Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I found my grandfathers obiturary!

Transcription:  Lawton Constitution (Lawton, OK) 12 Sep. 1962

Buford Orville McCaw, 47, of 1807 Bell, died at 4:22am today in a local hospital. 

Services will be at 2pm Friday at Trinity Baptist Church.  Rev. Bob Harris, pastor, will officiate, and burial will be in Chattanooga cemetery under direction of Becker Funeral Home.

Mr. McCaw was born Feb 20, 1915 in Chattanooga, and lived there until 1940, when he left to work in various states with a pipe-line company.  In December 1961, he moved to Lawton from Henderson, Ky.  He was a member of the Baptist church of Corydon, Ky., and a Masonic Lodge 723, Omaha, Ill.

Survivors include a daughter, Mrs. Diana Lynne Duncan, and his mother, Mrs. R. L. McCosh, both of 1807 Bell; his father, W. J. McCaw, Oklahoma City, and his paternal grandmother, Mrs. W. D. McCaw, Casper, Wyo.

This obituary has a tremendous amount of information for someone who never knew their grandfather and never knew much about what happened or who his family was.  This journey has been a long one for me.  I have been looking for years for this!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

everyone has a history and story to tell

My maternal grandfather died when I was 2 years old of a ruptured aorta. He was 46 years old. His life is only remembered through my mother who is mentally ill. Some of her memories are very lucid, others not so much. My job has been to decipher the truth and the fiction of her memories.

His name was Orville McCaw and records of his existence have been impossible to find. No birth record can be located in Oklahoma where he supposedly was born about 1914.

I could find no death record, yet was finally able to find someone who has seen his grave site in Oklahoma. This same woman, now probably deceased, sent me photos of my grandfather. When I say his face I saw my mothers eyes looking back at me. I saw my exact receding hair line when I was the same age as him in the photo. It sent shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes. I had never seen a picture of him because my grandmother and he had divorced before I was born and fought over the custody of my mother. I wasn’t allowed to ask about him growing up (I was raised by this grandmother who was wonderful in many ways). My mother says that he treated her mother like a queen. My grandmother says that he wasn’t a good man. Who was I to believe?

All of the players are dead now except my mother. Who was this man? He was a welder on the pipeline that sent him from Oklahoma to Illinois where he met my grandmother. He was away a lot traveling on the pipeline throughout their marriage. I found out that he was a stock car racer with many trophies which my mother pawned off for money during her drug days. I learned that when my grandmother became ill with TB he moved her and my mother to Missouri where there wasn't a law requiring TB patients to be institutionalized.

Orville went by the name of Bill his whole adult life. I can understand why with a name like Orville. His mother was Elfie Slaughter who I never got to know. She called and asked to speak to me at every holiday and on my birthday. She desperately wanted to see me, but I didn’t know her and I was afraid. Speaking to her on the phone was strange for me. My grandmother or mother didn’t really want to have much to do with her. I guess my mother really never knew her much.

Bill was Elfie’s only child and he died young and her only grandchild didn’t want to see her and her only great grandchild didn’t either. Oh, how I feel such remorse for this!! Elfie lived a very long life. When I found out she did not die until 1994, I was stunned. I had so many opportunities to make an effort to see her. I failed. My life required so much explaining, I always avoided even thinking about the past. A wrong that cannot be corrected.

Genealogy has given me a link to a very secretive family history. I have found tremendous things and I hope to continue. Bill McCaw still remains a mystery to me. I long for finding any information about him. His life could not have been so forgetful.

Divorce and early taboo pregnancy leaves many hidden secrets that are hard to flush to the surface. Those that hide them think they are helping. Those they think they are helping feel robbed. My genealogy has so many broken branches it’s no wonder I grew up knowing nothing and hearing nothing of who I am made from.

This is my fabulous grandfather. I, apparently, used to adore him, tear up his Cuban cigars for fun and hit him over the head with my bottle when he slept. He must have had the patience of Job! I missed having his presence in my life. And, I know his presence in my mothers’ life would have made a difference.

