Monday, May 1, 2023

Side Road: About Lt Col Anita Johanna Dec

Anita Dec HS Graduation Photo
We had gotten to the point of just exchanging holiday letters. She still marked hers with "XX," her air traffic control  call sign. Our connection, though, had lasted over 30 years. I looked forward to her missives about her travels, though the last couple of years, she'd mentioned her concerns about her health and had not been traveling as far and wide. I found out she passed away in May of 2021, in the middle of the Covid crisis, of unknown causes, at the age of 68. She was single and never had children. There were no obituaries, but I was able to find some reference to her life and death, which I'm going to consolidate here (with references). She had impact on people who knew her. This is my tribute to Lieutenant Colonel Anita Johanna Dec. 

Born just five months after her parents' 1952 marriage, Anita Johanna Dec, was born to Hildegard Brandt born in Blasewitz, Seschen in Saxony, Germany (what during Anita's time in Germany was East Germany). Her family had lived in this area for several generations. Her father was from Poland and was a Polish POW of the Germans.  He was liberated by the French. Both her father's and her mother's families were war refugees when they arrived in the US. According to one account of Anita's childhood in Bayonne, New Jersey, her parents spoke only Polish at home and she went to a Polish-speaking elementary school. Once she learned English, beginning at age 6, she was often her parent's translator. She attended Queen of Peace Girl's High School in North Arlington, New Jersey, graduating in 1970.

She went to the University of Pittsburgh for college. Her degree was eventually in Economics with a minor in Russian. According to her, she was searching for an acceptable alternative to the required physical education class, so she signed up for ROTC. Now this was during the Vietnam War and women were still attached to the all-women's Woman's Army Corps (WACs). The university did not even have uniforms for women cadets. Anita was a born leader, and by her senior year, she was a student commander. She was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1974 and entered the air traffic control field. She would later get her master's in aviation safety.

Anita Dec in the ATC tower
Her places of service included: Mississippi; Indiana; Florida; Missouri; Galena Air Force Base, Alaska; Nebraska; Illinois; Germany; Virginia; and finally, New Jersey.

While at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, Anita was out to dinner with a friend who invited her to take the Mensa test with she and her son the next day. She agreed to go and in spite of falling asleep during the test, qualified, and spend the rest of her life as a member of Mensa, and even served as president of her local chapter in her last years. 

We both worked at the 1st Combat Communications Group in Wiesbaden, Germany (Lindsey Air Station). It was a sprawling mobile unit that took up several buildings on the base. 

One of our shared friends was 1Lt Patrick Cirgnani who was this stunningly handsome, witty and urbane officer and of course he was gay! We all smoked (egads!) and would sit around and smoke and joke. Sadly, this was the very beginning of the days of AIDS. The military had just started mandatory testing and many, many airman ended up being bounced out. Pat Cirgnani was one of them. He had been out in the field when they called him in and he left his boom box with Anita while he went back to HQ - he never went back to the field, instead, being sent back to the States for out processing. She never got to return it as he died within a couple of months back in the World. This loss was just the first of the many gay men who would lose their military careers and eventually their lives. 

One of the great things for Anita is after having such a small family (her parents and a brother born when she was 10), she got to connect with her mother's family in Germany. She loved those visits and had a great time and even when she returned to the States, she would still fly back to Germany to visit with them. 

She loved to shop - and anyone who was in the military during those days, the best shopping and eating was done in Berlin. In my first tour, I was not allowed to visit East Berlin because of my security clearance but during this tour, I had a lower clearance so I could go. I have my own adventures in shopping there, but I will keep this to recounting one of Anita's.

"She enjoyed shopping forays to East Germany where crystal, leather goods, handcrafts, and fancy gourmet meals were “dirt cheap.” She accompanied the wife of one of the civilian employees who drove a big Mercedes. The East Germans tended to contrarily delay traffic, so, to expedite passage through East German check points, they took Marlboro cigarettes and Sears and Penney’s catalogs to discreetly pass on to the guards. Their wives valued the catalogs to copy the clothing styles." 

The food in East Berlin was amazing. You could go to a 5-star restaurant and spend, including wine, under $20 per person for a 7-course meal. 

