Monday, January 26, 2015

Anne Amelia Dickson

Anne Amelia Dickson


Anne Amelia Dickson was my second great-grandmother.

Annie was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on October 27, 1870. Her parents were Mary Elizabeth Bellangee and George William Dickson. Anne was named for her aunt, Anne Amelia Bellangee, sister of her mother, Mary Bellangee.

Annie was the second of the four surviving children of Mary and George.  Their first child, Mary, died as an infant in 1866.  Annie grew up with an older sister, Elizabeth Davock Dickson (b. 1868) and two younger brothers, George William Dickson, Jr. (b. 1872) and Wilfred Bellangee Dickson (b. 1875).

Annie Dickson in 1879 (age 9)

Sarnia is located directly across the St. Clair River from Michigan.  Annie's father, George, was a sailor on the Great Lakes, and the Dickson family had moved from Buffalo, New York to Sarnia some years earlier to support George's career.  Life in Sarnia focused on the river.  "Located in the natural harbour, the Sarnia port remains an important centre for lake freighters and oceangoing ships carrying cargoes of grain and petroleum products." [Wikipedia] Annie surely watched the ships come and go along the St. Clair, and had fond memories of playing on the beach in Sarnia with her siblings during her childhood.

My grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, knew Annie well and spent quite a bit of time with her grandmother during her childhood years.  She described Annie as rambunctious, opinionated and impulsive.  She told a story about Annie paddling out onto the Great Lakes in a small boat, right in the path of large freighters, and needing to be rescued.  Annie found this incident amusing and exhilarating.  Annie's mother, Mary Bellangee Dickson, was a very refined woman; a true lady.  By comparison, Annie was a bit of a loose cannon.  This is not to say she was not responsible.  She had five sons and was fiercely devoted to them.  She was simply spirited and adventurous in a way that other women of her circle were not.

As a young woman of 23, Annie Dickson was working as a nurse in a hospital in Detroit, Michigan when she met John Griffin. John was thirty years older than Annie, a widower with five children.  Family lore has it that John was a patient at the hospital where Annie worked, and a May-December romance bloomed.  On January 2, 1894, Annie and John were married in Sandwich, Ontario. My grandmother, LaVerne Smith, told me that Annie and John's honeymoon involved a long boat trip to Florida. The specifics of this trip are unknown. What is clear is that the romance quickly faded. John and Annie separated after the honeymoon, and were divorced in less than a year. However, by the time of their separation, Annie was pregnant.

Annie’s parents and siblings had recently moved from Canada to Douglas, Wyoming. It is said that one of Annie’s brothers took a job at a telegraph station there and the rest of the family went with him. The Dicksons were a close bunch who preferred to stay near each other.  Pregnant and separated from her husband, Annie joined her family in Douglas in 1894.  She moved back in with her parents and her sister Elizabeth, who had helped build the Douglas hospital and was working there as a nurse.

Annie (at right) with her sister, Elizabeth Davock Dickson.

Annie and John's son, George Roscoe Griffin, was born on January 23, 1895 in Douglas, Wyoming. There is no indication that he ever met his biological father.

On April 29, 1897, Annie married Malcolm Rutherfurd, a Scottish immigrant. Malcolm and his brother Archibald had moved from Jedburgh, Scotland to Wyoming and were running a ranch in Douglas.  A year after the marriage, Malcolm adopted young George, who was known to most as “Roscoe.” His name was legally changed to George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd. Annie and Malcolm then had four boys of their own, Malcolm, Archibald, Robert and Arthur, before Malcolm’s untimely death from pneumonia in 1913.

Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd

After Malcolm's sudden death, Annie moved with her boys to Los Angeles, California.  Her parents and sister Elizabeth had moved there several years previously, and Annie thought it was best to join them.  She also sent Malcolm's body to Los Angeles via train and had him buried at Evergreen Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

My grandmother recalled that Annie's home in Los Angeles, shared with her sister Elizabeth, was always full of books.  The Dicksons, Annie's parents, were great readers, and this love of literature was passed down to their children and their grandchildren.  George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd was quite a reader, and this trait continues with his descendants.

