Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Share a Family Story at Thanksgiving

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Thursday is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is, of course, a time where we take the time to express gratitude for the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving is the holiday where families gather to celebrate family. Thanksgiving is a time where family stories need to be told. 

Author and minister Todd Stocker says, “Stories give color to black and white information.” Another author, Studs Terkel, is quoted as saying, “Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another.”   

My mother, Florence Swinburne Newhouse, used to tell us stories of her parents; of her father, Richard Swinburne,  learning to drive his first car; and of the family traveling the length of Minnesota in that car, only to get stuck in the mud toward the end of the trip. Everyone had to get out, except her father, to push the car out of the mud.

My father, Frank Newhouse, told stories of his professional ice-skating career and when he and his brother, Fred Newhouse, made root beer in the basement of their house – only to have it explode: His mother, Camilla Elizabeth Swarthout Newhouse, was not happy. 

My brother Douglas Newhouse was a wonderful letter writer; when he wrote a letter, it was like he was sitting in the same room with you.  My son Patrick Oliver is a wonderful story teller – he has made us laugh on more than one occasion about his exploits (which were not funny at the time).

There are times I wished I had recorded the story of a family member. I did not get this done with my grandparents or parents. However, as I became interested in genealogy, I did get stories about my dad’s family from his sister, Elizabeth Newhouse Harman, before she died. Her stories about people I never met made me wish I had started collecting stories sooner.

When I do genealogy, I uncover mostly facts, but it is always fun to come across a story. For example, I recently found, as part of a biographical account, a story of a relative who said he cured his sciatica by rubbing bear grease daily onto his groin area.

So, this Thanksgiving, share a family story with your children, your spouse, your relatives, your friends.  Family stories casually shared across the dinner table are those we remember in the years to come. They become our best memories of people we know and of people we have never met. We need to share family stories
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Monday, November 6, 2017

Remembering Two Veterans

This Saturday, November 11, is Veterans Day. Veterans Day originated as "Armistice Day" on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans--living or dead--but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

Practically every family has one or more veterans in its family tree: living and dead. My assorted families are no exception; and, I have written about a few of them. In honor of Veterans Day, I decided to highlight two World War II veterans for whom I have pictures and some details about their service: One survived the war; one did not.

R.W. Harriman
Robert W. Harriman, 1921-1944, was from Wisconsin. He served
Henri-Capelle American Cemetery - Google image
with the U.S. Army Air Force, 836th Bomber Squadron and the 487th Heavy Bomber Group as a pilot. He was killed over Germany on December 24, 1944. He is buried in the Henri-Capelle American Cemetery in Liege, Belgium. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Purple Heart.  The Henri-Capelle Cemetery possesses military historic significance as it only holds fallen Americans of two major offensives: first, the U.S. First Army's drive in September 1944 through northern France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg into Germany; and second, the Battle of the Bulge occurring December 1944-January 1945 in Belgium and Luxembourg. Robert is my husband's 3rd cousin 1x removed.

G.S. Oliver
Glenn Stuart Oliver, 1919-2012, was a member of the Minnesota National Guard that was ordered to Federal duty in 1941 as a member of A Company, 194th Tank Battalion. He was stationed in the Philippine Islands when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Ten hours later, he lived through the bombing of Clark Air Base on Luzon Island, Philippines. For fourth months he fought with other soldiers to slow Japan's conquest of the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, he became a POW when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He was part of the infamous Bataan Death March. As a POW, he was held at Camp O'Donnell in the Philippines. He, along with other POWs, was selected for transport to Japan in early October 1944. His POW detachment was sent to the Port Area of Manila. [1]

Arisan Maru - Google image
One thousand eight hundred three POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11, 1944. On October 24, 1944, late in the day, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. The POWs, on deck preparing dinner, watched the Japanese run to the bow of the ship and then to the stern. The ship had been hit by two torpedoes. The POWs were forced back into the holds, and the Japanese covered the hatch openings with their covers: They then abandoned ship. After the Japanese were gone, the POWs climbed onto the deck. Most had survived the attack. For two hours, the ship got lower and lower in the water. Those POWs who could not swim raided the food lockers, as they wanted to die with full stomachs. At some point in time, the ship broke in two. POWs took to the water on anything that floated. Some swam to nearby Japanese ships, but they were pushed away by Japanese sailors with poles. Five men found an abandoned lifeboat with no oars. During the night, they heard the cries for help which faded way until there was silence. Glenn was one of nine men who survived the sinking. Glenn Oliver is the 2nd cousin 2x removed of my children.

As we pause on November 11 to honor all our military veterans, living and dead, it is good to remember the words of Patrick Henry, one of our country's found fathers: "The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."

