Nestor Harpending Palladius (1924-2008), RIP

OBITUARIES (Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard), January 17, 2008

Nestor Palladius of Eugene died Jan. 3 of lung cancer. He was 83. A service will be later. He was born Aug. 31, 1924, in San Francisco to George and Genevieve Harpending Palladius. He and his wife of 35 years, Carol Wilshire Palladius, were married in Seattle. She died July 28, 2007. Palladius was a manufacturer’s representative for children’s clothing. He is survived by a son, Charlie Wilshire of Eugene. Arrangements by Musgrove Family Mortuary in Eugene.

Nestor Palladius was the closest I had to a big, or any, brother. He was kind to me as a child and throughout my life until our family became estranged from him when I was around 35 and Nestor was around 47—approximately 1982.

Nestor was the only child of George D. Papageorge and Mary Genevieve Harpending. Nestor’s father died in 1934 when Nestor was ten years old. He and his mother then came under the care of Conrad Pavellas, aged 21. Conrad was the son of Alexander Pavellas and Clara Lucille Harpending. The Harpending women were sisters, daughters of Asbury Harpending, Jr. Conrad’s parents also died in 1934. Alexander and George were friends and business partners—and brothers-in-law.

Conrad married Artemis Pagonis in December 1935, sometime after which Nestor and his mother moved on their own to a boarding house. I was born to Artemis and Conrad in January, 1937.

Nestor had poor hearing from an early age, and I knew him always to wear a hearing aid. He was almost deaf by the time he reached his middle years. He also had bad teeth, as my dad did, and there were constant problems with dentists and dental prostheses for both of them.

Nestor’s formal education was spotty and incomplete, but his older relatives were intelligent, literate and voluble—all enjoying a conversational argument. His father, George, was the leader of the family, a dominant and, apparently, classically educated immigrant from Samos, Greece. He was a talented promoter of ideas and enterprises. He was, at one time, the business manager for Raymond Duncan who was the brother of, and sometimes business partner with, Isadora Duncan, the internationally famous dancer and revivalist of ancient Greek dance forms. Isadora and Raymond were highly influential in the cultural life of the sisters.

Nestor’s mother and aunt were the daughters of a once-wealthy, Kentucky-born adventurer, Asbury Harpending, Jr., who came to San Francisco at age 16 during its development as the center of commerce in the Gold Rush era. The entire family lived in Oakland, but Asbury also had a house in Mill Valley. He died in 1923 while on a business trip to New York. Nestor was born a year later. Asbury came upon hard times toward the end of his life and did not leave much to his family, which remained in Mill Valley.

The family continued to live together, their income being from a Greek-American newspaper, The Prometheus, published in San Francisco, owned and operated by the brothers-in-law (probably with some debt against it), and by various promotional deals some of which later seemed shady to historians. This continued into The Great Depression when businesses and deals were failing. This uncertain situation contributed to the mental collapse of Clara Lucille, Nestor’s aunt, who died in the state mental hospital in Napa, California, in 1934, the same year her husband and brother-in-law died as noted above. Nestor was 10. Conrad, his cousin and guardian was 21 and had to drop out of U.C. Berkeley in his senior year.

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Ancient Family History

I subscribe to a Facebook group named “Haplogroup J2b and Subclades.” It’s for people interested in genetic genealogy, especially for those with the genetic designation ‘Haplogroup J2,’ its ‘subclade ‘J2b,’ and other subdivisions of each. My paternal genetic haplotype is J2b2. (Father’s father’s father, etc, ad infinitum).

One of the members posted an article with maps which took me on a journey, imagining the movements and locations of my paternal ancestors from 9000 tears ago until today. Allow me to take you along with me. (I cropped the original maps to show only areas where haplogroup J2 occurred, historically.)

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 7000BC

Around 9,000 years ago

The Ice Age had ended and European hunter-gatherers had migrated from their warmer refuges to recolonize the continent. Note that the Black Sea did not then connect to the Mediterranean Sea, so there was an unbroken connection between what is now Asia Minor (Anatolia) and Europe. Peoples with Haplogroup J2 occupied, roughly, what is now the Southern Caucasus, Persia (Iran), Turkey, Greece, Crete, Cyprus, and a narrow band of land bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, including what is now the Sinai Peninsula.

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 2000BC

Around 4,000 years ago

In the intervening millennia, agriculture had developed in the Levant and then spread through southern, central and eastern Europe by Neolithic farmers belonging mainly to Y-haplogroups such as J2.  In the Middle East and Anatolia advanced civilizations began to emerge.

The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in central Anatolia. The group was documented at least as early as the empire of Sargon of Akkad (c. 2300 BC), until it was gradually absorbed c. 2000–1700 BC by the Indo-European Hittites, who became identified with the “land of Hatti”. The oldest name for central Anatolia, “Land of the Hatti”, was found on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets from the period of Sargon the Great of Akkad c. 2350–2150 BC. The Hattians were organised in city-states and small kingdoms or principalities. These cities were well organized and ruled as theocratic principalities. Hattian religion traces back to the Stone Age. It involved worship of the earth, which is personified as a mother goddess; the Hattians honored the mother goddess to ensure their crops and their own well-being. (Source).


