Saturday, May 23, 2015

He Could See the Music

I've found some old newspaper articles that mentioned my grandmother Edith's first cousin, William Jasper Wilson. I had never heard of him which is understandable since the Wilson family was so large.

My great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wilson had at least 24 siblings so keeping up with the next generation is pretty daunting.
Tampa Tribune Sept 10, 1916

The first newspaper article from 1916 mentioned he was visiting his sister, Mattie Wilson Kight in Cortez, Florida. Two of his sisters had married Fishermen in Cortez.

This was eight years before my grandmother left the farm to marry a fisherman and moved there herself. The article called him the "blind pianist."

William Jasper Wilson was born on January 24, 1884 in Dade City, Florida, the first child of Jasper Peter and Georgia Catherine Tate Wilson. The family moved to Oneco, Florida in Manatee County in the late 1890s.
Manatee River Journal - January 18, 1917

His father's farm was pretty close to his brother Ben's and several other Wilson relatives.

On the 1910 Census Willie Wilson was listed as a Piano and Organ Tuner. Since he was living at home on the farm, I assume he had already gone blind. If he was able he would have been helping on the farm like his brothers.

I found several other articles that mentioned him playing music at parties and other events in Oneco and Bradenton.

My great uncle Walt told me his father Ben Wilson left the Baptist church because the preacher accused him of dancing at a party in Oneco. He denied dancing and was pretty straight lace according to Walt, so was probably telling the truth. I wonder if he was just listening to his nephew play the piano.
WWI Draft Registration

When Willie filled out his WWI draft card on September 12, 1918 he was shown as blind and his occupation as Piano Tuner.

Two years later, on the 1920 Census, still living at home, he was listed as a Musician,

Tampa Tribune Sept 10, 1929

My uncle Alton Green made a living as a full time Musician for a while during this same time in Sarasota, Florida just a few miles from Oneco. He played the trombone in swing bands so I don't know if he ever met Willie Wilson. Sarasota was still part of Manatee County for the 1920 census and didn't become a separate county until the next year.

I don't know how much success Willie had in his music career. He was almost always called the blind piano player in the paper so he must have been well known.

He died fairly young, on September 8, 1929 and was buried in the Braden River Cemetery next to his father who had died a few months earlier and his mother, who died in 1906.
Braden River Cemetery

Saturday, May 16, 2015

They Were Expendable

This was the name of a book and a John Wayne movie from 1945. I don't remember seeing the movie or reading the book before, but did pick up the book this week to check it out. That was after I found out it told a story that involved a distant relative.

William Henry "Sonny" Posey was the first cousin of the wife of my 2nd cousin. He was born in 1920 in Cortez, Florida to William George and Ruth Richards Posey. His father was a commercial fisherman in Cortez so Sonny grew up on the water.

Guadalupe AO-32 with PT Sq 3 boats aboard
In 1938 he joined the Navy and was trained as a cook. He volunteered for duty aboard a 77 foot Patrol Torpedo Boat and was in the Philippians when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.

A couple months later as part of Patrol Torpedo Squadron Three he helped rescue General Douglas MacArthur and the top US Military officers from the invading Japanese. From what I can determine looking at crew lists, Sonny was the cook on PT boat 41, the flagship of the Squadron, which was commanded by Lt John Bulkeley.

PT Squadron Three arrived in Manila in September 1941 aboard the USS Guadalupe. There were six boats in the squadron and they transported them from the US lashed to the deck of the Guadalupe. At the time there were only 29 PT boats in the entire US Navy.

When they arrived they found all their fuel supplies had been sabotaged. There was both water and rust in the gas. Someone had also dissolved wax into the barrels so that it clogged the engine gas filters. There was no other 100 octane gasoline available so they had to use the contaminated fuel. They would regularly have to stop and clean the filters after an hours run. The wax coated the gas tank on the boats with a half inch of congealed wax.