[1] The Battle of Bataan and the 194th Tank Battalion. Minnesota National Guard,

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Great Swamp Fight

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"The Great Swamp Fight" was the culmination of King Philip's War between the colonial militia and the Narragansett Indian tribe in December 19, 1675. The battle was near today's South Kingstown, Rhode Island. The militia, including Pequot Indians, inflicted a huge number of casualties, including women and children.  In fact, the battle has been described as "one of the most brutal and lopsided military encounters in all of New England's history."[1]

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It is interesting to note that King Philip (adopted English name) is not a king from England. His actual name is Metacomet; he was a Wampanoag Indian chief. Prior to December 1675, King Phillip, leading his tribe, rose up against encroaching English settlers in Massachusetts.  By December, the battle was spreading. It was feared that the Rhode Island Narragansett tribe would join up with King Philip’s tribe. Eventually, King Philip was killed.

King Philip’s War was not a localized war: It encompassed New England. The figures are inexact, “out of a total New England population of 80,000, counting both Indians and English colonists, some 9,000 were killed—more than 10 percent. Two-thirds of the dead were Indians, many of whom died of starvation. Indians attacked 52 of New England’s 90 towns, pillaging 25 of those and burning 17 to the ground. The English sold thousands of captured Indians into slavery in the West Indies. New England’s tribes would never fully recover.” [2]

As I was reading about this battle, I came across two names that had me searching the family trees: Samuel Perkins (1655-1700) and James Oliver (1619-1679).

Samuel Perkins is my husband’s 9th great-uncle and was a member of the Massachusetts Regiment – Company number unknown. He was from Ipswich and a cordwainer (aka shoemaker) by trade. As a result of service in the “Great Swamp Fight,” he was awarded a portion of land at Voluntown on the border of Connecticut and Rhode Island in today’s New London County.

James Oliver is the 11th great-uncle of my two children He was Captain of the 3rd Company of the Massachusetts Regiment. [3] He was a merchant in the city of Boston. James came with his parents, Thomas and Ann Oliver, from England in 1632.  James is of particular interest because he was one of the few officers who made it through the “Great Swamp Fight” uninjured. However, he did have five men killed and 11 injured. [4]

Below is a letter I found online written by Captain James Oliver about the battle. [5] You will note that the letter is dated the 11th month 1675. At that time, the 11th month was actually December and not today’s November. 
 Letter of Captain Oliver
Narragansett 26th 11th month 1675

After a tedious march in a bitter cold that followed the Dec. 12th , we hoped our pilot would have led us to Ponham by break of day, but so it came to pass we were misled and so missed a good opportunity. Dec. 13th we came to Mr Smith's, and that day took 35 prisoners. Dec 14th , our General went out with a horse and foot, I with my company was kept to garrison. I sent out 30 of my men to scout abroad, who killed two Indians and brought in 4 prisoners, one of which was beheaded. Our amy came home at night, killed 7 and brought in 9 more, young and old. Dec 15th , came in John, a rogue, with pretense of peace, and was dismissed with this errand, that we might speak with Sachems. That evening, he not being gone a quarter of an hour, his company that lay hid behind a hill killed two Salem men within a mile from our quarters, and wounded a third that he is dead. And at a house three miles off where I had 10 men, they killed 2 of them. Instantly, Capt. Mosely, myself and Capt Gardner were sent to fetch in Major Appleton's company that kept 3 miles and a half off, and coming, they lay behind a stone wall and fired on us in sight of the garrison. We killed the captain that killed one of the Salem men, and had his cap on. That night they burned Jerry Bull's house, and killed 17. Dec. 16th came that news. Dec 17th came news that Connecticut forces were at Petasquamscot, and had killed 4 Indians and took 6 prisoners. That day we sold Capt. Davenport 47 Indians, young and old for 80l. in money. Dec 18th we marched to Petaquamscot with all our forces, only a garrison left; that night very stormy; we lay, one thousand, in the open field that long night. In the morning, Dec. 19th , Lord's day, at 5 o'clock we marched. Between 12 and 1 we came up with the enemy, and had a sore fight three hours. We lost, that are now dead, about 68, and had 150 wounded, many of which recovered. That long snowy cold night we had about 18 miles to our quarters, with about 210 dead and wounded. We left 8 dead in the fort. We had but 12 dead when we came to the swamp, besides the 8 we left. Many died by the way, and as soon as they we brought in, so that Dec. 20th we buried in a grave 34, next day 4, next day 2, and none since. Eight died at Rhode Island, 1 at Petaquamscot, 2 lost in the woods and killed Dec. 20, as we heard since; some say two more died. By the best intelligence, we killed 300 fighting men; prisoners we took, say 350, and above 300 women and children. We burnt above 500 houses, left but 9, burnt all their corn, that was in baskets, great store. One signal mercy that night, not to be forgotten, viz. That when we drew off, with so many dead and wounded, they did not pursue us, which the young men would have done, but the sachems would not consent; they had but ten pounds of powder let. Our General, with about 40, lost our way, and wandered till 7 o'clock in the morning, before we came to our quarters. We thought we were within 2 miles of the enemy again, but God kept us; to him be the glory. We have killed now and then 1 since, and burnt 200 wigwams more; we killed 9 last Tuesday. We fetch in their corn daily and that undoes them. This is, as nearly as I can, a true relation. I read the narrative to my officers in my tent, who all assent to the truth of it. Mohegans and Pequods proved very false, fired into the air, and sent word before they came they would so, but got much plunder, guns and kettles. A great part of what is written was attested by Joshua Teffe, who married an Indian woman, a Wampanoag. He shot 20 times at us in the swamp, was taken at Providence Jan'y 14, brought to us the 16th, executed the 18th . A sad wretch, he never heard a sermon but once these 14 years. His father, going to recall him lost his head and lies unburied.

