Sunday, February 16, 2014

U. S. S. CROCUS: Coast Guard Lighthouse Tender

U. S. Coast Guard Cutter CROCUS and Her Crew
date unknown
Captain Frank Hamilton Photographs
Charles E. Frohman Collection

The Crocus was built at Shooter's Island in Richmond, New York by the Townsend-Downey Company in 1905.  She was a steel-hulled Inspector's Tender assigned to duty at the 10th Lighthouse District and was based at Buffalo, New York. In 1932, she was converted to oil-fired boilers and transferred to Detroit. During WWII she was based in Toledo, Ohio, continuing her peacetime duties of servicing navigation aids. She was decommissioned in 1946.

In December 1942, she assisted the United States Coast Guard vessel Ossipee in recovering the bodies from the wrecked oil barge Cleveco and the tug Admiral after both foundered in a raging winter storm some nine miles from the harbor at Cleveland, Ohio. Loaded with nearly a million gallons of fuel oil, the Cleveco with 18 hands aboard, was being towed from Toledo to Cleveland by the tug the Admiral when suddenly the tow line went limp. The Admiral disappeared beneath the surface after encountering 18-foot waves in a blinding snowstorm.  The crew of the 260-foot barge radioed for help, but without power, they could do little more than hope for the best. The Ossippee arrived, but failed in her attempts to get a towline to the Cleveco.  A short time later, the barge and her crew met the same fate as the Admiral. In all, 32 sailors perished.

The wreck of the Cleveco remained a concern. With a full cargo of oil, an environmental catastrophe would result if a ship collided with the sunken barge. In 1961, salvage crews attempted to bring the big tanker barge to the surface and pump off the oil. Once again, bad weather played a role. Failing in their efforts, the salvage crews towed the Cleveco to deeper waters and sunk her once more. 

In 1995, leaking oil appeared on the Lake Erie surface. This time, the Coast Guard and salvage crews were successful in reaching the overturned tanker barge and pumping off more than 340,000 gallons of oil. Resting some 14 miles from Euclid, Ohio, in 78 feet of water, the  ill-fated Cleveco no longer poses a threat to the environment or as a navigational hazard. Instead she remains a popular site for shipwreck divers. 

Col. Webb C. Hayes and Mary Miller Hayes; Traveling the Pacific Rim

Traveling the Pacific Rim
Colonel Webb C. Hayes and Mary Miller Hayes
 (standing second from right) with Missionaries

When Colonel Webb Hayes married Mary Miller Brinkerhoff in 1912, he delighted in finding a global traveling companion. For months at a time, they traveled the world, spending brief periods between trips at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio – always their touchstone.

Before Christmas in 1913, Webb and Mary set sail aboard the S.S. Mongolia out of San Francisco. For the next six months, they toured the Pacific Rim. In the Age of Steam, their travels became longer and farther. They packed everything they would need in four steamer trunks, two suitcases, and bundles of steamer rugs. After leaving Hawaii, they booked passage on the S.S. Mauara for Australia via the Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan.

The colonel reveled in seeing exotic wildlife, meeting old comrades, and sharing memories of past military campaigns. For Mary, it was a time of adventure and discovery. She rode out rough seas and the remnants of hurricane winds and rain on the steamer’s deck. She played cricket, fished, and faced the last of a small pox epidemic.
Well educated and a keen observer, she was fascinated with the native peoples and their “strange” cultures, customs, foods, languages and dress. The colonel happily arranged journeys by train, car, and boat far into the back country so that Mary could gain a deeper understanding of native peoples’ ways. She attended festivals, rituals, and poi dances. Sensing that the cultures and customs soon would disappear, Mary Hayes purchased sea grass steamer chairs and willow furniture. She filled her trunks with fabrics, bracelets, skirts, rattan mats, painted tea sets, blackwood carvings, beads, baskets, and bags – all with the intent of displaying them at Spiegel Grove. 

She and the colonel became immediately aware that it was the native peoples who provided the labor on large sugar, tobacco, hemp, and coconut plantations controlled by foreign powers. They questioned missionaries about education, working conditions, and entire islands that served as European penal colonies.