Annie Dickson Rutherfurd in 1925

By 1940, when Annie was 69 years of age, her heath had declined.  In 1940, the census shows her living at Woodcraft Home in Riverside, California. This was essentially an assisted living facility for the elderly.  I'm not sure what the circumstances were surrounding her stay there, or how long she lived there in total.  She had been living with her sister, Elizabeth, for many years, but sometime between 1930 and 1940, Elizabeth went to live with other relatives and Annie went to Woodcraft Home.  Later, Annie moved north to Oregon, for reasons that are also unclear.

Annie died on August 29, 1952 in Hood River, Oregon.  She died just 24 days after her beloved sister Elizabeth.  She was survived by four of her five sons (her second son, Malcolm, died in 1937) and several grandchildren.


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I've previously written about Annie's mother, Mary Elizabeth Bellangee, and her son, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd. I also wrote briefly about Annie's relationship with her sister, Elizabeth.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finding John Griffin's Place of Death

One of my major research goals for 2014 was to determine my biological great-great-grandfather's place and date of death.  John T. Griffin and his family have been difficult to research.  John and his second wife, Annie Dickson, separated shortly after their marriage and some months before my great-grandfather, George Rutherfurd, was born.  Annie and George had no relationship with John after that time, so my grandmother had to start from scratch when she began researching the Griffins.

I have learned quite a bit about John Griffin's descendants in the past several years, but John's parents and siblings remain unproven.  I have also had a very difficult time determining a place and date of death for John Griffin.  He lived much of his adult life in the Detroit area, going back and forth between the United States and Canada.  However, I could find no record of his death either in Michigan or Ontario.  The good news is that I believe I have finally overcome this obstacle.

Death information for a John T. Griffin in Gulfport, Florida

I found a death record in Gulfport, Florida that appears to be our John T. Griffin.  I was surprised and elated, and immediately set about trying to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this was my second great-grandfather.  Here is why I believe I've finally cracked this case:

John's Date of Birth
We have two sources indicating that John T. Griffin's date of birth was either November 1838 or 1839.  These include the Griffin-Dickson marriage registration, where John is listed as aged 56 in 1894 and the 1900 census, where his date of birth is given as November 1839.  The newly found death record gives John's date of birth as November 8, 1838.  This appears to be a match with our John T. Griffin.

Excerpt of the 1900 U.S. Census in Detroit, Michigan

1894 marriage record for John Griffin and Annie Dickson.

John's Place of Birth
John's place of birth is less clear than his date of birth.  The Griffin-Dickson marriage registration gives his birthplace as simply "U.S."  The 1900 census says he was born in New York and that his parents were born in Pennsylvania. The Griffin-Rice marriage registration gives his place of birth as Pennsylvania.  However, we believe that the Griffin family went back and forth between Pennsylvania and New York multiple times during John's childhood.  The 1850 census record for the family we believe to be John's (although this is unproven) indicates that all but the oldest child in the family were born in Pennsylvania while the parents were born in New York.  The death certificate I located for John Griffin in Florida states that he was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  So, while this doesn't precisely match the information I have regarding our John T. Griffin, it's well within the realm of possibility. 

Parents of John Griffin
On the Griffin-Dickson marriage registration, John's parents are listed as Thomas Griffin and La Carpenter.  I have long thought that "La" was a transcription error and his mother's correct name was Ella or Eliza, but of course, this is not proven.  On the marriage license of John Griffin and Elizabeth Rice, John's parents are listed as Thomas Griffin and E.J. Carpenter.  On the death certificate I located in Florida, John Griffin's father is listed as John Thomas Griffin.  His mother's surname is recorded as Carpenter.  This appears to be a match with our John.


Marriage Registration for John Griffin and Elizabeth Rice, 1899


John's Occupation
John T. Griffin was a ship's carpenter.  We know this from the documents previously referenced, his 1894 marriage registration, 1899 marriage registration and the 1900 census.  This is also some of the only family lore that was passed down about John.  My second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson, told her granddaughter, LaVerne Rutherfurd, that John had worked on boats on the Great Lakes.  Family stories suggest he may have also sailed those boats, in addition to working as a carpenter.  The death certificate for John Griffin in Florida lists his occupation as "R.R. Ferry."  It has taken me quite a bit of searching to determine exactly what that means.  In the early 1900s, railroad companies sometimes also owned ferry lines dedicated to shuttling passengers across bodies of water.  It appears that John Griffin was working for the railroad company-owned ferry.  This ties in perfectly with what we know about our John T. Griffin, who worked on boats on the Great Lakes.  This appears to be a match with our John Griffin.