Friday, July 25, 2008

John Adams

The best money I've spent in a long time went to the HBO miniseries "John Adams" with Paul Giamatti as John Adams, Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton, Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, produced by Tom Hanks.

All I can say is "WOW". Historically accurate (finally) with the good and the bad. The difficulties and the triumphs. The acting is superb!! This production is based on the book by David McCullough, one of my favorite historical writers.

Find a way to see this, please. It is relevant then and it is very relevant to today. I purchased my copy from Costco with a $10 coupon for $24.99. Quite the bargain if you're a member. Amazon.com is selling it for $41.99, I believe.

If you're a history buff, this is a must buy. If you just like a good story, or like great acting rent it from Netflix, etc...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Berea College gives all colleges an example to follow

A bit of deversion from genealogy, but worthy info:

Berea College in eastern Kentucky (my home state) has a Billion dollars in endowments, much like major universities like Harvard. But, what is this small rural college doing with this money. Investing in it's students! Tuition is free and they only accept lower income students who end up being mostly black and white students from the rural hills of Appalachia (can you say coal mining). While Harvard and the like, sit on their hefty endowments and increase tuition, this same college is a shining example of what our educational system in America is supposed to be about.

Thanks, Berea!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Hero

There are many reasons why my life is blessed. My beginnings in this world were very turbulent (see early posts). Role models are very few and far between in this life, but one is blessed when one saves your life, yet never really knows it. My Dad, was my hero. Maybe that shouldn't be a big deal, but for me if was crucial. You see, he was not my father biologically. He was no relation to me by blood. He wasn't even my step father. He was my step grandfather. But, from the age of 2, he and my grandmother became my parents. I was never treated as anything other than their child. My older brother and sister (really my 1/2 aunt and uncle) were my siblings. I never questioned my relationship in this family. I was troubled by other issues with who I was, why my mother didn't want me, etc...

I adored my Dad. I wore his flannel shirts that were 10 sizes too big. I watched him shave, I imitated his strategic moves when he went to view his weather station. He gave me the responsibilty of mowing the yard, even though I was the youngest and my sister was waiting in line (sorry Cis). Even when I ran over his plants, it remained my job.

Dad didn't talk much. Mostly observed life. He was the most content individual I have ever met. He questioned organized religion, never went to Church, but read the Bible. I remember him talking about reincarnation, yet he was a strong conservative republican.

Later, when I was discovering my own liberal views we clashed greatly. He feel hard off the pedalistal I had put him on. I was ashamed of his views. In 1986 we argued when he and Mom visited me in Mississippi. At 25 I thought I knew it all and was outraged by his defense of a Church having the right to deny a Black student entrance. I slammed the door and walked out. I didn't know then that I would never ever lay eyes on him again. I didn't speak to him for years as well as my Mom for this and more important complicated reasons.

I lost my hero. I later reconciled with my Mom (grandmother). Before she died she told me that right before Dad died he said, "We never talk about Danny." I feel apart....

I knew Dad was in WW II. He never wanted to talk about it. When he died and I was visiting my Mom in Florida, she brought out a little box. In that box was my Dad's medals from WWII and some papers which included a letter home to his dad. Poppa. Poppa was in my life until he died at the age of 96 and as sharp as a tack. He was born in 1887.

My Dad had a scar on his lip where a bullet had entered during the war. Apparently the bullet was lodged within inches of his brain. The story of the War was a mystery. Here is a copy of his letter home and excerpts of his achievements.

Dad, I miss you terribly. I'm not suprised by what you did or had to do in the war. You were the most honorable man I've ever known. I try everyday to be half the man you were. I love you. Thanks for being my father and teaching me that genealogy isn't the only lineage to hand down.

May 22, 1945

Dear Dad,

From now on there is no more censoring of letters over here so we are free to write just about anything we want. You’ve probably wondered at times just where we were, so I’ll give a kind of outline of our activities.