Steaming more than a thousand miles in three weeks, they reached the heavily fortified post at Manila and then journeyed by mail train, car, bus, sampan, ferry, and rickshaw to see former battlefields, memorials, and military posts, where Colonel Hayes had served at the turn of the century. As Colonel Hayes reminisced, Mary, ever the diarist, recorded every detail, leaving an amazing historical record. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

U.S.S. West Point During World War II

U.S.S. West Point
Originally built as the U.S.S. America, this ship was the largest merchant vessel built at the time of World War II. She was converted to a transport vessel, carrying U. S. soldiers to both the Pacific and the European theaters of the war. During WWII, she traveled more than 350.000 miles, more than 14 times around the world, transporting soldiers, the wounded, prisoners of war, and auxillary wartime personnel. Despite her mammoth size, 723 feet overall and 93 feet at the beam, the West Point was as graceful as a clipper ship. She traveled without escort around the world, even though her size made her a prime target of the enemy, particularly the wolf packs. that prowled the North Atlantic. 

Officers of the U.S.S. West Point
Her captain was Webb C. Hayes II (seated second from the right)

During one of his return trips across the North Atlantic during the winter of 1944/1945, Admiral Hayes guided her through a raging storm in which waves swelled to 50 feet. The West Point pitched and rolled. One wave struck the forward gun platform, 50 feet above the water line. The waves demolished the gun platform, crushing a gunner on lookout. Steel ladders were crumpled into shapeless debris and gun shields were ripped to shreds. Only her size and the sea worthiness of her construction allowed her to escape with only the loss of one sailor and minor damage. 

G.Is aboard the U.S.S. West Point

U.S.S. West Point transporting U.S. soldiers home from Europe after V.E. Day. The vessel had a crew of more than 800. She could carry as many as 7.,700 passengers

U.S.S. West Point
July 11, 1945
New York Harbor
Tugs nose the U.S.S. West Point  into her slip in the New York Harbor. Thousands of soldiers stand on  the top deck as they await a hero's  welcome home

U.S. S. West Point arriving in New York Harbor
July 11, 1945

These photographs are part of the Admiral Webb C. Hayes Collection at the Hayes Presidential Center

Friday, January 31, 2014

Seeking a Dream in the Far West


Captain Orin O  England
72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Vicksburg, 1863
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

General Ralph Buckland spoke of Orin England as one of his most trusted aides during his Civil War service with the72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Enlisting as a private at the age of 21, England rose rapidly through the ranks to company command. After the loss of the regimental colors at the Battle of Shiloh, it was England whom Buckland entrusted with carrying the new colors from Fremont, Ohio to the headquarters of the 72nd.  Buckland appointed the steadfast soldier his aide-de-camp and then inspector general of the Military District of Memphis.
But the military was not for him. After the war, England returned to Fremont and married his sweetheart Cordelia Norton. He dreamed of becoming a"tin man," better known today as the owner of a hardware store. What happened to this fine Civil War officer? Did he achieve his dream?
The records of the Homestead Act, signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, held the answer. Under the act, Civil War veterans, women, African Americans, and immigrants  from throughout Europe could claim 160-acre tracts from the government by "proving up" their claims. The agreement included building a house, cultivating a portion of the ground, and living on the tract for 6 months each year for five years. No one knows how many thousands of Civil War veterans took advantage of the Homestead Act, but the deal was especially attractive for them.  The government allowed veterans to deduct their time in the military from the 5-year rule.  In ten years, homesteaders claimed more than 4 1/2 million acres!

The Homestead Act lured England and his wife west. With their 6 children, they "proved up" a tract outside Wessington Springs, South Dakota nearly a 1,000 miles from Fremont. They were part of what became known as the "Third Dakota Land Boom." This rush for land was triggered by the Great Northern Railroad that was pushing west. Also joining the boom were Charles and Caroline Ingalls, who became famous through the writings of their daughter Laura Ingalls Wilder in the "Little House" books. Their 160-acre homestead was near De Smet, a mere 70 miles from where the Englands settled. No doubt the England family faced similar hardships: backbreaking labor, loneliness, crop failures, and harsh winters.  Orin England eventually claimed three 160-acre tracts and another under the Timber Act, a law that encouraged homesteaders to plant trees.

The Homestead Act gave many Americans an opportunity for a new life, but fraud and failure were just as common.  Railroads, land jobbers, and states often acquired enormous tracts of the best lands.  Native Americas were frequently displaced and cheated. And valuable public timberlands fell prey to speculators.

One thing was certain. Homesteading made it possible for Captain Orin England to achieve his dream.  He started a successful hardware store on Wessington Springs' main street and later owned a blacksmith and woodworking shop, and a feed mill.  He helped establish a coal and grain co-op and was elected Jerauld County commissioner. The England homestead outside town became one of the finest ranches in the area.  In their last years, the Englands passed on that hardware store to the next generation and spent their final years  with their daughters in Pasadena, California's warm sunshine.

