Friday, February 10, 2012


In "The Great Petrie Fortune", an episode of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', we were posthumously introduced to another member of the Petrie family - Rob's great uncle, Hezekiah Petrie. When the episode began, old Hezekiah was already dead, but we got to see him in an old movie which Hezekiah made specifically for Rob and bequeathed him in the will. (It turned out to be a clue about the real worth of his bequest to Rob - a roll-top desk.)

Uncle Hezekiah was over 100 years old when he died in October of 1965. We know this because there was recorded proof that he was present as a baby in Gettysburg back in the middle of November, 1863. Rob said that for as long as he could remember, Uncle Hezekiah was kind of mean and crotchety, but he always had a special liking for Rob as a boy.

Rob also said that Uncle Hezekiah never married (as far as he knew.) This could have been the cause for Hezekiah Petrie's sour disposition, because I think the old hoofer fell in love but never could marry the woman due to pressures from society.

I think Hezekiah Petrie had been in love with a black woman back in the constrictive 1890's. And whether he was able to marry her in secret or not, I think she bore him at least one male child.

I don't know where Hezekiah Petrie was raised, but we do know he was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863, as he was seen as an infant being held by his father in a photograph on that historically momentous day. (I won't spoil it, but you can probably figure out from what I've provided as to what was going on.)

Whether he was raised in Pennsylvania or in New York, there were no anti-miscegenation laws on the books in either state at that time which could have prevented Hezekiah from marrying a black woman if he so desired. New York never enacted such a law and the one in Pennsylvania had been struck off the books by 1780 after being in effect for less than fifty years.

Since Rob was raised in Danville, Illinois, Hezekiah may have been living in that state as well. Illinois' anti-miscegenation laws weren't repealed until 1874, when Hezekiah was eleven years old. Even so, I think public opinion would have been strongly against the idea of whites marrying blacks by the time Hezekiah was old enough to make such a decision.

(From Wikipedia: "Most white Americans in the 1950's were opposed to interracial marriage and did not see laws banning interracial marriage as an affront to the principles of American democracy. A 1958 Gallup poll showed that 96 percent of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage." So it could only have been worse back in the 1890's.)

Facing probable pressures from his family and by society at large, Hezekiah would likely have succumbed, and never married his love. She probably left him in despair, and most likely without telling him that he was going to be a father.

From that male offspring, two more TV characters joined the Petrie family tree - one a regular character on a TV series, and the other a guest role in another show.

MARK PETRIE - 'The Listener' - "Iris"

As you can see, both of them have similar first names. I take this to mean that they were probably cousins who had the same grandfather - Marcus Hezekiah Petrie - after whom both of them were named. It is my contention that this Marcus Petrie was the illegitimate son of Hezekiah Petrie.

Detective Marcus Petrie was a member of the NYPD, working out of the 14th Precinct, alongside detectives Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey..... 
His younger cousin Mark Petrie may have grown up in Canada, where he married a woman named Fanny. Unfortunately, Fanny became terminally ill and not even the powers of a teenaged "healer" named Iris could save her. Fanny was too tired to keep fighting and wanted to finally rest. (This angered Mark Petrie so much that he sought revenge, shooting the uncle of Iris before he was stopped.)
So with this theory of relateeveety, we can make a tentative connection between 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', 'The Listener', and 'Cagney And Lacey'........

This marks the "Black History Month" edition of our year-long salute to 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary last October. We'll have more about Hezekiah Petrie and his family tree in next month's post about the classic sitcom.......


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