Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Phebe Lemon Shelby
b. June 19, 1905 - d. Dec. 6, 2002.

She was born June 19, 1905, as Phebe Baker Lemon, the first of five siblings, in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma. Her birth occurred before Oklahoma had become a state and while it was still considered Indian Territory. She was named for a beloved great-grandmother, whom she never met, named Phebe Baker (White) of Pomfret, Connecticut.

Phebe Lemon Shelby As a child she saw many "firsts." She remembers seeing her first car, a Model T Ford, and her first airplane which swooped over her farm as a "barnstormer." The first telephone in her home was a wooden contraption that hung in her kitchen and had certain rings for certain people together with a party line where others could listen in to their conversations if they wished. She remembers Haley's Comet and it's bright blazing path as it covered the night sky and being hustled into the storm cellar for protection against the startling display because her mother was frightened of the comet.

Her grandfather was Jared Baker White. She remained close throughout her lite to his wite, Mary Charlotte Mandeville (White) or her "Grandma" who remained her confidant and closest supporter, especially during some difficult teen years. Jared was a wealthy farmer with vast land holdings in Nebraska, Oklahoma (and Florida.) Much ofthe land was acquired by buying up land from homesteaders who grew homesick and wished to return to the eastern United States having had enough of the hard life on the frontier. He was very active in the Congregational Church and helped support missionaries around the world and an entire orphanage in Armenia for over 20 years. Upon his death, almost all of this property was willed to the church.

When Phebe was 12 years old, her father passed away and her mother was lett a widow. By this time, much of the family fortune was gone and her mother moved to Washington D.C. to take a civil service job. Phebe had many good memories of when she lived at the Capitol and it remained one of her favorite places to visit. She remembered vividly, the years when she was 13 and 14 years old, when she would roller-skate nearly every day to visit the Smithsonian and this institution remained a favorite.

Eventually the family returned to Kingfisher where Phebe finished high school. She wanted desperately to go to college but had no money tor tuition. She moved to live with her "Grandma" (Mary Charlotte) and had board and room tree. She saved all her money from her job teaching grades one through twelve in a little one-room country schoolhouse. Together with her savings. and jobs on campus, she was able to attend the l Jniversity of Oklahoma at Norman She was awarded her Bachelor's degree in 1929 with a major in English and her minor in Creative Writing. She was of the "Flapper Girl" generation but had little time for partying as she was busy throughout her college years with work and study.

On her first day at the University she met a tall, lanky, student over a geology exhibit and they had a long talk about the rocks. He determined from that initial meeting that he would one day marry Phebe, if she would have him, and he confided this fact to friends. She was not so sure as she thought him to be overly serious and perhaps lacking when it came to a sense of humor. In time he did convince her that he had this necessary and desired quality, and she began to call him, my "Bonhomie," which means my " pleasant, affable, or good natured man." They were wed three years aier their first meeting by a judge at the county courthouse. She became the bride of Parker Neal Shelby on September 14, 1928 and their love of geology remained a shared, life-long interest.

Phebe and Parker became well known on campus at the University of Oklahoma. To his astonishment, he had broken the school record in high jump, on his first try, as the result of a dare and had gone on to become the U.S. National High Jump Champion for three years in a row. He was 6 feet, 7 inches tall and she was 5 feet, four inches. They were known affectionately on campus as the cartoon characters, "Mutt and Jeff." His participation in athletics led them eventually to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. They found the climate here better for Parker's health and they both fell in love with the people and the culture of Southern California and they resided there for the remainder of their lives.