I left the states last October 14th, from Jersey City, NJ. Coming across wasn’t too bad except for the food. We were on a British ship and they are famous for bad food. The trip took eleven days and we landed in Liverpool. Then we took a pretty long train ride to a camp in England. I’ve forgotten the name of the town we were near. I stayed there for five days and then took a train ride to South Hampton and we loaded on a Dutch boat for the trip across the Channel. We got to France on November 1, carrying packs weighing around one hundred pounds. We landed on the beach where the assault landing took place on D-Day. I’ll never forget the hill we had to climb with all that weight, and just on the top of the hill was an American cemetery of about two or three thousand graves; men killed there on June 6 and 7. If you could see that beach and the hill you’d wonder how anyone could go up it in the face of fire and live.

That night we camped out and the next day we got on some of those famous “40 and 8” French box-cars. They are built for 40 men or 8 horses and we put 30 men in them with all of our equipment, so you can see we haven’t been blessed with too much room. We traveled like that for four or five days and nights until we came to an old French cavalry post and stayed there for a couple of days.

On November 13, we were split up among the regiments of this division and I found myself assigned to Co. G-318 Inf. The other two regiments being the 317 and 319 Inf. I had a lucky break as the second battalion (it’s the one I’m in) got ten days rest as division reserve just then. We were in a town called Holacourt about seventy-five miles east of Nancy. From there we moved ten or fifteen miles and went on line. We had Thanksgiving dinner there as we were not having any fighting. It was a regular dinner, --Turkey and all the trimmings.

After a couple of days we moved into position to attack a town on the Maginot Line. It was Zimming or something like that. Only one man was hurt in the attack so it wasn’t much of a scrap. My first real battle was a small town called Henriville a few days later. It was around the second or third of Dec. After taking the town we dug in outside of the place and almost froze for five days and nights. Then we got a break and were sent back to Freming in Lorraine about four miles from Forbach which you can probably find on the map. It’s 30 or 40 miles from Saarbrucken. We were all set to spend Christmas there. We were living with a French family and really were having a nice time when the Jerries made that break through in Luxembourg and Belgium. We got in trucks and rode all night long up to Luxembourg City and took up a defensive position and waited for the fight. We had a few minor scraps and on the twenty-fourth of December our battalion was attached, for a few days, to the Fourth Armored Division and we all started for Bastogne. On Christmas day we had one of our toughest times, and lost half of our men, killed or wounded. We go to Bastogne on December twenty-ninth with a company of forty-three men.

**Note from me: This above was the Battle of the Bulge
This 2nd Battalion, 318th Infantry, received battle honors for “outstanding performance of duty during the period 25 to 28 December 1944. The battalion was heavily engaged with the enemy in the vicinity of Ettlebruck, Luxembourg, when it was withdrawn from the front lines for the movement to the Bastogne, Belgium area. Its effective rifle-fighting strength had been reduced to 200 men. Attacking on Christmas Day after several days without rest, the battalion began its assault of the enemy positions encircling Bastogne, Belgium. Throughout the next 4 days and 3 nights, the depleted battalion battled its way in freezing temperature through the besieged forces in Bastogne. The stubborn resistance of the enemy and well dug-in positions required constant use of the bayonet and hand grenade in their destruction. Suffering heavy small-arms fire from flanking positions, the battalion fought on with an unrelenting determination that overcame all obstacles, routed the enemy, and established contact with the forces within Bastogne. The aggressiveness of the heroic infantrymen of the 2nd Battalion, 318th Infantry reflects the finest traditions of the Army of the United States.” Extracted from the War Department Battle Honors Citations of Units, General Orders No. 24, GO 24, Washington, D.C. 6 April 1945.**

We had Christmas dinner there four days later. Then we came back to Luxembourg to a town called Ettlebrook for about a week. There we got replacements and rested a little. On January 21st, we shoved off at two o’clock in the morning in an attack of a town called Berschniede a little ways east of Ettlebrook. The snow was six inches deep and it was close to zero and you couldn’t see ten feet ahead of you. I was carrying a light machine gun (40 lbs.) and we walked four or five miles. It’s enough to say it wasn’t a pleasure trip. We arrived at the town about day-light and started the attack at once. We had our two machine guns set up and before we could get off more than a few rounds we were pinned down by sniper fire. They hit five of us inside of fifteen minutes. I got back to the rear some how and was taken to the hospital and you know the story on that.