John's Wife
John married his third wife, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rice, on September 4, 1899 in Windsor, Ontario. Lizzie was 34 at the time of the marriage, making her about 24 years younger than John Griffin.*  She was born in New York.  The death record for John T. Griffin found in Florida indicates that his wife was Elizabeth Griffin.  Furthermore, John T. Griffin and Elizabeth are found in the 1920 and 1930 census records in Pinellas County, Florida.  Each indicates that Elizabeth is about 23-24 years younger than her husband and was born in New York.  Thus, the John Griffin in Florida appears to be a match with our John T. Griffin.

An excerpt from the 1920 U.S. Census in Gulfport, Florida



An excerpt from the 1930 U.S. Census in Gulfport, Florida



* Note: John and Elizabeth's marriage registration lists John's age as 50.  It should have been 59.  I don't know if this is an error in transcription or in reporting, but John was a full decade older than the registration states.

John's Location
Why would our John T. Griffin have been in Florida?  It turns out that it's not such an unusual final residence for my great-great-grandfather.  Apparently, John had traveled to Florida earlier in his life.  He and Annie went to Florida on their ill-fated honeymoon, a boat trip she later described as disastrous.  When Annie filed for divorce in August 1894, she stated that John was "in Detroit but moved to Florida."  My grandmother told me that she thought John had some business in Florida and he may have gone back and forth between Florida and Detroit regularly.  We know from the 1900 census record and a 1907 obituary for Elizabeth Rice's sister Esther that John was still living in the Detroit area during those years.  However, it didn't surprise me at all to find a death record in Florida.  John clearly had a connection to the Sunshine State.  After locating the death record,  I found John and Elizabeth Griffin on census records there in both 1920 and 1930, indicating that sometime after 1907, they relocated permanently to Florida.  At any rate, it makes sense that our John T. Griffin would have been in Florida, so this place of death appears logical.

The green house at left is 2907 Beach Blvd. in Gulfport (modern view), the last residence of John T. Griffin

In conclusion, I believe we have several strong reasons to believe that the John Griffin who died in Gulfport, Florida on April 26, 1933 is the same man who married Annie Dickson in 1894 and fathered her son, George Roscoe Griffin, later George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.  

The next task is to be certain about the parents and siblings of John T. Griffin.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My 2015 Research Goals



I'd like to share my genealogy-related goals for 2015.  I did this last year, for 2014, and found that it helped me stay focused on my top priorities throughout the year.

I did make some progress on my goals in 2014, particularly in terms of the Schmidt and Griffin families, and I'm hoping to continue that momentum in 2015.  Here are my top priorities:

1. GRIFFIN
I accomplished a major goal related to my second great-grandfather John T. Griffin in 2014. The next step is to continue to try to prove conclusively his parents and siblings.  This is my primary area of focus right now.

2. BROWN
This goal remains from last year.  I am trying to find the parents and siblings of Amelia Brown Bellangee, my fourth great-grandmother.  I know the dates and places of her birth and death, but still have not been able to figure out who her parents were.

3. SMITH
This goal is also a holdover from 2014.  We are missing a generation in our Smith family tree.  I know that my fourth great-grandfather, Samuel B. Smith of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was the grandson of Captain Samuel Smith of Winchester, New Hampshire.  We have land deeds and other family records proving as much.  However, I don't know who Samuel B. Smith's father was, for sure.  I am pretty certain his name was also Samuel Smith, but looking for a Samuel Smith in New England is like a needle in a haystack. 

