I’m bumping this entry due to recent comments on the post.
My name is Richard Daniel Chennault. I am the great grandson of Claire Lee Chennault. I, as is the line of Chennault’s I descend from, are not clearly recorded in the anals of history as a descendant of the General. However I come by the name honest and true yet the story is not as clear as one would hope.
To be honest I’ve only been able to piece together fragments of the story as to how my grandfather, William Lee Chennault, came into being. It is a tale of the old south, misogyny and honour.
From stories I’ve heard from my grandfather, over a bottle of Jack Daniels, the story began in the lates teens of the 1900’s. Cliare was a young man met a woman named Anna Mae Griffin. I know little of my great grandmothers early life as she we tight lipped about Claire and her relationship with him. But they did have a child togehter and that was my grandfather. Now the story, as I’ve heard, was that Claire wanted to go off to war but leaving a pregnant woman behind was simply not allowed in those days. So a scheme was concocted where Claire’s brother William would marry May. I suppose May and Claire relationship was short and bitter. May never mentioned Claire in all her days and referred to him as a war mongerer. Perhaps it was love scorned and promises broken. She died with the true story locked in her heart at the age of 94 in 1991. She had only the one child; William Stanley Chennault.
My grandfather said the name was given to him in honour for what William Chennault did for May. And to this day every first born of William Stanely Chennault is named after my great uncle William. While I’ve no coorborating records or evidence to this story the timing and the resemblance of William to Claire is uncanny. My brother and I attempted to check the official record but birth records have been lost and sadly uncle William passed in the eighties before my brother and I were able to contact him.
I’m sure this story will raise the hackles of some purist Chennault’s out there and it is not my intent to sully a greats man name. I simply wish to fill in a small portion of the history and hope that somewhere out there in the ether as some one may know more than I.
11 thoughts on “The Lost Chennault’s”
Wow, It sounds like Chennaults’ have alot of hidden secrets. E-mail me at jay_chennault@ yahoo.com and I shed some light on another side of Claire Lee Chennault, my grandfather.
I too am a Chennault who descends down the line from Claire, or at least I believe so. I live in Celeste, Texas, which is about 20 miles north of Commerce where Claire was born. My story is almost like Richard’s, except the fragments of my story are smaller and almost always lead to dead ends. My grandfather, Lewis Chennault, was probably the only person to truly know how we were related to Claire, but that bit of family history died with him decades ago. Lewis also beared an uncanny resemblance to Claire which also leads me to believe that he was related to the General in some way. Not much was ever said about my grandfather’s geneology because he left my grandmother not long afer my father, Lewis Dale Chennault, was born. My uncle, Jerry Lee Chennault who resides in Leonard; just 7 miles north of Celeste, also has very little information on our family geneology. The only other people who could’ve known about our family history were my Aunt Dee and Uncle Bob who sadly passed on several years ago. It seems that everywhere I turn to receive information I always end up back where I started, the beginning. If you or anyone else has any information on the Chennault dynasty, it would really benefit me to know. E-mail me at email@example.com. This is my aunt’s e-mail which I have to use since I do not have one. If unable to e-mail, send a letter to P.O. Box 273, Celeste,TX, 75423.
My father, Ernest Nelson Chennault, was the younger brother of Claire and the story you told has been around for a long time. When Claire was a young man, teaching school, he had a liason with one of his students that produced a baby. Being married to Nell at the time, his younger brother Bill married the girl (his full name was William Stephen Chennault). The marriage of convience was soon dissolved and Bill later married twice more and had two children. The daughter died young and his son, Bill, Jr. died in the late ’90’s in Shevreport, LA.
My father and mother are both dead now, but as a side note, my late sister Renne’s husband who is a Urologist in Springfield, MO tells of a patient he had that came in for treatment sometime in the ’90’s and said he was the son of Claire. I have often wondered if this is child that Claire fathered in that long ago story. I hope that this helps you.