Then Major Dec & her 1CCGP boys of ATC @1988

One of the things most people did not know about her is she absolutely loved Rex Stout novels. Rex Stout was most famous for his Nero Wolfe books. We shared this passion and both held onto the entire set of his novels. Not many people share such an obscure love. She always got me when I made Archie Goodwin references.  It's those little things!

Her best friend during her time at Lindsey Air Station was Capt Jenny Johnson. She was a snarky, funny, short little gal who always made Anita laugh.

Right before leaving Germany, she took advantage of the best dollar to Deutschemark conversion rate in a couple of years and purchased a sleek black BMW 325 to take back to the US. She would tool down the tiny streets of Lindsey AS far faster than she probably should have.

In 1990, during the Gulf War, Dec worked on the logistics of getting war planes from the US to Europe and then to the Middle East. Part of the objective was to coordinate fighter jets and refueling tankers. That work was done out of Frankfurt. During her career, she also wrote instrument procedures, or mapping technology, for aircraft. 

"Years ago, it was really complicated, because we had to (write the procedures" by hand," she said. "It was very math intensive."

"At her last duty station, in New Jersey at the William J Hughes Technical Center, she helped develop and test new air traffic control voice switching systems. With all these credentials, when she retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, she was immediately ired for a civilian job testing air traffic control systems at the Tech Center."

She care for her elderly mother after her retirement in 1998 and her mother later died near her brother in 2005. Anita lived at her May's Landing address until her death.

Anita loved wildlife - and her cats. She became a donor to the Wildlife Center of Virginia in 2011 and eventually upped her donor game to participating in the Center's Caring for Critters program. The Center was also included in her estate plan. 

Her very active life also include her membership of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 825, Township of Hamilto Historical Society, Atlantic County Veteran's Advisory Board, and was a regular participant of the Delaware Valley Mensa book discussion group and coordinator of the Atlantic County Menas monthly dinners for over seven years.

Having her friendship and seeing her bright smile meant a lot to me. She was tough, but tender. Smart like nobody's business, and very approachable to all who wanted to reach out before she could reach out to her. I miss her, but she sure lived a great life. Listen to her recollections left with the Library of Congress here:

"Air Force Veteran Skipped Gym Class, Found Military Career," The Press of Atlantic City, John DeRozier, Nov 11, 2016.

"Remembering Anita," Wildlife Center of Virginia, Oct 1, 2021, Blog

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Clan William: Mary Ann Munson and William Custer Smith, Part 3

Read Part 2  

Harland Smith
We left off with the death of Mary Ann Munson in 1888. She was a mere 51 years old. Many of the children had married by the time of her death, but some were still at home.

William Custer Smith found a second wife. At this time, I need to address "family lore." Within my family tree was a lovely lady who was the granddaughter of William & Mary Ann's son Harland - the guy who lived on the family farm with his wife and raced horses. She wrote an extensive letter full of her "memories," many of which were factually not true. You can read a bit about her reminisces here.

Her primary assertion was the woman W.C. married was previously married and had children. It was alluded the new wife was greedy and vengeful, casting out Harland and Fannie from the family farm. We'll get back to this lore as the story continues.

W.C.'s new wife was found in the family tree of his wife. His new wife was an unmarried "spinster" woman of 30 who was his wife's cousin. Specifically, she was the granddaughter of Mary Ann's sister Henrietta Munson Vaughn. Daughter of Sarah Jane Vaughn Simmons. The Vaughn/Simmons families had settled in Fayette County in NE Iowa. Just a few hours' buggy ride from the Smith farm in Fremont Township.

W.C. and Alice Simmons hopped on a train from Plainfield to Charles City and married March 20, 1893. They returned to the Smith farm and their lives went on. 

In the meantime, the rest of the kids grew up and married.

Edwin Smith married Kate Smull on 11 Jun 1890. The couple would fairly soon settle in Plainfield. Edwin was a laborer. They had 12 children. Wife Kate was known throughout the area for her expertise in wallpapering. 

Parker Smith, a struggling Baptist preacher, married Estella Irene "Stella" Pierson on 20 Nov 1896. After the turn of the century, they would spend the rest of their lives moving from church to church and into various leadership positions within the Baptist faith.  They would adopt one of Stella's nieces.