[1] Drake, James D. King Philip's War: Civil War in New England, 1675-1976. University of Massachusetts Press, 1999. p. 119.
[2] Brandt, Anthony. "Blood and Betrayal: King's Philip's War." HISTORYNET, war.htm. Retrieved 1 Nov 2017.
[3] Miner, Mike E. "Massachusetts Regiment." Miner Descent, 4 Dec. 2011, Retrieved 31 Oct 2017.
[4] "Narragansett Campaign and the Great Swamp Fight." The Bigelow Society,

Thursday, October 19, 2017

World War I and Two Brothers

Sometimes, when working on a family tree, one comes across an event where you want to know more than just the stated facts. This happened to me with two brothers who both served in France during World War I, were both injured, and one received the Purple Heart. The brothers are Marven Crow (1895-1969) and Clinton Crow (1893-1969). 

On June 5, 1917, Clinton registered for the WWI draft. He was living in Clare, Iowa, and working as a “tiler.” Shortly thereafter, on June 17 1917, Marven also registered for the WWI draft. He, too, was living in Clare, Iowa, and working as a farm hand. [1]

Pvt. Clinton Crowe
By August 1917, Clinton was a Private in Company D, 349th Infantry Regiment – organized at Camp Dodge, Iowa - and was assigned to the 88th Infantry Division. The regiment trained for combat and arrived in France in late 1918. The 349th saw minor combat in Alsace just before the war ended, and the 88th Division as a whole suffered only 78 total casualties. [2] Clinton may or may not have been one of the "counted" casualties: He had , however, been gassed. Patti Knight Sedillo, Clinton's granddaughter, remembers her mother stating that “grandpa had contracted pneumonia after he was gassed and laid in a barn for many days while the weather was very cold and damp.” 

By September 1917, Marvin was a Private in Company M, 90th Division,
Pvt. Marven Clinton
357th Infantry Regiment, 179th Brigade – organized at Camp Travis, Texas. [3] Like Clinton’s regiment, Marven’s also prepared for combat. However, the 375th’s regiment combat experience in France was completely different than that experienced by Clinton’s regiment: Marvin and his fellow soldiers found themselves in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in northeast France.

The Battle of Saint-Mihiel was a major World War I battle fought from September 12-15, 1918, involving the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) and French troops under the command of General John J. Pershing against German positions. It was the first and only offensive launched solely by the United States Army in World War I, and the attack caught the Germans in the process of retreating. [4]

Marven is the person in the upper right-hand corner.
On September 23, 1918, Marvin received a severe injury during a battle in which the entire rest of his squad perished. This incident happened as a continuation of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. According to the Stars and Stripes, Marven lost his right arm.  However, they may have meant he had lost the use of his right arm. His discharge papers state the suffered a "shrapnel wound to his right shoulder"; and, at the time of his discharge, he was in "poor" physical condition. The drawing from the Stars and Strips, next to this paragraph, does show his right arm in a sling.

Shadowbox displaying
Marven's WWI mementos

Marvin was awarded the Saint Mihiel Victory Medal (pictured in the upper left-hand corner) for his participation in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Purple Heart Medal for the injuries he suffered. These medals are visible in the pictured shadowbox.

After the war, both men went on to get married, have children, and live successful lives. It is interesting to note that they both died in 1969.

Note: Patti Knight Sedillo, Clinton's granddaughter and Marven's niece, was very helpful as a source for this blog. She provided all the photographs and personal information regarding the brothers. Clinton and Marven are my biological 3rd cousins once removed, and Patti is my 5th cousin.

[1] U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918., 18 Oct. 2917,
[2] "349th Regiment - Lineage and Honors Information." 349th Regiment, 19 Oct. 2017.
[3]  Von Roeder, S-Sgt. George. Regimental History of the 357th Infantry.
[4]  Hanlon, Michael. "The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces: The St. Mihiel Offensive.", 20 Oct. 2017,