My mother was proud of the fact that she was a member of the Magna Carta Dames; a group of women who traced their ancestry back to the signers of the Magna Carta in 1215. Her ancestor was Baron Fitzwalter, the leader of the nobles who forced King John to sign the document that was the foundation of English common law. I went to Runnymede on the Thames where they signed the Magna Carta and was surprised to see nothing there but a small sign. My mother also claimed that her great grandfather was John Chapman, otherwise known as Johnny Appleseed. One thing she made clear; we were English.
I recently sent a sample of my DNA to National Geographic. They traced my ancestry as follows: Great Britain and Ireland 52%, Scandinavian 21%, Jewish 19%, Arab 4%, Finland and Siberia 4%. I scratched my head. This meant that Grandfather Cook who was part Indian was not my grandfather. He had been in partnership with a C.C. Julian in a men’s clothing store in Regina, Saskatchewan. I remember hearing a story that my grandmother was close to the both of them. Mr. Julian was thought to be Jewish and Scottish. Around 1910 he left Regina and gained employment in the budding oil fields of California.
Somehow C.C. Julian acquired an oil lease in the Santa Fe Springs oil field where Standard Oil, Shell and Union Oil were finding great success. He began to run full page ads in the Los Angeles Times to raise drilling money. These ads that he wrote himself had headlines as follows: “Widows and Orphans This Is No Investment for You” – “You Must Take a Chance to Become a Millionaire” – “Let Me Be Your Santa Claus This Next Christmas Eve.” When his first successful well reached flush production of 6,000 barrels a day, he boasted, “Julian No. 1 is today one of the greatest wells in the greatest oil field in the world.”
It became easy to raise money. In his book, The Great Los Angeles Oil Swindle, Jules Tygiel writes, “At the dawn of 1923, C.C. Julian was the prince of oil promoters. His advertisements had become a southern California institution… Julian reigned as one of California’s great success stories, and an inspiration to oil promoters and investors alike.”
Around that time, my grandmother who had lost her husband in a flu epidemic packed up her three children and took the train to Los Angeles where she moved in with C.C. Julian. My dad told me they lived in Beverly Hills next door to the great Hollywood western movie star Tom Mix. Julian added nine new rooms to his 10-room house including a gymnasium, hidden pools and waterfalls, a heart-shaped swimming pool, a gold-lined bathtub, a large library of rare books, an array of rare rugs, furniture, tapestries, art objects and paintings. He spent time in Hollywood’s posh cafes and one night got into a fist fight with Charlie Chaplin who flattened him. After a little more than a year, my grandmother and her brood took the train back to Canada.
Within a few years, the California Corporations Department went after C.C. Julian for selling unregistered stock and other sins. He chose to fight them with full page ads in the newspaper. This is never a good idea and ultimately he was forced to give up the Julian Petroleum Company. Unfortunately, the people who took over engineered a $150,000,000 fraud. Julian Petroleum collapsed in 1927. In 1929, Julian moved to Oklahoma City and eventually to Hong Kong where he died in 1934 at the age of 49. Photos indicate he was a tall, handsome man and my grandmother a beautiful woman. He looked a lot like my dad. Every indication is that he was my grandpa.