The Tracy Family History
Uncle Harry

Uncle Harry Guerin on the job as a railroad detective.

A Side Story
    This is a story about Aunt Beulah and Uncle Harry. You will remember that Beulah was my father's sister. She was born in 1899 and married Uncle Harry on 17 August 1928. She was nearly thirty years old when she got married, which was quite unusual for those days. Her parents thought she would never marry.
    Uncle Harry had been married before, had a son, Harold, who would become a police detective in Sacramento, California.
    Harry Z Guerin, would rise to some prominence. (I don’t remember anyone in our family being prominent in the last century.) But, then, Uncle Harry married into the family. He was a Jew, a fact that I never knew until years after his death when mother mentioned it to me. Apparently he was never a practicing Jew.
    The following information is compiled from several letters and documents found in Aunt Beulah’s estate after her death.

Uncle Harry was born Harry Z. (Zeigler) Guerin, on 6 April 1897 in Oroville, California. When Harry was 6 years old the family moveed to Chico, California.
    He served in France during World War I, enlisting on 26 June 1918 and discharged 24 May 1919 (Service # S-1644936)
On 1 July 1922, he started a career with Southern Pacific Railway as a Special Agent (Railroad Detective). Because trains move, Uncle Harry moved with them. His job would find him living in Roseville, Gerber and Dunsmuir, California, and Klamath Falls, Oregon. On 3 August 1930, he was transferred to Sparks, Nevada, where he would live out his semi-illustrious career. Sparks is a suburb of Reno. It is a reasonable size city today, but in 1930 it had a population not quite 5,000. Reno wasn’t very large either.
    In those days, America moved by railroads. Sparks was an important rail yard because of the Sierra Nevada mountains (really big mountains!) that lie between Sparks and a few miles west to Truckee, California. A single locomotive could not pull a train over these mountains. So, at Sparks and Truckee, a few more locomotives were added. How many locomotives were added depended on the length of the train.

I will take a paragraph from his obituary:

"Guerin was born in Oroville, Calif., April 6, 1897 and graduated from Chico High School. He served in France during World War I, and on his returning from service in 1919 was employed by the Chico police department as an investigator for the Butte County, California, district attorney. During this period he studied law for two years."

    It should be noted that he never finished law school nor became a lawyer.
    He worked in Sparks, Nevada, until 1938 as a railroad detective. He was then appointed U.S. Veterans Employment Representative for Nevada, a somewhat prestigious position.
    During World War II he was chief of placement for the War Manpower Commission for Nevada. (Military draft board.)
    Then he became Chief of Police for Sparks from 1947-1951. I believe he was talked into the job by the city fathers, and that it was an elected position. After that he was Sparks constable for one year.
    The Justice of the Peace died in 1952 and Uncle Harry was appointed to finish off his term. Uncle Harry was now a judge. He would run for this elected position for five terms until he retired in 1962 (64?). At the time of his retirement the population of Sparks was around 16,000, still not a very big place.
    At election time, Harry would register one party and Beulah the other, and they would campaign their neighbors. Even though it was a small town, both of them just hated the politics of running for office.

Presented by the Sparks Chamber of Commerce

    His official title was Justice of the Peace, judge, and coroner. (Remember, Sparks was a small town. So Uncle Harry had to be a jack-of-all trades, that is when it came to this government job.) He worked out of his home as well as his office. I remember as a teenager listening to him on the phone notifying a family member that a loved one had been killed on a lonely highway stretch of Nevada. They were usually doing more than 100 miles and hour and were always killed instantly, without pain.
    The position of Justice of the Peace meant that he held the lucrative position of performing the "quickie" marriages for which Nevada was so famous for at the time. So busy was he performing marriages that on the weekends he would go over to Reno and help that judge with his overflow marriage business. He made good money but they lived modestly.
How good of a judge was Uncle Harry? He was not a lawyer and had to learn how to be a judge by going over to Reno and sitting in on the trials there to see how those judges did their business. He would handle cases as mundane as traffic tickets and as serious as murder trials. In the 12 years he sat on the bench he never had a decision overturned on appeal.
    He told me that he absolutely hated lawyers and the IRS. "If I ever get an IRS agent in my court I will send him up for life!"
    Not being able to have children of their own, (Aunt Beulah was medically unable to have children.) they wanted to become second parents to my brothers and myself. They tried to talk mom into moving us all up to Sparks where they offered to buy her a house.
    But mother could never stand the weather in the Reno area. It just made her feel awful all the time. As children and adults, the three of us kids always loved visiting Aunt Beulah and Uncle Harry, but all 3 of us just hated the climate. You just felt miserable all the time you were there.
    On the side, he and Beulah ran a gift shop and health food store in Sparks. (This was at time when almost all health food stores were run by Seventh Day Adventists.)

