scottish Rite.

Edward died at the age of 81 in April 1981. His obituary was printed in the Arizona Republic and the Ajo Copper News.

Alice lived for another eight years. The angel of death carried her away at the age of 84 on Jan. 31, 1989. Her funeral mass was sung in St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. The Republic published her obituary. She was survived by five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Daughter Barbara Lee Rhodes (1933- ? ) was born on June 26, 1933 in Phoenix, AZ. As a young woman she received a bachelor's degree in education, with honors, from Arizona State University. She wedded Kay Douglas Kelley ( ? - ? ). They were the parents of Leslie Pino, Douglas Kelley and Mark Kelley. The family resided for decades in Ajo, Pima County, AZ, billed as the "closest community to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument." Barbara was employed for more than three decades as an elementary school teacher in Ajo, where she "was a positive influence on hundreds of young people," said a newspaper. Upon retirement and into later years, she "enjoyed poetry, reading, and desert picnics with family and friends. She also loved the beachfront view at the cabin in Cholla Bay, and most recently, spending summers in Heber, Arizona, to escape the heat." Kay and Barbara were very involved with the Elks lodge.  She succumbed to death in Surprise, AZ on March 1, 2017, with her daughter and granddaughters by her side.

  • Granddaughter Leslie Kelley was joined in wedlock with Johnny Pino (1957-2017). One son born in this family was Michael Pino. Johnny was employed for a dozen years with United Technologies and then moved to American Golf where he spent 15 years of work. His final employer was Dysart School District over the span of another dozen years. In his free time, he liked to follow Marley Park Elementary School activities, hunt and root for the Arizona Cardinals football team. The family was plunged into grief when Johnny contracted pancreatic cancer and died on March 5, 2017.
  • Grandson Douglas Kelley was united in matrimony with Laura.
  • Grandson Mark Kelley

Son Edward Albert "Ted" Rhodes (1934- ? ) was born on Oct. 22, 1934 in Anaheim, CA. He established a home in Blythe, Riverside County, CA and was there circa 1981. He surrendered to death in Riverside on May 31, 1989. Burial of the remains was in Palo Verde Cemetery in Blythe.

 

David B. Overfield

~ Son Lt. Cdr. David "Basham" Overfield ~

Son Lt. Cdr. David Basham "Bash" Overfield (1906-1950) was born on May 8, 1906 in Kansas.

He grew up in Fort Benton in a world filled with agricultural and land-based pursuits. 

He was age 15 when his father died, and went on to another type of life entirely, as a distinguished naval air flying career as a lieutenant commander during World War II. 

On July 10, 1923, right after he graduated from high school, David was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, at the age of 17. He was a member of the Class of 1927, and is pictured in the Naval Academy yearbook, Lucky Bag. His yearbook entry said that:

As a favorite pastime, writing and receiving letters probably holds first place; he doesn't consider a day complete unless he has written two or more, and received at least that many. More or less of a savoir himself, Bash would never refuse to help another fellow out when he couldn't see through a prob. Always ready to lend a hand in anything that is being done, and with a smile, too, he makes friends wherever he goes, and is the kind one wants for a shipmate. We predict a happy and successful career in the Fleet for you, Bash, and send you off with our heartiest wishes for just that.

 

 

Left: a scout plane from the USS Ranger on a patrol to protect a convoy from enemy submarines. Right: the Ranger aircraft carrier from which David flew.

 

 

   

  

World War II books in which David is named

He married Shirley Lake (1911-2003).

They bore one known son, Robert Anthony Overfield (1937-2005), born in California.

When David was away in military service in 1940, Shirley and their son moved back to her hometown area, Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington, DC.

During World War II, in November 1942, David flew air missions from the USS Ranger aircraft carrier during the invasion of North Africa, under the command of Rear Admiral Ernest D. McWhorter and Capt. C.T. Durgin. 

He is cited by name in Volume 2 of Samuel Eliot Morison's classic work, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II: Operations in North African Waters (1962). (A distant cousin, Ensign Robert Edwin Minerd, is mentioned by name in Volume 10 of Morison's series, entitled The Atlantic Battle Won.)

In recognition of his pioneering naval air maneuvers from an aircraft carrier, David also is mentioned on several pages of the book USS Ranger: The Navy's First Flattop from Keel to Mast, authored by Robert Cressman in 2003. The 1954 book Newport News Ships: Their History in Two World Wars, published by The Mariners Museum of   Newport News, VA, mentions David in connection "Operation Torch," the code name for the Allies' invasion of Africa during the war.

During the conflict, David also was commander of the Anacostia Naval Reserve Base in the District of Columbia, and is mentioned in editions of the base newsletter, Prop Tips.

 

Anacostia newsletter

He retired from military service with the rank of lieutenant commander.

David died in San Diego on Dec. 14, 1950, at the age of 44. He was laid to rest in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego County. 

Shirley outlived her husband by more than half a century. 

She spent her final years in Houston, TX, where she passed away in 2003, at age 92. Her remains were sent to Virginia for burial in Princess Anne Memorial Park in Virginia Beach. 

Son Robert Anthony Overfield (1937-2005) was born on June 21, 1937 in California. As a boy, with his father away in military service, he and his mother resided in Takoma Park, MD, a suburb of Washington, DC. He joined the U.S. Army and during the Vietnam War, he served as a first lieutenant. He resided for a time in Virginia. He died in Seabrook, TX on March 18, 2005 and is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

 

~ Other Books Mentioning David Basham Overfield ~

The Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War Two, by Barrett Tillman (Naval Institute Press, 1976)
Newport News Ships: Their History in Two World Wars, by Howard James Balison (Mariners Museum, 1954)
 

Copyright 2004, 2009-2010, 2012-2013, 2021 Mark A. Miner

George Overfield obituary courtesy of GenealogyBank.com. George Overfield grave marker photo courtesy of Judy VanFleet. USS Ranger scout plane image courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USE6-D-008870).