Young Mirt Smith

Mirt Smith married Emma Haehlen Schafstall on 22 Jun 1898 in Mower, Minnesota. Mirt was a barber. The couple would have three children. Mirt was known in the region for his award-winning chickens.  They lived in Waterloo for most of their marriage.

Mr & Mrs W. C. Smith did not have a long marriage. A massive stroke took W.C. on 16 Nov 1895 while going between the house and barn. According to the obituary, the turnout to say goodbye was a large one.

According to "family lore" as described by Harland's granddaughter, the widow stole the farm after W.C.'s death so she could leave it to her children. As I mentioned, not true. In fact I was able to find the documents that were with the courthouse and the current owner of the property. Alice, within a week of the death, sold the farm to the children for $2,040 on 22 Nov 1895. Each child owned an equal share. Son Parker managed the farm during this period at the behest of the family; my guess is Harland's departure had been caused by a similar family decision. 

Alice returned to her family and married a single Englishman named Arthur Sinderson 16 Aug 1898. She never had any children during her lifetime.

On 08 Mar 1897, Eva Smith Bryce sold her share to her siblings for $600. Finally, on 08 Dec 1898, the farm was sold to the Diedrich Dieke family for $5,040. 

This would be the end of the direct William Custer Smith-Mary Ann Munson story, but they would live on through the stories of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren's and great-great grandchildren's lives.

Click these links for more stories about William and Mary's families.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Clan William: Mary Ann Munson and William Custer Smith, Part 2

See Part 1 here.

William and Mary Ann Munson Smith set up house in Fennimore, Grant County, Wisconsin. The couple farmed during their time in Wisconsin. On 19 Sep 1854, they had their first child, Walter Clarence Smith. The next surviving child was Mary Madora "Dora" Smith, born in Hazel Green, Grant County on 23 Jul 1850. The third, was Harland Smith, born 02 Nov 1861 in Grant County. Finally, the fourth Wisconsin baby, Eva Elvira Smith was born on 05 Apr 1864 in Fennimore.

Butler County, Iowa Fremont Township Plat Map, 1895

In 1866, the Smith family packed up and moved to Fremont Township, Butler County, Iowa. On 16 Sep 1866, their fifth child, Ella Mae Smith was born in Fremont Township. The Smith's then purchased a farm one mile west of the town of Plainfield, in Butler County, from the widow of former Horton postmaster Amos Head. Head had cleared the land and made it livable. The Smith's purchased 140 acres of prime farm land for $800.00 on 01 Nov 1866. The farm was right on the county line between Butler and Bremer county. The couple worked together to build their house and barn. They had a large family to house and more were on the way.

In addition to the children, the couple also housed William's mother "Cathy"  and his mentally disabled brother, Isaac, and spinster sister, Sara. Along came sons Edwin (06 Jun 1869), Parker (01 Sep 1872), Mirt (09 Sep 1875), and baby John, born 09 Jun 1879 and died 28 Sep 1881. This would complete their family.

The house is the one William & Mary Ann Munson Smith
built. The people are the next family who lived there.

The couple completed their house and barn and as the older ones grew, they married off.  

The original farm and farm today. The house is long gone. The Dieke family have owned
the property for over 100 years and the farm is recognized as a Centennial Farm.

By 1880, William's mentally disabled brother, Isaac, was living in Wisconsin again, with another Smith brother, John. Mother Cathy is believed to have died in Fremont Township before 1880 and was probably the reason Isaac was sent to the oldest brother. Sister Sarah Jane was finally married off to a widower with a disastrous marriage record and history of alcohol abuse and violence, Francis "Frank" Doole, on 27 May 1887 in Floyd County. She did not get a happy ending.

Oldest son Walter had married Isabell Monteith in 1876 in Plainfield. Isabell was one of three Monteith sisters who married into the greater Smith family. The Monteith's hailed from Scotland and settled in Wisconsin.