4. PINTO
My husband's Pinto ancestors were rumored to be Portuguese pirates.  A few years ago, I discovered they were actually Portuguese Jews who fled to America during the Spanish Inquisition.  However, the connection between the Connecticut and Ohio branches of this family is too tenuous for my liking.  One of my goals this year is to shore up that relationship and definitively prove the parentage of Miles Augustus Pinto and his (presumed) father, Isaac Pinto.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Parents of Lena Schmidt Laun


One of my major research goals for 2014 was to determine the parents of my husband’s great-grandmother, Lena Schmidt.  I am very glad to say that I’ve managed to accomplish this.  Not only does it tick a goal off the list, but it’s the culmination of many years of work on the toughest brick wall I’ve yet encountered.

The grave of Lena's father, Herman Schmidt in Belleville, Illinois.  (Photo by Donnie Goss, Jr., 2011)

When I last wrote about Lena,  I had learned what happened to her after her divorce from Harry Laun.  I also had a good lead on her parents, but wasn’t yet able to prove my hunch.  I had found a census record from 1900 that appeared to list her with her parents and siblings.  However, I could not prove conclusively that this was the correct Lena.  Lena Schmidt was a common name at that time and in that location.  Part of being a good researcher is adhering to the Genealogical Proof Standard.  Evidence must be analyzed, sources must be cited, and contradictory evidence must be resolved.  Just because a set of potential parents looks right doesn't mean they are right.  Proof is necessary.  I dug deeper into available records and tried to build a solid case for Lena's parentage.  

Lena’s death certificate stated that she’d been born in Belleville, Illinois in September 1891.  Her father’s surname was given as Schmidt.  Lena also used the surname Schmidt in all of her marriage documentation.  Using this information, I zeroed in on a 1900 census listing for a family in Belleville that included a young girl named Magdalena Schmidt.  This child had a stated birth date of September 1892.  Given the known inaccuracies in census records, I didn't immediately disqualify her as a candidate.  Other than that discrepancy, this family looked promising.  Both potential parents, Herman and Elizabeth “Elisa” Schmidt, were born in Illinois, and Lena’s marriage documents and census listings state that both her parents were born in Illinois.  I could not find any other family in Belleville that had this correct combination of factors.  Still, promising does not equal correct.  I needed something that proved that young Magdalena Schmidt grew up to be Lena Laun Hook.


The document that cracked the case was a probate record for Lena’s father, Herman Schmidt.




I found an obituary for Herman Schmidt but it listed his daughter as Mrs. Magdalena Lang of St. Louis.  I searched and searched for a Magdalena Lang but could not find one that seemed to be connected to Herman Schmidt.  Was it possible that Lang was a misspelling of Laun?  I requested probate information for Herman Schmidt from the Belleville Public Library.  Jackpot!  The very thorough document that I received lists in two different places that Herman Schmidt’s youngest daughter was Mrs. Magdalena Laun of St. Louis.  Lena had married Harry Laun in St. Louis just one month before her father’s death. 

Why I believe the mystery is now solved:

1.     Lena’s marriage license and death certificate list her maiden name as Schmidt.   Her death certificate lists her place of birth as Belleville, Illinois.  I found a 1900 U.S. Census record showing a Magdalena Schmidt of the age of our Lena living in Belleville with her parents, Herman and Elisa.
 
2.     In the 1920 census, Lena gives her parents’ birthplace as Illinois.  Both Herman Schmidt and Elisa Bosch were born in Illinois.

3.     Herman Schmidt’s will twice references his daughter, Magdalena Laun, after Lena’s marriage to Harry Laun.

4.     This point is more circumstantial, but worth mentioning.  The address that Herman Schmidt gives for his daughter, Magdalena Laun, in his 1913 will is less than a mile from the home where Harry Laun was living in 1910 and only a half mile from the church where Harry and Lena were married.  This is clearly the neighborhood where Harry and Lena settled after they were married in 1913, so it puts Herman Schmidt's daughter in the correct location.

So, I believe that I have now exhaustively analyzed the evidence and can come to a strong conclusion.  Lena Schmidt Laun Hook was the daughter of Herman Schmidt and Elizabeth “Elisa” Bosch of Belleville, Illinois. 

The Schmidt family was Catholic with German roots.  Herman Schmidt fought for the Union in the Civil War. They lived in Belleville, Illinois for decades, establishing deep ties there and owning several plots of land in the city.