I came back to the Company on March 14th, and was put in charge of one of the machine-gun squads. That same night we got in a tough spot and had to shoot our way out. Then began a long series of hiking, riding and not much shooting. We were in St. Wendel, Kaiserlautern, and crossed the Rhine at Mainz. From there we went to Kassel, then to Erfurt, and then to Chemnitz.

**Note from me: This is where my Dad’s modesty is amazing. He received the Bronze Star for individual heroic achievement during the course of the attack on Kassel, Germany April 2, 1945 (two days before their surrender). “Sgt Smith, (then Cpl) a rifle squad leader, located the source of the enemy fire. Disregarding intense enemy fire, Sgt Smith ran to an exposed position where he fired his rifle so effectively that he killed three, wounded two, and forced eight other enemy soldiers to surrender. Sgt Smith’s courage and untiring devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the armed forces of the United States.” Extracted from Headquarters 80th Infantry Division APO 80, U. S. Army, dated 24 May 1945, general orders No. 135.**

We had a hard fight going into Erfurt and lost a lot of men. From Chemnitz we went to Nuremburg in southern Germany. That city has been almost completely destroyed by bombing. Hitler called it the “most German of all cities.” We stayed there on guard duty for several days. Then we went across the Inn River into Austria at Branau. That’s were Hitler was born. By then we knew the war was practically over as we had gone for a week without hearing a shot, and it was just a few days later that we heard the good news.
Well, Dad, that’s pretty near the complete story. Now we are on guard duty at some little town in Austria about 20 or 25 miles west of Branau and 200 miles west of Vienna. All we’re doing is checking all the Jerry soldiers for discharge papers. The whole Sixth German Army is being demobilized around here. Every little town is full of people who left their homes to get away from the Russians. I simply can’t exaggerate the fear these people have towards the Russians. They are scared to death of them. In all seriousness, Dad, I sometimes wonder how we won this war. Some to the crazy things and silly orders we’ve carried out makes me wonder. I suppose the real reason we won is that we had so damn much stuff that the Jerries just couldn’t hold. Make no mistake the Jerry soldier was well drilled and as long as he had officers he would stick in there. But once you knocked their officers out there were so many lunk-heads. They had a tank better than ours and their 88 gun was a real piece, but we just had too much. Dad, if you have any questions just ask them and I’ll try to give you a straight answer. I suppose I’ll have quite a bit of time now to write. What I’m really wanting is a piece of paper with “Discharge” written in capital letters on it. I think I’ll be back in the States this summer and we can talk of a lot of things. I’ve changed quite a bit, Dad. I know I’ve grown older in appearance and I’ve lost some weight but I’ll put that back on when I get back. My nerves are still good though I feel just lucky about coming through it all with no more than a few missing teeth. How about sending me a corn-cob pipe and some Granger tobacco? Make sure it’s Granger because I can get other kinds over here, but I don’t like them.
I’ll close for now.
Love from,
Your son,

Major company offers grants to preserve history!


EMC a major company located outside Boston, in Hopkinton, MA has offered $100,000 in grant money to preserve historical documents around the world.

View the above article to see who received the grants. Thanks EMC for making preservation of history a priority!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

History is all around! SAVE OUR HISTORY! Partake, if you can!! Part 2

My previous post on the largest collection of the photography of Edward Sheriff Curtis held at the Peabody Essex Museum has a sad ending.