Daughter Dora married a young businessman originally from Somerset, Pennsylvania, but had moved to Waterloo, Iowa on 21 Jun 1878 in Janesville, Iowa. His family made an indelible impression on the City of Waterloo through the next several decades. The couple would reside in Waterloo and husband Claude Lichty would build a manufacturing company which ran successfully during his lifetime.

Son Harland and Fannie had been married in a double ceremony with Harland's next younger sister, Eva Elvira on 21 Aug 1881. Son Harland and William loved to race horses and built a horse racing track on the property at it's southern side. They traveled the state racing horses and held races on their property. Harlan and his wife Fannie Magoon lived on the farm with the Smith's after their marriage in 1881. Fannie fed the chickens and worked the farm. She did the laundry in a vat on the lawn. Harland, reportedly, was far from industrious and just wanted to race his horses.  

Eva Elvira, who married farm laborer Arthur Marion Bryce on 21 Aug 1881 in a double ceremony with her brother Harland and his wife Fannie. The Bryce's moved on to Fort Dodge and then returned to Plainfield, where Arthur died young in 1886 and Eva did not remarry.

Daughter Ella Mae married farmhand and later railroad man Howard Cunningham on 30 Aug 1885 in Bremer County. They moved to Moberly, Missouri, one of the hubs of the Wabash Railroad.

Plainfield, Bremer County, IA sometime between 1874-1880

William and Mary Ann seemed to have a lot of friends in both Nashua and Plainfield, though Plainfield was where they went most often. Their mail was delivered to the Plainfield post office and that's also where they saw the doctor and did their shopping. Plainfield and Nashua were both thriving farm towns, with just about everything a family could need in those days in the 1880s.  

In 1888, Mary Ann took sick. She was expected to recover and though she was sick, no one expected her to die. She died on 24 Sep 1888. She was 51 and her youngest child, Mirt, was 13 years old. 

Life would change for the Smith family after Mary Ann's death. Family lore would prove false after a long research road.

Part 3 - After Mary Ann Munson Smith

Click these links for more stories about William and Mary's families.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Clan William: Mary Ann Munson and William Custer Smith, Part 1

Photo by Mark Miller and can be
purchased through Fine Art America
As I have researched over the past many years, my posts focus on a piece or part of a story as I find it. I wanted to put to pen, or rather, to blog, the thus far semi-complete story of my 2nd great grandparents, pioneers William Custer Smith and his wife, Mary Ann Munson, daughter of Amos Munson of Clan William.

Mary Ann Munson was born to Amos Munson and Mary Ann Kearney on 08 Jun 1837* in Trumbull County, Ohio. Samuel (2nd) Munson, Freeman's father, and Amos' father Freeman Munson had pioneered into Trumbull County beginning in about 1802 and were some of its earliest settlers. Mary Ann was the third child of the couple's eight known children. 

In 1850, her family moved from Trumbull County to Grant County, Wisconsin. Grant County is in what is called the "Driftless Area." That is the stunningly beautiful formerly mountainous area that was missed by ice sheets shifting down from Canada that flattened the plains starting about 100,000 years ago. Only a small part of SE Minnesota, NE Iowa, and a larger part of Wisconsin were missed.  Over time, the mountains wore down to beautiful green hills. 

The area was also full of mining production. Zinc, Lead, and Iron were mined in this area. Many Cornish miners flocked to the area to work in the mines. The Munsons, I believe, joined thousands of others who found the beauty of the area irresistible. 

Some time between 1852 and 1853, Mary Ann met her future husband, William Custer Smith. They married 30 Jun 1853 in Grant County. 

William Custer Smith's middle name was not derived from General George Armstrong Custer, but from Custer's father, Emanuel Custer. William's father, Jacob Smith and his wife Mary Catherine "Cathy" farmed in the same community as the Custers in eastern Ohio.  It's believed that James Smith, Jacob's father, came from New Jersey to Ohio. William Custer Smith was born on 04 Oct 1831 in Harrison County, Ohio. He was the middle of seven known children. 

Mary Catherine, according to family lore, had the last name Randolph. DNA, however, indicates she is the child of John Lodawick Schmidt and Mary Kinter. We don't know what her connection was to the Randolph family (and for which I have yet to find any link). So, for now, I will refer to her as Mary Catherine "Cathy" Schmidt Smith.

