Saturday, December 28, 2013


Earlier this month I shared a post about my distant cousin Benjamin Curtis
Donham. I'd discovered that Benjamin had been working in Korea in the
ealy 20th century, and a document from the American Embassy in Seoul
had raised  some questions about his professional and private life that
made me want to try to find the answers online.

Benjamin was working as an engineer in Seoul, so I googled using his
name and the words "Korea" and "engineer" . The first thing I found was this:

"B. C. Donham is chief engineer for Collbran & Bostwick, general and railway
contractors of Seoul, Korea. News comes of a daughter born November 13, and
it is needless to say that "Ben" is proud and happy. Just now he is too busy to
 write,—building a water-works system for Seoul, among other things,—but
the secretary hopes to have a "foreign letter" from him by our next issue."

P 104  Technology Review Volume 9 Association of Alumni and Alumnae of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1907

Benjamin Donham was a MIT graduate! This was confirmed when I found  an online
"Class Day" edition of The Tech, the MIT student newspaper from June 1895. It has
the names of members of the graduating class, and Benjamin C Donham is among
them with a "Course One" Bachelor of Science degree.

Also, in 1895 he co-authored a book with a Harold Kildreth Barrows, A Design of a
Water Supply System for the Town of Weston,
which was published by MIT Press.
Perhaps this was Benjamin's senior thesis?

And finally, the 1908 Year-book of the American Society of Civil Engineers lists
Benjamin on p 150 as the Chief Engineer of the Collbran-Bostwock Development
Co. of Seoul, Korea.

Next I searched for Benjamin's wife Edith McKean to find information on their
wedding. I found two newspaper stories:

WILL WED IN YOKOHAMA Miss McKean Sails for the Orient to Become a Bride
ALAMEDA July I5 - When the steamer Iorlc sailed to - day for the Orient Miss Edith
McKean of this city said good - by to friends and home to become the bride of
Benjamin Donham in far Japan The bride - elect was given a pre - weddihg reception
here and received many handsome wedding presents which she Is taking with her to
her home in distant Corea. Miss McKean and Ben Donham were warm friends only
when he left here two years ago to try his fortunes in the Corean mines. Later they corresponded and it was by letter that they became betrothed and that her consent
was won to venture across seas to become his wife. Donham Is a civil engineer in the
employ of Coburn & Bostwick. Mr and Mrs Donham will reside in Seoul the capital of
Corea and will make that country their home for a number of years He will meet her
in Yokohama where they will be marrled
 San Francisco Chronicle › 1902 › July › 17 July 1902 › Page 5

James IV McKean Selects Final Rest-
ing-Place Two Weeks Before Death Comes.

ALAMEDA, Aug. 24.— Two weeks ago James F. McKean, an old and respected 

resident of this city, went to San Lorenzo Cemetery and selected the plat that 
was to contain his grave. Last night he passed away at his home, 1216 Versailles avenue, and will be buried In the spot that he chose for his final resting place. 
He had been ill but a few days.

James F. McKean was born in County Armagh, Ireland, seventy-three years ago.
He came to California in 1854 and for many  years followed the fortunes of a 
miner. Twenty-eight years ago Mr. McKean, with his family, moved to Alameda. Deceased conducted a watch and jewelry  store on Park street until failing health compelled him to retire Iast June. Complications due to advanced years caused 

Surviving the deceased is a wife and grown family. A son, Winfield M. McKean,

is the cashier of the Bank of Alameda. Miss Minnie E. McKean, a daughter, is
a teacher in the local school department. Another daughter, Miss Edith, recently
went to Hongkong, where she became the bride of Benjamin Donham, a civil 
San Francisco Call, Volume 87, Number 86, 25 August 1902

So Benjamin and Edith had been married overseas, either in Yokohama, Japan, or
Hong Kong, China., depending on which newspaper story had the correct place.

I'll summarize what all this told me in the next post in the series.

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