20 January 2015

Tragedy and Irony in the Death of Ben Zumwalt (This Time It's Personal)

Um. Did ya miss me? :-) I know there's been a serious lag in posting here at Southern Graves. My last article was in (gasp!) September. Of. Last. Year. A lot of stuff going on in real life as of late. I'll have to fill you in sometime.

The following was originally posted on my now defunct personal family history blog more than five years ago. I'm moving it to this space and adding some appropriate FindAGrave links...

Enhanced image.
Original by Kelli
Smythe via FindAGrave
Isaac and Elver Zumwalt were laid to rest in Nichols Cemetery at Ingram, Kerr County, Texas. Also located in Nichols Cemetery is a red granite marker memorializing the son of Isaac and Elver pictured here. His name was Ruben F. Zumwalt. I had found Ruben and his parents in 1920 and 1930 Kerr County, TX census records, leading me to believe Ruben had been born about 1914-5. According to his stone, however, "Ben" was born 21 June 1919. His death date was listed as 20 May 1943.

The picture of Ben on his memorial, as well as his year of death, led me to search the World War II Honor List of Dead. Sure enough, I found him. TSgt Ben F. Zumwalt from Kerr County, Texas "died, non-battle." I assumed he died of sickness or something like that. I was not prepared for what I found next.

A casual search of Ancestry's Historical Newspaper Collection resulted in an article from the San Antonio Light (Texas) dated 21 May 1943:
2 Texans Die In Chicago Plane Crash
The public relations office of the Fort Worth army air field Friday had disclosed the names of the nine crew members and of one of three passengers aboard a B-24 army bomber which crashed into the world's largest illuminating gas storage tank at Chicago Thursday.

Bodies in the wreckage were consumed in a blaze which destroyed the 500-foot tank surmounted by a 50-foot air beacon.

The bomber, groping its way at only 100 feet altitude through unfavorable weather, smashed into the tank filled with 18,000,000 cubic feet of illuminating gas, causing an explosion that rocked southwest Chicago.

Flames shot hundreds of feet. They were followed by a dense pall of smoke which spread over the region as tar used for sealing the tank burned and smoldered.

The tank, except for about 100 feet at the base, was demolished. Huge pieces of steel plate, some of them as big as the front of a two-story house, were hurled 100 yards or more.

The heat was so intense that temperatures rose for nearly a mile away. Windows in some of the homes in the sparsely settled section were too hot to touch.

...The toll of 12 dead was the greatest in any plane disaster in the Chicago area.

The flight was in charge of Capt. James R. Gilcrease of Fort Worth, commanding officer of the 1014th squadron and a flight instructor.

Others of the crew:
Second Lieut. David S. Alter, an instructor from Pittsburgh, Pa., who was married about six weeks ago. His widow resides in Fort Worth.

First Lieut. Harry B. Messick Jr., of Indianapolis, who was in charge of [the] navigation section of the field's ground school and navigator for the flight. His wife resides in Fort Worth.

Second Lieuts. Frederick L. Dutl of Wadsworth, Ohio, and John C. Wallace, son of Mrs. Henrietta Wallace, of Luling, student officers.

Pfc. Nick Lonebar of Wierton, W.Va.; Sgt. Arthur A. Huber of Queens, N.Y.; Staff Sgt. Norman W. Yutzy, Canton, Ohio, and Technical Sgt. Ben F. Zumwalt of Ingram, Texas, aerial engineers.

The identified passenger was Capt. A. W. Lent of Hamilton field, Calif...
That was certainly a tragedy. Here is the irony from a Dallas Morning News (Texas) article dated 26 February 1942, less than 15 months before Ben's death:
Reads Own Obituary, Enjoys It, Too, Writes Pearl Harbor Survivor
KERRVILLE, Texas, Feb. 25 -- How it feels to read your own obituary in your home-town newspaper is described in a letter received here from Ruben Zumwalt, Kerr county youth attached to the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii. In mid-December [an] official report from Washington to Zumwalt's parents said he had died as a result of the Jap attack on Dec. 7. The young man's obituary was published locally before mail from him definitely established that he was still alive, and that the government report was in error.