Your sister husband treated my grandfater, William Stanely Chennault. He is that son. He developed prostate cancer but managed to recover and still lives in MO. Thank you for adding to this tail. You add another interesting and telling chapter into the story.
hello. I am tracing my grandmother’s lineage. She was Mabel Claire Chennault. Her father’s name was John Riley Chennault. Her Grandfather’s name was Stephen Nelson Chennault. Her Great Grandfather’s name was WILLIAM CHENNAULT, who was the son of Estienne Chenneau. Estienne (Steven) Chenneau and his wife (name unknown) came to Manakin Town, Virginia in the year 1700. They were French Huguenots escaping persecution from Catholics. His name is spelled slightly differently, because it was changed once he came to America. His name appears on the passenger’s list of a ship named (I believe) “Le ____ Navare” Maybe the word “Semme” goes in that blank. And it is possible that in the word Navare, the e could be an a. Look this up on the Internet. Good Luck. We might be kin.
Does anyone really know the real story??
In doing some genealogy for my husband, I have come across the name of William S. Chennault,Jr. who was married to Wilda L Bowles(born 1932) on 17 May 1962 in Texas. They later divorced. I can find nothing on William except he was born in 1887. This seems a bit old for my Wilda Bowles. If anyone has any information please write and share with me. I will return the favor if I can.
According to the Chennault biographys I have read he seems to have only had 10 recorded chilren. Eight from his first marriage with Nell. A picture from “Chennault” by Sam Jackson lists the names of Rosemary, Max, Pat, Jack, David, Charles, Peggy and Robert. From his second marriage in China he had two daughters named Cynthia Louise and Claire Anna. And Richard when you mentioned about your great grandmother pregnant and Chennault going off to war I’m assuming you mean WWI? Because in the biographys I think they state that he missed WWI and served after it…but by WWII he was definitely married with eight children. And his WWII started in 1937 in China.
For clarification the story and comments posted are outside the official record. We all know what is written in the anals of history. What we don’t know is what is not written and can only be discerned through oral history. –Richard D. Chennault
Hello, my name is William Lee Chennault, brohter to Richard Daniel Chennault, grandson of William Stanley Chennault, great grandson of Mae Griffin latter to become married to William Steven Chennault (brother to Claire Lee Chennault.) The Texas library is where I confirmed through local paper obituray of William Steven Chennault. I contacted his decendents, I believe it was his daughter Karen, but she could not give me any concrete information about direct geneology. Best that can be surmised is that Claire met Mae through the war efforts of time, as she was a nurse. Claire took his carrer of aviation to the next level and joined the military. As historians tell us Claire had a most difficult time entering any branch of the military simply because he was too short to be a piolt, intresting hunh! Back to point, researching tax records may be the next step in the investigation of finding clues for the geneology tree. I offer this to anyone that has the tenacity to do further research in hopes that we can all fill in the blanks of our history for the common curiosty of it all. Best of luck everyone… Billchennault@hotmail.com PS I know there is one family sect of the Chennault line that is very adamnt about being true bloods, as did spend about 15 min on the phone with them one time before I was given an abrupt brush off. I as my brother stated do not wish any ill will on anyone with regards to the historic name General Chennault made for himself and for this great country as a honored hero.
I am sitting here with several family members doing a quick google search and happened upon your website. I am one of Claire’s great grand children, granddaughter of Peggy Chennault.
Quite frankly, this inforamtion is a complete SHOCK to me as it is to the reast of my family. My grandmother was the family historian and I have NEVER heard this part of Claire’s past before!!!! Unfortunately, my grandmother has passed so I cannot ask her about it. However I am curious to ask my great aunt what she knows.
Good luck in your search.
I am looking for someone who can tell me what the General’s sisters name was….could it be Anna Letha Chennault who married William James Knight? Anna was my great grandmother. I have had a great deal of trouble finding any information on her genealogy.
Also, who was Ligh (Elijah?) Chennault and how did he fit in the line? As a small child I heard that name mentioned many times but never knew who he was and now it is too late to ask my Grandmother.
Thanks for any scrap of information anyone can give me.