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Frank Elwin Elner Lee – Special Spotlight

Frank Elwin Elner Lee is ABSOLUTELY no relation to my Lee line, … Before everyone gets upset…

I found this Frank E. Lee amidst a rather large broad search while of course looking for our mysterious long lost Frank Lee. When I read his 1930 census, I thought it was a great story to highlight & share, though I still have little to no details of his life.

When I found a 1930 census where he was a “partner” to an Italian dude, Domenico Zavaglia, in Alaska … Well naturally I had to take a few extra looks. Instantly in my head, “A registered gay?! They actually had it put on the census?! No… I’ve got to be looking at this wrong.. Can you imagine gay in 1930?!.” And a million other questions took over…

Clearly they weren’t business partners of any obvious note. Domenico was a Blacksmith who owned his own shop, and Frank was a Ferryman who owned his own ferry. Older in age, neither married at this current time… But this above 1930 census lists Frank as “D” for divorced. So I had to look deeper… So I did…

WWII draft registration tells us he was born 11 September 1877 in Merrill, Wisconsin. He has a relative named John P. Lee who is close enough to always know where he is, who lives in Arlington, Washington. He is 5’9.5″ and 162 lbs, blue eyes, gray hair, with a dark complexion for a white man. He has no disabilities & no reason not to serve in 1942.

Found a very sparse not well sourced family tree online at (thanks costellotrisha), that states his parents were Edward Lee & Alameda Bartlett.

In 1920 he is listed as single, as in never married at age 42. So with the above information this implies that if he did indeed marry and divorce it was between 1920-1930, before the 1930 census, and before his WWII Draft registration card was created. in 1920, he was living in Cook Inlet, (later known as Talkeetna), Alaska. He is a lodger at the home of another Italian, Antonia Cascutti, along with various other lodgers. The census makes it appear to be a camp town… an area that was erected in tents, shanties, and maybe a few good buildings with many foreign lodgers… right before it becomes an “official” town.

1918 WWI Draft Registration Card clearly states his is a tall, slender, blue eyed, brown hair individual. However, this time his middle name is “Elner” and his nearest relative is “Edwin” P. Lee, not “John”… but he’s in the right place with the right job…ferryman!

WWI Draft Registration Card

After this point, it becomes pure speculation as to his life between his parents & the time he lands in Alaska. After much research I can’t place him any where solid… except a possible listing in 1910 in the Seattle area, King Co., Washington… listed with John & Edward Lee all born in the US, with parents born in the US. They were laborers at the logging camp. However, John & Edward aren’t listed on the 1880 Census with the family since they were both younger, and without the immediate 1890 census we can only speculate who they are. the 1900 census implies that the 1910 Frank Lee in Seattle area is not the same as Frank Edwin Elner Lee, since the 1900 Frank E Lee was born Dec. 1876 in WI, both parents born in WI, and a locomotive foreman. He is however, still single at the age of 23 in 1900.

With the help of google & wikipedia I learned of my own ignorance on the LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) movement, and I learned that in the early 1900’s there was the first defense for gays in the US. By the 1920’s-1930’s openly gay was acceptable in the culture with “Pansy Clubs”, magazines, films, and other forms of entertainments. However this only lasted until 1935. This kind of acceptance wasn’t revitalized until the 1960’s-1970’s.

I can only imagine how hard it was for a man living in these times…. Can you imagine losing more of your freedoms after spending most of your life in a semi-free to be gay America? I have no idea if it was a “gay” marriage that Frank Elwin Elner Lee might have taken part in between 1920-1930, but I can say it was being tried & tested as much as interracial marriage was during that time.. something today’s gay issues never seem to recall.

(Disclaimer: I am not a gay marriage supporter, but as a Christian, a historian, a genealogist, a mother, a sister, a friend… I still respect & love my fellow neighbors & family no matter their choices in life as Christ does. Gay doesn’t make a man/woman an alien, an “object”, or remove them from humanity.)


5 responses »

  1. Amy,
    Him being listed as a partner does NOT mean that they were gay. I have found this quite a number of times in census records, although I’ve generally seen it listed as “pardner”, not “partner”. If you look up pardner in the dictionary, it actually means “friend”. So, they were a couple of bachelors living together, but one has to be listed as the head of household and for the relationship to head of household, the other is listed as pardner or friend since they are not related, but the guy isn’t just a boarder paying the first guy money. Does that make sense? :)

    • Which in the 1930’s was the same as “gay”. I did much much research before posting & contacted a few tree owners with him listed. Some said it was rumored & one said it was fact. It makes sense what you say, but don’t be fooled. History is there to be a “pardner” or “partner” in the 1920’s-1930’s. And like I said… I’ve had his “family” contact…

      • Ok, if you have other evidence of it, then I could believe that. My great-grandfather was listed as “pardner” in 1900 (the year before he was married) living with a two other young guys. I’m assuming that he was just a young bachelor who needed roommates. I guess what I was trying to say is that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they were gay.

      • Yes, that is why I was so particular before posting this… and like I stated, I thought I was wrong… I was trying to apply today’s mentality to a 1930 census… but then I had to do further research. He was never married at any other point. Actually, one tree connection said they never knew him as ever having gotten married, so this was news to them. Dictionary from the house says, “pardner – an associate in an activity or endeavor or sphere of common interest such as music or politics; a chum or friend”… Partner has different implications… It’s a trick! LOL! Isn’t it amazing what we learn each day through ancestry?

      • P.S. He is also listed as “border” on other censuses… this is the first time it’s “partner”….

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