This is the second case of researching historical holdings at major institutions that have either been sold and not documented or lost.
First, a portrait of my ancestor John Badollet, which was a possession of his life long friend Albert Gallatin, was in the possession of the New York Historical Society. So...I contacted them. I expected the portrait to be in storage (Badollet is not a prominent historical figure). Unfortunately, as is the case with organizations that are trying to juggle money making and survival, many of Gallatin's collection and others were sold by a former director of the NYH Society. Albert Gallatin was instrumental in the history of this organization, and was the former president of the Society until his death in 1847. Now, the NYH Society has a wonderful location and a wonderful collection. I do understand how it is important to downsize collections. But, it seems that this former director went on a spree of selling off lots of collections to downsize. I understand this need at times, but it is unconscionable to do this and not document the sale, so that it can be traced at a latter time. The picture, which is believed to NOT be a daguerreotype as stated, but a oil painting, is below with the flower (see post on "Travels Home" dated 1 Mar 2008). If anyone out there has seen this or has any information on its location, PLEASE contact me, it is the only known portrait, other than drawings by Charles LeSuer, of Badollet.

Back to my trip to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA to find Curtis's large collection of Native American photography. Seems that this extensive holding is in storage, was displayed briefly in 2002 or 3, and has no future intention of being accessible to the public. Travesty! And they HAVE a Native American collection on display and a great video referencing this wonderful collection. They were very nice and congenial, but when I stated the significance of this collection I was told, "We have lots of valuable assets in our collection and we can't display them all". Fair enough, but how 'bout some rotation time. Curtis died unrecognized. A documentary on him was done by American Masters and they have no intention of showing it in the near future. You can't rent it, but you can purchase the DVD or VHS for about $200. Ouch...

It sure is hard to find out anything about anyone other than George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and other very visable historical figures. I really think it's the people that surround these famous people that bring history to life.

With a bit more research it is astounding to find that not only are many historical holdings in Museums and Societies not accessible, but warehouses across the country have storage that is not even documented. They have NO idea what history is lost in storage!

If you give money to a Museum or Society, please express your interest in knowing what holdings they possess, what they plan on doing with them, and how they are preserving our history. Don't accept "we don't have the funds to maintain our collection". If you get this, find out what they pay their director or CEO/President, and research how this salary has changed over the years. If you find it reasonable, inquiry if they are going to sell these collections to another organization that can maintain the holding or a private person or organization that can be referenced to find the objects. Beware, you won't be well liked for you efforts. So what...our historical records and artifacts are worth it. That is my favorite form of activism!!

Ok.....I'm climbing off that soap box!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Good News and the Bad News.

Good stuff...........One of my problem ancestors (there are many) is Spivey Blackard. Yes...what a name. I've had a tough time getting much info on him other than he was born about 1810 in Sumner County, Tennessee. Within the last year I was able to discover his birth date and marriage to Catherine Garrett/Garrott, who was also a stumbling block. What I love about genealogy is the process of digging and digging, coming up short and leaving it for long periods. Then...something amazing just falls into your lap with the wonders of the internet! I do have the Blackard's dated back to Spivey's grandfather, Charles Blackard, but I'm consider the dates and places only the beginning of the search. I want to know about their lives and what history was happening all around them.

Here is a picture of 'ol Spivey and Catherine taken about 1880 when Spivey must have been about 70 years old and Catherine about 68. They are my ggg grandparents. I also found information on Catherine Garrett/Garrott that I have to prove, but I believe she is the daughter of John Garrett and Jenny McMurtry of Sumner County, Tennessee. I will be making a trip to this area late this summer to do some research.

These pictures are amazing as they were my grandmother's (who raised me) maternal great grandparents.

Thank you to K. Kiester for putting this out there for Blackard family members to find.

Bad stuff...............I was very excited to find a link on ancestry.com to find out what famous people to whom you are related. Computer database linking has come a long way. Sadly...almost every person I was supposed to be related to was absolutely wrong. The first was a Mayflower link to Christopher Martin. This link had me to believe that Christopher Martin was my direct 12th great grandfather through his son George. Unfortunately, Christopher Martin had only one know son "Nathaniel". Christopher and his wife "Marie Prower" died in Plymouth the winter of 1621. Nathaniel did not leave Burstead, England, and to my knowledge there were no other children.
BE VERY CAREFUL about internet genealogy information even on trusted sites such as ancestry.com and the LDS website: familysearch.org. Both have no policing of family information that can be posted at random. I even posted my family tree on ancestry years ago, only to find out I couldn't edit what I had wrong. They just told me to repost the right information. Much to my horror, this erroneous info is STILL on their site and I can't change it.
I use these sites as clues to go out and find the actual records to back up the findings. Lots of information turns out to be correct, but lots doesn't. Be careful out there! Happy hunting!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who's your Daddy