Mountain View Cemetery
Courtesy of Find a Grave


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Construction of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial
Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island
Courtesy of the National Park Service

2013 marked the Bicentennial of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory on Lake Erie that ended British control of the Great Lakes. The naval battle was a pivotal moment in the War of 1812. As the occasion drew near, Put-in-Bay, the site where Perry set sail to meet the British fleet, was jam packed with events to commemorate the historic occasion. Much of the activity took place at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial.

As early as the 1850s, monument associations attempted to establish a memorial to Perry on South Bass Island and nearby Gibraltar, but each time ideas, money, and plans seemed to fizzle. As the 100th anniversary neared, the Inter-State Board of the Perry’s Victory Centennial Commission was formed. With funds from states surrounding the Great Lakes, the commission decided to build a memorial to the long-lasting peace between the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain that followed Perry’s Victory.

After choosing architects Joseph H Freedlander and Joseph D. Seymour’s design in a national competition, the commission broke ground in the fall of 1913. The following 4th of July, the cornerstone was laid. Prominent photographer Otto Herbster was contracted to photograph the monument’s construction.
Construction of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial
Taken by Otto Herbster as the Work Crew Reached the 16th Course
Charles E. Frohman Collection

Herbster’s photographs captured the workmen as they built forms, hauled sand and gravel, and shaped and built 79 courses of pink granite. The Doric column reaches 352 feet above Lake Erie. Its 9 ½ foot thick domed walls and ceiling feature Indiana limestone.

Put-In-Bay: The Construction of Perry's Monument by Jeff Kissel
Arcadia Publishing
Nearby, you can see Mr. Herbster’s photo of the monument as the 16th course was reached and another taken in March 1914 of the full construction crew. To see more of Otto Herbster’s great photos of the construction of the monument, see Jeff Kissel’s fine work by Arcadia Publishing. Online, go to HISTORYPIN and click on South Bass Island on the map. There you can see a slideshow of 28 of Mr. Herbster’s monument construction photos. Better yet, when winter ends (!)head for the Bay this summer and enjoy the magnificent view from the top of this great monument - the 4th tallest in the United States.
Construction Crew of  Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial
Photo by Otto Herbster, March 1914
Charles E. Frohman Collection

A version of this post appeared during the Bicentennial in Lifestyles 2000.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Deathbed Confession Leads to True Identity

Photograph of Charles Vincent Dougherty's Cabin in the San Gabriel Mountains
Picture by Lonnie DeCloedt and used with his permission
Deathbed confessions were fairly common during the 19th century. When all hope was gone, family members, a trusted friend, minister, or physician frequently listened to the final words of the dying. But rarely have mourners ever heard a confession like that of Charles Tom Vincent, who passed away in a Los Angeles hospital in 1926.
Vincent called his doctor in and asked that he be buried in the Sawtelle National Cemetery. He knew that for that to happen, he would have to reveal his true identity so that his Civil War service could be documented. He confessed that his name was really Charles Vincent Doughtery. He had been born in 1838 and grew up in Fremont, Ohio.

Sawtelle National Cemetery
His family was deeply religious and highly respected. His sisters had married prominent members of the community. His mother, Josephine, was considered a "very sincere Christian" by fellow worshippers at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fremont.
True patriots, Vincent and his older brother James enlisted to fight for the Union cause. They were among the first to answer Lincoln's call. They served together in the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Both were wounded during the conflict - James at Gettysburg and Vincent at Chancellorsville. When their time was out, James returned to Sandusky County, but not Vincent. He headed for Arizona.
There, he and a friend prospected for gold. One day after working their claim, they discovered three thieves ransacking their cabin. Vincent confessed that he and his partner shot the three and immediately buried them on the spot - a secret he had kept for nearly 40 years.
Realizing that from now on, they would be wanted men, Vincent and his partner abandoned their Arizona claim and took off for Los Angeles. It wasn't long before the lure of gold drove Vincent into the Sierra Nevadas. He later made his way south to the San Gabriel Mountains, where he built a cabin, prospected, and lived off the big game he so skillfully brought down.
While hunting big horn sheep not far from his cabin, Vincent discovered what he thought was the "mother lode." He and two partners dug a series of tunnels, bringing out some gold, but they lacked the capital to fully develop their Big Horn Mine.  In1902, they sold the mine to the Lowell and California Mining Company. According to Lonnie DeCloedt, who has researched Vincent's life, the Big Horn became the largest mine in Los Angeles County. But yields remained low and the company eventually closed the Big Horn.
As age crept up on Vincent, it was no longer possible for him to continue living alone in his secluded cabin in the mountains. By 1910, the old miner had moved to a Los Angeles boarding house and later to the home of a supposed nephew.
Was Vincent's final request carried out? It certainly was. A tombstone marks his grave at the Sawtelle National Cemetery. It reads "Vincent Dougherty, Co. F, 8 Ohio Inf." Thanks to residents interested in the area's local history, Dougherty's cabin in the San Gabriel Mountains still survives. You can read more online about Charles Vincent Doughtery and the Big Horn Mine at Lonnie DeCloedt's  "Weekly Pioneer" site.  Lonnie graciously granted permission for the use of several photos that appear on his site.

