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The World of Jack London

London's Descendants – An Adventure

By Susan M. Nuernberg PhD.

Did you ever wonder if Jack London had any living descendants?

Perhaps, like me, you knew that Jack and Bess Maddern had two daughters, Joan and Becky; and that Joan had a son, Bart Abbott; and that Becky had a son, Guy Fleming. The truth is that Jack London has close to two dozen living descendants.

I first met some of Joan's granddaughters at the Jack London Society Symposium held at the Huntington Library in 1998 to which Bart's widow Helen Abbott brought her three daughters Darcy, Chaney and Tarnel. They also attended the 2000 Symposium in Santa Rosa along with Julie, a daughter of Bart's from his first marriage. These four women are Jack London's great granddaughters. I recall my pleasure in learning that each of them has children of their own. I learned this from the Jack London Family Tree created by Helen Abbott and posted online at the Jack London International web page.

The tree, which traces the descendants of Bess and Joan, shows that Joan's son Bart had two daughters with his first wife Lee and three daughters with Helen, and furthermore, that Bart's five daughters have twelve children--all great-great-grand children of Jack London.

The tree also shows that London's second daughter Becky had two children (not just one as I had been led to believe). Besides Guy Fleming, Becky had a daughter Jean Wellman, who was apparently named after Becky's paternal grandmother (Jack's mother) Flora Wellman. According to the tree, Becky's son has one daughter Sandra, and Jean Wellman married Charles Knight. Hopefully someday this tree will be expanded to show the Maddern, Kittredge and Shepard lines thus filling out an uncharted aspect of London's life history.

This fall in Kauai at the 2002 Jack London Society Symposium, I met Bruce Knight and his two sons, Brock and Beau. Bruce Knight is Jean Wellman's son, (e.g. Becky's grandson). His eyes are the spitting image of Jack's and, except for the fact he is a towhead, his resemblance to his famous great grandfather is striking. Fittingly enough on the afternoon I met them his sons, who are avid surfers, rode the waves at Kalapaki—not far from the site of the lu'au at Niumalu that London attended in 1915 with Duke Kahanamoku. London, as you may know, played a leading role in the revitalization of surfing in Hawaii during his stay there.

I have had many exciting adventures over the past ten years in my pursuit of knowledge about Jack London, but few can compare with the thrill of meeting his descendants.

We wish to thank Dr. Susan Nuernberg and publisher David Schlottmann for permission to use this article taken from The Wolf—'03 first edition. End
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