Edward Francis Phelan

He rode with the Wild Bunch in New Mexico, hung up his six guns and promised to not use them again if my Grandmother would marry him.  My mother said she remembered her mother in tears when he strapped them back on to protect his youngest brother John Phelan.

by Ed’s granddaughter Bobbie Ohlwiler

Edward and Sarah Esther (Etta) had five children – Henrietta Frances, Lawrence Emerson, Leroy Anthony, Virginia Elizabeth and Camelle Florette (Sister Virginia Elizabeth – but always called Tommie by family). There were 19 years between my mother and Tommie. Tommie was 12 when I was born and was my little mother as my dad was very ill and my mother had to work.  My grandmother died around the age of 40 not long after Tommie was born (something my mother never forgave either her father or Tommie for). The real culprit was both valves of her heart leaked due to childhood whooping cough and she probably should never have had children.  Virginia was like a big sister/mother to us, she was 5 years older than Tommie.  My mother took the two girls and her dad took the two boys to raise. 

My mother moved to AZ and with the sometimes help of Aunt Grace (the last sister and the one born on the twin’s 14th birthday) had the two girls to raise, then married my dad and they had four children.  He died of MS when I was 1 1/2.  My mother had a 2 year degree from what is now Northern Arizona University but what was then a teachers college in Flagstaff, AZ.  That allowed her to teach school but after her first 2 children were born she and her 2 sisters contracted Typhoid Fever from a dude on the Navajo Reservation. She was about to die so was given an over dose of Quinine to save her life knowing that it would leave her permanently deaf.  I don’t know when my dad first started showing symptoms of MS but you probably know they come and go and are not the same for everyone.  He wasn’t diagnosed properly until shortly before his death in Prescott, AZ.  Illness and death always made my mother angry rather than kindly.  She had great plans for her life and felt very disappointed and didn’t care who she took it out on, mostly her family.

We moved to Williams from the Reservation and then to Flagstaff where she did other people’s laundry on a wash board, cleaned their homes and any thing like that to make a living for us.  It was a hard life for us.  My sister (Alberta, the oldest) was sent to CA to live with Great Grandma Simmons.  There was no SS to help us out so we lived in poverty. Later there was some sort of program that helped my mother go back to school and she got a hearing that wasn’t really very good.  We lived near Professor Tinsley in Flagstaff and I have a feeling he was instrumental in getting her into this program.  He and his wife who I called Auntie Glad were very good to us.  When I was five I went to my mother’s graduation and saw her receive her Bachelor’s Degree.  After that she was able to teach small country one room schools and our life was somewhat better but she received no summer salary and always had to have summer work.

Several years it was in the kitchen at NAU, her alma mater.  During that time Virginia and Tommie went to live with their brother Lawrence and his wife Pearl in CA so they could go to school.  My sister was in and out of my life then, she was supposed to attend St. Joseph’s Boarding School in Prescott but kept running away.  She caused so many problems that even after all these years it is difficult to think about them.  She was very bright and pretty but now I think she was seriously mentally ill, she didn’t have even a slight bit of a conscience.  When I was 7 my brothers went to live with my Uncle Jesse Smith and really didn’t come back into my life until we were in High School.  So you see we were really a very dysfunctional family.  I do have fond memories of Claude and Willow Phelan and especially their son Jimmy who was about my age.  I spent quite a bit of time with them when I was quite small. Claude was the twin Tom’s son.  I, also, remember Aunt Delphy and the wonderful marmalade she made and how she would hold me tight between her knees and French braid my long blond hair so tight I felt like I couldn’t close my eyes.

Aunt Tommie aka Camelle Phelan, pediatric nurse before she took her vows.  She had beautiful white complexion and bright blue eyes like her mother and the beautiful ‘Irish’ hair that she got from both parent’s Irish heritage.

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