Mother Goddess, figurine, ca. 5750 BC; Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The Minoan civilization arose on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands and flourished from approximately 3650 to 1400 BCE. It belongs to a period of Greek history preceding both the Mycenaean civilization and Ancient Greece.

The term “Minoan” refers to the mythic King Minos who was associated in Greek myth with the labyrinth and the Minotaur, identified with Knossos, the ancient Cretan capital city. The poet Homer recorded a tradition that Crete once had 90 cities. As traders and artists, the Minoan cultural influence reached far beyond the island of Crete—throughout the Cyclades, to Egypt’s Old Kingdom, to copper-bearing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coasts beyond, and to Anatolia. (Source).


J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 117AD

Around 2,000 years ago

The above represents the Roman Empire as it reached its greatest territorial extent around the Mediterranean Sea, approximately 2000 years ago.  People with Haplogroup J2 populated parts of many Mediterranean lands and into the Middle East beyond Anatolia: Spain, Italy, (what is now) Tunisia, Sicily, Southern France, Greece, Thrace (Bulgaria), Romania, Crete, Cyprus, Assyria (geographically present-day Syria, but a separate ethnic group from Syrians), Persia.

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 1227AD

Around 800 years ago

Medieval Europe was dominated by the Holy Roman Empire – a loose union of small kingdoms with Germany at its heart (and an attempt to resurrect the former glory of the Roman Empire in the west) – and the Byzantine Empire, the continuation of the Roman Empire in the east.

By this time people with Haplogroup J2 populated parts of (what are now) Corsica, Albania, Greece, Thrace, Crete, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Anatolia, Georgia—and eastward into the Southern Caucasus and beyond into Asia proper. Genetic studies have further refined the J2 haplogroup into sub-types, including J2b, which is that of my paternal great-grandfather, Konstantin Pavellas. J2b is found in Albania, the Peloponnesus of Greece, Thrace (Bulgaria) and Romania (along the Black Sea coast). There is reason to believe that Konstantin had Greek ancestors who migrated to Romania, adopted the Slavic name ‘Pavel’ and changed it to ‘Pavellas’ after at least one branch of the family returned to Greece, probably in the early 1800s, around the time that the Greeks threw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire.

K Pavellas, Wife, Alex

Konstantinos Pavellas, a Greek Orthodox Priest, Theofonia Pavellas, née Smirtis, Alexander K. Pavellas, my grandfather—taken around 1880

Thanks for accompanying me on this journey.

Ronald Alexander Pavellas, Paternal Haplogroup J2b2.

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Cousin Nestor (A Memoir)

Cousin Nestor told me that you should always be aware of your face, and how it looks to other people.

I was 21, just out of the Navy, and green as a 12-year-old about how to get along in life, especially in nice company. I was comfortable, or at least I knew the territory, of the rough neighborhoods my family had lived in—San Francisco and, especially, Brooklyn.

Nestor was a salesman, and had been since he was a youngster. His dad died when he was eleven, in the middle of the Great Depression, and my dad, his older cousin by ten years, had taken care of him and his dotty mother, Aunt Genevieve, as his only surviving family. Dad’s parents died the same year as Nestor’s father.

Nestor had a pleasant, open face with a nice head of wavy, light-colored hair and a constant smile. He tended to squint a bit behind his glasses, but it gave him the appearance of being sincere which, as a salesman, was essential. He sold apples on San Francisco’s streets, and because he was younger and had learned to be engaging, he was more successful than the older men who were also in financial straits during the Depression.

So, here I was at 21, an ex-third class petty officer, waiting a few months before starting community college, needing to get civilized. Nestor was the man to do it. He had been a men’s wear salesman and knew how to outfit me with a suit and casual clothes. I’d already determined to spend some of my mustering out pay on contact lenses so I would no longer be “four-eyes,” or “goggle-eyes” as I was called, among other names, during my family’s five years in Brooklyn. After I was dressed properly and had my new eyes, Nestor took me to several bars and restaurants to teach me how to be in them.

Nestor Harpending Palladius (1924 - 2008)

Nestor Harpending Palladius (1924 – 2008)

All the while, I watched Nestor’s face, since this was the first piece of advice he gave me. I began to emulate him. While walking alone in City’s streets I would consciously relax my face and allow a slight upward movement in the corners of my mouth. As I did this, I visualized Dad’s face and realized he had the same habit. It must be a family trait, I felt. So I adopted this habit feeling it a good thing in itself.

Over the years, I have realized that some people I pass in the street, or especially the neighborhood, look me in the eye and give me a small but distinct smile. I check my face and realize—I, too, had been smiling.

Thanks cousin Nestor.

A eulogy for Nestor, with photographs, can be viewed here.