In 1846, Jacob's oldest son James and his wife had their third child, John Richard, in Grant County; their previous child, Alexander, was born in Jefferson County, Ohio in 1845. So, we can presume, since they all went together, that they arrived in Wisconsin in late 1845 or earlly 1846. Jacob and children are all reflected in the 1850 census in Grant County.

Oddly enough, there was another Jacob Smith in Grant County during this time, who died in 1850. Many trees in Ancestry reflect this being "my" Jacob Smith. It's not. A review of the deceased Jacob Smith's will shows it wasn't him at all - different wife, different children.  

In the end, we are put in a place that the best we can narrow down my Jacob Smith's death date to between the census of 1850 and 1860. 

We may never know what happened to Jacob, but there is a high likelihood he did not ever come to Iowa with several other members of the family, but died in Grant County. We do know what became of the rest of the Munson and Smith Clans. 

Part 2 will cover the marriage years of William Custer Smith and Mary Ann Munson.

Click these links for more stories about William and Mary's families.

*-I have yet to prove this date personally, but I'm going with it for now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

LINSEY FAMILY: Owen Dorathy & Sarah Lindsey

Owen Dorathy & Sarah Lindsey Family

Much of the history of my Lindsey/Linsey relatives is still a mystery. The immigrant was reportedly Harvey Lindsey, who has been reported to have been from Ireland or England (or possibly Scotland). He married Peace Macomber and had an unknown number of children.  This was ascertained from death certificates for what were the two known children, Oscar Linsey and his sister Mary Lindsey. 

Through the miracle of DNA, about a year ago, another connection popped up. Sarah Lindsey. it turns out, was the older sister of Oscar and Mary. The story fit neatly together on all fronts, including that her family also traveled from Chautaqua County, New York to Whiteside County in Illinois. 

After recently locating the 1830 Census for Harvey in Washington County, New York, I was able to confirm an, as to yet unnamed, daughter born between Sarah and Mary born between 1825 and 1830.

Born in 1821, in Washington County to Harvey and Peace, Sarah was most likely the oldest or one of the oldest children of the couple. Sarah married Owen Dorathy (an altered form of Dougherty) around 1840 in New York. The couple lived in Ellington in Chautauqua County. Owen was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1815 and emigrated to the US in 1835.

The couple relocated to Whiteside County, Illinois between 1856-1857, settling in the area near Portland. Their post office was the Spring Hill post office. By the time they'd arrived, they already had six of their final count of eight children. The Dorathy's farmed.

While the Dorathy's remained in Whiteside County (until today, in fact), Sarah's younger brother Oscar, my 2GG, moved his family to Benton County, Iowa, near Vinton. Mary, the only other sibling I know about, lived in Whiteside County for most of her life, but died in Vinton, most likely because her brother was there.

Morris Dorathy & Lydia Besse
The Dorathy's were a very well regarded family in the county and in the coming generations were very involved in civic activities and the Methodist church. While that is true, they aren't a particularly interesting group, leading fairly routine recorded lives, much like the lives of Sarah's brother Oscar's family in Iowa. Here is a brief summary of the children of the Dorathy's:

Morris Dorathy: Born 04 Dec 1842/Ellington, Chautaqua, New York (some reports say Cattaraugus County); Died: 10 Apr 1930, Portland, Whiteside, Illinois. Married: Lydia Rose Besse, 12 Nov 1970 in Whiteside County. They had six children. Morris served in the Civil War, with the 75th Illinois Infantry. He served for three years, seeing action Perrysville, Stone River, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. He was also on the front lines of the Atlantic Campaign. He was discharged in 1865. He was a member of the Modern Woodsmen, the Grand Army of the Republic (a Civil War veteran's organization), and the Masons.

Dennis Dorathy: Born 04 Nov 1844, Ellington, Chautaqua, New York. Died 04 Jan 1922 in Fremont, Dodge County, Nebraska. Married: Charlotte Dickerson, 10 Nov 1867 in Henry County, Illinois. The couple was the only Dorathy who continued west during this time. The couple moved to Nebraska around 1870, but possibly prior. The couple owned a couple of different farms in the North Bend area, but after the death of his wife in 1913, Dennis moved to Fremont where he died after developing a cold
which sounds like turned into pneumonia. The couple had two children.