Being civic minded, here are a list of his services to his community:

Past Commander Duby Reid Post #30 of the America Legin; Also Past Dist and State Commander;
Past Commander of the Sparks Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #3396;
Member of the World War I Veterans;
Chairman of the Sparks American Legion building committee;
Chairman of the Convention Committee for three American Legion State Conventions held in Sparks;
Assisted in the organization of Sparks Boy Scout Troop #13 and served as chairman;
Organized the Boy Scout drum Core of the American Legin;
Assisted in organizing the Ladies drum Core of the American Legion Auxiliary;
Assisted in organizing the United Veterans Council;
Was the first person to receive the Sparks Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award;
Was given a life membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #3396;
Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from Duby Reid Unit #30, American Legion Auxiliary;
Member of the Sparks Chamber of Commerce and B.P.O. Elks #597, Reno Lodge.
They lived at 1552-C Street, a beautiful little brick house, still standing.

Uncle Harry pedigree

    Harry Lawrence Guerin, born (15?) April 1867 San Francisco, Calif. Father native of (The Isle of Man). Mother native of Dublin, Ireland. Father’s name, John Guerin. Mother, Mary Caroline (Cowell) Guerin. Born 21 Sept. 1876, Red Bluff, Tehama Co. Calif. (Jefferson St) on the old Ide property.
    George Winchester Cowell. Born 7 July 1886, Red Bluff, Tehama Co, Calif (Lincoln St., between Oak and Pine St.)
Father, Samuel Berry Cowell, born13 March 1843, Memphis Tenn. (Confederate soldier) of English & Jewish decent. His mother’s father was a Jew, Solom (Pewilt?). Mother, Medora Ann (Bregler?) Cowell, born 15 Aug 1849, Bloomfield, Davis Co, Iowa. English & German decent.
Harry Zielger Guerin (Uncle Harry), born 6 April 1897, Oroville, Butte Co., Calif. (Golden Feather Mine, 3 miles up the river from Oroville). He has one brother, Sam.
    Danniel (?) Cowell Guerin, born Chico, Butte Co. Calif.. (Corner, 8th & Chestnut St’s) 14 Oct 1904.
    I have a full record taken from the family bible. It is with other papers I would suggest that you keep should anything happen to me. I think it would be a good idea for you to type copies of this record, one for each of you boys, As ink fades.
(Believed to have been written by Aunt Beulah Tracy Guerin.)

NOTE: William B. Ide was one of the leaders of the Bear Flag Revolt. He was the first, and only, President of the Republic of California. The Ide Adobe still lies on the banks of the Sacramento River on the outskirts of Red Bluff. It is a beautifully maintained State Park with the old adobe house restored. It is within this house that Uncle Harry’s mother was born. Ide would have been friends with Uncle Billy (Moon). Uncle Billy’s half-bred son even worked for Ide as a sheepherder. (Historians say there is no evidence Ide ever lived at this place. However, as long as anyone can remember, it has been called the Ide Adobe.)

    People born in the 1800's in the pioneer days did not have birth certificates. Years later, proof of birth had to be sworn to in affidavit. This was necessary to establish rights and government obligations.
    Beulah’s affidavit gives her name as Beulah Beatrice Tracy, born 19 January 1899 in Meridian, Sutter Co., California. Her date of death Oct 1985.
    Uncle Harry would die 3 April 1970 having suffered several years from Parkinson’s Disease. (Their burial plot was purchased from the Odd Fellows.)


(Left) Harold Guerin, Harry's son by a previous marriage. Chief Deputy with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Dept. (A high position, retired) Married with children. Died of a heat attack.

(Right) Harry Lawrence Guerin, Harry's father.  " father Harry L. Guerin was last heard form in Los Angeles, California, and is presumed dead. (1953)


                                                                            Harry, Beulah, Al & Will              Harry and Will


            Harry and Beulah                                Grandma Tracy, Harry and Beulah

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