World War I—the “war to end all wars”—was ended by an armistice that took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson gave an address to the nation on what had come to be called Armistice Day in the U.S. and allied countries. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday, and in 1954 the day was renamed “Veterans Day” to honor all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, not just those who served in World War I.
My family has a proud heritage of serving our country. My father Keith V. Black served in the Navy immediately before the Vietnam War. My paternal grandfather Vernon C. Black served in the Army in Europe during World War II. My maternal grandfather William E. Prettyman served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. And many, many more of my ancestors and relatives have served in the many wars our nation has engaged in over the past 400 years.
I present this list to honor their service and their memory.
This is the fourth and final post of this series. In part 3 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired before the Armistice, until he celebrated Christmas in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation. In this, the conclusion of Clarence’s World War I story, I’ll present his journey from Mayen back to the United States.
In part 2 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Camp Lewis in Washington until he arrived in Colombey-les-Belles, France. Until this point, Clarence had been seeing the war from well behind the front lines. He had experienced bombs dropped from German airplanes and being shelled by German artillery, but he had not yet been in the front line trenches or gone “over the top” to charge towards the German front lines. Until now. In part 3, I’ll present Clarence’s journey from Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired on Armistice Day, to his Christmas spent in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation.
In part 1 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when the U.S. entered the war until the end of his training at Camp Lewis, Washington. In part 2, I’ll be presenting his cross-country rail journey to Camp Merritt, his transatlantic voyage to France, and his journey east across France to Colombey-les-Belles.
Clarence Humphrey Bailey was the uncle by marriage of my grandmother Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black. He married his third cousin, Dorothy M. Bailey, who was my grandmother’s maternal aunt. I was lucky enough to get to know Clarence somewhat when I was young, as he lived until late 1982, when I was 16 years old. When I was 13, we bonded over our love of Shakespeare (mine was shallow—I had just discovered Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet; his was deeper—he read the bard while serving in World War I). That said, I regret not getting to know Clarence better. Despite he and his wife Dot only living two hours away, I only remember visiting him about a dozen times in my life. To my teenaged self, he always appeared intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful, and sensitive. Now that I’m learning more about him by reading the many letters he sent home, I realize my teenaged impression was spot on (although there is a lot more depth to the man than I would have guessed as a teen).
This series of posts represents my first attempt to present all of the documentary evidence for Clarence’s life from just before until just after World War I. There is almost certainly additional documentary evidence to be found, and when I do find it I’ll post an update.
In honor of National Pi Day (March 14th), I’d like to present a letter that my great-great-uncle Clarence H. Bailey wrote home to his mother while serving in Europe during World War I. He cut out an illustration of a pie, pasted it to a sheet of paper, and wrote an ode to his mother’s pies around the margins.
Unfortunately, the one-page masterpiece is undated, but it was found among a bundle of letters that Clarence sent to his mother Belle Jarbeau Bailey during the Great War. It’s amazing how war seems to focus a young man’s thoughts on home-cooked pies.
As I was going through and organizing a series of letters home from my great-great-uncle Clarence H. Bailey while he served in Europe in World War I, I came across one letter that was not from him. Instead, it was a letter to his future wife from a man named Byron O. Seeburt.
Rather than set the letter aside and focus on Clarence’s letters, and risk Byron’s letter being forgotten or lost with time, I’d like to briefly spotlight it here. Perhaps by doing so, Byron’s descendants or family may one day find it.
Byron’s letter is a century old, having been written on December 17th, 1918. The letter itself is just three pages of cursive writing in ink on ruled paper, held together in the top left corner by a straight pin.
In his letter to Dorothy Bailey (“Dot”), Byron refers the Spanish Flu epidemic, to trench warfare, to time spent with Dot and her friend Olive in Tacoma, and to all the food that a home-sick American soldier dreams about in the trenches.
I spent nearly all of my genealogical time and focus in 2018 proving my descent from Mayflower passengers John Alden (and therefore also from his wife Priscilla Mullens and her father William Mullins, both also Mayflower passengers). I had hoped to hear by the end of 2018 that my lineage was deemed sufficiently documented to be accepted for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (the “Mayflower Society”). Alas, January 1, 2019, came and I still hadn’t heard a decision from the California State Historian or the Historian General in Plymouth.
Just this past Monday, however, I received a letter from the California Historian that my lineage and application had finally been accepted, and that my membership would be formally voted on at the Board of Assistants meeting on January 19. That meeting just ended and I have received the long-awaited news—I am now a member of the Mayflower Society! I am the 94,495th person to successfully apply since the Society was founded in 1897.
Now that I’ve proven our line back to the Mayflower, my cousins on my McMurry side who descend from Lucinda Tracy (Bailey) McMurry can now also just by definitively proving their descent from our common ancestors (Lucinda Tracey Bailey McMurry for second cousins, or just to Dorothy Ruth McMurry Black for first cousins). The 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower is coming up next year, so if you’ve ever considered joining, this would be a great time to do so. If you’re interested in formally documenting your Mayflower line and joining the Mayflower Society, let me know and I’ll do what I can to help you out. Even if you don’t want to have your Mayflower descent certified, if you descend from Lucinda Tracy (Bailey) McMurry, know that you are indeed a descendant of at least three Mayflower passengers. I hope that makes you feel as good as it does me!
Exactly one hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later—after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and then the Korean War—the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.
This is a revised version of a post I did five years ago. Since then, some family members have died, and I’ve discovered twenty-seven additional family members who served our country. Note that I have included only relatives who served the United States or the colonies that would eventually become the United States.
Happy Mayflower Day, everyone! 398 years ago today—on September 16, 1620—102 men, women, and children left Plymouth, England, and set sail for the Colony of Virginia in the New World. They were unsure how long their voyage would take, whether they would survive the voyage, or what their lives would be like once they landed in the New World.
We now know that their voyage took 66 days, that 5 people died at sea, that the rough winter seas forced them north to Cape Cod, and that their late arrival led to the deaths of nearly half of the crew and passengers during that first winter. My 11th-great-grandfather William Mullins was among those who did not survive that first harsh winter.