Upon reading the obituary published here, young Zumwalt wrote back, telling his feelings. "I could not help grinning a little when I read it, and enjoyed it immensely," he wrote. "Realizing that it is a rare thing for a man to have the opportunity of reading his own obituary, I thought you might like to know I appreciated it." In closing he said he hoped the obituary wouldn't have to be reprinted "for a long, long time to come." [Emphasis mine.]
My connection: Ruben F. Zumwalt was a 2nd cousin, 1x removed of husband of 4th cousin, 4x removed.

07 September 2014

Me and the Mardasson Memorial

As this previous post suggests, I have been participating in my own personal scanfest of late. Since March of this year, I have uploaded 7.7 GB to my cloud drive. That's 4,430 images and 25 videos. (Some of the files came from my digital camera, to be fair.) If only I were close to being caught up!

I have been curious for years about one of the photos I scanned just this morning. It's a picture of me, on a rainy day, standing in front of some sort of monument / memorial. I think I was about 8 or so years old. All I knew for sure is we were in Europe. (I so stink at geography.)

I searched images online using characteristics seen in the photo: "American monument shaped like a star" (or something to that effect). I tried to place it in France first, but got close enough to find the truth with Germany, I think.

Anyway. I discovered I was standing (in my yellow slicker, no less!) in front of the Mardasson Memorial. Check me out:

The Mardasson Memorial, located in Luxembourg, was built in the shape of a pentagram and stands 39 feet tall. It was dedicated 16 July 1950 to honor the memory of the 76,890 American soldiers wounded or killed during the Battle of the Bulge. A memorial stone reads, in Latin:
This translates to:
"The Belgian people remember their American liberators – 4th July 1946."

[More at Wikipedia.]

02 September 2014

Combining the Front and Back of a Photo when Digitizing (an Off-Topic, Superimposing Post)

Did you get my feeble attempt at a double entendre? (Heh, Heh.)

Since a lot of genealogists and family archivists read this blog (big thanks!), I thought it might be worth passing along this little tip I stumbled upon this morning. While I have no doubt this trick has been done over and over by other quicker thinkers, it was a light bulb moment for me. :-)

I was digitizing a few photos that also contained captions on the back. (Grandpa Lincecum did a pretty good job remembering to do that on most occasions. That in itself is a rare find!) I wanted to combine the front and back so as to have the caption -- in his writing -- stay with the front image. I simply used the collage feature in Google's Picasa to do so with a couple of these, like this:

Well, one of the front-back collage attempts wasn't working the way I wanted. I guess it had something to do with the size of the photo. Anyway, I was playing with the collage settings, clicked on Multiple Exposure, and violĂ !

Pretty cool, huh? Don't forget to digitize the front by itself, so you still have that true image.

Got any more tips for digitizing family history artifacts?

Thanks for letting me interrupt the regularly scheduled programming. ;-)

28 August 2014

Is Man Different From Fish or Hogs? (a Spoon River Epitaph)

A sweet co-worker recently introduced me to Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, a collection of free-form poems written as epitaphs for deceased residents of a small town. S graciously lent me a copy of the book, and I have since found an online edition. Though these epitaphs are fictional, I hope you'll permit me to share some of my favorites with you here.

Schroeder the Fisherman (pg 124)
I SAT ON the bank above Bernadotte
And dropped crumbs in the water,
Just to see the minnows bump each other,
Until the strongest got the prize.
Or I went to my little pasture,
Where the peaceful swine were asleep in the wallow,
Or nosing each other lovingly,
And emptied a basket of yellow corn,
And watched them push and squeal and bite,
And trample each other to get the corn.
And I saw how Christian Dallman's farm,
Of more than three thousand acres,
Swallowed the patch of Felix Schmidt,
As a bass will swallow a minnow.
And I say if there's anything in man --
Spirit, or conscience, or breath of God
That makes him different from fishes or hogs,
I'd like to see it work!

27 August 2014

Ignorantly Accidental Overdose (This Time It's Personal)

Leslie Lee Lancaster was my (half) 2nd great grand uncle. But he never made it to adulthood. You see, when Leslie Lee was a little over a year old, having a bit of a hard time while teething, someone gave him a tad too much morphine. Overdosed while teething. Ouch. I cannot imagine how his parents felt -- whether one or both were "the cause", or not.

Source:  Missouri Digital Heritage

The official cause of death was listed as "Ignorantly accidental (overdose morphine)". The secondary factor was "Teething."