PT Boat 41
They took part in a number of rescue and minor conflicts with the Japanese for several months before they received orders to pick up MacArthur, his family, top military brass and the President of the Philippines and transport them over 560 miles of open ocean that was controlled by the Japanese Navy. Two of the PT boats had been destroyed so there were only four available for the mission.

MacArthur was originally supposed to be evacuated aboard a US Submarine but there were too many Japanese ships in the area to risk bringing in a Sub.

The PT boats were smaller and could maneuver easier but also weren't able to put up much of a defense if discovered by the Jap Navy. They decision was MacArthur had a better chance of getting through on the PT boat.

Lt Bulkeley's Action report
The plan was for MacArthur to board PT 41 at dusk on March 11, 1942 and it would take the lead. If the convoy was discovered by the Japanese, the other boats, with other military brass were to act as decoys so PT 41 with the General aboard could get away.

The boats left Manila Bay on schedule but started having various mechanical problems as well as rough seas and high winds and they got separated. One of the boats broke down and another had to stop mid way to clean the clogged gas filters. Most of the passengers, including MacArthur were overcome with sea sickness.

PT 41 arrived at Cagayan on time the morning of March 13th but then had to wait several hours for the B-17 transport to arrive. The other boats and passengers arrived late but made it.

Four B-17s were part of the evacuation plan. One crashed on take off, two crashed into the Australian desert on the trip over and the one that made it had engine problems so MacArthur wouldn't chance flying on it. He and his entourage would not get off the island until March 18, 1942.

As he left MacArthur made a promise not as famous as his "I shall return." He told Bulkeley "If possible when I get to Melbourne I will get you and your key men out."

A biography of MacArthur, "American Caesar" recounting the trip mentions MacArthur's young son playing with a monkey owned by the cook of PT 41 while they were waiting to be picked up by the B-17s. Sonny Posey had named his pet monkey "General Tojo." According to the book "They Were Expendable," the cook on a PT Boat was also responsible for supervising the boat motors, manning a machine gun along with cooking on an electric hot plate.

On March 19 1942 PT 41, the only one still operational went back to pick up President Manual Quezon of the Philippines to evacuate him to Cagayan.

St Petersburg Times - July 4 1942
After the second transport they patched up the boats as best they could and tried to engage and harass the Japanese ships in the area. The crews remained together but eventually ran out of spare parts as well as torpedoes and ammunition.

By April 12, 1942 they had to abandon the boats and PT 41, the only one still operational was transferred to the US Army. The Army planned to take PT 41 to Lake Lano and use it to patrol and prevent Japanese float planes from landing on the lake. The trucks taking it to the lake never made it and since the Japanese were getting too close the boat was blown up to keep it out of their hands.

On April 13, 1942 General MacArthur sent a B 17 back for Lt. Bulkeley and another one later for the other four officers.

83 officers and crew members originally started the mission across Manila Bay. Five officers were evacuated out and five men had been killed in the patrols. The others were left on the islands to fend for themselves as were all the other US military and civilians. Several found passage on passing US ships or patrols.

Nineteen were known to have joined other US military left behind as Guerrilla forces on Mindanano. Many of these survived and were rescued when Allied forces took back the Philippines several years later.

Thirty eight of the crew, including William Henry Posey were captured by the Japanese and held as POWs. Officially Posey is listed as MIA with a date of death on December 17, 1945. That would seem to indicate the date he went MIA as December 1944.

Another member of PT Squadron Three, Earnest Earl Pierson is also listed as MIA with the same date of death. Pierson was born in Michigan and grew up in Indiana. His parents moved to Aripeka in Pasco County Florida after he enlisted in the Navy.

Bulkeley receives Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt
Eight of the crew members who were taken as POWs are known to have died in captivity. Nine who joined the Guerrilla forces on the islands are known to have died also. Forty six crew members survived, either taken out with Bulkeley or the other transports or surviving as POWs or part of  the Guerrilla force.

When Lt. Bulkeley arrived home he received the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt  and MacArthur's praise, who said; "You have taken me out of the jaws of death. I shall never forget it". 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Comforting Words

 My wife's great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Longacre was quoted in the newspaper 108 years ago. I would assume he was paid by the local drug store for his testimonial.