Yes, I read lots of non-fiction, not as much recently as I would like. Mostly early American History, but I have another (of many) interest in Artist, painters particularly, Jacques Louis David, Vincent Van Gogh and Eugene Delacroix. Yes, for their artistry, but even more so by their thoughts and life experiences within their historical context. The post below, shows you my introduction into learning more about Jacques David.

Eugene Delacroix was residually introduced as a character in the movie "Impromtu" which is one of my favorites about the relationship between Frederic Chopin (I have an enormous admiration for his music) and George Sand. George Sand ( real name: Amandine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) was a romantic novelist of the time of Chopin and Delacriox. Delacroix is considered by many to be the symbol of Romanticism.

Like Rainer's "Letters to a Young Poet", Delacroix wrote of growth out of introspective loneliness. My favorite quote from Delacroix :
"One must be bold to extremity; without daring, and even extreme daring, there is no beauty."
So, I was interested to learn more about Delacroix. I purchased his diary/journal which was extremely fascinating. Delacroix is a much neglected artist. His writings are insightful and introspective. From the introduction of his journal: "I have heard it said-and by a French artist- "I don't really care for Delacroix's pictures, but as a writer of memoirs he is great and will be remembered."

In researching more about his family lineage I came across an interesting bit of scandal. It seems that Eugene Delacroix's father may have actually been the famed Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord. (These French and their endless names!)

In a nutshell, Talleyrand was from privileged nobility, which he rarely acknowledged. The tragic story of his youth will be relegated to another time. Let's just say, his childhood was one of rejection by his parents because of being born crippled. He was basically given to the Church to be raised. He became a renowned priest and womanizer, and a mastermind of the French state throughout the most decadent and turbulent times in French history.

I am in the midst of reading "Talleyrand: The Art of Survival" by Jean Orieux that was translated from French to English by Patricia Wolf and published in 1974. (You can see a theme here with me and out of print books).

Several circumstances lead credence to this long held belief that Talleyrand was Delacroix's father. First, and foremost was evidence that Eugene's documented father, Charles Delacroix, was reported to have an extremely large growth around his "member" that led to his impotence during the time of Eugene's birth. It was believed that Talleyrand was having an affair with Eugene's mother during this time. Another compelling event was the early anonymous donor to Eugene Delacroix's paintings. Later believed to have been Talleyrand. Finally, you can judge for yourself by the portraits of both. Eugene and Talleyrand share a distinctive nose and clef chin.

Decide for yourself.

Both pictures are from the book "Talleyrand: The Art of Survival".

Genealogical finds help us have a deeper understanding of History

Being a genealogist can many times feel extremely rewarding and down right exciting when we find (through our extreme focus on one subject) details overlooked or deemed unimportant by historians. This, ultimately, is the focus of this blog.

Through my studies of Albert Gallatin, life long close friend of my ggggg grandfather John Badollet, I was able to purchase an out of print copy of Gallatin's son, James' diary. In this diary, mostly focused in the period of 1813-1827, we get a wonderful glimpse into how vital Gallatin was in American history, his European connections, with Voltaire (his grandmother had a close relationship with him), Napoleon (who tried to get Gallatin to give him inside US information, which Gallatin refused), and Jacques David (famed French painter of Napoleon's coronation), and others. Gallatin was negotiating the Treaty of Ghent at the early part of this diary (where James, his son, was his personal secretary).

Jacques David had asked Gallatin if his son, James at age 16, would pose for a nude portrait "Cupid & Psyche" with a young woman. This famous portrait is in the Cleveland Museum of Art, with few knowing the history of the portrait. James was asked to pose for this painting March 3, 1815.
The picture above is copied from "A Great Peacemaker: The Diary of James Gallatin", published in New York by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914.