OSBORN FAMILY NARRATIVE
Joel Edgar Osborn (1869-1945) was born in Radnor, Delaware County, Ohio. His parents, James Parce Osborn and Margaret Ann Lloyd, raised eight children on a family farm passed down from the Lloyd family. Joel attended Ohio State University, and after graduation, opened the Osborn Drug Shop in Prospect, Mansfield County, Ohio. Joel enlisted in the Ohio National Guard, where he served over 14 years, retiring in 1890 as a Captain. He married Caroline Linder in 1891.
In February 1903, the firm of Orr, Brown, and Price filed suit against Joel Osborn for over $1,150 in debt. Other creditors followed, and the store was closed and put into receivership. After appraisals and court proceedings, the business was sold to Lucas Drug Company in March 1903. Joel filed for bankruptcy in April 1903.
Not to be deterred and presumably looking for a fresh start, Joel Osborn immediately struck out for California, sending for his wife Caroline after he settled in Sawtelle, a small town in West Los Angeles. He later purchased a home in Malibu. He was the owner of several pharmacies, was given a post office contract, and founded the Veterans Masonic Association in Los Angeles. Joel’s family and friends from Ohio enjoyed visiting him in Los Angeles, and he returned to Ohio to visit family regularly.
On the heels of the Civil War, a drug crisis began to unfold in America that had its beginnings with the widespread administration of morphine to wounded soldiers. With the introduction of hypodermic syringes in 1856, the prescribing of opiates by physicians as a pain killer for various ailments became commonplace in the general population. Opiates were unregulated and readily available in the marketplace, including the commercialization of heroin by Bayer in 1898, and the sale of cocaine products even in the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Addiction rates in America are estimated to have risen by nearly 540 percent between the 1840s and 1890s. The Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 regulated the importation, manufacture, and sales of opiates by druggists, but exempted their continued distribution by physicians.
The drug crisis had far-reaching impacts not only on the pharmaceutical industry and public health generally, but on the professional and personal life of Joel Osborn. Records indicate that in 1908 he was accused of selling “intoxicating liquor” without a prescription. In 1916 he was arrested on two counts, for both alleged drug addiction and for a claimed shortage of $286.64 in the post office bank account which he administered. Joel maintained his innocence, and publicly blamed the arrests on the motives of his political enemies. He nonetheless was remanded to the psychiatric ward of the County hospital for one week (a common sentence at this time for persons suspected of drug addiction), and subsequently suffered financial ruin. In 1917, his wife Caroline divorced him and returned to Ohio. Prior to his downfall, Joel was estimated to have been worth $25,000. After his release from custody, he took a job working as a stock clerk and lived in a rented home. The following year he is reported in local newspapers to have started a “mosquito killing” business that received national press.
In 1920 he married Mary Caroline Fleming, a milliner who worked in the clothing industry. Joel’s second wife was born to Amelia Hull and Robert Fleming in Willowdale, Dickinson County, Kansas. She, along with her family had moved to Los Angeles by 1910, where she opened a clothing store, and supported her sister, Addie West, and her nephew, Robert Thomas. A brother, Frank Fleming, was an attorney. Following their marriage, Joel moved in with Mary Caroline, her sister Addie, and her fourteen-year-old nephew, William Thomas in Los Angeles.
By 1930, Joel was working as a skilled laborer for the Los Angeles County road crew. According to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, the Osborns continued to live in Los Angeles. However, in 1936 Joel and M. Caroline Osborn were both registered to vote in “Fish Rock,” Mendocino County, California. This indicates that they may have owned a second property there, or may have temporarily moved to Fish Rock. In 1938, M. Caroline Osborn is the only person registered to vote as a resident of Fish Rock. Their neighbors included two individuals with the last name of Smith, along with the Ciapusci, Tock, and other families.