Charles Dorothy
Charles Dorathy: Born 25 Apr 1846, Ellington, Chautauqua, New York. Died 07 May 1937, Maywood, Cook County, Illinois. Married: Never married. Charles Dorathy was the last Whiteside County Civil War veteran when he died at age 91. He served with Company B, 140th Illinois Infantry Volunteers from 1863 to 1865. He farmed his entire life. The last few years of his life he suffered from illness and resided in the veteran's hospital in Cook County until his death.

William Dorathy: Born 09 Mar 1851, Ellington, Chautauqua, New York. Died 24 Mar 1924 in Portland, Whiteside, Illinois. Married: Clementine Toms, 21 Dec 1876, Whiteside County, Illinois. The couple had four children. After farming for many years, the couple moved to Prophetstown. Mrs. Dorathy died in 1940 after a heart attack at her son Bruce's home outside of Prophetstown.

William Dorathy
Catherine "Katie" Dorathy: Born Aug 1852, Ellington, Chautauqua, New York. Died 08 Feb 1875,

Prophetstown, Whiteside, Illinois. Married: George Erastus Breckenridge, 22 Jan 1869, Whiteside County, Illinois. George was also a farmer. The young couple had two children before Katie's premature death. George remarried Nancy Agnes Allen in 1876 and the couple raised his two children and their two children before George's death in 1910 in Red Eye, Wadena County, Minnesota.

Mary Ann Dorathy: Born 24 Mar 1956, Ellington, Chautauqua, New York. Died 02 Jun 1934, Portland, Whiteside, Illinois. Married: Cecil Fuller, 28 May 1973, Whiteside County, Illinois. Cecil was a farm laborer. The couple did not have any children. She was a Methodist and an honorary member of the Portland Club.

Lee Watson Dorathy
Frank Dorathy: Born 18 Oct 1858, Whiteside County, Illinois. Died 03 Apr 1895, Whiteside, Illinois. Married: Christina Catherine "Katie" Kelly, 04 Jul 1882, Whiteside County, Illinois. He worked as a farm laborer during his short life. The couple had no children.

Lee Watson Dorathy: Born 18 Jun 1861, Whiteside County, Illinois. Died 16 May 1932, Whiteside County, Illinois. Married: Lydia Rawson, 29  Jun 1887, Whiteside County, Illinois. The couple had two children. 

While not a lot was gleaned from researching this family, I was struck by one thing - the dour expressions of Sarah and several of her children, were exactly the same expression shared by my own antecedents!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Clan William: Marrying Up - William Edgar Mattison Jr

This is a short little story about a Munson-descended man "marrying up." William Edgar Mattison married Elizabeth Dean Alford, a descendant of Governor Thomas Dudley of Massachusetts.

Capt Thomas Munson > Samuel Munson > Samuel James Munson > William Munson >  Martha Munson > Eliakim Doolittle > Tirzah Doolittle > Mary Eddy Montgomery > Effa Roslie Galusha > William Edgar Mattison Jr m Elizabeth Dean Alford

William Edgar Mattison, Jr. was born to William Edgar Mattison, Sr and Effa Galusha on 07 Sep 1912 in Shaftsbury, Vermont. The Mattison's were of modest means. William Sr. worked at various labor jobs and farmed throughout his life. They had seven children. William was the second youngest. By 1935, they had both passed away.

By the time Jr. was 17, he was no longer in school and was working in a furniture factory. He then took a job as a night watchman at the newly opened women's Bennington College (1932) in southwest Vermont. Bennington was the first liberal arts college to offer visual and performing arts in its program. While patrolling the campus one night, he met young Elizabeth Alford, daughter of the prominent and uber wealthy Brookline, Massachusetts Mr & Mrs Edward Balch Alford family. 

Bennington College

Elizabeth had her society debut in the 1933-34 season and was most eligible. A freshman at Bennington, she was a  member of the junior league and the exclusive Vincent Club

The society wedding was held on November 5, 1935 at the Alford Estate in Brookline. The event was picked up on newswire and published all over the country as "handsome cop marries wealthy socialite."