Abilene Semi Weekly Farm Reporter July 31, 1907

At the time he was a 35 year old farmer in Myrkle, Texas with six children at home.

I hope he actually got the relief reported in the paper but probably just as useful was whatever compensation he received for talking about the unnatural secretions.

In case you are interested in trying them, you can still buy Doan's Kidney Pills today.

I am tempted to add his review to those on Amazon and see what kind of feedback he gets.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Take Him Down 15th Street

I was stuck in Wilmington, North Carolina last month for two days during an unusual Spring snow. My flight home was cancelled because of ice in Charlotte and I couldn't find another flight. I decided to check out some local family connections. I met with a distant relative of my wife's who I've corresponded with for over ten years and then decided to visit some dead relatives.

My great grandfather's brother lived in Wilmington and I had wondered if he had any children. One problem doing genealogy research on long deceased distant relatives is you often have to depend on the census and other public records to recreate their family.

Samuel Harker Fulford was born on the Straits of Carteret County North Carolina on May 31, 1875 to David and Mary Catherine Fulford. He was one of the youngest in the family and his older brothers and sisters moved to Manatee County Florida in the mid 1880s. He was too young to join them so he stayed home and eventually moved to Wilmington where he became a policeman.

Samuel Fulford House
He was married twice. The first time on July 17, 1907 to Virginia Piner, a local girl from Carteret County. She died less than four months later from Typhoid fever.

He moved to Wilmington after this and met Louise Stedman King and they were married within a couple years. I found them on the census records but none listed any children. One relative of Louise told me she had at least one miscarriage but didn't think they had a child survive.

Being a policeman, I found a number of newspaper articles that mention Samuel Fulford in the local papers but only his obituary mentioned his family. It said he left wife, nieces and nephews but no mention of children. The local historical society has recognized two of his houses in their historic district.

The last house he owned was at 209 South 15th Street. It is listed as The Fulford House in the historic district and was shown as his residence in his obituary. He died on September 25, 1962 at age 87, eight months after his brother Marvin, so he was the last of the 10 Fulford children.Both he and Marvin made it past 85, more than 10 year older than any of their siblings.

Samuel and Louise Fulford
Samuel was buried in the Oakdale Cemetery at 520 North 15th Street in Wilmington. There are two old cemeteries in Wilmington, almost next door to each other.

I drove downtown to visit his grave the first day I was in Wilmington and arrived at 5:10 pm only to find the cemetery office had closed at 5. Normally this is not a problem and since I had a map and the plot number I figured I could go to the grave anyway. No, for this cemetery, they close and padlock all the gates at 5 pm! I don't think I've ever seen a cemetery you couldn't visit after hours. It was interesting that the cemetery next door, which is almost as old didn't have any gates.

Since I couldn't find his grave, I drove to his house and then realized it was only a few blocks down 15th Street from the cemetery. The old neighborhood has mostly small frame houses and his is one of the largest and only brick houses.

William King plot

The next day I was still in town with nothing to do, so I went back on my way to the airport and found his grave. It was literally in sight of the locked gates that had stopped me the day before.

The cemetery plot was owned by his wife's father William King. It has her parents and several other King relatives but no sign of any children for Samuel and Louise.

Louise died in 1967 and I'm pretty sure I was the only Fulford relative who has been to their grave in 50 years.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Longline Fishing Boats

If you were watching the news this week you saw Nik Wallenda walk blindfolded on a highwire between two Chicago skyscrapers.

Seventy three years ago, in 1941, his great grandfather Karl Wallenda, walked a highwire over Longboat Pass near Cortez, Florida. It was part of the celebration to announce a new concrete bridge was being built between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

Karl Wallenda was born in 1905 and died when he fell off a wire between two towers of a 10 story hotel in Puerto Rico in 1978.

The original Longboat Key bridge was built in 1926 and made of wood. It was washed away during a storm in April 1932. Although they had the party in 1941 the new bridge wasn't completed for another 17 years. They were delayed initially by WWII and then I guess it was effected by the normal efficiencies of local and State government.

This second photo of Nik Wallenda walking across the wire is interesting because it shows he enlisted fishermen from Cortez to help keep it from blowing in the wind. You can see boats anchored on both sides of the wire with cables going up to keep the wire tight. The boats on the right are fishermen from Cortez. The one in the front is my grandfather Tink Fulford's boat.  The third one from the front is his cousin, John Luther McDonald's boat. I can't identify the others.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Family Circle

I enjoy reading books but almost always they are non-fiction, historical choices. I've tried to read all the new books that come out about early presidents and events in the US before 1900.

One of the major topics of course in those books was what happened in the 1860s. I've tried to read books on both sides and about the men who led both armies. I recently read a new one about Ulysses S. Grant and just finished one on William Sherman. In reading about Grant I remembered a story about his early romances and then came across a newspaper article that tied it to the Fulford family.

Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio but the next year his family moved to Georgetown, Ohio. As a teenager there he met and fell in love with Mary Ann King. She had been born on February 4, 1824 in Georgetown to Victor and Mary Ann Mickle King.

Grant left home at age 17 to enroll in the U.S. Military Academy but kept up a correspondence with Mary King for many years. He continued to write her even after he became romantically involved with his future wife Julia Dent, who he became engaged in 1844.

While he was serving in the Mexican War in 1846 he drew a painting and sent it to Mary Ann King. The painting is mentioned in the newspaper article below from the January 9, 1890 edition of the Asheville Democrat.

The article said Mary King married a man named Fulford and moved to California. I decided to track her down and was able to locate her in Louisiana. At this point I haven't figured out how her husband is related to my Fulford family but would assume he is, considering where he was from.

John Davidson Fulford was born in Norfolk, Virginia on January 28, 1818. He married Mary King while she was still in Ohio and they moved to Louisiana in the 1850s.

John Fulford became a Carriage Maker and they had at least five children. John died on October 13, 1870 and is buried in the St. John's Cemetery in Thibodaux, Louisiana. I found him on census records but haven't been able to identify his parents.

I did locate his brother, James W. Fulford, who was living with John and Mary on the 1860 census in Louisiana but moved to North Carolina when the war broke out and enlisted in the Confederate Army. James W. Fulford was born in 1830 in Norfolk, Virginia and died on July 25, 1881 in Columbia, North Carolina. This article from the July 26, 1881 Weekly Economist tells of his death.

Mary Ann King Fulford died in 1903, still living in Thibodaux, Louisiana and is buried next to her husband in the St. John's Cemetery. Although she was well known in the area, I can't find any newspaper articles that mentioned her relationship to Grant, who was not very popular in Louisiana, so I guess she chose to take that secret with her to St. John's.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ancient Relics

I've written a couple times about my great great uncle Stephen F. Fulford who lived in New Bern, North Carolina. He had an interesting life, having owned a general store near the waterfront for almost 50 years.

He also worked for a while as a Boat builder. This was a common occupation in Carteret County where he was born. I have several family members who did this for a living and the Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez, Florida has some of the fishing boats they built on display.

I'm sure Stephen Fulford built many fishing boats but the only record I've found of his skill in boat building was his contribution to the CSS Neuse, a Confederate Navy ironclad. It was built starting in October 1862 and launched in November 1863 but wasn't equipped for service for another six months.

This 100 year old newspaper article from the New Bern Daily Journal was published on January 11, 1914. two years after Stephen died. It tells about a local man who had on display a large section of the armor plate used in the hull of the ship. It mentions Stephen F. Fulford as one of the builders.

The CSS Neuse never really saw any action as it was pinned down by Union troops and adverse conditions, literally stuck in the mud for over a month. It remained at the dock in Kinston, North Carolina until March 17, 1865 when it was scuttled and burned by it's crew to keep it from being captured.

In 1963 the remains of the ship were located near the Kinston harbor and raised. It was kept in a local museum until 2012 when it was moved to the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center in downtown Kinston.