Lena was the youngest of eleven children born to Herman and Elisa.  At the time of Herman’s will in 1913, nine of those children were still living.  As I continue to explore this family, I hope I can connect with some other Schmidt descendants and learn what they may know about the family.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

George Rutherfurd: The Later Years


This is the eighth and final post in a series about my great-grandfather, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

My grandmother told me that after her mother's death, friends were always trying to set George up with women.  He was still fairly young, in his mid-40s, and his friends didn't want him to be alone the rest of his life.  However, George found love for a second time without any outside help.  He had known Ozelda "Dandy" Dandurand Roberts for many years because they both worked for the telephone company.  Dandy had been married to the late John H. Roberts but had no children.  She had been widowed for a couple of years when George lost his wife, Julia.

George's employment at the telephone company had already allowed him to meet his first wife, given him a wartime assignment that kept him out of the trenches, and now it was about to change his life for a third time.  George and Dandy were married in 1942.

George and Dandy

My grandmother said that she had dreaded her father getting re-married after her beloved mother's death.  However, she liked Dandy, and Dandy never tried to replace her mother in any way.  They established a good relationship, and LaVerne was glad that George and Dandy made each other so happy.  Dandy was also a wonderful grandmother to LaVerne's children, all of whom spoke lovingly of her.  I had the pleasure of meeting Dandy several times in the 1980s, when she was in her nineties.  I remember her warm demeanor and the affection she showed us, even though my brothers and I were all at ages when we must have been a handful.

George in downtown Los Angeles

After their marriage, George and Dandy settled in Arcadia, east of Los Angeles.  By all accounts, they were very happy together.  They both liked to paint and were interested in photography. They shared an enthusiasm for travel and reading.  George also continued to have success at work.  In 1946, he was promoted to Plant Extension Engineer, after many years in management positions.  Outside of the office, he was involved with the Los Angeles Yacht Club, where he served on the board of directors and as chairman of the annual regatta.  My mother remembers him being quite the social butterfly, with many friends and social obligations.  He and Dandy had active social lives and enjoyed these years together.



Eventually, George retired from Pacific Telephone and Telegraph.  He and Dandy chose to retire on the same day and were given a lovely retirement party by their colleagues.  Then, George and Dandy bought an Airstream trailer and spent about a year traveling around the United States together.

George and Dandy during their travels around America

 After returning from their travels, in 1952, George and Dandy built a house at 710 Park Knoll Lane in Fallbrook, California.  Fallbrook was, at the time, a small, rural country town in northern San Diego County.  They had friends there and the quiet environment suited this time in their lives.

A modern view of the house at 710 Park Knoll Ln.  The wing on the left, with porch and chimney, is a new addition.

George left behind journals for the years 1952-1962. They detail construction of the house in Fallbrook, extensive travels with Dandy and visits with family and friends, including his daughter LaVerne (whom he called "Tommy") and her children.  Since there are too many entries to copy here, I've selected a few to give an idea of George's activities during these years.

1952, April 18: House & garage are framed, roofed, shingled, felt paper & chicken wire all around, fireplace in, hardwood floor laid in dining room, subflooring in rest of house, septic tank partly installed, electric wiring in and connected, garage doors installed.

1954, November 7: [Most of this year was spent traveling with Dandy in the Airstream]  Florida.  The dew collects at night until it looks as though it had rained.  A man in South Carolina told us that the east coast of Florida catered to the "fast" crowd while the west coast is for the more leisurely elders.  From the way they drive around here it seems that he was correct in part of his statement.  Clear day with a breeze off of the ocean.

1957, July 23: To Los Angeles, where Drs. Guiss and DeMoss, after poking the neck until it became tender, decided that the trouble is not a swollen lymph gland.  Quien sabe?  On the way home visited Tommy & family and Helen & Frank.

1961, June 24: In the past period we have (1) Visited El Jacal for some delicious Mexican food. (2) Been entertained by Tommy, Glenn and the four "at homes" at a delayed Father's Day dinner.  The food was superb & the company excellent. (3) At Dr. Lewington's request a PH blood test.  I doubt if there was ever a more unique doctor patient relationship. (4) Spent time with Helen. (5) Returned to Fallbrook today.  The trip down was through considerable heat but the weather at home was comfortable.

