The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Brianna Wray
the Times 

Newspaper Archive Unlocks History Mystery

Michael Peck found a 1948 Times story about his birth father's death before he was born

 

September 20, 2018

Brianna Wray

Michael Peck visits Waitsburg

WAITSBURG-In spring of 1948, The Waitsburg Times published a succinct article about a 24-year-old male who was killed in a motorcycle accident. Little did they know at the time, there was more to the story.

Fast-forward to the contemporary Times. Our Waitsburg office recently received a phone call asking if our archives were available for the perusal regarding one of Waitsburg's lost sons. Our physical archives are bound and well-worn, as they are regularly referenced for our Pioneer Portraits feature. Therefore, we require the wearing of gloves for their protection.

The voice on the other end, belonging to Michael Peck, of Warden, Wash., was more than happy to oblige. Peck said he was searching for information about his birth parents, who had lived in the Waitsburg area.

In 2014, the Washington Legislature passed a measure granting adoptees 18 and older access to their original pre-adoptive non-certified birth certificates, unless a birth parent files a contact preference form indicating that he or she does not want the information released. Peck explained that since neither of his birth parents filed a contact preference form, Peck was able to retrieve his original birth certificate.

With the certificate and the help of a friend, Peck found his biological mother. Her original name was Dorothy Roy, then changed to Gallaher. She eventually died as Dorothy McHargue.

"I had applied to see her," Peck recalls, but the courts turned me down." Unfortunately, Dorothy passed away in 2014 before Peck obtained his birth certificate, but her obituary was a step in the right direction toward finding his family roots.

In it, Vicky Davis, of Dayton, a sister-in-law he didn't know existed, was listed. "I found and contacted Vicky on Facebook. I wasn't sure if she'd respond, but I left my phone number and, to my surprise, I got a phone call the next day. I told her the mother's name. And before I could say anything else she said, 'you're my brother.'"

Having the mother's name doesn't necessarily guarantee the father's. Fathers only appear on birth records if they were married to the mother and the information was provided at the time of birth. If they weren't married, additional paperwork would have needed to be done before the adoption was finalized for them to appear on the birth record.

Vicky didn't know the father's name, but she knew the story. Michael was given up for adoption by his mother because of the trauma and stigma faced by a teenaged widow in 1948. She was just graduating high school when her boyfriend, college student William Hart, died.

Rather than face an uphill battle as a single mother, Dorothy offered Michael a chance at a happier life. Michael's adoptive parents were always forthcoming with information about his personal history, but Michael never cared much about finding his biological family in his youth. "When I was young, I was a cowboy," explained Michael, "my grandfather had a ranch and I did a lot of work then. But the older I've gotten, the more curious I've become. This is a search 40 to 45 years in the making, off and on. It's been a process. I'll be 70 this December."

After much searching, Peck found the original article, published in The Times on April 23, 1948:

Brother is Killed in Cycle Accident

William Hart, 24, brother of Jerald Hart, was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident near Nampa, Idaho, Friday evening, where he was attending college. The cycle exploded, causing fatal burns and skull fracture. Another boy following on his motorcycle suffered burns in attempting to rescue Hart from the flames. Hart was taken to a hospital where he died early Saturday morning.

Surviving are his parents, Mr. And Mrs. Jess Hart of Walla Walla, and one brother, Jerald Hart of Waitsburg. Another brother, Gordon, was killed in a plane accident a year ago. Funeral services were held Tuesday at the Nazarene church in Walla Walla, with interment in Mountain View cemetery.

Upon further digging, this reporter located Michael's paternal grandmother, Lucy Hart, whose obituary was printed in the May 9, 1986 edition of the Union Bulletin. In it, it is mentioned that Lucy was preceded in death by her three sons Gordon, Jerald and Billie (William). So all three sons met a tragic fate. But the future looks bright for Michael Peck.

Vicky plans to introduce Michael to more family. Once things settle down, they'll finally get to meet.

"One half-brother is working on harvest, another is away on a hunting trip," explained Michael. "They might accept me, they might not, but I look forward to reaching out."

If anybody has more information relevant to this story, please contact Michael Peck, tinkermike@hotmail.com.

 

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