You have to kind of wonder how the senior Alford's felt about a working class young man marrying their daughter.

William became a dairy farmer in Concord and dubbed the farm "Arrowhead Farm." This farm should not be confused with the Arrowhead Farm of Herman Melville in Pittsfield.  This house was the original homestead of Ezekiel Miles, built in 1741. The Mattison's raised their six children on the farm. Mrs. Mattison gave tours to school children and the children participated in 4H. They seemed to live a very happy life. You can read a lovely oral history by the eldest Mattison child, William, about the farm in the 1940s and 1950s.

Farm today. Photo credit JB the Milker

In 1940, Elizabeth's father died, leaving his fortune to his wife and two children, leaving the Mattison's even better off than before. There was an account of her brother, Edgar, after inheriting while serving in the Army, that also made the newswire. 

William died in 1972 while on a visit to his native Bennington. He had been a life member of Nashawtuc Country Club and the Bennington Elks. Elizabeth was listed in her obituary as the wife of William - not the wealthy socialite and descendant of generations of Boston Brahmins. In getting to know her, I'd say that was probably just the way she wanted it.

Click to Enlarge

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Clan William: James Ralph Doolittle, WWI Flyer

James Ralph
Today's story is about a young man, who received some benefit from his great grandfather's fame and reputation, but it didn't keep him from the tragedy that would befall him.

Capt Thomas Munson > Samuel Munson > Samuel James Munson > William Munson >  Martha Munson > Reuben Doolittle > Reuben Doolittle > James Rood Doolittle > James Reuben Doolittle > James Rood Doolittle > James Ralph Doolittle

James Ralph Doolittle was born 07 Jan 1894 in Chicago, Illinois to James Rood Doolittle, publisher and grandson of Senator James Rood Doolittle of Wisconsin and Frances Sterling Golsen. 

Doolittle as a young man decided to volunteer with the American Norton-Harjes ambulance services that served the Allied Forces in France World War I. The cadre was made up of 600 volunteers. He later became the 37th American to join the LaFayette Escadrille, the French Air Force unit which began flying in 1917, nearly a full year before the US got into the war. The unit was made up largely of American volunteer pilots. 

Spad Aircraft

Doolittle trained at Buc, Avord, and Pau. During training. In April 1917, he was injured when his 
aircraft side-slipped into the ground, breaking his ankle and cutting his face, leaving scars. After spending eight weeks in the hospital, he joined La Fayette Escadrille on 02 July 1917. On 17 Jul 1917, he was flying to the newly created base at Dunkirk and became lost in the clouds. Two German aircraft attacked and shot him twice in the leg. While trying to come down, a British Archie (anti-aircraft gun) also hit him as they tried to fight off the German aircraft. On landing, his Spad aircraft flipped, but thankfully, in British territory. His injuries were severe, and his facial injuries were reopened. He eventually recovered and was released from the French service so he could return home. 
La Fayette Escadrille

He was not deterred in the flying department and became a civilian flight instructor for the US Air Service. He resided at the University Club in Chicago. While at Kenilworth Field near Buffalo, New York, he met  socialite Mary Louise Thomas and they became engaged. Their wedding was scheduled for 01 Aug 1918. 

On 26 Jul 1918, he was flying with another Air Service employee, Lawrence J Dunham in an experimental Curtiss a/c powered by a Liberty Motor. Doolittle, who was piloting, took a sharp turn, and apparently attempted make that turn with the engine throttled with insufficient air speed. The plane crashed, killing Dunham, 20, instantly. Doolittle survived the crash and was taken to the Buffalo hospital, where he died an hour after arrival. He was just five days from his wedding to Mary Louise. His ashes were sent to France to be buried with his comrades in arms.

Mary Louise Thomas
Murray Dier
I always wonder what happened to those left behind. At his memorial, his father said, "If death was to come to my son in the way it so happened, I only regret it did not come after he shot a number of enemy planes."

Mary Louise went on. She married a year later, in 1919,  to Clifford J. Murray, another person in her social realm. She went to Reno for her divorce in 1927. She married again and divorced again. She had one child from each marriage. She died in 1967 in Florida.