In 1962, George's health declined sharply.  He wrote in his journal less and his hand was shakier.  He was ill and in and out of the hospital.  Dandy began to write entries in his journal for him, noting visitors to their home and medical developments.

George Rutherfurd died of throat cancer on August 22, 1962 in Fallbrook.  He was 67 and had been ill for some time.  In his journal, Dandy wrote the following:

George went on his way today at 5:51pm.  Tommy was with him.

The funeral was held on August 25, 1962 at St. John's Episcopal Church in Fallbrook.  George was survived by his wife, Dandy, his daughter, LaVerne, and five grandchildren.  He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California, in the same plot with his first wife, Julia Barrett Rutherfurd.


Friday, November 28, 2014

George Rutherfurd: Life After War

This is the seventh post in a series about my great-grandfather, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

George Rutherfurd with his wife Julia after arriving home in California

George Rutherfurd and the 411th Telegraph Battalion arrived in San Francisco on May 5, 1919.  The war was over.  George was returning home to a wife he hadn't seen for fifteen months and a daughter he'd never met.  Julia Barrett Rutherfurd was in San Francisco to greet her husband upon his arrival.  It must have been a joyful moment, as George and Julia had been newlyweds when they were separated by war.  George had brought Julia a beautiful cameo pin he'd bought for her in France, a lovely piece that my mother now owns.  Packed carefully in his belongings was the telegram announcing his daughter's birth.

George Rutherfurd and his wife Julia at the time of their marriage in 1918

A banquet was held for the veterans at the San Francisco Commerical Club.  Emotional speeches were given and the members of the 411th prepared to decommission and re-enter civilian life.  For George, this meant a return to Los Angeles and his job at Pacific Telegraph and Telephone.  It meant moving out of his mother-in-law, Nellie Barrett's home and into a house of his own with his wife and child.  Most importantly, it meant forging a bond with his nine month-old daughter, LaVerne.

My grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, said that she and her father loved each other from the start.  She thought he hung the moon, and he felt much the same about her.  LaVerne had been named for her mother's good friend, LaVerne, but this name presented a challenge for George.  He didn't much care for the name LaVerne, so he called her Tommy.  My grandmother said she wasn't sure how this nickname had originated, but it wasn't because her father had wanted a boy.  It was a term of endearment, and so special to her that she later called her firstborn son Tom.  George and his Tommy formed a mutual admiration society that would last the rest of their lives.

George, Julia and LaVerne in 1921

In 1920, George was sent on assignment to work with the phone company in Sacramento.  He brought Julia and LaVerne with him, and they lived there well into 1921.  They then returned home to Los Angeles, and in 1922, George and Julia bought their first home at 3429 West 60th Street in Los Angeles.  Three years later, they moved to 3510 West 59th Street, just a short distance away.  They remained in this home for many years.

The house at 3429 West 60th Street in Los Angeles

While George and Julia wanted to have more children, they weren't able to do so.  LaVerne was their only child.  LaVerne was very close to her parents and had many fond memories of them.  She often described her father's love of sailing.  After the war, he'd learned to sail and was at his happiest sailing out to Catalina Island on his boat.  He owned a Star boat of about 38 feet in length and took Julia and LaVerne out sailing nearly every weekend.  Julia never enjoyed being on the water as much as her husband, but she shared a great love of reading with George and LaVerne.   The family could often be found reading into the evenings at home.  George was occasionally sent to Sacramento to work with the telephone company there, but other than that, the family didn't do much traveling.  They talked about sending LaVerne on a European tour after she graduated college, but then World War II broke out and the idea had to be abandoned.

In 1941, George and Julia announced the engagement of their daughter, now a graduate of University of Southern California, to Glenn Smith, a young man she'd been dating since her teens.  A wedding was planned.  Then, Julia died suddenly of a stroke on June 30, 1941.  She did not live to see her daughter's wedding on November 1st.  Julia's unexpected death devastated George and LaVerne.