In 1944, Phebe returned to college and attended UCLA where she studied elementary education and for a short time returned to the teaching profession. Later, she became a social worker for Los Angeles County where she worked and eventually retired after twenty years of service. She was a dedicated genealogist and spent more than 50 years tracing family histories. She learned that her ancestors had not come over on the Mayflower, as various family members had believed, but had been "Johnny-come-latelies" who had arrived ten years later in 1630. They were part of the Huguenots who migrated to America to escape religious persecution in Europe. (Huguenots were Dutch and French Protestants who were members of the Reformed C4urch, which was established in 1550 by John Calvin.) She was also able to confirm something else that her "Grandma" had told her. And that was she was related to Clinton DeWitt, the principal financial backer of the Erie Canal, who was elected Governor of New York largely over the issue of whether or not to build this famous canal. He also went on to establish the public school system in New York.

She had a deep love of American History and her interest in genealogy eventually led to membership in Daughters of the American Revolution and other groups that honor the earliest immigrants as well as American founders and patriots. She traced her ancestry to approximately fii'leen Revolutionary War patriots of which six were officially registered with the Daughters of the American Revolution These Revolutionary patriots were Lt. Rueben DeWitt, Samuel White, Henrick Mandeville, Moses Depuy, Solomon Cook, and Josiah Chandler.

Between 1970 and 1972, Phebe had the distinguished honor of serving as Regent of the Escholscholtzia Chapter, DAR. This was the first established DAR Chapter in the State of California and its members meet in Los Angeles. (Escholscholtzia is the Latin name for the our state flower, the California poppy.) After moving to Valencia, Phebe helped organize the local Alliklik Chapter, DAR. It was she who suggested the name for this chapter, "Alliklik," because of its local historical significance. (Alliklik was another name for the early tribe of Indians who once lived in Santa Clarita Valley ) She was a member of the Alliklik Chapter, for more than 25 years

In 1976, as part of the national Bicentennial Celebration, Phebe and Parker became charter members of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. They were involved in saving the Saugus Train Station and its relocation to its present site in Heritage Junction. Parker painted the large "S.O.S." sign ("Save Our Station") that adorned the building. He also designed the Society's logo, which is still in use today. Phebe was part of the Living History Program and served as a docent before short- term memory loss began to interfere with her ability to participate.

Phebe was an avid, life-long reader Her family knew her as someone who read just about everything she could get her hands on and she loved a variety of viewpoints on an array of subjects She was highly intelligent and she loved a stimulating and challenging conversation ARer fifty-two years of marriage, Parker said about Phebe, "I was never bored." She could be passionate and opinionated. She was a "museum quality liberal," having voted for a Republican president only once in her life and almost immediately regretting having done so. She was always the champion of the underdog and had a heart as big as all outdoors. She was energetic and fun.

Her last years in Santa Clarita were spent in her Valencia home under the care of her family. This was her dearest wish. She was determined to live to be 100 but fell just short being almost 97 1/2 when she went to the Lord [Dec. 6, 2002]. She was the first of her siblings to be born and the last to pass on Her siblings preceding her were Isaac Edward, Samuel, and Steen Lemon and her sister, Annabel Lemon Bilger Enslow She is also preceded in death by her little son, Parker Neal, Jr. (1935) and by her husband Parker Neal. Sr. (1980). She is survived by a son, Richard Lemon Shelby who resides in San Miguel, California and by a daughter, Sandra Shelby Forbes, who resides in Valencia. Phebe has six grandchildren: Neal (and Lissa) Forbes, Valencia; Karen (and Tom) Hyldahl, Everett, WA, Robin (and Kevin) Friend, Seattle, WA, JoAnne (and Alex) Berber, Paso Robles, CA, Douglas Shelby, San Miguel, CA, and Donna-Caryn (John) Hughes, Roseville, CA. Phebe has 10 great- grandchildren. Anna Christine, Caleb Parker, Nicole Alicia, Parker Lee, Mikayla Elizabeth, Uriah James (and Gianna), Allison Hope, Michaela Anne and twins Alexandria Cecile and Ashleigh Nicole.

A memorial service will be held for Phebe aer the holidays at Grace Baptist Church, 22833 Copper Hill Drive in Saugus, on Sunday, January 12, 2003, at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the American Heart Association, or to the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.

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