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Remembrances and Impressions of an Ancestor I Never Met

Asbury Harpending, Jr.
Born: 14 September 1839, Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky
Died: 1923, Manhattan, New York

Asbury’s Father: Asbury Harpending, Sr.
Born: 10 October 1790, New York State
Died: 7 October 1873, Princeton, Caldwell County, Kentucky

Asbury’s Mother: born 1808 as Nancy Wright Clark. Later, she was known as Nancy Jones; a prior marriage is speculated. She was Asbury’s second wife, of three. Asbury Senior remarried in 1843, so Asbury Junior’s mother died (not divorced) when he was quite young. He was the youngest of three from his mother. He had seven half-siblings from Asbury’s first wife, Mary Prickett Ogden who died in 1833. There were no children from Asbury’s third marriage to Sarah. We don’t know the relationship Asbury had with his step-mother Sarah.

Asbury’s Wife: Ira Anna Thompson
Died: April 26, 1917

Asbury’s Children:

(Gertrude died in infancy)

Asbury Harpending, Jr. was my father’s maternal grandfather. Dad remembered being with him in New York when Asbury died. Dad was then nine years old. My memories of Asbury are those of my father and Asbury’s daughter Genevieve, Dad’s aunt, transmuted by time and the nervous systems of the three of us.

Asbury’s official life is well chronicled in his autobiography, The Great Diamond Hoax and Other Stirring Incidents in the Life of Asbury Harpending, in many books and periodicals during and after his days, and in the archives of the Online Archive of California.

In addition, I have written a brief biography, Notes for a Memoir: Asbury Harpending, Jr.

What I record in the following is the picture I have of the man and his relationships with his children and their spouses.

He was full of himself, irascible, explosive and difficult to live with. He was driven by ambition and achieved most of what he yearned for as a youth: wealth, influence and some degree of respectability. He fancied himself as a southern gentleman, but he was not.

His memoirs barely mention his wife, about whom my father and Great Aunt knew little; I know next to nothing. Both of his sons left home never to return. He doted on his two daughters and indulged them to the point of supporting them and their husbands until he died.

He left home in Kentucky at age 16 to the promise of California during and after the Gold Rush and returned slightly before or after his father’s death in 1874 to present himself to his former community and family as a successful and wealthy man. Another motive was that he suffered public humiliation by his still-murky role in the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872 and he wanted to start afresh. This was not to be. Although he had built a marvelous house in his home county, after the child Gertrude died (within two years of her birth) he moved to New York City. I speculate he found Kentucky slow and boring and that he was not accepted socially.

It’s not clear to me how he raised a family in Marin County (Mill Valley) and Alameda County (Oakland) while living in New York, but I have heard many stories from Dad about his life in Mill Valley and the “Fruitvale House” (now gone) in Oakland. It seems apparent Asbury relied on his two sons-in-law to manage family affairs. They were business partners with each other, as well as connected through the sisters.

Asbury was a promoter and plunger and, in the end, died with his fortune almost depleted. His sons-in-law spent twelve years after his death trying to recover Asbury’s assets in New York, California, London, and Mexico.

(More Text Follows the Three Images) 

“Old Harpending House”, Princeton, Kentucky


Fruitvale House, Oakland

Lucille Harpending Pavellas at the Mill Valley house.

Harpending’s son-in-law George D. Papageorge-Palladius was also a promoter and in him, I believe Asbury saw a natural son. Papageorge died in his fifties from complications of diabetes and other diseases, having depleted all the Harpending assets in the middle of The Great Depression. Papageorge’s son, Nestor Palladius, was also a promoter/salesman but was not successful and, in the long run, died in poverty at age 83 with no natural children.

Harpending’s other son-in-law, Alexander Konstantin Pavellas, was the respectable and professionally educated “son” (lawyer and diplomat) who married the oldest, peculiar, and theretofore unmarriageable daughter, Lucille, several years older than Alexander. He died similarly to his brother-in-law, the same year, 1935.

These two sons were good husbands and did their duties, thereby cementing their access to the Harpending assets (tangible and intangible) which they used to advance their various enterprises together, including especially newspapers and other publications and activities aimed at the Greek-American community and Philhellenes of the West Coast.

Asbury was imperious and prone to impulsive betting on the future. He was a Californian of the 1800s, but his way was not profitable in the 1900s. He died a disappointed man, as did his sons-in-law who were inextricably in his orbit. His daughter Lucille was a mystical and unhappy soul who died within months of her husband and brother-in-law. His daughter Genevieve was altogether different. She enjoyed life, in whatever manner it presented itself, to the fullest until her death at age 90, then living with a rather punchy ex-boxer, Frank.

Asbury’s legacy is memories, a few mementos, and a great number of descendants, amazingly, through only one grandson, my father.

After publishing this article I heard from Eric Baker, a relative of a man who was also associated with “The Great Diamond Hoax,” James B. Cooper. In his historical researches Mr. Baker found where Asbury Harpending, Jr. is buried, without headstone:

Calvary Cemetery
Woodside, Queens County, New York
Plot: Section 48, Plot 99, Grave 11


Posted in Alexander K. Pavellas, Asbury Harpending, Jr., Asbury Harpending, Sr., Clara Lucille (Harpending) Pavellas, George D. Papageorge-Palladius, Harpending, Mary Genevieve (Harpending) Papageorge-Palladius, Nestor Palladius, Palladius, Papageorge-Palladius, Pavellas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments