Sunday, February 22, 2015

William Thornton

Last July I started writing about my Uncle Bill but never finished my story. Born May 1, 1913, he was the first-born of Roy Clinton Thornton and Anna Mae Rouse and was a proud union leader, helping to secure better wages and conditions. From his father's obituary, we know that in January 1937, as a 23-year-old man, he had a WPA job.  WPA stood for "Works Progress Administration."  This was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed individuals, mostly unskilled men, to carry out public works projects, including construction of public buildings and roads. Almost every community in the U.S. had a new park, bridge, or school constructed by the agency. At its peak in 1938, it provided jobs for three million unemployed men and women, and between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs.

In 1940 he was living in the household of his mother and is stepfather, Ira Butler. He was listed as a "new worker," having worked 39 weeks in 1940. No information was provided on where he was working.  I have not been able to find any information on military service.  He must have gone to work soon after at  Firestone Tire in Des Moines. I have been told he helped secure a job for my dad there sometime in the mid to later 1940s.  Bill never married and in 1954 he purchased a home at 2800 East 25th in Des Moines for him and his mother.

While employed at Firestone, he became very involved in Local 310 URWA.  At the time of his death, almost 1,000 miles away in Winchester, Virginia 400 workers at the O'Sullivan Rubber Company voted to strike on May 13, 1956 to preserve their union.  Bill was well known throughout Iowa and the International Union for his outstanding work as Local 310's special O'Sullivan representative.

Bill died on Tuesday, November 26, 1957, two days before Thanksgiving. An article titled "Death Claims Three Outstanding Labor Representatives This Week" in the December 6, 1957 edition of "The Iowa Federationist," detailed two other active unionists, dying within days of Bill, all three of them of heart attacks. The Rev. Roy H. Mills, pastor of Easton Place Methodist church and Chaplain of the Polk County Labor council died of a heart attack Thanksgiving afternoon, November 28. Rev. Mills suffered a heart attack at his home. Rev. Mr. Mills was known as the man behind the movement to bring labor and religion together in Des Moines.  Robert J. Myers died of a heart attack on Sunday, November 31 at Mercy Hospital. He was the business representative of district No. 118 of the International Association of Machinists and had been past president of the Solar Aircraft Lodge. He was a delegate to the Polk County Labor council. The story on Bill reads:

Local 310 URWA suffered a severe loss in the sudden death of William Thornton on November 26.
"Bill" had been a member of the local since its organization in October, 1945. He served the local union in several capacities, including steward, convention delegate, executive board member and special representative. His services as board member will be hard to replace, as Bill brought a keen insight into the problems that were part of board deliberations.
He was best known throughout Iowa and the International Union for his outstanding work as Local 310's special O'Sullivan representative. On this special assignment bill made many more friends among shoe repairmen and Union representatives. The job he did brought him recognition by the International Union. His complete report on the contacts he made was used by the International as a model for reports from other representatives.
Bill died of a heart attack at the age of 44. He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Anna M. Thornton; four brothers Carl, Kenneth, and Russell of Des Moines, and Virgil of Louisville, Kentucky; two sisters, Mrs. Gladys Loghry and Mrs. Alta Johnson, both of Des Moines.
Bill served as a delegate from Local 310 to the Polk County Labor council and had one of the best attendance records of any delegate. His friends, numbering in the hundreds, were all deeply shocked by his sudden death and extended their sympathy to his family.
One of the finest tributes paid Bill was by a fellow worker who said, "I made more people mad at me in one night than Bill did in his whole life."
Bill was a member of the East Gate Masonic Lodge No. 630. The funeral was conducted by Rev. Harry L. Herlein of the Miller Evangelical United Brethren church. East Gate Lodge and Ascalon Chapter No. 139 conducted the masonic funeral service.
What I found interesting (and perhaps suspicious) was that all union leaders (1) died of heart attacks (2) within five days of each other and (3) all three had connections to the Polk County Labor council.
Right below the story about death claiming the three outstanding labor representatives was a story titled "O'Sullivan Workers Get turkey Dinners Despite 18-Month Strike."  Local AFL-CIO unions in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. contributed the complete turkey dinners and it took over six hours to distribute the food donations. The article stated that contributions from the Retail Clerks alone amounted to 500 full shopping bags of groceries--two for every family. 
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Friday, February 20, 2015

My Mother

My mother, Gladys Irene Thornton, was the eighth of nine children of Roy Clinton Thornton and Anna Mae Rouse. She was born January 1, 1927 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Gladys Thornton
Her siblings were:
  1. William Martin Thornton, born May 1, 1913 and died on November 26, 1957 at age 44 from a heart attack.
  2. Carl Roy Thornton, born January 30, 1915, and died on September 23, 1990 at age 75.
  3. Doris Lucille (Baby Doris) Thornton, born November 15, 1916, and died May 13, 1918 at age 18 months.
  4. Russell Claude Thornton, born August 19,1918, and died February 20, 1958 at age 39 of a heart attack.
  5. Virgil Franklin Thornton, born June 3, 1920, and died October 21, 1962 at age 42 from a heart attack.
  6. Kenneth George Thornton, born December 12, 1922, and died April 19, 1988 at age 65 from complications of heart surgery.
  7. Alta Neomi Thornton, born July 21, 1924, and died December 26, 2010 at age 86.
  8. Gladys Irene Thornton, born January 1, 1927, and died November 22, 2014 at age 87.
  9. "The baby" Thornton, born and died about April 1929.
I believe this is William, Baby Doris, and Roy Jr., taken sometime before May 1918 when Baby Doris passed away

Mom's brothers:  Virgil, Russell, and William (Bill) Thornton
In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, the family was living at 1512 East Madison.  Her father, Roy, was a laborer at the Ford Plant. Today this address is hope to a transmission auto repair shop.  On one side of this residence, in 1930, resided her aunt and uncle, Irvin and Rose Thornton and their daughter, 2 year-old Barbara at 1516 East Madison and on the other side another aunt and uncle, Clifford and Berniece Thornton and their daughter LaVay and son Martin at 1504 East Madison. My mother always referred to this area of East Madison as "the acres" and as a young child can remember visiting her cousins in houses sitting next to each other.  Looking at the Polk County Assessor's page today, 85 years later, and 1500 is an empty lot owned by the Estate of Clifford E. Thornton with Sherri Thornton the title holder and 1504 is a residence, also owned by the Estate of Clifford R. Thornton with Cathy J. Thornton as the title holder, and 1516 is also a family home, sold in 1999 by an Edward Thornton. 

Gladys lost her father when she was ten years old. A newspaper article, found in the Des Moines Tribune on January 26, 1937, sheds some light on the circumstances of the family and his death. The article was titled "Gets First Job in Five Years--Then Dies on Way to Work":
Roy Thornton, 51, of 4118 Bowdoin St., started from his home Monday morning to go to work at his first job in five years. On his way to the job he suffered a heart attack. He died on his way to Broadlawns General Hospital. The job Thornton was to have started was at the Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Co., near East Fourteenth Street and Aurora Avenue. During the time Mr. Thornton has been out of work, the family has been supported by three sons. Billy has a WPA job, Roy, Jr., is in a CCC camp at Centerville and Russell is in a CCC camp at  Indianola. Besides these sons, Mr. Thornton is survived by  his widow and four other children, Virgil, Kenneth, Alta and Gladys.

My Grandfather
She would tell me the story years later that family up the road had provided him suitable clothing for the weather and were watching for him to walk by. When they never saw him, they went out looking and found him collapsed on the ground between the two houses. The position at Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Co. was secured for him by his brother Irvin, who also worked there.  This was during the Great Depression that had a worldwide economic depression began in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s.

How her mother took care of the family is unknown, but I believe that the older boys did what they could to help their mother out.  I did find where an Ira H. Butler and she obtained a marriage license on March 2, 1940. I was never able to find where the marriage license had been returned and when I asked my mom about this she stated she didn't think they ever did marry.

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census, enumerated on April 1, 1940, did find Anna along with 26-year-old William, 21-year-old Russell, 19 year-old Virgil, 17 year-old Kenneth, 15-year-old Alta, and 13-year-old Gladys in the home of Ira Butler at 1707 East Walnut.  All the boys were working at various jobs. The situation in the Butler household was not a good one and the relationship had ended  by the end of 1941.

On August 9, 1943, at the age of 16 she married a young serviceman, Wrex Ival Hill, who was proudly serving his country during World War II. The  young couple had a daughter on October 25, 1943, my sister Sandra Lee Hill.  Wrex never did meet or see his daughter, and the couple never lived together, as he died on December 14, 1944 at the age of 21. Sometime after the birth of Sandy, my mother, grandmother, and sister moved into a house at 2721 SE 6th St.

When Sandy was only two, she became sick and was hospitalized. My mother was running to catch a bus to go visit Sandy in the hospital. A  young man who had just received his separation papers from the U.S. Navy on the bus saw her running and told the driver to stop. That gentleman was my father. A short time later, on November 9, 1945, the two married. They had three more children, Linda, Dennis, and myself.

Gladys and her sister Alta were always very close, but also very competitive with each other. In the end, though, I guess she got one up on her sister, though,  by living until 87. They talked on the phone multiple times during the day. After Alta's passing in 2010, Gladys became very lonely and her health started deteriorating. She continued to reside in the home Wesley and her purchased in 1949 and raised their four children until July 2013. First we moved her into an assisted living situation, which didn't work out the best, and by November 2013 we had moved  her into a care facility where she resided for another year until passing from lung cancer, COPD, and congestive heart failure.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What I have learned about my father

My father, Wesley Earl Loghry, was born in New Market, Page County, Iowa on either August 12 or 13, 1924. He always claimed it was the 12th of August but other records list the 13th. He was the 12th of 13 children born to Orville Ernest Loghry and Susan Myrtle Jenkins, growing up in the New Market and Hepburn areas in southwest Iowa. The 1930 U.S. Federal Census finds Wesley and his parents and siblings residing in Valley Township in Page County and by 1940 the family, consisting of Orville, Myrtle, 22-year-old Estelle and 15-year-old Wesley, was living in Hepburn. Wesley was listed as attending school, in the 8th grade. Times were tough it appears for this family. Orville, age 55, was working as a welldigger, earning $130 in 1939. Estelle was working at a brick manufacturing company as a general laborer, having earned $416 in 1939. A short two and one-half year later, on August 26, 1942, enlistment papers find Wesley living in Des Moines, residing with his brother Estelle's in-laws, the Youngs, on SE 5th Street.

I knew he served in the Navy, but I never asked and he never volunteered on where he had been and what he had done.  He began his military career at NTS Great Lakes in Illinois. This was two years after World War II began and it wasn't long, though before he is appearing on U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls for the period of 1938-1949.  He is found on the LST 383 from at least March 31, 1944 until November 20, 1944.  The LST-383 was a tank landing ship, built in Virginia and launched September 28, 1942, commissioned on October 27, 1942 with LT. Charles H.  Johnson Jr., USN, in command.  It was assigned to the Europe-Africa-Middle East Theater and participated in the following campaigns:

  • Sicilian occupation, July 9-15, 1943
  • Salarno landings, September 9-21, 1943
  • Anzio-Nettuno advanced landings, January 22 through March 1, 1944
  • Invasion of Normandy, June 6-25, 1944

I have proof that he was on the ship during the Anzio-Nettuno advanced landings and the Invasion of Normandy.  I never once heard  him mention anything about this at all.  Here is a picture I found at NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive -- USS LST-383 of the ship high and dry on the beach at Normandy, June 1944:

Here is another photo of the USS LST-383 unloading British troops at Salerno in September 1943. "Note: The troops shown emerging from the bow ramp of LST-383 are British Eighth Army men from either the 50th (Tyne Tees) or 51st (Highland) divisions. These exhausted and poorly equipped, troops were needlessly added to fresh American troops of the US Fifth Army in the assault on Salern. But, after having been deceived about their destination and purpose, nearly 200 men refulsed to  join the assault, and were arrested for disobeying orders. Within six weeks, after a trial for which their defense had no time to prepare evidence, all but one had been found guilty of mutiny, their sentences ranging from five years' penal servitude to death."

This site also shows the awards, citations and campaign ribbons my dad would have earned for this service.  I wonder what ever happened to these ribbons.  

Wesley also appears, in June 1945, in the muster roll for the LSM(R) 504.  This was a also a landing ship of medium size, called a Rocket. It was launched on April 21, 1945 and was decomissioned in May 1946. Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons for this ship were:

He was discharged from the Navy on October 6, 1945, returning to Des Moines. Shortly after his return, while riding a bus, he noticed a young woman running to catch the bus. He made the bus driver stop so the young woman could board. That young woman was my mother, Gladys Irene Thornton Hill.  Gladys was a young widow with a two-year-old daughter. By the middle of November of 1945, a few short weeks later, the two were married.  Within a year he obtained a job at Firestone Tire & Rubber, where his brother-in-law worked. He remained there until his retirement in about 1982. While at Firestone, he was known as "Bookie" because he was always collecting money for football and baseball pools.  

We lost him way too young in 1992. 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Michael Frederick Zeh

M, b. circa 1710, d. 15 July 1763

Catherine Vanderpool
F, b. circa 1725
Last week I posted information on John See. Tonight I'll tell you a little bit about his parents, Michael Fredeick Zeh and Catherine Vanderpool, my fifth great-grandparents.

Little is known of this family until about 1749, when the Sees set out to view the land of the south branch of the Potomac. It is said soon after this territory was open for settlement Frederick, perhaps with his father, journeyed there. He is thought to have made the entire trip on foot which is a distance of 500 miles round trip. In 1750 this family of Sees journeyed to Virginia to the Kanawha Valley, the land opened up for settlement. Listings of Greenbrier District of county settlers show Frederick See had 480 acres on May 1, 1751. His nephew Felty Yokeham also had 480 acres near him at this same time. Five months later George See is listed with 368 acres, John See with 250 acres. Other See families who came, settled in different counties nearby which later formed into one county. 

In 1755 many settlers retreated from their Greenbrier settlement due to the English-French war going on around. It is believed Frederick See with his family remained and continued to raise their family of seven children. If there were other children born to this couple, which of course is possible, they are not known. In this time stillborns were common and seldom named. In 1761 those settlers who had retreated returned to find their peace short-lived. For in 1763 the Indians broke out in war and terrorized the Kanawha Valley. It is believed the Indians approached the See home under a guise of friendship. After being kindly entertained by Frederick See, their home was attacked. Frederick See, his son-in-law Greenberry Roach, and his nephew Felty Yokeham were massacred by Indians on July 15, 1763. 

The women and children of these and other victims of this massacre were taken prisoners. Leaving the dead where they were slain, the Indians began marching their prisoners back to their camp. On the way to Oldstown, in Ohio, these women and children who were unable to keep up were killed. The first born child of Margaret (See) Roach, a boy, was killed in a most brutal fashion after being snatched from her breast. Accounts related by James Olson, also told by a descendant, was that Frederick See's children held up for two to three days. The smallest, John, was quite weak and Catherine feared for his life. Seeing a warrior riding their horse, Catherine indicated to him that she wanted it. When he refused, she picked up a club and attempted to knock him off the horse. About to kill her, the amused Indians prevented the warrior from doing so, calling her a "fighting squaw." Once they reached the Indian campgrounds in what is now Ross County, Ohio, it is said the Shawnee had a celebration. The women were forced to sing for them, and Catherine was called upon to run the gauntlet. Grabbing a stick she began making whirling moves swinging the stick which pleased all the warriors greatly. Captives now for several months, soon cold weather was upon them. There was not enough room inside for all the prisoners, and was crowded by old Indian squaws they shared a tent with. A child of Catherine's, a son, had to sleep outside with the dogs to keep warm. One day the warriors went off hunting leaving Catherine in charge of all the old Indian squaws sitting around the campfire. One had a fainting spell, falling into the fire. Catherine let her fall, thus making room for her children in the tent, a bravery which helped her family to survive, intact. 

A document written by Colonel Henry Bouquet to William Penn, Governor of Pennsylvania, on November 15, 1764, stated all Indian tribes lead by Chief Cornstalk had at least agreed to release the prisoners. The 150 prisoners were to be handed to troops who would send them to the fort at Carlish, Pennsylvania, where they would be provided with the necessities of life until all were claimed. Records indicate a total of 206 captives were released from November 1764 and 1765. The three sons of Frederick See were taken to Ft. Pitt, Virginia. However, the youngest, John, escaped the first night of his release, rejoining his captors. John See spent several more months with his captors until his Uncle Adam could again secure his release. Tradition is that John's behavior caused his aunt to throw her hands up in despair during her attempts to civilize him. 

Frederick See's widow is thought to have remarried, but nothing has been found to indicate she did or who to. Her whereabouts were unknown. The massacre on Muddy Creek in 1763 completely destroyed one of Greenbriers' first settlements. Yet in spite of such terrifying occurrences the brave pioneers continued to fight for the foothold they had gained in the wilderness. A stone marker in a field on a hill marks the site of the massacre. Frederick See's name, spelled "Sea" is listed. The graves of the victims may still be seen in what is known as the McKee burying ground. In 1772 a lone man, Samuel McKinney, built his cabin near this tragic spot. Others soon followed and two years later there were enough settlers to warrant the building of Fort Arbuckle on Muddy Creek for their protection. Muddy Creek, and its companion Mill Creek, which joins it at Blakkers mill seemed to have appealed to the pioneers. Perhaps a chief reason being their suitability as grist mill sites. Though most mills are long gone, several early houses are still existing. One was an early settler, Jacob Hockmans. He was not the original patentee but purchased the 365 acres of land on the west side of the creek in 1794 from GEORGE SEE who was the son of Frederick, for 5 shillings currency money of Virginia, to them hand-paid. This tract of land joined the lands of Peter Shoemaker and John Wilson, including the survey made in1751 for Frederick See, one of the few recorded victims of the massacre which occured on his land. The house on this land is on a carefully selected site on a high hill which gives a distant view. One of the best of the earliest stone buildings in appearance and preservation. The house is barely noticeable because of its inaccessible spot. It was believed to have been built in the 1790s, probably by the Sees who owned the land from 1751-1794. Linda M. Nixon, "The Ellison Tribe," pp. 293-94. Michael FrederickZeh was also known as Frederick See. Michael was born circa 1710. He was the son of George Ludwig Zeh and Margaret Tschudi. He married Catherine Vanderpool circa 1744. Michael died on 15 July 1763.
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