Leslie Lee Lancaster was laid to rest in Hickory Grove Cemetery at Morley, Scott County, Missouri. I've submitted a photo request via FindAGrave. Fingers crossed for a marked (and labeled!) grave.

25 August 2014

Dr. Holtzclaw Suicides (This Time It's Personal)

When conducting any kind of historical research, coming across a suicide always gives me pause. Even though it's not always a conscious act, I know I'm taking a brief moment to mourn the loss. A loss I don't pretend to understand. With the recent passing of Robin Williams, I'm reminded that those who seem to "have it all" sometimes are wrestling with demons unseen.

© 2008 S. Lincecum
In 1922, two days after his 63rd birthday, Dr. Henry Macon Holtzclaw, Jr. took his own life. Why? Heaven only knows. Following from 22 January 1922 edition, Macon Daily Telegraph (Georgia) -- via GenealogyBank:

Prominent Physician Shoots Self in Head With Pistol.


Found in Bed Dying By Brother; Funeral Will Be Held Today.

PERRY, Ga., Jan. 21. -- Dr. Henry M. Holtzclaw, 63, prominent citizen of Houston county, died tonight at 8:30 o'clock from a bullet wound in the right temple, it being self inflicted between the hours of 9:30 o'clock this morning and noon. The motive for the suicide is unknown.

Dr. Holtzclaw, who had operated a drug store here for the last twenty-five years and was also a practicing physician, arrived at his home at 9:30 o'clock this morning, and announced to his daughter, Miss Clifford Holtzclaw, he would go to his room and take a nap. Miss Holtzclaw left shortly afterward for a few minutes.

John Holtzclaw, his brother, arrived at the home shortly before noon for lunch. He was informed that the doctor was in his room asleep. Mr. Holtzclaw went to the room and found Dr. Holtzclaw in a dying condition. He was unconscious until the end. A large calibre pistol was found under his body.

No Motive for Deed.
The family can advance no motive for the deed. It was stated by Miss Clifford Holtzclaw that her father came home in cheerful spirit, talked a few minutes before retiring to his room and showed no signs of being despondent.

It was stated that the bullet entered behind the right ear and penetrated the brain. Dr. W. J. Little, of Macon, and local physicians were summoned, but no hope was ever entertained for his recovery.

It was announced at the family residence that the funeral services will take place from the residence Sunday afternoon.

He was a brother of Maj. R. M. [sic] Holtzclaw, who passed away recently. He is survived by two brothers, John G. and B. C. Holtzclaw; two daughters, Misses Katherine and Clifford; a sister, Mrs. L. D. Roberson, of Marietta, and his mother, Mrs. M. C. Holtzclaw, of Marietta.
The brother lost prior to Henry was Robert, and he died only eighteen days earlier. Their mother, Mary Etta Clark Holtzlcaw, buried two sons in less than three weeks. All rest in Evergreen Cemetery at Perry, Houston County, Georgia. Henry lies next to his wife Kate.

What's my connection? A nephew of Henry Macon Holtzclaw, Jr. was Robert Clifford Holtzclaw. He married my 2nd cousin, 2x removed -- Claribel Peavy.

24 August 2014

Peasant Girl and Her Son (a Spoon River Epitaph)

A sweet co-worker recently introduced me to Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, a collection of free-form poems written as epitaphs for deceased residents of a small town. S graciously lent me a copy of the book, and I have since found an online edition. Though these epitaphs are fictional, I hope you'll permit me to share some of my favorites with you here.

Elsa Wertman (pg. 79)
I WAS A peasant girl from Germany,
Blue-eyed, rosy, happy and strong.
And the first place I worked was at Thomas Greene's.
On a summer's day when she was away
He stole into the kitchen and took me
Right in his arms and kissed me on my throat,
I turning my head. Then neither of us
Seemed to know what happened.
And I cried for what would become of me.
And cried and cried as my secret began to show.
One day Mrs. Greene said she understood,
And would make no trouble for me,
And, being childless, would adopt it.
(He had given her a farm to be still.)
So she hid in the house and sent out rumors,
As if it were going to happen to her.
And all went well and the child was born -- They were so kind to me.
Later I married Gus Wertman, and years passed.
But -- at political rallies when sitters-by thought I was crying
At the eloquence of Hamilton Greene --
That was not it.
No! I wanted to say:
That's my son! That's my son.
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