In 1940, the Osborns were again registered to vote in Los Angeles, and purchased a ranch in Beaumont, Riverside County, California. They lived there at least until 1942, and then in 1943 moved north once again. On 2 November 1943, Joel suffered a stroke in Petaluma while accompanying a neighbor, Walter Toch, on a trip to purchase ranch supplies. He was taken to Petaluma General Hospital, where he remained until an ambulance transported him back to the coast. His wife, Mary Caroline, died a few days later on 20 November 1943 and was buried in the Gualala Cemetery. Joel remained in a hospital in Fort Bragg through Christmas. Despite still owning property in Beaumont, in 1944 Joel was registered to vote in Fort Bragg. He was subsequently moved to his home in Los Angeles, where he died on 5 September 1945. On the Death Certificate for Joel Osborn, a Mrs. Katheryn Smith is listed as the informant, who provided the County Registrar with the information surrounding Joel’s parents and birth. His remains were returned to the coast to be buried in the Gualala Cemetery.
Notes: The burials of both Caroline and Joel Osborn in the Gualala Cemetery suggests that they had a strong connection to the coast, although the exact nature of this connection is not obvious in the available records. One hypothesis that has been forwarded is that they were related to another Osborn family, namely Pete (Levitt Charles) and Katherine Osborn, who moved to Gualala in 1962. However, genealogical research on the lineages of Joel Osborn and Levitt Charles “Pete” Osborn tracing back to the early 1700’s shows no connection or correlation that would have established them as family.
Given the pharmacy background of Joel Osborn, a link to Karen Osborne, whose parents owned the original Surf Supermarket where the former Vail’s Pharmacy was also located, has been suggested as a possible connection. However, the Pharmacy was not owned by the Osborn / Osborne family, but by Henry and Isabella Lutzenberg. The Lutzenbergs owned the original Surf Supermarket, which they opened in 1956, over a decade after the death of Joel Osborn. The supermarket was located north of the present-day Surf Supermarket, where Vail’s Pharmacy was in the 1970-1990’s. Their daughter, Karen Lutzenberg Osborne, married James Hale in 1964, and divorced in 1966. She then married Clyde W. Osborne of Missouri and divorced him by 1970. Karen retained the name “Osborne,” and ran her parents store in Gualala under that name. [Sources: Stephanie Osborne (child of Karen Osborne), Karen Osborne obituary, Isabella Lutzenberg obituary].
A potential connection has also been suggested to the Osborns that lived in Gualala on the corner of Sedalia and Ocean Drives. Katherine McClintock Osborn was very well known in the Gualala Community. She was a piano teacher that lived at 38970 Ocean Drive in Gualala, California. As a divorcee with two children, Katherine moved to the coast in 1943 and married Levitt Charles “Pete” Osborn of Fort Ross, who leased Kruse Ranch for 31 years. He and his wife retired in 1962 and moved to Gualala where they built their home. Pete died in the 1970’s, and Katherine traveled extensively (both domestic and international) after his death. Almost twenty years after the death of Joel Osborn, Pete and Katherine were buried in the Charles family plot at Seaview Cemetery.
Pete was the son of William Osborn and Araminta Charles of Fort Ross. They presumably met while she worked at the Orchard House Hotel in Duncans Mills. William was a railroad engineer, whose parents Levitt Osborn and Cornelia, transplants from Massachusetts had a ranch in Tomales. William Osborn and Araminta Charles married on 23 June 1891 in Sonoma County and moved to San Joaquin County where he was an owner in Osborn & Taglia. The couple moved back to Sonoma County in 1907, taking over the lease on the Orchard Hotel in the Duncans Mills area, then moving to the Seawell Ranch. They divorced on 13 March 1918, and William returned to the San Joaquin valley, and died there after 1920. [Sources: personal knowledge of Kelly Richardson, obituaries, The Old Salt Point Township Volume II – Lynn Rudy, census records, City Directories]
Research compiled by Kelly Richardson, Anchored Genealogy.