Gravesite of Charles Vincent Dougherty, Sawtelle National Cemetery
Photograph by Lonnie DeCloedt and used with his permission


William Gaines: Eyewitness to History

Sgt. William Gaines

In 1813, there were no cameras, videos, or smartphones to record the historic events of the Battle of Fort Stephenson – only the words of those who lived it 200 years ago. One of those was 13-year-old Drummer Boy William Gaines, who had marched north from Kentucky a year earlier with the 24th U.S. Infantry, caring for his uncle’s horse. The two had volunteered with General William Henry Harrison’s Army to defeat the Native Americans at the Battle of Tippecanoe. It was there that Gaines’ uncle was killed. Undeterred, Gaines re-enlisted in the 24th the following July and again marched north – this time to Fort Meigs. There he helped defend the Ohio Frontier from the British and their Native American allies.

Decades later, Col. Webb C. Hayes interviewed Gaines about his experiences serving with Harrison’s Army during the War of 1812. Although an elderly veteran, Gaines remembered the events of the Battle of Fort Stephenson with great clarity. He recalled that while camped at Fort Seneca, rumors spread that the British attack on Fort Stephenson was imminent. As Gaines told it, he then “exchanged his drum for a musket” and was one of six from the 24th U.S. Infantry dispatched to Fort Stephenson along with troops from other companies.

Shortly after arriving at the fort, the “British hove in sight and began landing their troops and cannon.” Colonel William Shortt demanded surrender of the fort or no quarter would be given. When 21-year-old Major George Croghan refused and shut the gates, he spoke to his men, telling them to “prepare themselves as no quarter was to be given.”

Major George Croghan

The bombardment began. Lt. Joseph Anthony, Gaines’ commanding officer, panicked and quickly hid until after the battle. Ordered by Croghan to hold their fire, the defenders waited anxiously as they endured the British shot and shell. Gaines’ comrade, Samuel Thurman, climbed atop the blockhouse, “determined to shoot a redcoat.” Shortly, a British cannonball “took his head off.” Toward evening, the British charged and Croghan, at last, gave the order to commence firing! They “shot through loop holes in the pickets and port holes in the blockhouses.” Gaines vividly recalled the wounded Colonel Shortt of the 41st Foot, “holding up a white handkerchief for quarter.”

With Thurman dead and Anthony under arrest, the young teen returned to Fort Seneca with his remaining 24th comrades. After Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie, Gaines marched to the lake and boarded one of Perry’s ships. They were now on the offense and bound for Canada. When they landed, Harrison found that the British had already evacuated. Colonel Richard M. Johnson’s mounted forces followed the enemy at a rapid pace. One thing and one thing only was on their minds - revenge for the River Raisin slaughter of their fellow Kentuckians. Perry and his men aided the Kentucky volunteers and Harrison’s regulars. His ships carried their baggage and military supplies to the mouth of the River Thames.

Gaines declared, “We made short work of the British. They knew we were coming and General Proctor and an aide fled before we were within a mile of them. They were the only two to escape capture.” Native American resistance faded away after the loss of Tecumseh.

Ordered by the Secretary of War, Gaines and the rest of Harrison’s troops, once more boarded Perry’s ships. They set sail for Buffalo and then Sackett’s Harbor. Gaines had the good fortune to sail with Harrison, Perry, and the captured British officers. One can only imagine the victory celebration that took place aboard that ship. From Tippecanoe to the Thames, William Gaines, just 13 years old, had been there – a participant in the victories that brought pride and unity to a young nation.

On Aug. 2, 1879, President Rutherford B.Hayes and his son Webb visited the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C., to interview William Gaines. Gaines was 80 years old and was the last living veteran of the Battle of Fort Stephenson. The entire interview was published in the August 22, 1879 issue of the "Fremont Journal."  Gaines continued to serve in the U.S. Army for most of his adult life. The photograph of Gaines is part of the Colonel Webb C. Hayes Collection. It was taken in 1879 at the Bell Studio in Washington D. C., located not far from the White House.