George with his daughter LaVerne on the day of her marriage to Glenn Smith in Los Angeles

To be continued...

Monday, November 17, 2014

George Rutherfurd: Coming Home

This is the sixth post in a series about my great-grandfather, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

George Rutherfurd

World War I was drawing to a close, but its biggest battle was still on the horizon.  George Rutherfurd and the other members of the 411th Telegraph Battalion were in eastern France setting up the communications network necessary to support the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  Again, I'll quote from "Memories of the 411th Telegraph Battalion In the World War Here and 'Over There'" by C.H. Moore to illuminate George's experience.

On September 24th our Battalion began the construction of a ten wire lead from Bois Foucheres through Recicourt in a northwesterly direction to the edge of the Forest de Hesse, and by working every available minute of daylight, hauling and distributing material at night, had completed the lead to the edge of the forest which was just behind the German front lines during the night of the 25th.  (p. 107)

From there, the lines were extended to Avocourt.  All of this was accomplished on a very tight schedule and in challenging conditions.

The building of this lead across the old "no-man's land" north of Avocourt through the Forest de Montfaucon to the "water-hold" south of Montfaucon, constituted a task which tried our men to the very limit of physical endurance.  Performing the very hardest kind of work in lugging materials long distances over shell torn fields and woods heavy with mud and water, covered with almost continual rain, sleeping in recently evacuated German dugouts filthy with vermin and rats, living on scant food owing to difficulty in bringing up supplies, subject to scattering shell fire in the day time and air raids at night, these men accomplished results worth enough to be chronicled alongside of the many brilliant exploits further to the front in that long battle. (p. 107-108)

George was fortunate that his role as an officer kept him out of rat-filled trenches.  He often went ahead of other members of the Battalion, driven in a motorcycle sidecar, drawing out a route for the communications and relaying those plans back to the Battalion.  At night, he and his driver sought rooms in local villages and relied on townspeople to feed them.  Sometimes, they went through villages that had been reduced to rubble in battle.  In one of these towns, a church had been bombed.  George found a register of village marriages and births in the ruins, and took it with him so it would not be destroyed by the elements.  It took some years after the war ended to get it back to the village, but George managed to do so.  I like to think some French genealogists have been very happy to find that not all records from that area were destroyed in the war.

Telephone lines built by the 411th before and during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

The Allied forces were victorious in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and on November 11, 1918, Armistice was declared.  The members of the 411th were jubilant at the news.

A short time after the Armistice we were informed that the First Army headquarters was not going on into Germany and that after a few days work, completing work under way, we would be moved back into a rest area.  And shortly thereafter we started down the Meuse Valley to Verdun, the trip being made after dark.  We will never forget that trip; it was a bright moonlit night. The camp fires of troops resting for the night lighted up the landscape and completed the naturally beautiful picture.  It was the first time in over four years that the soldiers had had the privilege of fires at night and they were indulging it to the limit.  There was light aplenty without the moon, for on all sides the victory celebration was still in progress, and the shells and vari-colored flares lighted up the sky for miles and miles.  And everybody was happy; the old tenseness was gone; in its place was hilarious laughter and spontaneous raillery hurled at each other and passers-by. (p. 124)

Members of the 411th outside Verdun on November 20, 1919

The new headquarters for the 411th was established at Fravaux.  There, they settled into a camp life of drills and study, hoping they'd soon be sent home to America.  At Christmas, an elaborate dinner was served, followed by a musical performance, a film and a visit from Santa Claus.  The local villagers were invited and a good time was had by all.  In February 1919, the 411th was sent to a new headquarters at Montlouis, a small village just outside Tours, in the Loire Valley.  There, they worked to repair damaged telephone and telegraph lines in the area.  Finally, in March 1919, word came that the 411th was going home.

Some of the men of the 411th Telegraph Battalion

On April 10, 1919, the 411th Telegraph Battalion departed Brest, France on the U.S. Cruiser Charleston.  They arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 21, 1919.  After an eight day stay at Camp Mills, they departed for California and arrived in San Francisco on May 5, 1919.  Nearly fifteen months after they had sailed to war, they were home.

George was about to meet his daughter for the first time.